House debates

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Bills

Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013; Consideration in Detail

3:57 pm

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation) Share this | Hansard source

I have to respond to that fairytale espoused by the member for Kooyong. First of all, what is most revealing is to hear the member for Kooyong enthusiastically embrace the workplace relations system of the Howard era. I know that he is waiting for some of his shadow front bench to move on so he can see his own ambitions fulfilled—it is an open secret. I read the Peter van Onselen columns as much as you guys leak to them.

But in terms of the member for Kooyong's speech, such as it was, he ran with his usual anti-union bile and prejudice. The provisions currently in the bill reform the right-of-entry regime in response to the recommendation findings from the independent Fair Work review panel. The provisions better balance the right of unions representing employees to be able to represent their members professionally, with the need for their employers to go about their business productively.

As a government we believe in freedom of association. We reject the language of the opposition where freedom of association somehow means an invasion. We believe that people have the right to choose to belong or not to belong to a union. We believe this is a fundamental right. We reject the proposition of the opposition that this freedom should be accessed only with the permission of an employer. We understand that the vast majority of trade unions and employer organisations are accountable to their members. We also believe that anyone in a position of trust or responsibility in a registered organisation has to comply with the law. We believe in balancing the right of employers to go about their business without undue interference, with the democratic right of employees to be represented in the workplace and to participate in discussions with their union at appropriate times. We reject the exaggerated language about joy-rides. There is no evidence that has been offered for that, not a scintilla of proof. That, as ever, has hardly stopped some of the anti-union, bigoted baiters opposite from attacking us.

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