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Thursday, 9 December 1993
Page: 4346

Senator PANIZZA (11.08 p.m.) —To take up a point that Senator McMullan raised before, he said that the ACTU will be taking a test case to the Industrial Relations Commission. He said that, did he not?

Senator McMullan —Yes, that's what they've said.

Senator PANIZZA —That is what the minister said it has said. In that case, why does the government have to put it in legislation? When I was talking earlier about the family I asked why, when these things are done, is stuff unnecessarily put into legislation. I would like the minister to eventually tell me why, if the ACTU has taken this up, the government has to write it in the legislation and presumably make it mandatory to be taken up. It will probably go a lot further than we envisage here.

  I know the minister has said the matter has to come back here. Neither the minister nor I would be silly enough to think that it will be rubber stamped by this place while the government has that sort of support down there. Whatever comes back—whether it is 12 months paid leave, paternity leave, maternity leave; whatever it is—it will go through.

Senator Kernot —Carers leave.

Senator PANIZZA —That is what I am talking about. The Democrats and the government will support whatever comes back here, and I would like the minister to tell me that eventually.

Senator Kernot —Unpaid carers leave. Do you understand that?

Senator PANIZZA —Mr Temporary Chairman, do you think I could be heard without interruption from the same honourable senator who was earlier objecting to someone interrupting her?

  The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator McKiernan)—Thank you very much, Senator Panizza. I also remind you that on a number of previous occasions when I was in the chair I have had to remind you to cease interrupting. I think that there is room for a degree of interjection.

Senator PANIZZA —And when you ask me to do something, I generally do it. Can the minister also assure me that this was not the government's idea in the first place, as Senator Crane alluded to a moment ago? I would like those points cleared up. As Senator Parer said some time ago, these situations cover all employers. I know that the government's agenda and the Democrats' agenda is to hit employers.

Senator Kernot —Oh!

Senator PANIZZA —Do not deny it. Their idea is to hit all employers. When the ACTU and those opposite have argued with employers, it has generally been with the big employers. They need not deny that because it is a fact. When I picked up Senator McKiernan on this the other day, he said that he had been put off three times, or something like that. I presumed that he was talking about a fairly big employer. They need not deny that when trouble starts, it is generally with a big employer.

  Unfortunately, when the government legislates to tie up big employers, it ties up the mum-and-dad employers as well. Even if the conditions are not a great penalty, they put fear into the mum-and-dad businesses that employ only a few people. I have to find wages every second Friday for seven employees, and what is going on and what may be around the corner puts fear into me.

  The smaller businesses are the biggest employers in Australia. Senator McMullan does not deny that, but what is the government doing? It is putting more obstacles in the road, tying up the businesses with more red tape, putting more obligations on them and scaring them off. Why is the government doing that? I do not believe in discriminating between employers, but if the sorts of regulations that the government is trying to put into legislation applied to the big businesses, I could see some sense in it—even though I do not agree with the proposition. But the government is driving off the biggest employers in Australia—the small business people. Do not tell me that that is not a fact. That is why I cannot see the reason for more regulations and legislation. I listened to what Senator Margetts had to say about the definition of the family. We could stay here all night but she and I would never agree on her definition of the family.

Senator Chapman —But your definition is right.

Senator PANIZZA —That is right. I think that I would have 95 per cent of Australia agreeing with me rather than Senator Margetts.

Senator Boswell —Try 99 per cent.

Senator PANIZZA —I believe once you pass 90 per cent, winner takes all anyhow—after all, a company can be taken over with a lot less than that. I will stand judged by all of Australia—especially Western Australia, which elected me to this place. Far more people would agree with me than with Senator Margetts on the definition of the family.

  The Industrial Relations Court has been asked to define the family. I suppose that it could come up with a reasonable definition. If it does come up with a definition, it would be the sort of definition most widely acceptable to Australians, not the sort of definition accepted by Senator Margetts. She can tell me whether I am wrong, but I do not think Senator Margetts has much—

Senator Margetts —You're wrong.

Senator PANIZZA —I am talking about a different point. I do not think that Senator Margetts has much of an idea of what it is to be an employer. If she has, could she please tell me? I do not think she has done much employing, but I could be wrong. I do not think that Senator Kernot has had much experience as an employer either, and nor have Senator Spindler or Senator Bell.

Senator Bell —You're wrong there.

Senator PANIZZA —I have not heard Senator Bell say that he has had experience as an employer. He is certainly not an employer's friend now, or perhaps something went wrong for him as an employer. Their total experience—

Senator Kernot —Come on.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —Senator Kernot, do not accept the bait. Let us keep it quiet and get on with this. It will be a long night.

Senator PANIZZA —The Democrats' total experience as employers is minimal. Yet they sit here in judgment of what should be loaded onto employers around Australia. The more they load on employers—whether Senator Kernot likes to believe this or not—the less full-time employment there is. We will go from full-time employment to part-time employment, from part-time employment to no-time employment. It is as simple as that. I therefore ask the minister to reconsider his situation on this and not to put too many extra obligations on employers that would stop them employing. If the ACTU is going to do that, let it and we will see what happens, but we should not be legislating for that to happen.