House debates

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Questions without Notice

Workplace Relations

2:16 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the former finance minister's statement that low wages are a deliberate design feature of our economic architecture. Will the Prime Minister admit that his new workplace laws are part of his deliberate scheme to cut take-home pay?

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

Let me describe the system that we envisage and wish to see operating effectively in Australia, the model of industrial relations that we are working towards:

It is a model which places primary emphasis on bargaining at the workplace level within a framework of minimum standards provided by arbitral tribunals.

It is a model under which compulsorily arbitrated awards and arbitrated wage increases would be there only as a safety net. This safety net would not be intended to prescribe the actual conditions of work of most employees, but only to catch those unable to make workplace agreements with employers. Over time the safety net would inevitably become simpler.

We would have fewer awards, with fewer clauses. For most employees and most businesses, wages and conditions of work would be determined by agreements worked out by the employer, the employees and their union.

These agreements would predominantly be based on improving the productive performance of enterprises, because both employers and employees are coming to understand that only productivity improvements can guarantee sustainable real wage increases.

That was Paul Keating, members. That was the original vision of the enterprise bargaining system, and that is a vision that we share with that former prime minister, because enterprise agreements, when they prevail over awards, result in workers being paid 40 per cent more on average. That is the system that we need to revitalise and that is the system that is the subject of our bill to make for a better Australia, with more people in better-paying jobs.