Senate debates

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


Agreement making in Australia under the Workplace Relations Act: 2007 to 2009

6:50 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

Agreement making in Australia under the Workplace Relations Act: 2007 to 2009 is a document that outlines what has happened to collective bargaining and collective agreements since the end of Work Choices. What it shows is that a total of 24,156 collective agreements were approved under the Workplace Relations Act between 1 January 2007 and 31 December 2009. This was a 14.7 per cent increase from the 21,057 collective agreements approved in the previous three-year period. What this shows is that employees whose pay was set by collective agreements earned, on average, more than those whose pay was set by an individual agreement. I think it is quite clear from this that the reason why workers detested Work Choices was that, under a proper bargaining system, you could actually achieve decent wages and decent conditions under a proper workplace relations system. And wage increases under this system have broadly followed the economic cycle.

It is interesting to note that, even as late as today, the debate in the coalition party room is for the return of Work Choices. There is a report up on AAP today that says an unnamed coalition member was in the coalition party room talking about the need for flexibility in agreement making, and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Tony Abbott, agreed that we need more flexibility in agreement making. What does that mean? It means that the Work Choices warriors are on the rampage again and Work Choices is on the way back. This lot across the chamber have no idea about the rights of workers in this country and they want Work Choices back again. The reason why workers hate Work Choices and the opposition want to give the bosses absolute managerial prerogative on the workshop floor is that, under Work Choices, more than one million workers suffered a real pay cut of up to $97.75 a week. We still have the opposition, in their party room, wanting to bring back Work Choices. Hundreds of thousands of workers were pushed onto individual contracts. It is great to see in this report that individual agreements are down by 23 per cent. Workers are getting their rights back under a Labor government.

Under AWAs and Work Choices, 70 per cent of workers lost shift loadings, 68 per cent lost annual leave loadings, 65 per cent lost penalty rates, 49 per cent lost overtime loadings, 25 per cent no longer had public holidays and 3½ million lost their right of protection against unfair dismissal. And it is on again. The coalition party room, as reported on AAP, says flexibility needs to come back to the workplace. Flexibility is simply Work Choices—that is what you have got to think about when you hear the coalition talk about ‘flexibility’. We know that what they want to do is go down to the annual general meetings of the HR Nicholls Society in South Australia. The sycophantic politicians from the coalition want to doff their caps to the HR Nicholls Society, as Senator Minchin did a few years ago, saying: ‘We’re sorry; we didn’t take enough away from workers.’ Senator Minchin did that when he did not realise he was being recorded. He thought he was talking privately to the extremists in the HR Nicholls Society. (Time expired) Oh well, we got one in.


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