Senate debates

Thursday, 27 June 2013


Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013; Second Reading

9:56 pm

Photo of Arthur SinodinosArthur Sinodinos (NSW, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | Hansard source

Our Senate leader has been eloquent tonight in describing the problems with this legislation and the lengths to which the opposition has gone in order to try and improve it. Sadly, it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. I have to say that on his first day on the job, the new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has shown he is no less a captive of vested interests, in this case the trade union movement, than his predecessor was, someone who did her best to narrow the base of the Labor Party to the trade union movement.

Senator Cameron, in his contribution on this bill, talked about flexibility and what 'flexibility' is a code for. Flexibility is code for more jobs. It is code for higher productivity. Flexibility is all about equipping workers to better deal with the changing workplace. It is about flexibility between workers and their bosses and employers to come to win-win deals which allow them to improve productivity and competitiveness in a cooperative way. What we have here it is a party, is a government, which believes that the answer to all industrial problems is more and more regulation.

I note, as Senator Back mentioned, there is no regulatory impact statement to go with this legislation. What has the government got to hide? If the benefits of this legislation outweigh the costs, why not put them out there? Why not demonstrate it to the public? Why not try and take the public with you? I will tell you what is happening here: the unions are getting in for their last chop. They think the writing is on the wall. They think the government is on the way out, and they are squeezing every last piece of legislation, every last piece of 'protection' they can get out of this government. That is the shame of all of this. Yet another bill that has been exempted from the need for a regulatory impact statement.

I have to say that the role that the unions play in the governance of the Labor Party means that elected officials are under considerable pressure to agree to things which they may in their heart of hearts believe are not in the public interest. They are persuaded to do so, because their union paymasters have said they should be done. Kevin Rudd has talked about offering an olive branch to business and working with business. But along with Julia Gillard in opposition, he was one of the authors of the policy Forward with Fairness that became the basis of the Fair Work Act, which has re-regulated the labour market. He talks about picking up the mantle of reform from the Hawke-Keating era, and yet he wrote an essay at the height of the global financial crisis attacking so-called neoliberal economic policies and casting aspersions on the very heritage of Hawke and Keating, who went to great lengths to help open up the economy with the support of the coalition. That is the hypocrisy of this Prime Minister. He wants to extend an olive branch to business, and behind his back he has a baseball bat and it is called the Fair Work Act.

This is no way forward for industrial relations in Australia. The coalition have a policy which restores balance in the workplace and we will implement that policy after 14 September, or whenever the election is.


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