Page 3454 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 21 September 2005

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Not abolish awards—

the awards will still exist—

Not remove the right to join a union—

so how can this be an attack on the union movement?—

Not take away the right to strike

Not outlaw union agreements

Mr Stanhope said that this will dismantle the hard work, the 100 years of hard work, of union members and workers. Well it simply will not. It will build on that and it will improve, it will make better, the lot of the ordinary worker in Australia.

Those opposite have to tell us: what is wrong with 1.7 million more jobs in the last nine years; what is wrong with 14 per cent real growth in wages against 1.2 per cent under Labor over 13 years; what is wrong with the lowest unemployment in 30 years; and what is wrong with the lowest level of industrial disputation in decades? Nothing. What is wrong with making it better? What will happen if we rest on our laurels and say it is okay now? It might be okay now but the rest of the world is looking at us and they are trying to catch up and improve their own lot so that they can surpass us.

If we wish to retain the lifestyle that we currently have and indeed—gee, let’s be audacious here—make it better, then we need to have a reform agenda. The real conservatives in this place sit on the government benches. The real conservatives are now members of unions. The real conservatives—those that do not want to improve the lot of the ordinary workingman and woman in this country—sit there opposite us and they do not have an answer to these facts. We will get more rhetoric, more cant, more useless words from Mr Gentleman when he gets up to respond.

Let us attack the notion that this measure is going to be anti-family and that it is going to attack women unfairly. It is interesting to note that 83 per cent of federally certified agreements—these are agreements that people negotiate—now contain at least one family-friendly provision such as carer’s leave, part-time work, or time-off in lieu. Eighty-three per cent of people are negotiating on their own rights, on their own needs, about the things that are important to them and their conditions so that they can be better off. What is wrong with that? What is wrong with a worker negotiating so that he can be better off?

The reforms of 1993—and I give credit to the Keating government because they started some of this—built on and increased by the reforms of 1996, have played a large part in the prosperity enjoyed by employer and employee alike in the last decade. I will quote from a speech made by Andrew Robb. He said:

… the reforms to date, for many parts of our economy, go only part of the way to the model of industrial relations described by Paul Keating.

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