Senate debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

Matters of Public Importance

Job Security

4:54 pm

Photo of Alex AnticAlex Antic (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

We know we're back in this building when Labor are up to their old tricks. As I do most mornings, I read this matter of public importance with a degree of, shall we say, sympathy, because, ultimately, every day it is for those opposite to concoct a matter of public importance which seeks to attack the government's agenda, and it does so with what could only be described as a limited arsenal.

We know that those opposite sit with a divided party and a leader who doesn't know whether he's batting for the woke inner-city types or for the workers, and we know that that narrative streaks its way all through the party. So what do you do in those circumstances? What do you do in order to try to face up to that? What do you do to face up to a government that is led by a prime minister who has seen us through extraordinarily hard times and a 100-year pandemic, and has done so in circumstances that have cemented our economic recovery?

Today, indeed, we learned that we've retained our AAA rating, so it's with a degree of sympathy that I read this, because it is a very, very difficult task. What does this represent? It represents nothing but gaslighting. Ultimately, that's what it is. It is parliamentary gaslighting. Psychologists use that term to refer to a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator tries to use someone else's reality to question their own. We do so—we know that—because their questions are usually based on lies and are usually based on matters which are of deep importance, such as the rights of workers.

To suggest that somehow the Morrison Liberal government has anything but the workers' best interests in mind is ludicrous. This government has zero tolerance for any exploitation of workers. We've seen that with a number of legislative reforms that have come through. It has zero tolerance for the underpayment of wages and entitlements by an employer. This government has, in fact, taken unprecedented action to date to protect vulnerable workers. That includes a commitment of over $160 million in additional resourcing to the regulator and the Fair Work Ombudsman. There is no unfair advantage to lawbreaking companies in the government's IR reforms. In fact, to the contrary, there are significant measures which prevent exploitation of workers and significant penalties for those who do so.

With the various reforms to strengthen and enhance existing compliance and enforcement regimes that are contained in this bill, this government is continuing to take strong action to protect workers from underpayments. But let's compare and contrast that using the example of gaslighting. It wouldn't be the Labor Party blocking these IR reforms that would be causing problems, would it? But wait. What's this? By blocking this omnibus bill, Labor is actually seeking to block serious reforms such as a quicker enterprise agreement approval process through the Fair Work Commission. This process in itself would actively help to deliver pay rises more quickly, but the Labor Party are blocking it. There is an opportunity for more hours for the almost 30 per cent of part-time employees in the retail sector and 40 per cent of part-time employees in the accommodation and food services sector who want more hours, and we're being told that this government is actually standing in the way of workers' rights. It couldn't be more ludicrous. More job opportunities that would provide providing certainty for mega job-creating projects such as greenfield sites are being blocked by Labor's position on this legislation. In fact, if you look at the detail—we do that on this side of the chamber; we look at the detail—the only side that's proposing to cut wages and cost jobs is actually those opposite, the Labor Party.

Two weeks ago, in fact, we heard Anthony Albanese announcing his undercooked and disappointing attempt at industrial relations policy, which has nothing to do with helping employees and employers work together. By contrast, the Morrison government, in supporting Australia's jobs and economic recovery package of reforms, will actually give businesses the confidence they need to get back to growing and creating jobs. That is exactly what the Morrison government's industrial relations reforms are attempting to achieve. To suggest that this government is failing to address job security is either disingenuous or just simply missing the point—or it is simple gaslighting.


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