Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Opposition Whip) (21:52): There is a saying: ‘time to pay the piper’—and that’s what this bill, the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022, is about. It’s the Labor Party paying its debt to the union movement. It gives them everything they own. The union movement owns the Labor Party; we know that. They’ve given them $100 million since 2007. They control the preselections and, to my knowledge, every member on that side of the House is a member of a union. That’s not reflected in the general population, where only 14 per cent—
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Grey will resume his seat.
Ms Ryan: A point of order: standing order 90—reflecting on members; imputations of improper motives.
The SPEAKER: I’m listening to the member for Grey carefully. He is speaking to the bill, and I would ask him to direct all his comments through the chair. I give him the call.
Mr RAMSEY: I thought I had been, but I may not have. Anyway, now this bill will give unions, whose members have been declining in number, an opportunity to get into every workplace in Australia and attempt to rebuild those numbers. With that, of course, comes higher membership and higher flows of money to their political party. I think that’s a given.
I am concerned about the effects on small business. A business that might have a perfect relationship with their workforce—all very happy, no-one unionised at all—will actually now have to tick off any future agreement with a union representative. There’s a get-out clause for small business. The number is less than 15—or 14. It’s a headcount; it’s not an FTE. You could get a busy coffee shop running from a busy Saturday morning through a whole weekend on extended hours. They might have a whole heap of workers that work only four or five hours a week for them and are very pleased to do so. But that would put them in this area of having high-strategy negotiation purposes, and of dealing with the union that actually rings the bell on whether or not their agreement—which they made with their workers in good faith—stands up and will stand the legal test.
It is a concern that the government is intent on ramming this through, in the next 2½ weeks, before Christmas. It’s not something that the government transmitted to the public before the election. We’ve had a few of those things come along in recent times. Because of the shortened period that I have to speak to the chamber, I won’t go through them. But this is a surprise to the Australian electorate. So it is a totemic shift in industrial policy and it’s being jammed through in, basically, 2½ weeks, yet it’s something the Australian public wasn’t told about before.
Virtually every industry body is opposed to it—including those in the industry I come from, the farmers. The National Farmers Federation are vigorously opposing this legislation. The minister, who is in the House—and thank you for being in the House—had been quoting COSBOA, the Council of Small Business Organisations, as welcoming this legislation as being good for their members, but in fact COSBOA have had a read of the fine print now and they, like every other industry group, is totally opposed.
We are heading for a one-size-fits-all arrangement. This pattern bargaining—and that’s what we’re talking about here—was abandoned in the eighties by the Hawke and Keating government. We’re now almost 40 years on, and this Labor government is turning its back on the reforms of a government which they have said, for many years, they are very proud of. It is turning its back on the reforms of that government to actually go back to Whitlamesque policies. We know how Australia ended up then: we had a period where we had huge industrial action around Australia, and that led to lower productivity. And, in the end, wages were stagnant as well. This has the potential to do exactly the same all over again. It was the famous American baseball commentator Yogi Berra who used the phrase ‘It’s just like deja vu all over again,’ and I feel as though that is exactly where we’re going on this path. We’re heading down the highway to a very bad scene for Australia. (Time expired)