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Monday, 12 October 2015
Page: 7372


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (20:05): I do not think that there is any difference in terms of the broad philosophy of ensuring the three points that the coalition argue were their underlying principles to deal with these agreements. We do not have any argument about ensuring that there are realistic time frames for the negotiation of greenfield agreements. In fact, we will be moving amendments that will give more certain outcomes to this. That is what I would say to the crossbenchers. There has been absolutely no clear undertaking from the government that the six months can be achieved because there is this lengthy appeal process.

We also want to ensure that negotiations do not delay or jeopardise investments in major projects. That is why we are bringing amendments to the chamber this evening that go to that issue. We fundamentally want to ensure that the interests of employees to be covered by agreements are protected. I do not think that those tests are met by the government's position. They are certainly not met, because the realistic time frame for the negotiations of six months and then termination of bargaining rights—in my view and in the view of Labor—is a problem. Why do you terminate the bargaining rights of unions without any evidence other than speculation that there could be a problem? That is what we are doing tonight: speculating that there might be a problem and determining a termination of International Labour Organization standards. If you want to ensure that the negotiations do not delay or jeopardise investments in major projects, then you must make it clear.

What we are saying is that the outstanding issues between the parties should be arbitrated. That fixes the issue of certainty. There would be no certainty under the coalition with endless appeals in relation to the proposed 'agreement'. I use quotes because it is not an agreement that we are talking about; it is basically an employer document that they want approved. I do not think that is in the interest of employees who would be covered by the agreement.

Minister, it is true, isn't it, that this is still just a unilateral agreement with some safeguards? Did the Fair Work review recommend the government's model? If not, why did this model come about? Did the Fair Work review have arbitration as one of its central elements?