House debates

Thursday, 24 November 2022


Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2022-2023; Consideration in Detail

12:01 pm

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | Hansard source

I'm pleased to rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2022-2023 in relation to employment and workplace relations as part of this consideration in detail process.

The Albanese government's approach to employment and workplace relations is framed around a simple concept: delivering for the unions. Since being elected, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and the government, have done all they can to impose a big-union agenda on employers and employer organisations. We had the union conference, masquerading as the Jobs and Skills Summit, where the government claimed a consensus was reached on industrial relations law changes. We've seen a government which is seeking to impose the most radical shake-up of our industrial relations system in decades, a shake-up that would complicate and damage our economy.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 12 : 02 to 12 : 13

I was observing previously that this government is seeking to impose the most radical shake-up of our industrial relations system in decades, a shake-up that would complicate, create conflict and damage in our economy. It's no surprise that a wide range of business and employer groups have expressed extreme concerns. This bill that the government is presently taking through the parliament seeks to implement the wish list of the big union bosses. The militant CFMMEU aggressively fought against the Registered Organisations Commission because its abolition would effectively shield unions such as the CFMMEU from scrutiny, and the government has legislated in accordance with the wishes of the CFMMEU.

The CFMMEU also campaigned for years on the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission because the commission prosecuted and pursued the union for its lawless conduct. Again, this government has acted in accordance with the wishes of the CFMMEU. We've long seen a campaign from the ACTU on multi-employer bargaining because the union movement is seeking to expand its power to expand the membership of unions and to dictate to businesses, including small businesses, the way they should conduct their affairs.

The bill the government is pursuing gives effect to the ACTU's objectives. The multi-employer bargaining provisions amount to an intent by the union movement to kill off enterprise bargaining and replace it with a new centralised wage-fixing system and a new umpire. The opposition have made it clear that we are opposed to the compulsion inherent in the legislation and the single-interest employer authorisation provisions.

There are a number of questions that the opposition wishes to ask. I note that the minister for workplace relations is not in the chamber, but there are questions that the opposition would wish to ask, and I trust that the minister at the table will be able to answer on behalf of the government. Can the minister inform the parliament how many small businesses and how many small-business representative bodies have informed him and informed the government that they are in support of this government's extreme changes to industrial relations? Can the minister inform the parliament specifically how many employers stakeholder groups have voiced their support for the provisions related to multi-employer bargaining?

We've heard extensive claims from the minister in relation to the likely impacts of this bill in relation to wages. Can the minister inform the parliament by precisely how much wages will rise as a consequence of this legislation? What is the basis for the estimate that is provided, and in particular, has economic modelling been done by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations or by the Treasury or by consultancies engaged by those organisations in relation to expected wage rises? Over what time period will those wage rises occur? What consideration has the government given to the risk of a wage-price spiral and an entrenchment of inflation across the economy burdening on the already sobering developments we are seeing in relation to inflation in Australia? I further ask: can the minister advise whether any modelling was done by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations or Treasury as to likely productivity gains as a result of this bill? In any of the modelling that has been done, what consideration was given to the extra time, cost and resources required to be allocated by a wide range of small businesses who now face the prospect of being dragged into multi-employer bargaining processes against their will and consent? What additional costs will that impose on small businesses?


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