Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Questions without Notice
My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Would the minister inform the House how a modern and flexible workplace relations system is helping to keep the rate of inflation low? Are there any alternative policies that put these gains at risk?
In my portfolio there are two simple reasons why interest rates would be higher today if the Labor Party were in government. Firstly, when it comes to industrial relations, an Econtech report released on 16 July says unequivocally that inflation would be one per cent higher if there were no independent building watchdog, which is the Labor Party’s policy. Their policy is to abolish the independent building watchdog, to close down the Building Code. As a result of that, GDP would fall by 1.5 per cent, inflation would increase by 1.2 per cent and that would of course increase interest rates. Secondly, a statement from the Governor of the Reserve Bank says:
Capacity utilisation is high after a lengthy period of expansion, and unemployment over recent months has continued to decline.
One of the key factors there is about getting people into the workforce, increasing the size of the workforce when there is demand for more workers in the economy.
This government had the courage to undertake welfare reform, opposed all the way by the Labor Party. On 1 July this year, nearly a quarter of a million Australians who were in receipt of a parental pension and whose youngest child was of school age had, for the first time, an obligation to go to work for 15 hours a week. We moved that because we knew that Australia needed more workers. The Labor Party, including the Leader of the Opposition, voted against that reform, saying that it was heartless and inappropriate. In fact, the member for Lilley said it should be dumped.
We have made the hard decisions about the economy. We made the hard decision on industrial relations reform that Bill Evans from Westpac said on Sky News today is helping to deliver a flexible workplace environment. As he said, if we had the resources boom of the 1970s and the same industrial relations system of the 1970s, things would be out of control. But today we have an equivalent resources boom and we have a flexible workplace that helps to keep unnecessary wage claims in check and at the same time contains inflation—the second area in relation to welfare—opposed all the way by the Labor Party because they do not have the guts to make the hard economic decisions. If you want to know how you can end up with higher interest rates, look no further than the Labor Party if they ever get into government.