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Wednesday, 25 October 2017
Page: 12075

Ms LAMB (Longman) (12:48): This is getting quite ridiculous. It seems every second day I'm up on my feet in parliament speaking against a government attack on workers and on the trade union movement. It is bordering on ridiculous. But pathetic attacks like these are all that a pretty desperate government seems to have up its sleeves. They have no vision; they have no plan. It seems that this is what we're stuck with—attack after attack on workers or the trade union movement. There certainly is no action or policy that will help move Australia forward. If we don't hear, 'Blame Labor, it's Labor's fault', we hear, 'Let's blame the trade union movement, let's blame workers.' This blame game has to stop. It's a game the Liberals keep playing; it's getting quite tiring and it has to stop. I know I've had enough of it, and I think Australia's has had enough too. I think you'd be hard pressed to find an Australian who wouldn't rather have their government just stand up and govern. People are sick and tired of this. I think they want their government to stand up, take a little bit of responsibility and show a little bit of integrity. That would go a long way. But, with this government, even that appears to be too much to ask.

Despite having led the country for some years—five years is not a short amount of time—the mess they've created seems to be somebody else's fault. Apparently even the failed NBN, their failed NBN, is Labor's fault. Can you believe that? The second-rate copper NBN, which the coalition fought tooth and nail to implement over our superior policy, is somehow Labor's fault! It's outrageous. They are fooling nobody, but this is what they continue to parrot about.

How about this week in the Federation Chamber? I'm glad the member for Boothby is here. She attempted to lay the blame for the collapse of the Australian automotive industry on the trade union movement. Here was a government member again blaming the trade union movement for something. It was truly, truly ridiculous. What a blatant attempt by the member for Boothby to distance herself from the failings of her government. It's pretty common knowledge right across Australia that the collapse of the Australian automotive industry can be directly linked to the actions of the Liberal government. In true Liberal fashion, rather than showing some integrity, she sought to blame—guess who?—the unions. She sought to blame the unions, the very people who fought against the Abbott government's foolish mismanagement of the manufacturing industry, the very people who fought to keep this industry alive and who fight to keep many industries alive. They are the very people who fought for and won annual leave, sick leave, long service leave, pensions, Medicare, superannuation—where shall I stop? I say to the member for Boothby and to the government: I'm sure the trade union movement would welcome and accept a letter of thanks for all of those things that I'm sure the member for Boothby and other government members have enjoyed themselves and which their constituents as workers of this country enjoy every single day. I'm sure they'll look forward to that letter.

But, instead, we've got a government in crisis mode, a government that are going down and that will stop at nothing to drag everyone down with them. The government's actions are so desperate. The government are demonstrating an inappropriate use of taxpayers' money. But it's clear to see why they're doing it, of course. They're doing it in an absolutely pathetic attempt to shift the blame from their misdoings and at the same time malign the unions who stand up to them when they attack workers. With a government so determined to undermine the rights that Australians—their constituents and my constituents—have worked so hard for, it seems that unions have to stand up to them pretty regularly.

It really comes as no surprise that we're here again today—as I said, this is bordering on ridiculous—debating yet another bill that this government has introduced in yet another desperate attempt to undermine workers in the trade union movement. This bill, the Fair Work Laws Amendment (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill 2017, is not just an attack on unions; it is an attack on every worker in this country. This bill has very significant implications for anyone who benefits from their entitlements being protected through a worker entitlement fund and anyone who benefits from the counselling, training, OH&S and other support services that those funds invest in. A worker entitlement fund is a fund which is for the purpose of paying out worker entitlements and death benefits, like leave payments, payments in lieu of leave, payments in relation to termination of employment—any payments that contracts, awards or agreements provide for an employer to make to an employee. This bill puts additional requirements on those funds.

From a party that once claimed it wanted to cut red tape and government intervention, this looks a lot like a government intervening and actually adding red tape. That's what it looks like to me. The coalition really doesn't care about any of the outcomes of this bill except that it wants to be an inconvenience to unions. That's why it's so foolhardily rushing this bill through. Why else would it so carelessly deny proper scrutiny, proper discussion and transparency with stakeholders before introducing this into parliament?

