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Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Page: 7409

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (12:41): I thank Senator Day for his constructive contribution to this debate, and in particular for his engagement with the government on the important reforms in the Fair Work Amendment Bill. As canvassed in the debate yesterday, the purpose of the new prevailing pay and conditions criteria in the bill is to build an extra employee protection for greenfields agreements approved by the Fair Work Commission under the new optional six-month process. The new prevailing standards requirement is in addition to the existing agreement approval tests, including that the employees must be better off overall than they would have been under the award.

The test start will be applied by the independent Fair Work Commission and will assist in assuring the expeditious resolution of greenfields agreements that provide new employment opportunities. We believe that clause 33 is drafted to meet these objectives. It requires the Fair Work Commission to be satisfied that the agreement, considered on an overall basis, provides the pay and conditions that are consistent with the prevailing pay and conditions within the relevant industry for equivalent work. There is also a note that the Fair Work Commission may have regard to the relevant geographical area. This makes clear that the Fair Work Commission has flexibility to exercise its expert judgement and discretion in considering the relevant pay and conditions standard.

The government has carefully considered Senator Day's proposed amendments to this test and, while we believe that the sentiment behind the proposed amendment is meritorious, the government at this point has made the decision not to support the proposed amendments.