House debates

Monday, 21 November 2022

Questions without Notice


2:40 pm

Photo of Joanne RyanJoanne Ryan (Lalor, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. What is the Albanese government doing to get wages moving for all Australian workers, including those on middle incomes?

2:41 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Lalor for the question, and for the determination of members on this side, and some on the crossbench, to get wages moving. It is interesting that, with the different questions we have from the other side, there is not one about wages moving—not one. In fact, when you look at the name of the bill—secure jobs, better pay—that's why we support it, and that's why they oppose it. There has been some talk about the concept that only the low-paid stream—only the areas of lowest paid businesses—are where we should get wages moving, as though somehow people on middle incomes are rich. It's as though somehow those opposite believe people on middle incomes have no need for a pay rise at all.

The single interest stream is there to deal with a number of challenges for people on middle incomes, who are not the lowest paid but who still have a right to a system where they can get wages moving. It removes red tape, it improves industry standards and it allows workers to graduate from that lower paid bargaining stream through to the single interest. I want to go to each of those three. In terms of removing red tape, there are a whole lot of businesses that already try to engage in multi-employer bargaining. But, at the moment, the system is incredibly complex with extraordinary red tape going all the way through to personal ministerial permission before they're allowed to engage. This goes to Catholic and independent schools; it goes to Victorian hospitals that have been engaging this way. But it's about improving industry standards. The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning manufacturing and installation association represent the businesses that put together the air-conditioning systems in construction. The industry standard is well above the award. The industry standard is in the mid $40s an hour. The award is in the mid $20s. What you have is businesses there striking enterprise agreements knowing that at any moment they can be undercut. It was described by Mimmo Scavera, the head of that association, as a market that is freefalling. It is a race to the bottom if you can't have a situation where these businesses are able to negotiate together.

To the member opposite, the deputy leader who just interjected: have a look at the Victorian childcare centres. Have a look at the individual Victorian childcare centres. And, yes, they are small businesses.

She thinks there is only one Victorian childcare centre! No wonder they were so hopeless on their policy on it. No wonder! Only one! Because those workers are now 60 per cent above the award, they shouldn't have a wage freeze until they are low-paid again. The single interest stream allows middle-income earners to keep their wages moving. (Time expired)

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Wannon needs to work on his timing.