Tuesday, 23 November 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Does the minister believe that two workers in regional Australia who do exactly the same job should get the same pay?
Mr Speaker, I just query whether or not that really is a question to the Minister for Industrial Relations, as opposed to the minister for regional development. It goes to pay and conditions that don't apply just to regional areas but to awards that would apply to workers regardless of where they are in the country. That question should be directed to a different minister.
I'll just get you to pause for a moment there. I ask members on my left, particularly when I am being asked on a point of order, if they could give me an opportunity to actually hear the points that are being raised—I would appreciate that. Would you mind stating that again, please, Leader of the House?
It's a great pleasure, Mr Speaker. That was a question in relation to industrial relations matters, and it should be directed to the appropriate minister. It wasn't a question about a specific award within a regional area; it was in relation to an award that would apply economy wide and worker wide across the economy. It was a cute way of dressing up that element, but that's really what the question went to, and it hasn't been appropriately directed to the Deputy Prime Minister.
Honourable members interjecting—
Thank you, Mr Speaker. To the point of order, the implications of this ruling are huge. What the Leader of the House is effectively saying—
Government members interjecting—
Careful what you wish for. Just listen to this.What the Leader of the House is saying is that when there is a trade deal, only the minister representing the minister for trade will be allowed to answer the question. Where there is something resulting from an international agreement, only the minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs will be allowed to make a response. And there are all the answers that we have previously had on the relevance of a trade agreement, from the minister for education, the minister for agriculture and all the other people who come with a stakeholder interest, even though they don't have policy carriage. If that is all going to be ruled out—that's what the Leader of the House is asking for—I am recommending that the wiser course is to allow the question to stand.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I thank the honourable member for his question. It was, let's just say, lacking detail. To try to give the proper respect to an answer, I am only too happy to refer it to the appropriate minister who deals with that category within this House, and that is Minister Fletcher.
I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for referring the question to the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations in this House, who is, after all, the right person to ask a question about Labor's same job, same pay bill, and Labor's policy, which, interestingly, is an amendment to the policy that was introduced in the Fair Work Act under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government.
The enterprise bargaining framework set out in that act does not require that every person in a workplace be paid exactly the same. What it instead requires, if there is to be an enterprise agreement, is that persons who are covered by that agreement are better off than they would be if they were under the award. But we've heard highly misleading claims from the Labor Party. Their explanatory memorandum for this bill says, 'There is a new business model based on a labour hire service provider that has distorted the labour market and undermined the enterprise bargaining system.' That sounds very serious, doesn't it? That sounds extremely serious. The only problem is that it's just factually wrong.
This claim that there is a growth in labour hire is not true. The statistics are very clear. The facts are that the percentage of Australians who are employed through a labour hire firm is less than two per cent and has been so for a decade. The fundamental premise of Labor's bill is absolutely misplaced. Why are they doing it? Because, of course, every one of their preselections depends upon the approval of the union bosses. So, when the union bosses click their fingers, this lot jump to attention. The fact is that just 14.3 per cent of Australians are members of a union. That's down from 40 per cent in 1992.