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Monday, 12 October 2015
Page: 7374


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (20:18): So this is sheet 7771?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Yes.

Senator CAMERON: I seek to move to sheet 7768.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN: Yes, we will move to 7768.

Senator CAMERON: by leave—I oppose schedules 1 and 2 in the following terms:

(2) Schedule 1, Part 7, page 19 (lines 1 to 10), to be opposed.

(3) Schedule 2, item 1, page 31 (lines 28 to 32), clause 11 to be opposed.

In terms of how the proposed amendments work, this would be one of the lead-in issues that we have to deal with. This amendment from the government seeks to introduce the concept of notification time. That would mean you would go back to section 173 of the act where you would have to get the employer agreeing, majority support determination and a scope order or a low-paid authorisation as a threshold issue moving to where we are in this area of greenfield bargaining.

We believe this is about putting more delays into the process, weakening the capacity of the unions to actually commence bargaining. Our position is that bargaining under the Fair Work Act must be done in accordance with good faith bargaining requirements. We do not have a problem with that. There can be no application for a protected action ballot order and no protected industrial action unless the commission is satisfied that the applicant is genuinely trying to reach an agreement with the employer. These requirements, to bargain in good faith and to be genuinely trying to reach agreement, provide a more than adequate threshold for taking action.

The government's proposal is an unnecessary restriction on the rights of workers to take strike action under international law. It is certainly not justifiable given the incredibly low levels of industrial disputation at present and it is certainly not justifiable in the concept that if you move to adopt the proposition that Labor is proposing, then you would not have to go down this path; you would simply commence bargaining after six months. That would be a genuine relief valve and genuine certainty for employers because the issue would then go to an arbitration.

So this is another example of a number of amendments by the government which make it difficult for unions to bargain. It is an impediment. We hear much about bureaucracy from the other side. We hear much about red tape from the other side. But 'bureaucracy' and 'red tape' have a different definition when it comes to unions than they do for the general economy when the coalition are talking about it. It is about increased bureaucracy and increased red tape. These issues should be rejected, and they should be rejected on the basis that they are nothing more than an impediment to proper bargaining.