Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022

10 Nov | '2022

Governments do not create jobs; business and employers do. This is a message for those opposite. This bill delivers the worst possible news that Australian small and medium enterprises could get, on top of the mess this government is making with the Australian economy.

Thanks to this government, power prices are not being cut by $275 as promised. No, they’re going up by 56 per cent. Gas prices are forecast to go up by 44 per cent. Prices are completely out of control. Inflation is at 7.3 per cent, projected to go up to eight per cent later this year. Property prices—what are they doing. They’re going down. And staff shortages are at a crisis point across many sectors. What does this Labor government do, and what do their union masters do, when the economy is facing these challenges? I ask the Australian people that question. The Labor government legislate to make a bad situation worse. That’s right.

What’s the very first step they take? What they do first is abolish the cop on the beat that would keep unions in check, so their path is clear for unions to interfere in private enterprise—with the sole purpose of collecting union fees. Unions, since 2007, have donated over $100 million to the Australian Labor Party, and it’s now time for them to pay it back—with interest. So Labor abolished the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the ABCC, which the EY report from April this year said could lead to a total economic loss of around $47.5 billion by 2030.

Further, the Albanese Labor government’s abolition of the ABCC will save Australia’s most militant union, the CFMMEU, construction division, millions of dollars in civilian penalties and legal expenses in the coming years. We can expect jobs to be lost. This militant union is to run riot, causing building costs to skyrocket, and large and small businesses alike to fold. Labor, at a time of multiple challenges across our economy, want to send businesses broke and cause employees and their families to lose their income.

Reintroducing industry-wide bargaining like we saw in the 1970s will cause widespread strike action, including potential sympathy strikes by other sectors and industries. Nobody wishes to stand in the way of higher wages, but there is just no evidence that this legislation will deliver wage increases. In fact, this bill will hold up wage rises because it increases complexity and delays. It will force up prices and increase the cost of living. It will undermine competition so Australians have fewer choices but face higher costs. It unfairly targets small businesses, because these changes will be complicated and expensive, and mum-and-dad businesses don’t have HR departments that can wade through these complex changes. And it will open the front door for unions into small businesses that have never had to deal with them before.

There are over 32,000 small businesses in my electorate of Moncrieff, on the central Gold Coast, and over 60,000 small businesses on the Gold Coast who will suffer under this bill, and there will be compulsory bargaining for SMEs. They’re not happy. My small businesses, my chambers of commerce, are not happy about this bill. It’s small and family business that holds up the Gold Coast economy—a tourism sector, a hospitality sector—and they’ll be badly impacted by this bill and this Labor government. No-one—absolutely no-one—from the Labor Party is looking after the Gold Coast or Gold Coasters and their families. Those on the other side just don’t get business. You just don’t understand how to run a business and the costs associated with that. Gold Coasters know that the Labor Party and the unions do not have their interests at heart. They know what the coalition has delivered to our region. They believe in reward for effort and running their own business without union interference.

The head of the CFMMEU, John Setka himself, said, ‘This legislation gives us the ability to go after non-unionised workplaces.’ Who are non-unionised workplaces? Do those opposite even know who they are? They are your local coffee shop, your local restaurant, your local chemist, your local surf shop—on the Gold Coast, your neighbour’s business and the list goes on. They’ll all suffer, as will their employees, when they can no longer make ends meet to pay their bills and are forced to make drastic changes—under this bill—or, sadly, close their doors altogether.

Earlier this year, this union and its South Australian secretary were fined $27,000 for staging an intimidating and illegal protest on a construction site at East Terrace in Adelaide. During that protest, they chanted ‘grubby grub grub’ in the face of a female lawyer and yelled at a female employee to get off site. There are currently 30 CFMMEU representatives before the courts. Since 2016, the CFMMEU has been fined more than $15 million. John Setka has actually been convicted of harassing his estranged wife, breaching court orders, and, more recently, she’s claimed that she is living in fear of him. My point is that under the Albanese government, union groups such as the CFMMEU will have more power to do as they please in Australian businesses and workplaces, including small, medium and large businesses.

Those businesses across Australia have deep reservations that the expansion of multi-employer bargaining risks jeopardising the important focus on encouraging employers and employees to reach agreements at the enterprise level. Enterprise bargaining should be the cornerstone of our workplace relations system, if we’re to grow pay packets, improve job security and boost productivity—not a union armed with the right of veto over any agreement made between the employer and the employee. The union will have the right to veto any agreement made between the employer and the employee.

Those opposite don’t like it when I point out the truth of this bill. This erodes the choices of entrepreneurs. It erodes the very foundation of the core values of having a go, of building something from nothing, and of keeping more of what you have earned in order to invest in yourself, your community, and, most of all, in your business.

This is the entrepreneurial spirit of the Gold Coast at stake here, which this Labor government is planning to dismantle right now. The chambers of commerce and the manufacturing sector in my electorate do not support this bill, and neither do hardworking business owners, who will be forced into doing as they are told by unions and fair work. The ACCI chief executive, Andrew McKellar, has warned that compulsory multi-employer bargaining is a seismic shift to Australia’s workplace relations system, reversing decades of tripartite consensus, and it would result in more strikes, fewer jobs, centralised decision-making and less trust within our enterprises. He says:

Enterprise bargaining is the cornerstone of our workplace relations system, and any significant change requires an extended period of robust and transparent public consultation.

Yet this government is in such a hurry to ram this through the parliament they have not even conducted proper consultation, except with their union bosses. And they haven’t conducted any modelling on the effects, and nor do they understand the consequences of these seismic changes to the everyday lives of working Australians.

The Business Council of Australia chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, who we all know and have heard from, said:

We want wages to go up but that won’t be achieved by creating more complexity, more strikes and higher unemployment.

Australia is in the midst of a global economic storm and there’s no room for error if we want to secure our economic future; we have to tread carefully.

That’s the message from the Business Council of Australia. But those opposite are not treading carefully. No. They are ramming through these changes, without amendment or due consideration, for the biggest IR changes since WorkChoices. That’s the message from the Business Council of Australia. But those opposite are not treading carefully. No! They’re ramming through these changes without amendment or due consideration for the biggest IR changes since Work Choices.

Consider this scenario: there is a family with a printing business on the Gold Coast. There are plenty of them. There are three generations of family. They employ 40 locals and they support their local community through fundraising activities and through sponsorships. An employee goes to the boss and asks for more flexible working hours and for some time working at home. Some staff are always sick and the business is already understaffed due to shortages, as we know, so the boss has to say: ‘Look, I’m really sorry. I need you here to serve customers and to supervise the deliveries. You can’t do that from home, and I can’t change our opening hours. So I need to have you here, please.’ The employee says that’s not fair and makes a complaint to the Fair Work Commission.

As a result, the way you manage your rosters, your staff and perhaps even your opening hours is now subject to the arbitration of the Fair Work Commission. You are no longer the boss. You have been manipulated by this bill through the unions, who are now the CEO of your family business, and the Fair Work Commission, which is your new general manager.

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