House debates

Thursday, 24 November 2022


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

12:31 pm

Photo of Angie BellAngie Bell (Moncrieff, Liberal National Party, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education) Share this | Hansard source

Let's not mince our words. Labor's industrial relations bill is a disgracefully bad bill. It's the enemy of small and family businesses across this country. On full display from this government is incompetence and money for its masters at the highest level and a badly constructed legislation that, so far, has been amended 150 times by its own creators, contains errors, and has union bosses licking their lips. The bill clearly delivers one thing: it pays back, in full, with interest, the $100 million in donations that unions have given Labor since 2007.

Nine years in opposition for those opposite was a long time to amass such a large debt to the union bosses. They've had to wait until now to get their money back, and, with it, lipsmacking interest in the form of union membership fees and, ultimately, more power—power to remove employers rights to put deals to a vote by their employees, power to veto employers multi-employer deals, and power to force employers to get written approval from each relevant union before a vote can take place in their own business. In their own business! Legislating for unions to have the right of veto to stop employees from voting on an agreement is outrageous. It unfairly hands unions a completely unacceptable level of control.

This bill is totally unacceptable to every small business in this country with more than 14 staff—or even 20 staff, as it may end up—be they part time, casual or full time. The tidal wave of the Labor wreckage is coming. I ask: how can those opposite sleep at night with the knowledge that this bill risks the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of families across Australia with long-lasting, damaging impacts on our economy? This bill will see small businesses forced into the same agreements as much larger employers, which is totally unfair. Small businesses will have to pay $14,600, including the consultancy fees, just to sit at the bargaining table. Now we know that Labor's error in the regulatory impact statement pushes up costs further for medium businesses, from $75,000 to $80,000.

We saw the National Farmers Federation warn that these changes will lead to increased industrial action in the agricultural sector, which could cripple supply chains and lead to food shortages. Many small businesses already pay their staff above award rates—

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 12:34 to 12:47

I was saying, many small businesses already pay their teams above award rates to keep their business going. They pay themselves less due to the extra hours they have to put in and increasing costs that are squeezing their margins. Under these laws, the daily break-even will increase substantially for small business to the point of unsustainability. Close the doors and walk out—that's what we're talking about here.

As a Liberal, I believe in rewarding hard work with lower taxes and incentives for entrepreneurs. But Labor wants to break the small business model. They want to crush aspirations and dreams, and this bill delivers power to the unions to run amok inside those dreams. That's not a dream; that's a Labor nightmare, a nightmare akin to the seventies and eighties industrial strikes. And decisions will be made by the unions—not by directors and CEOs. Operation managers and general managers might as well hang up their boots once fair work becomes the umpire for decision-making in small and family business.

I ask those opposite: does the availability of a worker miraculously create a job? I would argue that it's the entrepreneur's business that creates that job.

A division having been call ed in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 12 : 48 to 12 : 58

It's the entrepreneur's business that creates the pay packet, the taxes, the GST, the superannuation, the opportunity to work and the job security. As I've outlined, businesses simply cannot afford to pay for higher electricity bills, higher interest rates, higher inflation and increased wages under this government, a government that is making, simply, a bad situation worse. So I ask the minister to outline: how many and which small businesses were directly consulted in planning this wrecking ball through small and medium enterprises?

What I do know is that the coalition will always stand up for small and medium enterprises. We will continue to fight against these proposed changes now before the Senate. We all want to see higher wages for Australians, but this bill is bad for the economy, it's bad for business, it's bad for employers and ultimately it's bad for Australians across our country. Remember, to those opposite, it is not the worker that creates the job; it's the small or medium enterprise that creates the job to deliver security in that job, in their work, for their families and for their communities. Small and family businesses are the fabric of our community on the Gold Coast, and so we oppose this bill in its entirety.


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