AUSTRALIAN WORKPLACE AGREEMENTS FAIRNESS TEST
The Hon. KAYEE GRIFFIN:
I address my question to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Can the Minister inform the House how the fairness test is impacting on New South Wales workers and businesses?
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA:
I thank the honourable member for her interest in this important matter. Last Friday afternoon, in a cynical ploy to avoid scrutiny, the Howard Government released new data that showed half of all wage deals since May have failed to meet the so-called fairness test. Further, according to the data for October, 142,140 workplace agreements under WorkChoices had yet to be approved by the Workplace Authority, an increase of about 15,000 from September and 30,000 more than August. This massive blow-out demonstrates that John Howard is not serious about providing timely and proper advice to businesses; it is damaging their productivity and leading to growing uncertainty. Many will be hit with crippling back-pay bills in the lead-up to Christmas. For workers this means many are not receiving the wages they are due and are being denied appropriate entitlements.
The October figures also reveal that more than 500,000 Australian workplace agreements [AWA] have come into existence since March 2006, yet no figures have been released by Joe Hockey's agencies about wages under those agreements. The former Office of Employment Advocate stopped collecting information on Australian workplace agreements last year after leaked data revealed that 75 per cent cut shift work loadings, 68 per cent exclude penalty rates, and 52 per cent exclude public holiday pay.
Members opposite should be listening to this to prevent them from making the same mistake again and again, forever, like on groundhog day. We know wages have been cut as peer-reviewed research by the University of Sydney reveals the average weekly wage for workers on Australian workplace agreements is $106 less per week than employees on collective agreements. With the so-called fairness test faring so badly, where to from here for the Howard Government? The reality for Australian family businesses and workers is that Mr Howard was never serious about the test. We will keep hearing about it right up until 6 o'clock on polling night—do not worry about that. He will not provide adequate resources to process agreements because he wants to abolish it. Mr Howard will not allow the fairness test to continue to get in the way of his beloved WorkChoices laws, if he is re-elected. This is because the test was only ever an attempt to hoodwink Australian families into believing he had watered down his unfair workplace laws so he could get over the line this coming November. Mr Howard knows Australian workplace agreements—the centrepiece of WorkChoices—are faltering as a result of the fairness test. This was confirmed yesterday by leading conservative economist Mark Wooden who told the Australian
The advantage of AWAs evaporated with the 'Fairness Test'. AWAs are dead—he (John Howard) can say what he likes. You'll still get companies going for AWAs but that will be for reasons other than cutting labour costs.
Also, the test is not retrospective; it does not apply to the 350,000 Australian workplace agreements that were already in use before its introduction. It would be a very small step for Mr Howard to scrap the test completely. The abolition of the test is part of Mr Howard's secret agenda to put in place more reforms that will further disadvantage Australian families. No Liberal Party literature in the lead-up to the last election mentioned WorkChoices, Australian workplace agreements, the removal of unfair dismissal, the abolition of socially determined minimum wage, reduction in protected conditions, or cutting working family wages by $100 a week—none of it was mentioned by John Howard or Costello. A vote for the Coalition this time will be interpreted by John Howard, Peter Costello and Joe Hockey as a mandate to take these unfair laws even further—with the fairness test the first to go. The evidence for their secret agenda continues to build. This morning, Mr Hockey told 2UE he could not wait for the election. He said:
I'm looking forward to it. [It's] unfinished business.
Of course, the unfinished business he is referring to is the next raft of— [Time expired.