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Monday, 12 October 2015
Page: 7378


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (20:39): I oppose schedule 1 in the following terms:

(4) Schedule 1, item 28, page 13 (lines 11 to 32), to be opposed.

(5) Schedule 1, items 30 to 39, page 14 (line 1) to page 15 (line 18), to be opposed.

In relation to these amendments, I just want to go to the overall position again. What the government is seeking to do is ensure that there are realistic time frames for the negotiation of greenfield agreements. They are seeking to ensure that negotiations do not delay or jeopardise investment in major projects, and they are seeking to provide for the interests of employees to be covered by such agreement that they are protected. So I again want to say that I do not think the bill achieves these objectives; and our amendments, the Labor Party amendments, would achieve these objectives in what I believe is a more fair and equitable manner.

In relation to greenfield agreements, the panel made four recommendations. The first recommendation, No. 27, was that good faith bargaining requirements apply to the negotiations of greenfield agreements. The second recommendation, No. 28, was that employers intending to negotiate a greenfield agreement take all reasonable steps to notify all unions with eligibility to represent relevant employees. And the third recommendation, No. 29, was that section 240 of the act should be available to be utilised to resolve disputes over greenfield agreement negotiations. The fourth recommendation was that, when an impasse in negotiations is reached, when a specified time period has elapsed and when conciliation by the commission has failed, the commission may conduct last offer arbitration upon application by a party on its own motion.

Those were the overall recommendations that were put by the expert panel. Labor, in our amendments, go closer to dealing with these issues than the coalition's amendments do. The fourth recommendation was for a last offer arbitration model. That is a different model than has been agreed in this country. We have never used a last offer arbitration model, but we believe there is a role for arbitration in relation to these greenfield agreements because it would provide more certainty to investors, more certainty to employers and more certainty to unions who are in that bargaining process. And I think it would give more incentive to actually bargain with good faith than the proposals that have been put forward by the opposition.

The opposition proposals would mean that there can be a fig leaf of bargaining in good faith. Then, at the end of that period or close to the end of that period, the employers do not need to do anything—they do not need to bargain—and they can take what they want the commission to deal with. They take it to the commission. So there is a far better proposition being put by Labor on this issue.

I want to go back to the explanatory memorandum on the government's bill. In the explanatory memorandum it talks a lot about certainty of wage costs; it talks about the costs of bargaining over a period of time, without coming to some conclusion. I will put this to the minister again, because she did not answer it last time. Is the minister aware of any greenfield agreements that have not been implemented because of delays by the unions?