Wednesday, 23 November 2022
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Senator Watt. The regulatory impact statement for the government's industrial relations legislation says that the department has costed marketing consultants by using an article entitled 'How much should I charge as a consultant in Australia?' from a website called authentic.com.au. The author of that article is described on the website as:
A cross between business strategist, modern day spiritual healer, and self-development expert, Benjamin J Harvey is as comfortable working with Shamans to Strategists, Psychics to Sales Reps, Healers to Home Makers, Buddhists to Businessmen and Meditators to Mediators.
Opposition senators interjecting—
I am aware of this incident, and I'm also aware that a departmental spokesperson from the department has already addressed this point by saying that the link was used as part of an internal desktop review which used a range of online sources to determine an indicative cost as part of the RIS. This included websites such as the AFR. Do you have an issue with that one? It included Payscale. Do you have an issue with that one? It included Talent.com and LinkedIn. Do you have issues with those as well? The departmental spokesperson has gone on to say that it was incorrect to use the link as being the only source referenced in that section of the RIS. The department apologises—
I didn't know the opposition objected to the AFRand LinkedIn and Talent.com and Payscale and things like that, but apparently they do. The truth here is that the opposition—what they really object to is any change to an industrial relations system that has kept wages low, kept productivity low and impeded economic growth. That's what—
Honourable senators interjecting—
Minister Watt, please resume your seat. Seriously, Senator Cash. I'd just called the chamber to order, and the very minute the senator gets back on his feet to answer the question you interject, very loudly, once again. I will ask you to listen in quiet. Please continue, Minister Watt.
Thank you. As I say, there is nothing that gets the coalition going more than the prospect of keeping wages low. That's what they did for the 10 years they were in government, and that's what they're determined to do—even though they lost the last election, even when our government got a mandate to get wages moving again. This mob over here are so determined to hold workers back from getting a pay rise that they will continually oppose it. They will come up with scare campaign after scare campaign, anything at all, to keep wages low. And why? Because it was a deliberate feature of their economic policy, and they're determined to pursue that in opposition just as they did it for 10 years in government.
Do you know what will actually make our economy stronger? It is higher wages and higher productivity. Do you know how we're going to do that? By delivering these industrial relations reforms that the people of Australia voted for and this mob still haven't woken up to, and they're pursuing the old fights and the old conflict to hold wages low.
The same regulatory impact statement on page 46 references an article entitled 'How much do payroll services cost?' on a website called bark.com, which lists its most popular services as dog and pet grooming, dog training, dog walking, life coaching, limousine hire, magicians and private investigators. Is this an acceptable source for a government department to use to calculate bargaining costs for businesses?
As I was saying in my previous answer, the departmental spokesperson has acknowledged that it was incorrect to use the link as being the only source referenced in that section of the RIS. However, as I've already said, the work that the department did also included the AFR, Payscale, Talent.com, and LinkedIn and, frankly, it probably would have been more wise of the department to reference those ones rather than—
Frankly, I think it would have been a better idea for the department to use some of those other more reputable sources on its website rather than the one that they chose to do. They've apologised for their error, but that doesn't deny the fact that in doing this work they relied on a number of other reputable sources—unless if we're learning today that the opposition also has problem with the AFR, LinkedIn and the other various sites that I used. But, as I say, we're going to hear this all week. We're going to hear attack after attack from the coalition on wage rises, despite the fact that the Australian people voted for them. Frankly, I think it would be a—
President, I would ask you to not allow the leader to continue to debate a point when there is no point of order. I know he wants to throw some meat to the backbench on an ideological issue, but he knows that is not a point of order. You ought to sit him down, President. My submission is you ought to sit him down earlier.
I would have sat Senator Birmingham down, but there was so much disorder in the chamber he could not hear me. I would once again ask all senators to refrain from shouting out. It's not a football match; it is the Senate chamber, where a little bit of rowdiness is fine but not the pitch at which it is currently being delivered.
Why won't the minister take responsibility for the so-called mistakes in the RIS document, instead of blaming junior departmental officials? Take responsibility. Shame on you!
Honourable senators interjecting—
In addition to the department taking responsibility, I have taken responsibility as the minister responsible by saying, frankly, I think that was the wrong thing to do. But isn't it ironic that the party of 'no hoses' is here lecturing us about taking responsibility. We endured years of the former Prime Minister—
Opposition senators interjecting—
Well, we've learned what really gets these people going: it's cutting wages, and it's taking responsibility. They're the things that they get wound up about. The party that sat by under a Prime Minister whose only famous quote was that he didn't hold a hose now want to come and talk to us about taking responsibility? Over the entire three years or four years that Scott Morrison was the Prime Minister of this country there's only one thing he took responsibility for, and do you know what it was? It was keeping wages low. That's what he took responsibility for, because that was a deliberate design feature of their economic policy. That's taking responsibility for keeping wages low. We're going to do the opposite. We're going to get wages moving again, and we're going to lift productivity while we're at it. (Time expired)