Friday, 10 November 2023
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Senator Watt. This week has marked one year since someone declared that the government's secure jobs, better pay workplace relations legislation would close down Australia. Who would say such a thing, Minister Watt, and can you confirm whether Australia has actually closed down?
Thank you, Senator Grogan. It is my pleasant duty to advise Australians that Australia has not closed down, and I wish all Australians a happy first anniversary—a paper anniversary—since someone—I don't know who, but someone—said that Australia would close down due to the government's secure jobs, better pay workplace relations laws.
You have to wonder who would have such a doom-and-gloom attitude to Australian businesses' workers. Well, of course, it's the person who has a lot to say over there right now, Senator Cash, the human hyperbole. We know we used to have Senator Hinch, the human headline, and now we have Senator Cash, the human hyperbole.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Senator Hanson-Young, I have been trying for the last hour. I would think that today I have not been particularly successful, but I would remind the chamber once again that shouting out across the chamber is disorderly. Trying to shout louder than the minister answering the question is also disorderly, and it's disrespectful. I'd remind all senators, for the last couple of questions, to listen in silence.
Thank you, President. But it's no surprise that Senator Cash would say such a thing, because she's a member of the same coalition that said Labor would end the weekend. I don't know about you, but I'm quite looking forward to the weekend, and it's actually going to happen tomorrow. They said that Labor would kill off the backyard barbecue. I had a barbecue at my place last weekend; I don't know about you. And, of course, Labor was going to deliver lamb roasts that cost $100. That hasn't happened either.
Senator Cash is not alone in her blatant scaremongering from that side of the chamber, but it is sad that she has such a dim view of Australian businesses and workers. As I say, 12 months on from that prophecy of doom from Senator Cash, it turns out that Australia is in fact still quite open. The sky hasn't fallen in, and in fact it's quite a nice spring day out there. I'd encourage you to go and experience it. But, when you don't have actual policies, all you've got is hyperbole and overegging.
Senator Cash is fond of saying the devil's always in the detail, so here's the detail. Unemployment under a Labor government is at historic lows, over 560,000 jobs having been created since the Albanese government was elected. Wages are moving again, up by an average of 3.6 per cent compared to 2.1 per cent under— (Time expired)
We're halfway through question time. The Clerk's saying no.
Honourable senators: He's seeking leave.
Senator Birmingham, I'm sure you heard that, but I'm advised that you can't do it until Senator Grogan's series of questions has expired. Senator Grogan, first supplementary?
Minister Watt, the Liberals and the Nationals have tirelessly worked to frighten business owners and workers regarding the government's workplace relation policies like secure jobs, better pay and closing loopholes, and only one year ago Senator Cash claimed that the government's laws would take us back to the Dark Ages. Minister, is Australia back in the Dark Ages?
Thank you, Senator Grogan. President, I'm surprised that Senator Birmingham wanted to protect Senator Cash from more examination of her statements, because we know that Senator Cash doesn't spend a lot of time protecting Senator Birmingham over on that side of the chamber. But, of course, as for Senator Cash, I really hope that she had better luck in the Melbourne Cup, because all of her other predictions have been well and truly off the mark. Last year she predicted the secure jobs, better pay bill would send Australia back to both the Dark Ages and the 1970s. I don't really know how it can be both. As I've said before, I don't know about Senator Cash, but I haven't seen people running around in the chain mail from the Dark Ages or the flares from the 1970s.
But, according to Senator Cash, it was going to get us to both those places. And, a year on, they're now dusting off the same old doomsday tales when it comes to our closing loopholes bill. Senator Lambie made some interesting comments on the radio this morning that there are only four parts of this bill that those opposite are willing to support, and what that means is that the coalition opposes the rest. They say no to protecting gig workers, no to—
Thank you, Senator Grogan. It's beyond me why Senator Cash and the coalition keep making wild claims about the Dark Ages, empty supermarket shelves, Australia closing down, ending backyard barbecues, ending weekends, ending Christmas, ending April Fool's Day. It doesn't really matter what they say; they'll always make up a new claim. But, as I say, the important point here is that Senator Lambie was on the radio this morning saying that there were only four parts of the government's closing loopholes bill that the opposition was prepared to support. And what that means is that the opposition continues to oppose protecting gig workers. They say no to introducing an industrial manslaughter offence and increasing penalties. They say no to a criminal offence for an employer who deliberately steals their workers' wages. The coalition won't even criminalise employers who deliberately steal wages from their workers. They say no to casuals having a chance at becoming permanent workers, and they say no to closing the loophole that means the agreed pay rates in an enterprise agreement can be undercut using labour hire.