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Tuesday, 13 November 2018
Page: 7944

Senator ABETZ (Tasmania) (16:48): That last speech should have been finished with the words 'written, spoken and authorised by the ACTU'. That's because, really, that is all that the Senate has been subjected to—the nonsense of the lobotomised zombies. Senator Cameron himself described his colleagues in the Labor Party as 'lobotomised zombies'. They're not my words but Senator Cameron's words, and how true they are a descriptor of not only the Labor Party but also, of course, Senator Cameron himself.

Let's have a look at the facts. First of all, let's go to the very end of the motion or proposition put forward by Senator Cameron. It's about cracking down on dodgy labour hire 457 visas. All I would ask the Australian people listening to this debate to do is look at what Labor does, not at what Labor says. That's because when Mr Shorten was the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, 457 visas grew from 48,000 to 68,486. The coalition came to government, and within the first year we were able to peal it back to around about 52,000. Today, it stands at 12,000, which is about 20 per cent of what Mr Shorten presided over. Yet we have the audacity of an Australian Labor Party frontbencher coming into this place suggesting that our 80 per cent reduction of 457 visas from when Mr Shorten was the responsible minister to now is somehow a great discredit to us, because Senator Cameron and the Labor Party protect workers. I don't think so. Their record speaks so much louder than their rhetoric today.

It is this Liberal-National Party government that promised to create, through economic stimulus, an extra one million jobs in this country if we were to have been elected in 2013. We were ridiculed by the ACTU. We were ridiculed by their senators in this place for making such an assertion. We came in on that promise well before time. And, indeed, we have been able, through our economic stimulus, to assist the private sector to create, in one year alone, 400,000 new jobs for our fellow Australians. That is 400,000 households that today are able to be self-sufficient, which otherwise they would not have been. We all know that the benefit of employment is better mental health, better physical health, better self-esteem and better social interaction. The social good of employment, I would argue, nearly outweighs the economic benefits of employment. This is the social good and the economic good that we as a government have been able to deliver. That is why the welfare bill in this country has been able to be reduced, because the best form of welfare is the provision of employment. That is what we as a government have sought to deliver.

Turning to my home state of Tasmania, when the Greens-Labor government was in power with Mr Shorten as a minister, the unemployment rate in my home state was 8.1 per cent. Today, it is below six per cent. That means thousands of my fellow Tasmanians have been taken off the welfare system and gone into employment, where they have self-sufficiency and where they have certainty.

Now let me expose the monstrous lie that the ACTU and the Australian Labor Party seek to peddle about penalty rates. Penalty rates have not been abolished. Penalty rates in four awards were reduced, not by the government but by Mr Bill Shorten's handpicked Fair Work commissioners. They made the decision, five Fair Work commissioners, and they were all appointed by the Australian Labor Party government under legislation that Mr Shorten deliberately amended prior to the demise of the Labor-Greens government, forcing the Fair Work Commission to have a look at penalty rates on a regular basis. So who's the architect of the reduction of penalty rates in these four awards? None other than Mr Bill Shorten of the Australian Labor Party. Yet they have the audacity to come in here and seek to claim, and blame, the coalition for a decision made by the Australian Labor Party's mates.

Even worse, when Mr Shorten was asked on radio if he would accept the decision of the independent umpire—and that is what the Fair Work Commission is; you have to accept their decisions—Mr Shorten was asked: 'Will you accept their findings, given this is an independent body assessing penalty rates for Sunday, if you're Prime Minister?' Mr Shorten: 'Yes.' Neil Mitchell: 'You'll accept them?' Bill Shorten: 'Yes.' Neil Mitchell: 'Even if they reduce Sunday penalty rates?' Bill Shorten: 'Well, I said I would accept the independent tribunal.' That is what Mr Shorten said he would do. Now, for cheap political opportunism, he has changed his mind. So I say to my fellow Australians who might be concerned about their penalty rates: this is the man that engineered your reduction in penalty rates. He is the man that then said that he would 'accept the decision if it were to reduce your penalty rates'. And today, hand on heart, he says, 'Believe me, I'm going to change it'—when he was the one who ensured this reduction in penalty rates would actually occur. Mr Shorten was the architect. He is responsible. He needs to bear the blame. And it is the height of audacity, the height of duplicity, the height of speaking with a forked tongue, for the Australian Labor Party to come to this chamber and assert that somehow the coalition are responsible for a reduction in penalty rates.

But why did Labor's hand-picked Fair Work commissioners come to the determination that it might be a good idea to reduce Sunday penalty rates in a few areas? Because they accepted that it mitigated against the prospect of employment for our other fellow Australians. And so the Fair Work Commission said that, if you were to reduce the Sunday penalty rates by a relatively small margin, it would create extra employment opportunities. Senator Cameron, the ACTU and the Labor Party will never talk about the 400,000 jobs that have been created in recent times, because they know the economic policies we have pursued and the reality that made the Fair Work Commissioners come to the decision that the penalty rates regime was costing jobs.

Here we are with an extra 400,000 Australians in employment. Under an Australian Labor Party government, going by their record—not what they say but what they actually do—we would have another 50,000 or so 457 visa holders displacing Australian workers and we would undoubtedly have more of our fellow Australians unemployed. When it comes to looking after workers, the Liberal-National Party record shows that it has not amended the legislation—like Mr Shorten did— and did not appoint the commissioners that led to the reduction in penalty rates. In fact, we are the party that has presided over 400,000 more jobs in Australia in just one year and the creation of over one million jobs since we came to government. More importantly, we have seen the shattering of the 457 visas that were given to people by 80 per cent compared to when Mr Shorten was in government. So the party for the workers is in fact the Liberal-National Party government, which has a record—unlike Labor, which only has rhetoric.