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Thursday, 5 April 2001
Page: 26585

Mr NEVILLE (2:27 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business. Minister, how have the government's workplace relations policies created better opportunities and conditions for small business? Further, Minister, what effects would alternative policies have on small business?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business) —I thank the member for Hinkler for his question and for his strong support for the small businesses in his electorate. This government's workplace relations policies have been very good for small business. Australian workplace agreements have allowed workers to negotiate their own pay and conditions without the necessity of union involvement. This is the first time in 100 years people have had this right. The Office of the Employment Advocate has policed the freedom of association provisions, and it is the first time in 100 years we have had this kind of watchdog in our country. As a result of this government's workplace relations policies, industrial disputation in Australia is at its lowest level since records were first kept in 1913.

I have been asked about alternative policies. Members opposite do have a workplace relations policy, because it was dictated to them by the ACTU prior to the Labor Party's national conference last year. They would abolish Australian workplace agreements, depriving workers of choice. They would abolish the Office of the Employment Advocate and expose workers to the tender mercies of organised thugs in the workplace. They want to put a 1.5 per cent payroll tax on all businesses, including all small businesses, to protect entitlements, rather than support the government's Employee Entitlement Safety Net Scheme. They want to charge five million workers a $500 a year union tax because they have not seen fit to join a union. They want to allow industry-wide strikes, which means that a strike at one business can very quickly become a strike at all businesses.

Under the guise of good faith bargaining, they want to insist that all businesses may have to expose their books of account and their business plans to union organisers, and they want to allow unions to abolish youth wages, which will put tens of thousands of young people onto the dole queues. As the Leader of the Opposition said, he has never pretended to run a small business party. What he did say is this:

I am not a Labor leader who relishes the idea of there being substantial points of disagreement between ourselves and the union movement.

That is the Leader of the Opposition's policy: to march in lock step with the union movement. If you are not allowed to govern yourselves, you should never be allowed to govern the country.