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Monday, 12 October 2015
Page: 7375


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (20:22): Senator Cameron, I do not know what amendment you were talking to, but—just for the benefit of the chamber—what you have just said has almost nothing to do with the amendment that we are proposing. In the first instance, I just want to ensure that you understand that there are no employees in a greenfields agreement. You keep referring to this industrial action that might be taken. This amendment has nothing to do with greenfields agreements.

This is a totally separate amendment. It is literally closing a loophole. That is it. It is a loophole that was recognised by your own panel, appointed by the now Leader of the Opposition, Mr Shorten himself, which reviewed the Fair Work laws in 2012. That review itself recommended that the Fair Work Act:

… be amended to provide that an application for a protected action ballot order may only be made when bargaining for a proposed agreement has commenced, either voluntarily or because a majority support determination has been obtained.

That is it. That is all we are talking about: closing a loophole which, across the board, people agree was probably an unintended consequence when the drafters were originally drafting the legislation.

In plain English terms, what does this amendment do? The amendment that was recommended by your own review panel removes the strike first, talk later loophole. That itself is consistent with what former Prime Minister Rudd said at his National Press Club address way back in 2007, where he himself acknowledged:

… industrial disputes are serious. They hurt workers, they hurt businesses, they … hurt families and communities, and they certainly hurt the economy.

He said:

They—

the employees—

will not be able to strike unless there has been genuine good faith bargaining.

Chair, I am not quite sure where the misunderstanding with Senator Cameron has come from. Currently, under the Fair Work Act, as I said, this is merely a loophole, which is being closed. You can actually have strike action before bargaining has commenced. All this does is close that loophole and provide that protected industrial action can only be taken if bargaining has commenced. That is it. That is as simple as the amendment is: closing a loophole. It is recommended by your own review panel, the panel that Bill Shorten, the now Leader of the Opposition, himself recommended. All it means is that industrial action cannot be the first step in a bargaining process; you have to have the bargaining commence, and then you can take industrial action. It is as simple as that.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN ( Senator Edwards ): I just remind the committee that the question before it now is that part 7 of schedule 1 and clause 11 in item 1 of schedule 2 stand as printed. You, Senator Cameron, are obviously talking in relation to amendments (2) and (3) on sheet 7768—correct?