Senate debates

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


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

7:01 pm

Photo of Anne McEwenAnne McEwen (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I also wish to take note of this report. I do not think Senator Macdonald came in here intending to speak to that report at all; I do not think he actually knew what report he was speaking to. But, when it was, correctly, raised that the opposition are still full of warriors for Work Choices—as has been evidenced again today—Senator Macdonald could not help himself. He had to take the bait, get up and once again demonstrate how the opposition is determined to reintroduce what they like to call ‘flexible workplace practices’, which is code for Work Choices.

I hope that people who are listening to this debate while driving home tonight fully understand what the opposition has in mind when it comes to workplace relations. The report, which Senator Cameron also talked to, demonstrates that Australian workers are not interested in individual workplace agreements; they are interested in collective agreements and are signing up to collective agreements that are negotiated with them and by their unions on their behalf. Those agreements, especially those that have been registered under the new Fair Work Act, demonstrate increases in wages and entitlements for workers and are being done in a cooperative framework that was enabled by the Labor government. One of its first initiatives in government was to repeal Work Choices and to establish the Fair Work Act and the fair work umpire.

The working people of Australia rewarded the Labor Party for that initiative by re-electing us in 2010—something that the opposition neglect to mention in their speeches. What Australian workers are fearful of is a return to the bad old days of the coalition. If there is any doubt about that, that is what we have seen demonstrated here. Australian workers are afraid of a return to Work Choices. That legislation stripped away from working people entitlements like penalty rates and flexible working arrangements. It stripped away workers’ right to negotiate with their employer through their unions. It took away the things that Australian unions and working people had fought for for more than 100 years.

I will never forget the night in this Senate when the now opposition, who were then in government, managed to get that disgusting legislation through the parliament. What a sad day that was for working people. But the coalition were punished for that in the 2007 election, the memory of which is not too far away. We are celebrating the anniversary of that this week. We won the 2007 election because of Work Choices, and now we have the Work Choices warriors back in here trying to defend their record. More frighteningly, they are coming in here and openly stating that they believe in Work Choices and would like it back. We know full well that that is what is going to happen if—heaven forbid!—they are ever elected again.

Australian working people do not want that kind of industrial relations system. They want fairness and an equal say in the workplace. They do not want to be hostage to unscrupulous employers who are able, because of legislation, to run roughshod over them. We worked very hard to repeal that legislation from the previous government, and we are proud of that action. I can tell you that all of us on this side are going to continue to protect working people from the rampages of the Work Choices warriors over there, like Senator Macdonald, Senator McGauran, Senator Williams and Senator Nash. All of them put their hand up for Work Choices. All of them should be ashamed of it. The people of Australia should be very, very afraid of them ever coming back into government again.


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