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Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Page: 7418

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (13:21): Again, I think this goes potentially to a fundamental misunderstanding of what your legislation currently allows people to do and what we, through our amendments to your legislation, are going to enable people to do. You keep attacking good faith bargaining as if it were something bad or deficient. You and I went through this last night, but I am happy to go through it again. It is your right to ask questions, and I appreciate your asking me questions so I can have the opportunity to clarify this yet again with you.

Under the current greenfields agreement-making framework that your government put into place—I think you would acknowledge this, because it is the law—employers and unions have no incentive to bargain for greenfields agreements in good faith. The reason for that is the good faith bargaining rules do not apply at all to these agreements. When you legislated you did not include good faith bargaining for greenfield agreements. What then happens is that the Fair Work Commission has no formal capacity to resolve disputes during greenfield negotiations. For a number of years you had the opportunity to fix this. You had a panel which said, 'Fix it!', but you chose not to.

I am struggling with the fact that every time you stand up you are almost advocating a position that is opposing the extension of the good faith bargaining provisions to this part of the act. What the government is doing via this amendment is ensuring that the good faith bargaining rules apply to negotiations for all single-enterprise greenfield agreements, as is set out in the Fair Work Act. As I stated to Senator Rice, the act says that, where the good faith bargaining rules are not complied with, parties will be able to access bargaining orders and the Fair Work Commission bargaining assistance for the first time. Currently, they cannot do that. They will be able to do it under the amendment that we are bringing in. That is a good thing.