Thursday, 10 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the What is the lowest hourly rate a young frontline supermarket worker could be paid under the Morrison government's industrial relations changes, and can the minister guarantee no young worker will be worse off as a result of the Morrison government's industrial relations changes?
I don't have access with me to every award available to workers in Australia. I will have to take on notice the award rates for young people working in supermarkets. But the reforms that we are seeking to bring in as a part of our industrial relations reform are about making everybody better off—about businesses being better off and employees better off, and, of course, about creating jobs so the economy is better off. That is the focus of the legislation that we are bringing forward. That is why we work every day to ensure that the economy can recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. We have some, I think, quite sensible suggestions to put forward as a part of this package. As the Leader of the Government in the Senate said today, there have been over 170 hours of consultation between the government and the unions with respect to developing a package of reforms—sensible industrial relations reforms—that can be presented to this country in the interests of all Australians, whether that be younger Australians and older Australians or whether that be business and the economy more broadly. We need to have the flexibility in the economy and in the system to be able to create new jobs and for industry to create new jobs and to employ young Australians and older Australians alike. That is the focus of the reforms that we are bringing forward. We want everybody to be better off. We want young Australians at work to be better off, we want older Australians at work to be better off, we want business to be better off and, clearly, we would like to see the economy better off.
I note the minister won't guarantee that young workers will not be worse off. Can the minister guarantee that a 61-year-old frontline aged-care worker will not be worse off under the Morrison government's proposed industrial relations changes, and can the minister guarantee that no older worker will be worse off as a result of the Morrison government's industrial relations changes?
Can I say the claims that are being made by the opposition with respect to aged-care workers in the last couple of days—the suggestion that they will have a wage cut by Christmas—are an absolute disgrace, given the hard work that aged-care workers in particular have undertaken over the last 12 months. The suggestion that aged-care workers are going to get a cut in their salaries by Christmas is an absolute disgrace.
Honourable senators interjecting—
My point of order is direct relevance. He was asked a question about whether or not older workers would be worse off as a result of the government's changes. I ask him to return to that point.
While the people who asked the question may not like the terms in which it is answered, he is addressing the point raised in it, and there's an opportunity, I think today after question time, to debate it. I call the minister to continue. He was being directly relevant. Senator Colbeck.
That was part of the question. I think, with respect, Senator Wong, I've allowed you to emphasise it. He is talking about what I would consider to be the policy currently before the other place that is the subject of the question. There are 16 seconds remaining. Senator Colbeck.
Mr President, how can what this party may or may not have done prior to the last election possibly be directly relevant, under the standing orders, to a question which goes to the effect of this government's proposed industrial relations changes? If you say it's not going to happen, guarantee it.
Mr President, on the point of order: I've almost lost count of the number of points of order that Senator Wong has chosen to take in interrupting Senator Colbeck. On the point of order, Senator Colbeck, in responding to this question, has spoken very clearly about aged-care workers, the wages of aged-care workers and the wage arrangements for aged-care workers. And the repetitive points of order from those opposite, now seeking to take one sentence out of a two-minute answer that has overwhelmingly being directly relevant, is simply an abuse of procedures and the standing orders.
On the point of order, I have ruled previously that a glancing phrase in an answer is not going to make someone not directly relevant. An answer that consisted of attacking the opposition or outlining their policy would not be directly relevant. That said, I do grant some latitude to the Leader of the Opposition in making points of order, and I think I do need to allow the minister, when points of order are made and parts of the questions are restated, to use a glancing phrase in response to that. He did at the end of that, in my view, turn back to the answer, because he was then talking about the wages of these particular workers. Senator Colbeck.
I look forward to continuing to do my work within this portfolio. I know that all of us on the front bench serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister, and I respect that enormously. I look forward to continuing to do my work. One thing I do know, and one thing that gives me great satisfaction, is that, whatever happens in the reshuffle when it comes, that lot will still be on the other side.