House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013

Private Members' Business

Penalty Rates

11:26 am

Photo of Dennis JensenDennis Jensen (Tangney, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

The coalition supports individual flexibility arrangements—Labor's individual flexibility arrangements—but we want them to be more effective. Individual flexibility arrangements should not be excluded by enterprise bargaining agreements. Our position is clear, and has been stated on a number of occasions. I will state it again: the umpire, the Fair Work Commission, after hearing all submissions, should make the decision, balancing all considerations. The liberal parties are the true originators and protectors of the great Aussie notion of the fair go. There can be no better way of getting ahead than getting a job. The Liberal Party has always, and will always, work to ensure that jobs are our number one focus. A Liberal government will work to create the conditions for growth and make it easier to get a job. Cutting back on red tape and green tape will increase the pool of available jobs.

This motion aspires to a noble and worthwhile end, but adopts a misguided means laden with potentially unintended consequences. By this I mean that every single member of the coalition wants to see the quality of life of all Australians improve. However, the way to go about doing this is not to resort to outdated economic concepts like price floors. Unlike Labor, the coalition recognises that the world of work has changed and that the world in which we work has changed. Australia has to become more competitive. We compete every day with every country around the world. The work week is no longer nine to five, Monday to Friday. To deny the obvious changes in our way of living is as inane as to deny the internet, 24-hour shopping and banking and so on.

In 2009, noted New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman wrote The World is Flat. The book is a prescient reminder to Australia and all Western developed nations that we must adapt to the new reality of a globally-connected world, where intellectual services are traded easily, or die. One has only to look at Australia's position on the competitiveness index to know that we are not going in the right direction.

Presently, Australia is ranked 20th by the World Economic Forum, two places lower than Saudi Arabia—so too on unit labour productivity, as it is when one removes the crutch of the resources industry. One can see again that we are moving in the wrong direction, and the trend is negative. By implementing a price-floor model into a globally obsolete notion of the working week, Labor is ensuring fewer of the people it purports to help will be at work. Fewer young people, part-time workers and those returning to work will have work. Put simply, the higher the unit cost of labour, the fewer people will be employed.

The Fair Work Commission is best placed to arbitrate on the market-clearing rate of labour, plus sufficient and appropriate compensation to correct asymmetries of information on the part of the worker. Making Australia more uncompetitive does nothing to address the needs of the Australian worker in the knowledge economy, to say nothing of the Asian century. There needs to be less red and green tape. There needs to be a recognition of individual flexibility arrangements, provided a greater or compensating benefit has been won—again, the proper recourse being the Fair Work Commission.

Scrap the carbon tax to ease the pressure on Australian business. Fix the budget to return certainty and confidence to the Australian economy. If we do not work to build real solutions and instead opt for ideas best consigned to the scrap heap of history, then we will never get to having that cafe society. The hospitality industry will continue to feel the strain and our best chance of sustainability growth via a sustainable industry in tourism will be jeopardised.

The Fair Work Commission was set up to be the independent umpire on issues of award and penalty rates, yet here we are discussing a motion that in essence undermines the role of the Fair Work Commission. Where is the trust in the umpire—an umpire the Labor government set up?


No comments