Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Wages growth has been stagnant for the eight long years of this Liberal government. Won't cutting the take-home pay of working families just make things worse?
We reject the false assertion from those opposite. What we do say is that the policies on this side of the House are assisting with the comeback of the Australian economy. When it comes to wages growth, we have seen—
Ms Coker interjecting—
We have seen wages growth of 0.7 per cent. That has also been the 20-year average we've seen across the economy. That has taken into account the time that the Labor Party were in government and of course the time that the coalition have been in government.
But the key to driving wages growth is getting more people into jobs. When you get more people into jobs you create more competition in the labour market and therefore higher wages growth. Whether it's our tax cuts, our incentives for investment, our JobMaker hiring credit, our support for apprentices or our bringing forward of and new investments in infrastructure—water infrastructure, transport infrastructure and communications infrastructure—these are the policies that are designed to drive jobs right across the country. We saw 178,000 jobs created last month. We've seen 80 per cent of the 1.3 million Australians who either lost their jobs or had their working hours reduced to zero back at work. The key to driving up wages growth is creating more jobs, and that is what our policies are designed to do.
My question is to the Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations. Will the minister please update the House on how the Morrison government is helping both employers and employees to work together to create more jobs and better agreements as part of our economic comeback from the COVID-19 recession?
I thank the member for her question and for her interest in this area. As the Treasurer noted, more jobs and more competition for jobs is what drives wage growth. One thing that members opposite very rarely like to acknowledge is that more people on enterprise agreements means higher wages. The whole purpose of Paul Keating's design of the enterprise agreement system was to move people off awards and onto enterprise agreements, where the wages are higher. At the peak of the COVID recession, there were some 1.3 million Australians who had either lost their job or were stood down on zero hours. The goal of this government is to create jobs. Everything in the bill that we put before the parliament this morning is designed to create jobs and put upward pressure on wages.
When we look at the enterprise agreement making system, the bargaining system, there is absolutely universal agreement that it no longer works, that it's no longer fit for purpose. Employers agree with that proposition, employees agree with that proposition and the government agrees with that proposition. We all want to do something about that—except for members opposite. In fact, it was Paul Keating himself who said, 'Enterprise bargaining doesn't work as it should do, as I designed it to do'. And that is preventing bargaining from increasing productivity and increasing wages. In the last 10 years, we've seen enterprise agreements in freefall. They peaked at 25,150 in 2010 and were down to just 10,711 at 30 June this year. That's a 57 per cent drop in people who are covered by enterprise agreements. If you are covered by an enterprise agreement, your median hourly ordinary time earnings are 40 per cent higher than if you are on the awards. More enterprise agreements—higher wages. More jobs—higher wages. It's a fairly simple calculus.
That's why we are actually making changes, bringing ideas to the table, to try and fix the enterprise agreement making system—simplify procedures and cut red tape—and there are a number of improvements that we are making. These improvements are designed to stop the sort of things we've seen happening recently, where it becomes untenably difficult to actually conclude an agreement. In the Officeworks agreement in 2019, enormous time and effort had to be allocated to discussions around coolrooms for Officeworks. Undertakings were sought and had to be provided by Officeworks that it would not require employees to 'engage in work that would entitle them to a cold work disability allowance within the meaning of clause 28 of the General Retail Industry Award' or hold a liquor licence. Officeworks did not at all want to have a coldroom or hold a liquor licence. These types of legalistic, technical accoutrements that have grown around the system meant it doesn't work—and it can be improved. (Time expired)
My question is to the Prime Minister. Under the government's legislation, a personal carer in aged care could lose up to $11,000 a year from their take-home pay. Why is the government's Christmas gift for frontline workers a cut to their take-home pay?
The reason why not one of the questions that have been asked today seeks to explain how it is that take-home pay would be as they say is because it's not true. There is no explanation of that. There is absolutely nothing in the bill that anyone here can point to that does what they say it does—because it doesn't do that.
Ms Butler interjecting—
The member for Griffith has continually interjected. I've made my position as clear as I can. There is no point in me raising my voice like people do when they are interjecting. She will leave under 94(a). I ejected a couple of members from the government side yesterday. If members are going to continue to ignore my rulings on the level of interjections, I will have no hesitation in naming them and seeking to have them suspended for 24 hours—no hesitation at all.
The member for Griffith then left the chamber.