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Monday, 12 October 2015
Page: 7380

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (20:50): At the moment, we are dealing specifically with item (4) and item (5). At item (4), we are opposing the government amendments, which in effect create an employer greenfields agreement at the conclusion of the notified negotiating period. I have heard the arguments that this is not an employer agreement. But the reality is that on issues where there is no agreement, and it could be on issues that have never been negotiated, we could end up with a document—not an agreement but a document—going to the Fair Work Commission and that document ending up being the basis of the terms and conditions at the workplace.

We are also opposing, in item (5), the government amendments which are consequential in opposing the amendments which create an employer greenfields agreement. So what the crossbench need to understand now is that this is crunch time in terms of these employer agreements. I am not convinced, and Labor is not convinced, from the arguments that we have heard from the minister that this does not give an unfair advantage to the employer. The employer is already in a very powerful position; an extremely powerful position. The employer will be given further industrial relations weapons against unions trying to negotiate a fair and reasonable outcome. They only have to wait out the time period and then get the agreement to the commission. The commission, provided it deals with some of the basic issues, will tick off on this agreement. That is basically a denial of longstanding industrial rights in this country. It is a breach, in my view, of international conventions that we have signed off on. It is not allowing negotiations to take place free of government interference.

Once you start agreeing on these issues now, there will be big problems down the track with this government. We know that they want to give more strength and more power to the employer at the expense of employees. This is not, as the minister argues, some extra protection for workers. It is basically forcing an employer agreement down the throat of the unions who represent the workers who will be engaged in that job. That is the bottom line. This is not about a proper arbitration where people can argue their points; this is simply about the imposition of an employer set of clauses against the unions who represent the workers who will be engaged on that project. That is why in four and five we are opposing the government's amendments.