Bill's Transcripts

Parliamentary Question Time - Workplace Bullying

Mr SYMON (Deakin) (14:43): My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation. Minister, how is the government responding to the House committee inquiry into workplace bullying?


Mr SHORTEN (Maribyrnong—Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) (14:43): I would like to thank the member for Deakin for his question. Labor believes that bullying has got no place in Australian workplaces. We believe that bullying is like racism and discrimination: it has no place in modern Australian workplaces. But what we do know, all too sadly, is that bullying does occur in Australian workplaces. It is real, it has a cost and it is hurtful. I have seen this first-hand, as has the member for Deakin and as has the state Attorney-General, Robert Clark. I am talking about the Panlock family, who lost a daughter. Brodie was bullied at a Hawthorn cafe. The investigations have found that she was bullied but those investigations came far too late, and she committed suicide.

I cannot imagine the loss and I cannot imagine the life not lived.

We could do better, we should do better and we shall do better. We shall amend the Fair Work Act. We shall provide timely, accessible, low-cost relief and remedy for people who have complaints of bullying in the workplace. I am grateful to the member for Kingston and her committee. She has helped guide us for a national definition on bullying. She has helped guide us about national training to deal with workplace bullying. Bullying means repeated, unreasonable behaviour towards a worker or a group of workers which creates a risk to health and safety. We will provide a mechanism whereby, if someone has a complaint, it can at least be listed to be solved within 14 days through the Fair Work Commission—Australia's industrial umpire. We are going to work with the state regulators, but we are taking workplace bullying and declaring that it is an issue to do with workplace relations. We have responded to the member for Kingston's report, and I would like to table that.

For the record—and I would like to conclude on this: we do believe that workplace bullying is a workplace relations issue which deserves a workplace relations policy. Every member of the House—from Labor, the Liberals or the crossbenches—will have to make a decision on the issue of workplace bullying in the next few months. We will amend the Fair Work Act. I hope and I expect that the amendments we propose will be supported by everyone in the House, because what we are about with our workplace relations policy is productive workplaces and flexible workplaces, but, most importantly, safe workplaces.


Mr SYMON (Deakin) (14:46): Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. The minister has talked about what the government is doing on workplace bullying. Is the minister aware of other policies on Australian workplaces, and what would be their impact?


Mr SHORTEN (Maribyrnong—Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) (14:46): I thank the member for Deakin for his ongoing interest in workplace relations. He knows, as everyone on this side of the House knows, that Labor is always upfront about its workplace relations policy. This week we announced that we want to extend the right to request flexible work arrangements to new categories of Australian workers: victims of domestic violence and people with caring responsibilities. We have announced today that we want to tackle workplace bullying. But I have also been asked: are there other policies? I can report to the House the rarely sighted opposition spokesperson for hiding workplace relations policies—

The SPEAKER: The minister will refer to people by their correct titles.

Mr Pyne: Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The minister was asked an original question about workplace bullying and he was heard in respectful silence. He then was asked a supplementary which bore very little relation to the answer he had given on bullying, and he is now straying into an attack on the opposition. Given the importance of workplace bullying and the record in this place, as you are well aware, of workplace bullying, which has resulted in the suicide of one of our former colleagues, I would ask you to urge him to be very careful—

The SPEAKER: The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. The minister has the call.

Mr SHORTEN: The opposition spokesperson for workplace relations policies tweeted from the secret location of the Liberal policy bunker—location unknown: 'Another day, another announcement from #Bill Shorten MP, with no detail and promise of long consultation.' One thing I do like about the leader—

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP: Speaker, I rise in a point of order. I would refer you to page 569 of the Practice which shows that, when the change was made to have direct relevance, the rulings of speakers has been to rule out of order the sort of answer which the minister is giving, which is not in any way directly related to the question. It is an attack on opposition policy, which is out of order.

The SPEAKER: The member for Mackellar will resume her seat. The minister has the call and will refer to that question in respect of bullying.

Mr SHORTEN: The member for Deakin asked whether I was aware of other policies on workplace relations and I said that we have had a sighting of the opposition on workplace relations and I have quoted what they said. I do admire that it is clear that they have a sense of humour in the opposition, attacking us for no detail on workplace relations. It is only Tuesday and we have announced more policies on workplace relations than the opposition has announced in 2½ years. We are happy to have a debate on workplace relations on all the policies. Any place, any time; bring it on: let's talk workplace relations.