Senate debates

Monday, 22 February 2021

Matters of Public Importance

Job Security

5:09 pm

Photo of Gerard RennickGerard Rennick (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

What a time to be alive and what a time to see the last 12 months and the way the Morrison government has managed this COVID crisis. It has been a masterclass in economic management. In the space of a few months, we've managed to get over COVID, and we've already got 90 per cent of people back into work. If that's not job security, I don't know what is. That's despite the fact that the state Labor premiers have constantly been opening and closing, and opening and closing, borders. In the first week of January this year, I remember talking to some small-business men, and they were fired up. They were waiting for that first Friday night. We were all going to go headbanging in the pub. And what happened at nine o'clock that morning? The Premier of Queensland shut the pubs, the restaurants, the theatres, and my barber—my barber lost 1,500 bucks that weekend. That's a threat to job security. That creates uncertainty. That creates unemployment. You've got to ask yourself why these state premiers keep flip-flopping on border closures.

Last year, we shut the country down for three or four weeks, and we committed to spending over $100 billion. It was the biggest economic rescue package ever, to make sure that our health system was up to speed and that we had enough ventilators—all of that. I well remember the Queensland Chief Health Officer saying that, once we reopened after the election—funnily enough—we wouldn't have to lock down again. We went 130 days with no COVID cases; we got one case in quarantine, and what happened? Bang! Everything was shut again. Of course, we couldn't have the other Labor premiers being outdone. We had another case in quarantine over in Western Australia, so what did we have to do? That Labor premier had to outdo the Queensland Labor premier and shut down for five days. What's going on here? What's going on with the contact tracing and testing? That is a threat to job security. Do you know what is a bigger threat to job security and a bigger example of wage exploitation? Wait for it—superannuation. Every week, 9½ per cent of the workers' wages are taken from them. They never get to see that money. It's given to someone in one of the big cities, Sydney or Melbourne. One of those white-collared blowhards get to manage that money until people retire, and there's no guarantee of a capital return. Were these people ever asked if they could have 9½ per cent of their money taken? No.

There was a referendum in New Zealand in 1997. They were asked if they wanted compulsory superannuation. Do you know what they said? They said no—92 per cent to eight. At the end of the day, the workers want their own money in their pockets. They want to pay off their house, they want to pay off their HECS debt, they might want a speedboat or they might want to upgrade their semitrailer, or whatever it is. There's all that extra compliance for the employer, who now has to make a separate payment, so he says: 'Okay, this just gets harder and harder. Is it really worth continuing to employ people here in Australia, or am I going to shift offshore?' If you want to talk about wage exploitation, that's the other big threat.

Finally, the last big threat is, of course, unreliable power. Would you employ someone who only turned up to work when the sun was shining and the wind was blowing? No. But that is what the people on the Left want to do with energy. They just want energy that turns on when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. How can you run a business when you don't know where your energy's coming from next? Which part of Australia are you going to have to wait for the wind to start blowing in before the energy starts coming through? I'll tell you who's feeling exploited. I'll tell you who I'm very worried about right now: the town of Gladstone in my home state of Queensland. They are terrified the aluminium smelter is going to close down. I constantly ask the shadow minister for Queensland resources—because Queensland resources are for Queensland people; we've got the whole Labor thing going here—how many windmills it's going to take to power that Gladstone aluminium refinery. And he can't tell me.


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