Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts, representing the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations. How is the government building a modern, prosperous economy with harmony and fairness in the workplace? What is the government’s view on recent commentary critical of Australia’s industrial relations system?
I thank the member for his question. We have been able to achieve it due to a number of factors. First of all, we got rid of Work Choices, something welcomed by the whole of the Australian community. Second, we restored rights and fairness in the workplace system, because all good workplace systems should be based around fairness. Third, we simplified the industrial relations system—we reduced 3,000 awards to 122 modern awards and Access Economics has estimated that this alone will benefit the economy by almost $5 billion over the decade.
In addition to that, we have invested in skills and in infrastructure, because we understand that the opportunity to participate more effectively in a marketplace, in a changing workplace, is dependent on those investments. The end result has been an incredible increase in jobs in this country—over the three years we have been in office 600,000 jobs have been created. We have also seen an increase in productivity, because fairness does of itself produce the productivity dividend. Through that increase in productivity we have also been able to see an increase in real wages, because it has to be understood that you can effectively only sustain real wage growth if you do lift productivity. So ours is a dual approach based on fairness but also driving productivity.
I have been asked if there is any critical commentary as to this success that the government have achieved over the last three years. There has been, indeed today. I was interested to read in the Australian newspaper today that Peter Reith is back in town. People might remember Peter Reith; he was the original architect of Work Choices. There he was in the paper today, and he has said that the Australian workplace has been degraded. As I said, he was the original architect of Work Choices, now it is another Lazarus rising from the grave in terms of that thing that they said was buried—like the Rottweiler returning to its mess, that is what it reminds us of.
I will tell this House what degraded the industrial relations system in the workplace. It was decisions that Peter Reith was responsible for that saw a government conspiring to sack workers, a government legislating to strip them of their entitlements and at the same time urging other employers to follow suit. That is not the Australian way. It is why we opposed it, why we will continue to oppose it and why the Australian people will continue to support us in that endeavour.