Wednesday, 23 November 2022
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Senator Watt. On page 52 of the government's regulatory impact statement for the industrial relations bill, when trying to work out the bargaining cost for medium businesses, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations calculates that $273,700 divided by 15.2 is $12,878. Can you, please, confirm that the correct figure should be $18,006?
Opposition senators interjecting—
It is always good to have a question about industrial relations from the former minister whose office led a police raid on union offices and who presided over conflict in the industrial relations system and wants to drag us back into that conflict situation. It's always good to get a question about IR from the whiteboard warrior over there, Senator Cash.
Opposition senators interjecting—
Senator Cash, it is always good to hear from you. The one thing I can guarantee is that, when Senator Cash opens her mouth about industrial relations, it's going to be a scarce campaign based on lies—and she is doing it yet again. The actual facts here—
In fact, I was directly answering Senator Cash's question by referring to the fact that yet again she was coming out with a scare campaign based on lies. That was the question.
Opposition senators int erjecting—
President, indeed, you gave two directions, which I welcomed, to the minister back to the question. Each time, he has flouted that by continuing with the theme of simply reflecting upon the opposition rather than dealing with the very specific, relevant detail of the question.
Senator Birmingham, I had just directed the minister back to the question and there was so much noise on my left I couldn't even tell you what the minister said. He is well aware that I've directed him twice. If we can have quiet, we might all be able to hear the answer.
As opposed to what Senator Cash is saying, the facts here are that small businesses will be excluded from the single-interest stream and so will not be forced to bargain—
Small businesses will have access to the cooperative workplaces stream, which is designed to be a low-cost option for businesses without a dedicated human resources capacity. We've seen over the last 24 hours Senator Cash hyperventilating about information within this RIS.
We have seen Senator Cash going on and on and on as she is prone to do about information contained in the RIS and trying to argue that this shows that small businesses will be subject to a major cost when in actual fact most of them will have access to the cooperative workplaces stream, which is a low-cost option that most of them will take advantage of. It's more misrepresentation and scare-campaigning from the opposition. (Time expired)
Can you also confirm that as a result of the mistake—in other words, the RIS is wrong—the total bargaining cost for medium businesses is actually much higher, at over $80,000, and not the $75,148 according to your own government's formula?
Again, what we continually see from Senator Cash and her colleagues in the coalition is a misrepresentation of how the bargaining system will work under the government.
As I was saying, we continually see Senator Cash and her colleagues seize on facts and figures and then distort what they actually mean. The reality is that under the government's proposal most small businesses—and I know you're asking about medium-sized businesses—will have access to the cooperative workplaces stream. There are various other routes for medium-sized businesses to take advantage of that will not include the kinds of costs that the opposition is out there trying to scare people about. All through this debate we have seen scare campaign after scare campaign from the opposition. First of all, it was going to ruin the mining industry, and then everyone realised that it wasn't going to apply to most of the mining industry. Then it was going to promote strikes, when in actual fact there are restrictions on strikes. Everything we've heard from the coalition is a scare campaign and blatantly wrong.
Of course, I can only go off the figures that are in the RIS—that is what they're for. But the point is that in every step of this debate we have seen people from the coalition seize on figures and then misrepresent what they actually stand for. Everything we have heard from the coalition has been a misrepresentation of what the government is proposing to do through this multi-employer bargaining and the various other changes—
Opposition senators interjecting —
As I said, everything we have heard from the opposition in this debate is a misrepresentation and is part of a scare campaign. The reason for that is that they will stop at absolutely nothing to stop wages from growing. They were a 10-year government that kept wages and productivity deliberately low, and they are now fighting to the death to stop changes being made to our industrial relations system that will actually deliver better wages for workers and better productivity for businesses. That's what this is really about: the coalition wants to keep the old system in place that kept wages low and kept productivity low. (Time expired)