Speeches

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE; Workplace Relations

October 23, 2019

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (15:52): I think the member for Watson is right: this government has failed working Australians. Just think about it: when was the last time you heard anybody on that side of the parliament talk, in a positive way, about the role of the trade union movement? They never talk about the role of unions in society. They never talk about what workers do to protect wages. And they certainly don't talk about what unions do with respect to safety—although, I'll give it to you: you are going to talk about the CFMEU, and I will come back to that, about safety.

By the way, the Attorney-General also was right today—I know, because I went and checked his figures. Up to October this year, there have been 121 workplace deaths. You know, 70 per cent of those deaths occurred in the building and construction industry, the transport industry and the mining industry. So, when you're talking about the CFMEU, make sure you actually use those figures. When we're talking about workplace deaths in those areas of operation, the Transport Workers' Union, the CFMEU and other building and construction unions are in the most difficult, most dangerous workplaces. So, having two sons who work in those industries, I don't mind having an extra pair of eyes looking out for their safety, and I think most parents of tradies would probably take the same view.

Let us just look at this government's record when it comes to industrial relations. The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government couldn't wait to put $250 million into a royal commission into trade unions—$250 million. They were going to smash the union movement. They were going to expose all the excesses of power. You know how many prosecutions emerged out of that? Not one. This was all a political exercise. They've brought down a raft of anti-worker legislation. They're making it very hard. They could have actually joined with Labor to save the penalty rates of 700,000 of our lowest paid workers in the hospitality and retail industries—and I commend the work of Gerard Dwyer and the SDA to try to protect those workers—but where were they when this debate was going on? They were lost.

We saw what occurred in respect of the AWU raid. As the member for Watson indicated, not only was the actual investigation an excess of power but the staff of the minister responsible actually briefed the media about a police raid that was about to occur in Sydney. They walked away from that. No wonder she hid behind a whiteboard for weeks! Now we see what they want to do with the 'ensuring integrity' bill. They want to make it easier to deregister unions and to disqualify union officials, who are there to stand up for workers. I suppose I should let the other side in on a secret: there is no God-given right for unions to exist; it's not some form of divine mandate. Unions exist only to fulfil a need, and that need is to represent workers. If there were no need out there, employers were doing the right thing and governments over there were ensuring that workplaces were properly protected, there probably wouldn't be a union movement.

Photo of MPMr Simmonds: Except they need to fund the Labor Party.

Photo of MPMr Burke: You know you can't interject from there. You'll be named.

Photo of MPMr HAYES: I'll take the interjection. Unions actually do exist to fulfil a need. If you did more, you would lessen that need. There's one other thing I want to talk about. We have bipartisan support for something that was called the Industrial Relations Commission, at least I thought we did. It started as the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It had representation from people from union backgrounds and people from employer backgrounds. When we were in government, there used to be an appointment from each side to ensure that there was fairness, decency and balance in their decisions. This year the head of Fair Work Australia asked the government for one extra appointment. They appointed six, all from the employer side—

Photo of MPMr Irons: Didn't you appoint him?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): The member for Ryan is in the incorrect position in the chamber and he will be removed if he utters another word from there.

Photo of MPMr HAYES: I went back and I checked. The last 20 consecutive appointments to Fair Work Australia all came from the employer side. When you think about it, they have removed fairness and decency from our industrial relations system, which was designed to protect workers. That's their track record. That's what they think of workers. There's nothing about fairness and decency in the way they've acted.

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