When you think about this rushing the bill through, it's pretty clear that—with the support of their ever-faithful crossbench comrades, Senator Xenophon and his team—the Liberals have denied calls to conduct a thorough Senate employment committee inquiry into this legislation. Instead of carefully considering the implications of this bill and what effects it would have on workers, what effects it would have on business and what effects it would have on the Commonwealth; instead of looking at this through a really clear lens and actually scrutinising it, they have imposed a reporting date of 10 November 2017. That's just over two weeks away. There are 80 pages to scrutinise and we've been given two weeks.

In typical Liberal fashion, they are blinded by union-hating rage. It's typical. 'Cover your ears and put your blinkers on.' That's what we have come to expect from this government. How can stakeholders and any affected business or employer groups properly prepare a submission and evidence with a deadline of just two weeks? Eighty pages in two weeks? How can you properly do that? The simple answer is you just can't. You can't possibly do that. But that's exactly what this government wants, isn't it? They don't want the opportunity for this to happen properly. They don't want any interjections and they don't want anyone disparaging their plans, whether that's justified or not. It appears that this government just don't like being told what is wrong and they just don't like being held to account.

Accountability and transparency are the hallmarks of good governance. They are the foundations of a respectable parliament. But it appears to me, again, that the Turnbull government wants none of that. It appears—it is very evident, actually—that the government's intention with this bill is to undermine and erode the rights of all of Australia's workforce. This is a government for the top end of town, not for ordinary Australians like those who live in my electorate of Longman and who will be affected by this bill. This government is not for the ordinary people of Longman, who have been attacked time after time after time by reckless legislation that only benefits those who actually don't need it. I'd love to hear any member of this government try to explain to the vulnerable people of low-income Australia just what they're doing to help them in any way, shape or form. I'd love to hear it, but I suspect it would be a pretty short list.

An honourable member interjecting

Ms LAMB: Yes, a 50-cent list—if that. In comparison, Labor's list is pretty long. Labor's list is comprehensive. It's fleshed out and has been fleshed out for a long time. This government has been in power for four years and is now in its fifth year, and it still hasn't formulated any strong policies that will benefit all of Australia. You will remember that Labor went to the last election with 100 positive policies. We showed Australia that we weren't just here to fight in parliament. We showed Australia we were listening to ordinary people all around Australia, to Australians from all walks of life, because everyone deserves a say. We heard from people—and we continue to—and we formulated strong policies that we took to the election. Since then, we've continued to build upon them. We know what Australian people want, and it's not what this government is offering. It's not huge cuts to the taxation rates of millionaires and it's not throwing billions of dollars at corporations or banks. It's policies that protect ordinary, everyday Australians. That is what Australian people want. It's policies that protect workers in Australia, the people who are the backbone of this nation.

Australians are sick of the wars that the coalition keep waging on workers. They are sick of them. They know that they serve no benefit to the Commonwealth and they serve no benefit to the Australian people. Australians know that cuts to the take-home pay of ordinary Australians is a terrible idea. These are cuts to the take-home pay of people who work weekends and nights, people who work unfavourable hours, and give up time with their families. Australians know that you don't cut the take-home pay of those workers. You'll remember the member for Gilmore saying this was a gift to young people. A gift—to cut their take-home pay? She can keep that gift, that's for sure. She might have called it a gift; I reckon it's a lump of coal. We know that those opposite have a real affinity for black coal! But the people of Australia would rather have the money they so badly need and that they work really hard for. It is money that puts food on the table.

On the same note, and to pick up on another area, the Australian people also know that PaTH internship placements make absolutely zero sense. They see straight through that as well. They know that if a business wants to employ someone—you know what?—it goes ahead and employs them. If you've got a job vacant and you want to employ someone, go ahead and employ them. This government doesn't need to throw thousands of dollars at businesses just so they can get free labour.

People know that tax cuts for big businesses are an absolutely terrible idea. The national debt is sitting in such a terrible position, thanks to this government's economic mismanagement. How could anyone in their right minds justify $65 billion worth of cuts to big business? What an absolutely ridiculous idea. The more I talk about it, the more I realise just how strongly this government have taken a side. They have turned their backs on workers and they're staring up at big business, and that just isn't right. It's not right. From this government, in bill after bill and motion after motion, there is never any reprieve. It's attack after attack on Australian workers and handout after handout to big business. I oppose this bill. It is, plain and simple, an attack on the services that unions provide to workers. Workers don't deserve this. They deserve more, and I will be standing up every single day opposing this bill.

Debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 13:02 to 15 : 58