Parliamentary Question Time - Workplace Relations

14 February 2013

Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (14:48): My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Will the minister update the House on how the government is making rostering arrangements fairer for working people, particularly parents? How does this build on the government's detailed plans to improve the Fair Work Act? Are there any obstacles to these improvements?


Mr SHORTEN (Maribyrnong—Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) (14:48): I thank the member for Corangamite for his question. I am pleased to report to him and to the House that every day this week the Labor government have provided details about how we are delivering a fair go all around in Australian workplaces for employees and employers. We have been up-front, we have been positive and we have been future focused.

On Monday, we announced that we intend to improve the right to request flexible arrangements. On Tuesday, we announced how we would assist victims of workplace bullying through amending the Fair Work Act. On Wednesday, we announced how we would create more flexibility for people taking unpaid parental leave. Today, I am pleased to tell the House that we are proposing specified policies to help protect workers against arbitrary changes to their rosters.

The reason we are up-front, the reason we are positive and the reason we are future focused is that we know that work is a big part of the lives of modern Australian families. But we also know that Australian workers are not just decimal points on a profit-and-loss expenditure sheet. We understand that Australian workers are not just numbers or units to be kept in the dark. We know that Australians aspire to good jobs and workplaces which have a regular pay cheque and regular hours, where they have some control over the work they do, where they work for profitable and flexible enterprises. Australians are, therefore, interested in the workplace relations policies of the future, and they deserve better than they are receiving from the opposition. They deserve to hear how each side of politics will enhance their prospects in the workplace.

Unfortunately, the opposition this week have not been up-front, they have not been positive and they are certainly not future focused. All we can find out about the opposition policies on workplace relations is that Liberal governments make bad bosses. Just ask 40,000 Victorian teachers today, who had Premier Baillieu break his promise to raise their pay and look after them. We do know that the opposition are notorious union baiters who would blame unions for everything in Australia and we know that they want to introduce a tax on the superannuation contributions of low-paid Australian workers.

But what we do not know in workplace relations is whether they will guarantee penalty rates. We do not know if they will protect Australian workers' rosters. We do not know if they will stand up for existing public holidays. We do not know if they want to make unpaid parental leave more flexible. All that we can find out from the opposition is that they say they can be trusted on workplace relations—but, if they can be trusted, why hide their policies? If there is not going to be a repeat of what they did last time, why hide their policies? If they are not going to sink the boot into Australian workers, why hide their policies?

What is most remarkable is that they can find locations for 100 dams in Australia but they cannot release a workplace relations policy. They say that they can build 100 dams, but they cannot release a workplace relations policy.