House debates

Monday, 18 June 2007

Questions without Notice

Workplace Relations

2:46 pm

Photo of Stewart McArthurStewart McArthur (Corangamite, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Would the minister inform the House how the government is better informing Australian employees about their rights at work? Is the minister aware of any groups which oppose employees being informed about their protection?

Photo of Joe HockeyJoe Hockey (North Sydney, Liberal Party, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Corangamite for his question. He is a fine member of this place. In 1996, when this government was elected, the unemployment level in his electorate was 8.6 per cent. Now it is 4.6 per cent, so that is great news.

This government is focused on ensuring that all employees covered by the federal system will receive a workplace fact sheet that provides them with a straightforward guide to where they stand in relation to workplace relations. The fact sheet—and we will be moving an amendment in the Senate to this effect—will contain basic information about workplace entitlements like wages, minimum standards, protected award conditions and the fairness test, as well as the roles of the Workplace Authority and the Workplace Ombudsman. The fact sheet will be drafted by the Workplace Authority and it will be gazetted. The fact sheet will not cost employers anything. They can download it from the internet, or the Workplace Ombudsman will supply them with copies.

You would think that most people in Australia would be happy to provide more information to Australian workers about their entitlements at work. You would think that this basic information that allows the workers of Australia to know where they stand under the workplace relations laws would be fully supported on both sides of the House. But yesterday, on the Insiders program, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said:

I’m troubled Australian employers are basically being forced by the Government to hand out its propaganda.

I thought that was a bit tough. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition went on to say:

It’s a ridiculous burden to put on business, particularly small business.

I thought, ‘This is pretty strong outrage,’ and I asked myself: ‘Why would the Deputy Leader of the Opposition be saying that?’ The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is so opposed to providing information to employees that it is actually part of the Labor Party’s policy—unless they have forgotten their policy already; we have not. It is documented. Page 8 of the Labor Party’s own policy states:

8. Information in the workplace

Employers must provide all new employees with a Fair Work Information Statement which contains prescribed information about the employee’s rights and entitlements at work—

and, in the little bit that we do not do, the Labor Party policy goes on to state—

including the right of the employee to choose whether to be or not to be a member of a union and where to go for information and assistance.

So the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is so outraged about this government providing information through an independent authority to employees, but the Labor Party’s own policy says that they are going to do it—and, by the way, employers will have to give employees an opportunity to join the union. That is part of their own information statement. That smacks of hypocrisy from the Labor Party. But that is not new ground. They are hypocrites when it comes to productivity; they are hypocrites when it comes to the information statement.

We learnt today that when it comes to Dean Mighell they are hypocrites as well. We know that, with confected outrage, the Leader of the Opposition went before the people of Australia and said: ‘I am so outraged at Dean Mighell’s behaviour that I have asked that he be sacked from the Labor Party and that all ETU money be sent back to the ETU. We will not accept a dollar from the ETU.’ Not only was there a full-page ad by the ETU in the Courier-Mail last week against the government’s industrial relations system but a fellow by the name of Stephen Newnham, the secretary of the Victorian Labor Party, told the Australian Financial Review that Mr Mighell was free to rejoin the ALP at any time, was keen to maintain an active role in the party—I bet—and could well do so after the federal poll.

So the Leader of the Opposition has gone before the Australian people and said, ‘I will not tolerate Dean Mighell’s behaviour; I have called for him to be sacked; he is gone from the Labor Party,’ and the state secretary is saying: ‘We will have him back. We want him back. We want his money.’ And you know what? He will turn up the day after election day. That is the hypocrisy that the Labor Party have made part of their basic manifesto. The way they behave must be seen for what it is: rich in hypocrisy. And when old Deano, Dean Mighell, comes out to open the batting for the Labor Party at the next election, we will all be waiting there with bated breath.