Tuesday, 10 October 2006
Member for Perth
That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the House from condemning forthwith the Member for Perth.
This afternoon the member for Perth has been comprehensively found out as wilfully misleading this House and, through this House, the Australian people. The member for Perth came in here yesterday with a question to the Prime Minister in which he alleged that certain circumstances prevailed in relation to—
Yesterday the member for Perth came in here and asked the Prime Minister questions in which he purported to relay to the House information about a particular working arrangement. In adding to a further answer this afternoon, the Prime Minister indicated that the member for Perth has deliberately and wilfully mislead this House and the people of Australia in the way in which he has come in about this matter. Three claims were made by the member for Perth, and that is why this motion is important. The first claim was—
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It goes to whether the motion moved by the member for Menzies is in order. Is it in order for the House and for you to accept a motion before this House that simply condemns the member for Perth full stop—not for any action, for any activity or for something he has done in the House? Is it in order?
The first claim made by the member for Perth was this: he said that the AWA that Martin Donnelly Electrical Services employees are required to sign ‘provides that payment of bonuses, overtime, loadings, penalties or other allowances is at the sole discretion of the company’. That was the first claim that was made by the member for Perth. That claim is false. Once again the member for Perth, in what has become his characteristic style, has come in here and failed to disclose the full facts to the House. If he had disclosed the full facts to the House, he would have mentioned that the Australian workplace agreement stated that it was to be read in conjunction with the individual letter of offer of employment.
That letter of offer of employment and the other documentation make it clear that both overtime rates and annual leave loadings are payable and that in addition there are a series of other allowances payable to such an employee, such as a leading hand allowance, a motor vehicle allowance, an on-call allowance and a Christmas on-call allowance. In addition, the fares allowance under the AWA combined with the letter of offer is $30 a day compared to $20 a day under the current EBA. So the first claim that the member for Perth made in this House, which he has compounded this afternoon in his personal explanation, has been shown to be wrong, because he either did not have the letter of offer or was trying to be too smart by half with this House and pretend that the letter of offer and other documentation did not exist.
The second claim was about wages and pay. The member for Perth claimed that ‘there is no guarantee of a pay increase during the three-year life of the agreement’. Once again, this is false. The current EBA hourly rate of pay for a grade 5A electrician on a 38-hour week is $23.98. The letter of offer provides for a grade 5A electrician an hourly rate of pay of $30.02.
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The minister moved a suspension of standing orders motion. To be in order, he should be addressing the procedural question as to why this item of business should be given precedence over other items of business before the House. His remarks are not directed towards that. You should call him back to order.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker: have you ruled that this motion is a motion to suspend standing orders or have you ruled that this is a substantive motion before the House? It affects the time limits et cetera.
On the face of the letter of offer which accompanies the AWA there is an hourly rate of $30.02 compared to the hourly rate under the EBA of just $23.98. So the very first thing from the face of the documentation is that there is a—
Mr Speaker, on a point of order: at some point while speaking on his motion the minister must make a link and inform the House as to why this is urgent and why standing orders need to be suspended. He has not once argued as to why standing orders need to be suspended.
Not only on the face of the letter of offer in the AWA is there a higher hourly rate being paid; the letter of offer then sets out the rates of pay for years 1, 2 and 3 under this Australian workplace agreement. Starting at $30.02 as an hourly rate, it then increases to $31.67 and to $33.10 the following year. In other words, on the first anniversary of employment—quite contrary to what the member for Perth has said—we see that this provides for a 5.5 per cent increase so far as the pay is concerned and the second year provides a further 4.5 per cent increase over and above what had been paid prior to that.
So on two counts—on two grounds—on the face of this documentation the member for Perth has misled this House. He has misled this House because the AWA and the letter of offer show an entirely larger amount so far as the hourly rate is concerned, which is contrary to the claims he made in this place. Secondly, it shows that there is an increase of 5.5 per cent in the first year and 4.5 per cent in the second year. That is why we are bringing this motion in relation to the member for Perth.
Can I put this in a context in the couple of minutes available. The context is that for month after month we have had the member for Perth come into this place raising allegations such as he did with this without any true documentation as to them, and when they have been investigated by the Office of Workplace Services or the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations or any other competent body it has been found time after time after time that he has been misleading the House on these matters. This time he has been caught out red-handed, and it is either an act of stupidity on his part or a willingness to come in here and just trot out anything that has been provided to him by the unions. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition is implicated in this particular action because it was both the member for Perth and the Leader of the Opposition who were down at the building site yesterday claiming that the facts of this case were so different to what they have been found to be now. So the House ought to support this motion, because the member for Perth has been caught red-handed wilfully dismissing the facts in this case, wilfully—
Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I refer to page 333 of the House of Respresentatives Practice, which states:
A Member debating a motion to suspend standing orders may not dwell on the subject matter which is the object of the suspension. The Chair has consistently ruled that Members may not use debate on a motion to suspend standing orders as a means of putting before the House, or canvassing, matters outside the question as to whether or not standing orders should be suspended.
