Tuesday, 6 September 2022
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Senator Watt. United Workers Union secretary Tim Kennedy said that workplace laws should most definitely be amended to allow workers to hit major companies with strikes at the same time. Minister, will you guarantee that the Albanese Labor government will not allow this to occur?
Thank you, Senator McGrath, for the question. What is it about the opposition that all they want to do is talk about conflict? What is it about them? The simple concept—
As I say, what is it about these people? They were in government for nine years. They delivered a wages and bargaining system that is completely broken. They had low wages as a design feature of their economic policy.
It really is a shame, after an election, after a jobs and skills summit which saw the country brought together by a new government, that the only group that doesn't want to accept that people want to cooperate is the opposition. We know what it's like to be in opposition; we were there for a few years. The approach we took was that you pick your fights—you actually look for constructive opportunities when you can, and you pick your fights when you really have to. But this opposition—all they seem to do is: whatever the idea, they're against it.
Honourable senators interjecting—
They'd be against the sun rising in the east and they'd be against the sun setting in the west because they want to oppose everything that happens.
Now, the opposition want to continue fighting, just as they did for nine years. They want to continue delivering lower productivity and lower wages through a conflict driven IR system. But it's not just through an IR system that they want to maintain the conflict. I was very interested to see—
President, I raise a point of order on relevance. The question was very tightly worded, and the minister has come nowhere near answering the question. In fact, he has gone anywhere but near answering the question. I would ask you to get the minister to come back and answer the question, please.
I would remind senators that question time should be conducted in relative quiet. It has been very hard for me to hear Senator Watt, despite Senator Watt being able to project his voice. But I will remind Senator Watt of the question and that he has 37 seconds left to answer the question.
The government have made very clear that we will be consulting employers, unions and a range of other people as to how this agreement will be implemented and will deal with all of those issues. But, again, I was very concerned to see some reports this morning in The Australian that, in response to COSBOA's comments about reaching an agreement on these matters, coalition backbenchers were 'out for blood' on the issue. Now, we've heard a lot about thuggery and intimidation from the other side when it comes to industrial relations. Well, who are the thugs now? Who's doing the intimidating now? In fact, some coalition MPs argued that COSBOA had betrayed small business owners, likening it to a snake. That's the kind of behaviour— (Time expired)
Senator McGrath, I don't know who's feeding you your questions, but you should have a read of them before you ask them. If you want to talk about lower productivity in this country, who was responsible for lower productivity over the last nine years? You. It was the opposition that was responsible for that, through a conflict driven IR system.
Thank you, President. It's good to good to know Senator Payne is still here. I had not heard much from her since the election, so it is good to hear from her. We want to talk about lower productivity.
Oh, you are back! You're back!
I'm welcoming more contributions from Senator Payne; that's what I'm doing. Now, seriously, lower productivity: if you want to talk about an IR system that delivers lower productivity, have a look in the mirror. You had nine years of delivering lower productivity through an IR system that was all about conflict and not about agreement. That's what we're trying to fix. We're trying to fix an IR system that is riven with conflict, and you want to drag us back to a system with lower productivity and lower wages That's why the Australian people voted against you, because they want more agreement and less conflict. (Time expired)
Given rising interest rates, rising inflation and businesses battling increased costs of doing business, why is the Albanese government prioritising policies that will encourage economy-wide strike action?
Senator McGrath is correct. We do see cost of living pressures in this country at the moment and that's why we have a range of policies in place to deal with it, such as delivering wage rises. The best way to deliver cost-of-living relief is to get people's wages up.
Minister, please resume your seat. Can we please have quiet when the minister is answering.
Senator McKenzie, I just called the Senate up and Senator Wong for the constant interjections. I would appreciate it, when the minister is answering the question—your questions—to give him the courtesy of listening to the answer. Please continue, Minister.
Thank you, President. As I say, we recognise there are cost-of-living pressures in this country and that is why we are acting on them. We are acting on cheaper child care. We're acting on them in cheaper medicines. We are putting downward pressure on energy prices. That is part of our commitment, as we have said. More importantly, we are lifting wages at the same time. Which government supported a minimum wage rise? The Albanese Labor government. Who opposed it? The opposition. Which government supported a wage rise for aged-care workers? The Albanese Labor government. Who opposed it? The opposition. That is how we will fix cost-of-living pressures, not by dragging our IR system back to the past and then accusing people who have the right to stand up for it for being out for blood.