I am deeply concerned about the future of manufacturing in Geelong after the Geelong Manufacturing Council advised me today that some local manufacturers believe they may not survive under Labor’s extreme IR laws.
The expansion of multi-employer bargaining provisions in the Fair Work Act mean that employers with a “common interest” such as manufacturing businesses in Geelong may be compelled to bargain against each other. One Geelong manufacturing business told me today that if it was forced to match the terms and conditions offered by the likes of Viva Energy’s Geelong Refinery, it would be forced to close.
It is clear that these most regressive changes to our industrial relations system are putting manufacturing jobs at risk.
In failing to act on these very significant concerns, Corio MP Richard Marles and Corangamite MP Libby Coker have shown they could not care less about Geelong manufacturing jobs.
See my speech in the Parliament on 30 November 2022 below.
I rise to speak on the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022.
This bill should be called the ‘Fair work legislation amendment (union workplace takeover) bill’, because that’s exactly what this is.
One of the most extreme elements of the bill gives unions the right to strike under expanded multi-employer bargaining streams, which constitutes an early Christmas present for union bosses and the broader union movement. This will inevitably lead to more strikes across the nation.
Labor’s so-called handbrake on industrial action is, in reality, like being hit by a piece of wet lettuce. The requirement that employers and unions must enter into compulsory conciliation before legal strikes can occur is a complete farce. I absolutely agree with Senator Lambie, who said in her contribution we are all fearful of what’s going to happen in the next 12 months.
I have had many people, some of whom do not support our side of politics, say to me that this is the biggest own goal that Labor could ever deliver. This is a massive own goal. This is giving the union movement the ability to run the country. The only exemption from multi-employer bargaining is for businesses that employ fewer than 20 people. Apart from all the other costs, complexity and fears that businesses will have—some 56,000 businesses employ between 20 and 200 people—it will also stop businesses wanting to employ more than 20 people. If you’re a business that employs 10 or 15 people, why on earth would you want to grow? Why on earth would you say, ‘Okay, I want to put in another 10 people’?
This is a job destroyer, not a job creator. I will tell you how we know: we know because this dirty rotten plan was not revealed by the Labor Party before the election. If this was such a good policy—and senators opposite know this—Labor would have been championing this policy before the election. But, no, it was kept a secret. It was kept a secret for a very good reason: if Labor had gone out and spoken about the elements of this bill, Labor would not have got elected—not in a million years. Australians would never endorse these extreme IR changes; they simply wouldn’t. They would not trust Labor giving this amount of power to the unions.
We know, from when we asked for the modelling in estimates, there is not one scintilla of evidence to support the claim that this is good for jobs and good for wages. This is good for the unions’ game plan.
In reality, the union movement’s biggest gift is the election of the most extreme left-wing Prime Minister in living memory, who doesn’t have a ticker, who doesn’t have the courage—unlike Paul Keating, unlike Bob Hawke, even unlike Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard—who doesn’t have what it takes to stand up to the union movement to get the balance right in the best interests of all Australians.
I condemn this bill in the strongest possible terms. I condemn the fact that this has been rushed through without giving the opposition and the crossbench an appropriate amount of time to scrutinise this bill. I condemn the fact that the very rudimentary committee process has not given Australians a proper opportunity to make submissions in relation to this bill.
I want to share the response of the Geelong Manufacturing Council. We know that nearly every major employer group across this country has condemned this bill, even the Geelong Manufacturing Council, which was pleading with manufacturers to be exempt from the bill. This is the first time I have ever seen the Geelong Manufacturing Council make a very strong statement like this about a government getting a policy wrong. When we were elected in 2013, Geelong was on its knees. We worked so closely with the council and with Geelong manufacturers after Ford decided to shut down on Labor’s watch, when Alcoa was on its knees. Successive coalition governments worked to get Geelong to where it is now.
It is an extraordinary development, that the Geelong Manufacturing Council is calling on the Senate not to pass this bill. In fact, in a letter to crossbench senators, the Geelong Manufacturing Council said the provisions:
- undermine the system of enterprise bargaining and the comprehensive system of modern awards that have served manufacturing and employees well for decades; and
- risk unfairly subjecting broad sectors to centralised settings of terms and conditions, reducing individual enterprise-level autonomy and competitiveness.
The council also says the criteria for access to the ‘single interest’ bargaining and supported bargaining frameworks may be used to achieve industry sector agreements in a wider range of sectors than purportedly intended.
This is ringing the alarm bells. I say, shame on the member for Corangamite and shame on the member for Corio, the Deputy Prime Minister. In their own backyard, they have failed to listen to the likes of the Geelong Manufacturing Council and to consider the threat that this poses not just to manufacturers in our region, where my office is based, but for manufacturers around the country.
So I say – shame on Labor. This is a disgrace, along with the decision to abolish the ABCC and the Registered Organisations Commission. It is appalling that the likes of John Setka are celebrating the abolition of the ABCC, saying, ‘We’re now back in town,’ and, ‘We can now move into non-union workplaces.’ This is the biggest gift for the union movement and the extreme elements of the union movement, but it shows how weak and how pathetic this Labor government is. It shows how weak this Prime Minister is. It shows how weak this Deputy Prime Minister is—he couldn’t even stand up for manufacturers in Geelong. This bill is appalling. It’s going to set our country backwards.
In the very limited time that we have left, I can only urge Senator Pocock: please have a dramatic change of heart. Allow this bill to be properly considered. Do not pass this bill this week without much further work. I absolutely condemn this bill in the strongest terms possible.