House debates

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Questions without Notice

Workplace Relations

2:54 pm

Photo of Julia GillardJulia Gillard (Lalor, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is again to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Will the minister rule out the following: that the misnamed fairness test is being dealt with by temps who are not employed by the Workplace Authority but who are applying the test, that the temps have only six days training, that the temps include foreign backpackers and that the temps use this guide in applying the test and are responsible for identifying the right award out of more than 4,000 awards? Will the minister rule those things out or confirm them?

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

I am not ruling anything in or out on the run. The fairness test was introduced on 7 May. The Workplace Authority began full operations on 1 July. It is interesting that there has been an increased level of lodgements of Australian workplace agreements, collective agreements and union collective agreements—because you can have union collective agreements under Work Choices, which the Labor Party does not mention, of course. Under our legislation—which the Labor Party voted for—every agreement that is lodged that satisfies the requirements will be tested by the fairness test. That fairness test is applied by the Workplace Authority. The Workplace Authority, when it applies that test, accepts responsibility for whether the test is accurate or not, as an authority.

If somehow the Deputy Leader of the Opposition thinks that she is scoring some massive political point on the fact that foreign workers are used—foreigners brought into Australia or foreigners already working in Australia—can I say that there are hospitals in Australia that are full of foreign nurses working in them, and there are hospitals in Australia that are full of foreign doctors working in them, who are providing essential services for Australians. I think that if she is in the business of dog whistling on this sort of thing then it will come back to bite her. The Workplace Authority is applying a test that was approved by this parliament. It is doing a fine job. Barbara Bennett is doing an excellent job for the people of Australia. Importantly, it illustrates comprehensively that our workplace relations reforms are being embraced by the Australian workplace.