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Monday, 13 October 2008
Page: 5831

Senator ABETZ (8:21 PM) —If the Prime Minister spent a bit more time in the country and was able to tell Australian senators and the parliament how to vote, rather than going over to the United States and trying to tell the congress how to vote on issues, we might not be in this position. I think what we have in the intergovernmental agreement is somewhat arrogant. In schedule 1, clause 3, we are told ‘the legislation will’ and it then sets out certain matters. What that basically suggests is that six Labor premiers, two Labor chief ministers and, I would assume, the Labor Deputy Prime Minister got together to make a deal and will now try to foist it on all their parliaments without having a sensible discussion. I suppose the question that arises is: would it unravel this agreement, Minister, if any amendments whatsoever were to be proposed? Would the inclusion of objects unravel this legislation and, if so, would that start the ring-around? If it would, you might as well do a job lot and do a ring-around on all the amendments that this Senate might be minded to pass.

Quite frankly, I would defy any Labor Deputy Prime Minister, Premier—indeed, Premier Barnett in Western Australia—or Chief Minister to explain to the people of their state why there should not be three representatives of workers organisations and three employer representatives on Safe Work Australia. On my maths, that would make a body of 16 rather than 14 people, and the ‘social partners’, as they are called in this politically correct language, would only have six—

Senator Jacinta Collins —What would you call them?

Senator ABETZ —Senator Collins, do not get me started—you would be one of the least politically correct on that side, and I welcome that. Those six social partners would still be a minority in the 16. I would be gobsmacked if any state Premier or Chief Minister were willing to get up and say that would somehow stand in the way of preventing workplace deaths, injuries and diseases, of harmonising occupational health and safety and of improving national workers compensation arrangements. I really cannot see, with great respect, how that would change any of the objects of this legislation.

I think the minister and I may have been talking past each other in relation to the ‘peak body’ definition. The ‘peak body’ definition, as I understand it, is a definition employed by the International Labor Organisation, and the ILO does not seem to have any difficulty in saying that ACCI and the ACTU are the two representative bodies to be taken into account. I understand that Australia is a signatory to that body—it was one of the initial signatories in 1913 or something, if my history does not elude me. In those circumstances, I cannot see why the Greens amendment nominating the bodies and stopping the minister from playing favourites would in any way derogate from the benefits that we hope this legislation will have.