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Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Page: 7449

Senator LINES (Western Australia) (15:03): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Employment (Senator Cash) to questions without notice asked by opposition senators today relating to employment.

Isn't it amazing that we have already had a correction of the record from yesterday? What we are seeing now from Senator Cash is backflipping, backtracking, correcting the record and the different use of language around the jobs that are to be created under the various free trade agreements.

Today she started off with 'I was advised,' and gone was the banging of the table and the absolutely categorical statement that thousands of millions will be created. We heard today that there 'can be'—she used the words 'can be'—jobs on offer from China. So gone was 'will be' and it was 'can be' today—and today it was based on 'sound modelling'. But we of course did not get any reference to the sound monitoring, and I am just wondering if, when she said that today, she meant the sound modelling she was referring to yesterday—and she has just stood up and corrected the record on that. So perhaps tomorrow she will come in and correct the record once again on whatever the sound modelling was that she was relying on today that, according to Senator Cash, says that thousands of jobs will be created. What are we to believe? No longer is it categorical. No longer is it absolutely determined. We hear words like she was 'advised' and many jobs 'can be' created and 'sound modelling', and at the end of question time, oopsy daisy, she corrects the record and the term is now back to 'many thousands of jobs'.

Last night, in relation to the Fair Work Bill, Senator Cameron asked time and time again, 'Where's the proof; where's the evidence?' According to what she says, Senator Cash likes to have an evidence based framework. She is on the public record as saying that. Senator Cameron asked, 'Where is the evidence that greenfields negotiations are being dragged out for longer than six months?' I think Senator Cameron asked that three or four times—certainly in the time that I was in the chamber. Senator Cash's response was that that was what employers had told her. So, again, we get Senator Cash relying on this 'sound evidence' and then not being able to produce the sound evidence or the sound modelling and then we get the backtracking and correcting of the record. That is all that we are hearing from Senator Cash in her new position as Minister for Employment.

Today Senator Bullock asked her directly whether the government was going to cut penalty rates, and Senator Cash said a number of times, 'Penalty rates are determined by the Fair Work Commission.' But just a couple of weeks ago, on 30 September, she said that 'any proposal by the government to reduce Sunday penalty rates will be taken to the next election'. So what are we to believe? She stands in here today and says, 'No, that is the job of the Fair Work Commission,' and a couple of weeks ago she said, 'Well, if we are going to cut penalty rates'—which is all they have been talking about—'we will do that at the next election; we will take a package to the next election.'

So what are we to believe? What is the truth here? The truth is that they do not have a clue. But they have a very clear mandate on cutting penalties. There has been enough said about it, particularly by Senator Cash. And she could try to backtrack and say that it is up to the Fair Work Commission at question time today, but in an interview on 30 September she said that the government would determine the package.

The other thing she likes to say is that somehow the Productivity Commission has come up with this idea to create a two-tiered Sunday penalty system all by itself. Well, who put the reference to the Productivity Commission? It was the poor old former Treasurer under the old management, Mr Hockey. So that link between the terms of reference and what the government wants to do in terms of penalty rates is very clearly established. There is no mystery here: the terms of reference given to the Productivity Commission give the Productivity Commission plenty of room to deliver the response right to them that the government can change penalty rates. That was very clearly demonstrated when on 30 September Senator Cash said in a radio interview, 'If we are going to cut penalty rates we will take it to the next election.'

She did not mention the Fair Work Commission in that interview, just like today when she had to correct the record on her modelling of yesterday. Let's see what tomorrow brings!