Mr Speaker, it has been very—
clear that the member for Menzies has no idea as to the procedures in this House maybe because they are not used for moving a suspension of standing orders.
That all words after ‘condemning forthwith’ be omitted in order to substitute the following words: ‘the Prime Minister’.
The Prime Minister will do anything or say anything to avoid the implications of the extreme industrial relations legislation that he has introduced into this parliament. In the run-up to the last election he told the Australian people nothing of these things. He did that deliberately, he did that advisedly and he did that to deliberately deceive the Australian public about his intentions in industrial relations. Not only did he not detail what he was proposing to do, when asked about these issues at the Liberal Party industrial relations policy launch he said there would be no changes, there would be no such thing as a single system, and the allowable matters would stay. And now that he has been caught out by the great concern of the Australian people, the Prime Minister and his minister will do anything or say anything in this place or outside of this place to avoid the repercussions on the ground that are occurring.
This particular case, the rebuilding of the new headquarters of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, with the assistance of sparkies—electricians—employed by Martin Donnelly Electrical Services, started yesterday in question time. Two questions where the Prime Minister—
You’ll hear about the letter, Sunshine! Don’t worry about the letter; you’ll hear about the letter, all right. The Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister the following question:
Is the Prime Minister aware that Martin Donnelly Electrical Services is contracted to help build the new Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet building? Is the Prime Minister also aware that the existing collective agreement expires in December, and that Martin Donnelly Electrical Services employees have repeatedly and unanimously expressed their wish to negotiate a new collective agreement? Isn’t it the case that the employer has unilaterally denied this and is requiring employees to sign an AWA? What does the Prime Minister say to these sparkies, who now know that the Prime Minister’s choice is no choice?
That was the first substantive point raised by the Leader of the Opposition. The real point here is that you have got sparkies—electricians—employed down on that site. They want to renew a collective agreement and the government’s law and the Prime Minister’s law and the minister’s law prevents them from so doing.
The second question was one that I asked:
Is the Prime Minister aware that the Australian Workplace Agreement that Martin Donnelly Electrical Services employees are required to sign provides that payment of bonuses, overtime, loadings, penalties or other allowances is at the sole discretion of the company—
that is reflected by the AWA, which I detailed yesterday and after question time—
a multistorey allowance is removed—
which I detailed yesterday and today—
and there is no guarantee of a pay increase during the three-year life of the agreement?
which I detailed yesterday and today in question time. Far from misleading either the House or the Australian people, after question time yesterday, as is my usual practice, I distributed to the media a detailed analysis of the AWA as compared with the collective agreement as I have done on every occasion that I have raised an AWA in this place. I detailed very many of those features after question time. I notice that the matters that the Prime Minister referred to did not, of course, deal with any of those matters which showed item by item that the AWA provision is inferior to that of the collective agreement.
The minister and the Prime Minister make much of the so-called letter of offer of employment, which was allegedly circulated, distributed or handed over with the AWA and I have a copy of one of those letters. It says:
This letter confirms the offer of employment with Martin Donnelly Pty Ltd as—
and then it gives a particular grade. The letter goes on to say:
This offer of employment is conditional upon the satisfactory performance of your obligation as an employee of the company and the terms and conditions of employment as set out in your AWA and the Martin Donnelly Pty Ltd Conditions of Employment document.
What does the AWA say about the bonuses and allowances that I referred to in question time yesterday and today? This is what the AWA says, and the letter says you are bound by this:
5(c) The Company, at its sole discretion from time to time, shall determine whether bonuses, overtime, loadings, penalties or other allowances are payable to you. Any of these items may be reflected in Company policy from time to time or your individual offer of employment ...
What is the key here? The key is ‘the company at its sole discretion from time to time’ determines the payment of these bonuses.
Exactly, and that is precisely what I have done. The government and the minister seek to rely exclusively on the so-called letter, which, frankly, does not take them very far. I rely completely on the letter and the AWA. What does the AWA do in respect of the three things that the Prime Minister says I misled the House about in question time yesterday and that the minister relies upon in his motion today? In my question yesterday the things I referred to—all of which are reflected both by the AWA and my comments—are that employees are required to sign an AWA that provides that the payment of bonuses, overtime, loadings, penalties and other allowances is at the sole discretion of the company. Guilty as charged. Case proven. What does 5(c) say? It says:
The Company, at its sole discretion ...
