Consideration of Legislation

23 Nov | '2022

Ms BELL: I second the motion, and I outline that Australian small and family businesses are simply not aware of the impacts of this bill. Why is that? Well, because this Labor government has not spoken to one small business about its impacts, particularly about industry-wide or patenting bargaining, as it was known during the upheaval of the 1970s and 1980s. It is a throwback for Australian industrial relations laws and it risks our economy to industry-wide strikes and sympathy strikes by other industries.

In question time yesterday the Minister for Small Business was asked to name just one small business that this Labor government has spoken to that supports this bill. She wasn’t asked about a peak body or a representative group like COSBOA or the ombudsman, but an actual small business that this minister has consulted with. The minister ducked and weaved, did the dance with her one-minute answer and avoided responding to the question. Coming to her aid was not only the minister for industrial relations—who has now existed the chamber—who tried to answer the question for her, but also the Minister for Social Services, who yelled out across the chamber that certain large supermarket chains have been consulted. It’s a joke. I have a news flash for those opposite: large supermarket chains are not small businesses. The Minister for Small Business is supposed to be looking out for small business. She is supposed to be their champion, but of course she can’t be their champion, because the Australian Labor Party despises small and family business.

The Labor Party look out for union bosses who put them there, not small businesses who create jobs for Australians and livelihoods for families. They want to break the small and family business model. Those opposite are ramming through this legislation that will break the small business model. This bill is 243 pages long and has been rushed with a chaotic process, such that on 9 November the government moved a further 34 pages of their own—

Mr Brian Mitchell: On a point of order, the motion before the House is on a suspension of standing sessional orders and the member is yet to refer to that fact.

The SPEAKER: The member is in order. I give her the call.

Ms BELL: [inaudible] orders need to be suspended. Thank you, Mr Speaker. Thank you very much—I have the call now—to those opposite. There are over 150 amendments—150 amendments to their own bill! It’s a laugh. It’s a joke. It’s pretty obvious that it’s deeply, deeply flawed. There’s a long list of organisations who don’t support this: the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Council of Small Business Organisations, the Minerals Council, the National Farmers Federation, the Australian Retailers Association, the National Retail Association, the Civil Contractors Federation. And I will add my two local chambers of commerce to that, thanks very much. Through this bill the government wants to make radical changes to industrial relations in our country with no mandate. There was no mandate before the election. This was not taken to the election for the Australian people to decide on.

The abolishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Registered Organisations Commission simply gets Labor off the leash with no watchdog to rein in their bad behaviour. When Labor last abolished the ABCC two-thirds of working days lost to industrial action were in the construction industry, and the average rate of industrial action was nearly five times the average of every other industry. It caused the rate of disputes in the construction sector to be increased by 46 per cent, compared with a 31 per cent decline across all other industries. Australians might remember that schools and hospitals cost taxpayers up to 30 per cent more, because of the huge amount of working days lost due to industrial action on building sites. Further, the role of the Registered Organisations Commission is also crucial to ensure that their organisations and their officers are accountable to their members.

We’ve had more than 30 years of prosperity and stability under enterprise bargaining in this country and Labor want to upend all of that into chaos with the reintroduction of compulsory multi employer bargaining. The Productivity Commission’s recent interim report warned that a hit to productivity and wages and conditions is set for a group of firms in one-size-fits-all approach to business practices. It’s just not good enough. This bill is bad for the economy, it’s bad for employers, it’s bad for Australian families and it’s bad for small Australian businesses. We call on the Labor government to withdraw this bill.

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