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Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Page: 7414

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (13:04): Given that the employer has a project which the employer wants to start, given that the employer is going to have a body of employees waiting to become people who are actually employed, given that the employer is the one assuming all of the risk in relation to this project and given that the employer is probably going to have international financiers who are saying, 'Unless you can get this agreement in place, we may not be able to provide the finance,' I am assuming, Senator Cameron, that there is going to be great incentive for the employer to come to an agreement with the union or unions.

In any event, as I have consistently stated and I will state again, one of the good things that we are doing in relation to this part of the act—which the former government failed to do—is that we are bringing in the good faith bargaining provisions so that employers and employees have to negotiate in good faith. But the other addition to this part of the act—which, again, Labor failed to do in their legislation—is that we are now bringing in, as part of the approval criteria at item 33, prevailing pay and conditions as one of the criteria for the approval of the agreement. Currently, as you would be aware, it is the better off overall test, and you are compared to the relevant award. We are saying, 'If you are going to submit an agreement to the commission for approval, that test is now prevailing pay and conditions as an approval criterion,' and everyone knows, Senator Cameron, that they are going to be higher.

Senator CAMERON: Again, I just say, Minister, that the incentive for the employees and the unions—that is, the union representing the employees—is clear. The incentive for the employer, as you outlined, probably gives a bit of strength to the argument that we have been putting, and that is that the incentive for the employer would be to hang on and not make any concessions until the employer gets the agreement that it wants to put to the commission after the six-month period. If you have, as you have indicated, prevailing pay and conditions as the benchmark, that means that workers would not be in a position through that bargaining process to improve on the prevailing pay and conditions. Is that not so?