Nov 10, 2005

Workplace Relations Amendment (Workchoices) Bill 2005

Workplace Relations Amendment (Workchoices) Bill 2005

10 November 2005

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (9.52 am)—I second the amendment. I am pleased to get the opportunity to actually participate in this debate, given the outrageous gagging of the most important legislation since I have been elected to this House. This is in fact perhaps the most important legislation to come before this parliament since Federation, because it changes the very nature of Australia. It changes the nature of a fair go. We are a tolerant society. We are a society built on cooperation and built upon balance, and there is no balance in this legislation. This legislation would suggest—

Mr Tuckey—Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The purpose of the committee stage is to consider the bill in detail. That is a fairly clear instruction to this parliament. The second reading debate has been acknowledged as a process for rhetoric. I believe the member should be asked to address those issues in the bill that he wishes to discuss in detail.

The SPEAKER—Order! I will rule on the point of order. The bill is being taken as a whole. The member for Grayndler is in order.

Mr ALBANESE—Thanks, Mr Speaker. Our amendment will kill this bill. The amendment that I am seconding will delete all words in the bill, effectively, except the title. We attempted to change the words of the title to make it a more honest one, because there are no work choices as a result of this. As a result of this legislation, decent, hardworking Australians who keep this economy going will have their wages and conditions cut, because they will be placed in a situation whereby they will agree to have their wages and conditions cut, have their hours increased, lose their overtime, lose their leave loading. They will be put in a position whereby the employer can say: ‘You cop this, or I’ll find someone else who will.’

There has been no economic case whatsoever put forward in support of this bill. There is not a serious economist in the land who argues that this is a key to productivity. We should listen to the OECD and to what serious economists are saying about the key to economic growth and productivity, and that is skills. It is a lack of skills and a lack of investment in infrastructure that is holding this economy back. This is essentially a bill predicated upon an ideological obsession by a Prime Minister stuck in the past. It is an obsession that says we need to compete with India and China on the basis of wages. I say that what we need is a high-skill, high-wage economy for Australia. That is why Labor have pursued these amendments so vigorously, and that is why we will pursue these amendments for the next two years.

You know that there is no basis for this legislation because of how desperate the government has been prepared to be in promoting it: $55 million of taxpayers’ money wasted in a Liberal Party propaganda exercise. Perhaps the best exhibition of that is in the two booklets. There were almost half a million copies of the booklet that had to be pulped so that they could add the word ‘fairness’ into the cover page. It also had to be pulped—and the Prime Minister gave it away in question time yesterday, when he said there was ‘content error’ in the booklet. There was content error because, in a number of places that suggested there could be fairness of bargaining, that had to be taken out because it simply was not true. It is no wonder that 5.8 million of these booklets remain in a warehouse, because the Australian people have rejected this Liberal Party partisan propaganda for the absolute nonsense that it is.

This is just a product of the government having the numbers in the Senate. We know what they think of workers. We saw the dogs and balaclavas on the waterfront. This is the legislative equivalent of putting dogs and balaclavas into every workplace in the country, because that is what this government is about. That is what Mr Bean here is about: stripping the wages and conditions of ordinary workers. That is an ideological obsession. We need a government concerned about the future—(Time expired)