The letter should be read in conjunction with the AWA. What the Prime Minister and the minister seek to do in misleading, firstly, this House and, secondly, the Australian people is cherry pick the two or three things that they believe are advantageous to people on the AWA. Ask yourself this commonsense question: why is the employer absolutely refusing to allow the 20 sparkies at Martin Donnelly to exercise a choice and to choose a collective agreement rather than being forced onto an AWA? Is it because the provisions of the AWA are so fantastically superior to the terms and conditions of the current collective agreement? When you read the AWA—even if you read the AWA in conjunction with the letter on which you completely rely—those bonuses are at the sole discretion of the employer at any time the employer so wants. A multistorey allowance is removed and there is nothing in the letter which restores that. All of this occurs for the three-year life of the agreement.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the minister and the Prime Minister desperately try and pretend to the Australian public—‘These million AWAs, they’re absolutely terrific! They increase your wage and conditions!’—and nowhere will they tell the Australian public that the AWAs invariably drive people down to the so-called five minimum standards. Let us just have a look, as I did earlier, at some of the items of the AWA as compared with the collective agreement that the minister and the Prime Minister absolutely refuse to look at or draw attention to—unlike this document which I sent around to the media yesterday, which shows all the comparisons.
The AWA lasts for three years. In my notes, I say that the AWA is attached to an offer of employment letter. I told the media that and circulated that in my advice to them. The rate of pay for a grade 5A, which is the rate that I have referred to, is $25.31 per hour plus a productivity allowance; under the AWA, it is $30 an hour with no productivity allowance. There are six pay increases under the collective agreement; under the AWA, there is no guaranteed pay increase. Ordinary hours of work are 36 under the collective agreement and 38 under the AWA. Under the collective agreement, there is a tool allowance of $12.50 a week; under the AWA, there is no tool allowance. Under the collective agreement, personal leave is 100 hours per year; under the AWA, 76 hours per year.
The serial misleader here is the Prime Minister, who will do anything or say anything to avoid the adverse consequences of his ideological approach in this area. He knows that his is an attack upon the living standards of working Australians. He knows that his is an attack upon the values, virtues and characteristics of the Australian way of life. He knows that the Australian public is now hunting him, just as on this side of the House we are hunting him. The House should condemn him accordingly for being a serial misleader in this parliament and in public about the adverse consequences of his unfair industrial relations. (Time expired)
I second the amendment. What we have seen on display today is the most ugly face of the Howard government. Look at them performing on cue with their ugly faces turned towards the Australian people. This is a government that is so mired in its own arrogance that it has lost touch with reality. The Prime Minister comes in here thinking he will play a little game.
He has had an issue about the treatment of workers in his own department. He knows his extreme industrial relations laws are causing pain around the community so he comes into this parliament today thinking he will play a little game—he will get out the documentation and read selectively those clauses which might give the impression that this is not a bad deal, but he is not going to put the whole document in front of the parliament.
Yell as much as you like, mate, because you are not worrying me. Instead of putting the whole document before the parliament, the ugly face of the Howard government is on display—
I unreservedly withdraw. I should have said ‘silly’. The Leader of the House is absolutely right. I should have said ‘the misogynist and the silly man’. I go back to the ugly face of the Howard government on display to the Australian people. What they have not asked themselves with their tricky little game today, where they come in with the document and read the best bits, is why the workers are worried about this AWA. Ask yourself that simple little question. Those sparkies are worried about this AWA because they know it hurts them. That is why they have complained. That is the real world—not the Howard government’s world of carry-on, arrogance and ugliness. That is what these tradesmen actually thought—that this AWA was going to hurt them. This is a government that is now so imprisoned in its arrogance it cannot see that reality.
The member for Jagajaga has had great fun at the expense of the minister for education about her absurd carry-on about Maoism. Actually, I think it is Maoism that has taken over the government frontbench. The peasants are happy in their little collectives, off implementing the next five-year plan, with all that arrogance and unreality, believing that every worker in this country is happy with their new extreme industrial relations laws when day after day the evidence from the Australian community is the complete reverse. There are the electricians who complained about their AWA. There are the Spotlight workers who complained about their AWA. There are workers around this country that have rung up members of parliament and said: ‘I’m afraid. I think I need to sign the AWA. I don’t want you to use my name publicly because I’m so scared.’ That means that for every story we hear this place there are hundreds of thousands that go untold. You can stay—
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. For the understanding of members in the House, there is the motion moved by the minister for workplace relations, to which the member for Perth moved an amendment, which I seconded. Given that, I would have thought in the ordinary course you would put the amendment first and then, after the amendment was carried or defeated, it would be clear to the House what the substantive motion was.
The question that was moved by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations was to suspend standing orders. The time limit for that debate is 25 minutes. That time limit has expired. The chair is now required to put the motion as it was originally moved.
That the motion (That the motion (Mr Andrews’s) be agreed to.) be agreed to.