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Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Page: 9632

Workplace Relations


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:43): My question is to the Minister for Employment, Senator Cash. I refer to the member for Dawson, Mr Christensen, who yesterday said:

I have spoken to the Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash and there is confusion over whether or not Labor's amendment would mean small businesses in my electorate ... would have to give back pay, costing them thousands of dollars.

Given section 135B(2) of Labor's amendments make it clear that the changes apply 'from the commencement day', why did the minister mislead Mr Christensen?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:44): Just because Senator Cameron says something doesn't make it true. If I do recall, Senator Christensen also said he wouldn't actually rely on anything 'that Dougie Cameron said'. It is a fact that you, on the other side, support big business and big unions being able to do deals at the expense of small businesses. Your penalty rates amendment means that small businesses will have to pay higher penalty rates than they currently do.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, on a point of order?

Senator Wong: The point of order is relevance, Mr President. Whilst I understand why, on the other occasions you've ruled against us on this—and we accept it, even if we disagree—this was a very clear question about a statement as to commencement and retrospectivity. The minister is not talking about that; she is talking about other issues. It is asserted, as in the question, that a statement was made by her to Mr Christensen. We'd like her to answer the question.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Wong. I can't instruct the minister how to answer a question. I can, however, remind the minister of the question as asked by Senator Cameron. I call the minister.

Senator CASH: As I was saying, one of the issues with the amendment that was moved by Labor yesterday is that it has absolutely no impact, colleagues, on deals done by big businesses with big unions under which those big businesses are already paying lower penalty rates because of the deals that they have struck.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cash, please resume your seat. Senator Carr?

Senator Kim Carr: Mr President, on a point of order: the question specifically went to the issue as to why the minister misled the member for Dawson. The minister is going nowhere near addressing that question. I ask you to draw her attention, once again, to the question itself.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, that was the conclusion of the question. The original part of the question also included a quotation from a member in the other place. I have heard Senator Cash addressing part of that as well. I have said also that, while I cannot instruct the minister how to answer the question, I remind the minister of the question. I also remind those opposite that ministers are allowed to address parts of questions as well. Senator Cash.

Senator CASH: As I was saying, Mr President, the bit I read about George Christensen was that he said he wouldn't believe 'anything that Dougie Cameron actually said'. One of the big issues is that those on the other side will always stand up for big business and big unions doing deals against small business. We on this side will stand for small business.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, on a supplementary question.











Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:46): Now that it's clear that the minister is happy to mislead not only the Senate but also her coalition colleagues, can we ever believe anything the minister says?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:47): On this side of the chamber, we will fight for small business every step of the way. We will not stand here and be lectured by those on the other side who are happy to stand up and support big business doing deals with big unions at the expense of the workers. We on this side will stand up for small business every day of the week.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, a final supplementary question.



Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:47): Given this minister's record of misleading the Senate and her coalition colleagues, maladministration of her portfolio that has seen resignations of hand-picked statutory officers and ministerial staff, leaks, the politicisation of government agencies and an AFP investigation into her office, isn't it time she resigned?


Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (14:47): Senator Cameron, I will remind you—through you, Mr President—that all because you say something in this place doesn't make it true. We on this side are very, very proud of the policies that we have implemented.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, on a point of order.

Senator Wong: We're very happy to give her leave to explain which of those is not true.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, that was not a point of order.

Senator CASH: As I was saying, we on this side of the chamber are very, very proud of the policies that we have implemented in the Employment portfolio. We cleaned up the Building and Construction Commission. We stood up for the small and medium players.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Carr, on a point of order.

Senator Kim Carr: On a point of order, Mr President, on specific relevance. The question directly went to whether this minister should resign. She should address that question.

The PRESIDENT: I think, given the nature of the preamble and the question itself, the answer is directly relevant.

Senator CASH: As I was saying, we on this side of the chamber are very proud to have cleaned up the Building and Construction Commission. Those on the other side stand up and they defend the bullies and the thugs in the CFMEU every day of the week. We're also very proud on this side of the chamber that we've stood up for hardworking, honest union members against union heavyweights who are spending their money as if it were their own, but not in their interests. We're also very proud of the fact that we've put in place very, very strong laws in relation to vulnerable workers. (Time expired)