PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 9 DECEMBER 2020
SUBJECT: Liberal cuts to wages and superannuation.
STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: For the last 12 months, the Morrison government has been telling Australians if you let him cut your super, he's going to increase your pay. But today it's been revealed that Scott Morrison has a plan to both cut your super and your pay.
What Australians know is there going to be left worse off. This is going to be a bare-knuckle fight. We're not going to let the Government get away with breaking its promises. It seems that industrial relations changes which lead workers worse off is in the DNA of the government. This is no way for Australia to be ending the year. This is going to be a disaster for Australian workers.
You know what, the hint is in the name. We want to have an industrial relations system that leaves everybody better off overall. Scott Morrison's plan to cut pay, to cut wages, to cut conditions is going to leave Australian workers worse off overall.
JOURNALIST: Isn't there a point to be made here that these changes are temporary? And that some companies will be in danger of going up against the wall and losing jobs, and so if they can cut a deal that stops those jobs being made redundant you’re better off having a job than not having a job?
JONES: Look over the last six months, workers have been sitting down all around the country with their bosses and striking deals to try and keep the business open and people in jobs. They're willing to do that. The ACTU secretary Sally McManus has been leading the charge on that. But what we're not going to sign up for is something which entrenches a right for businesses to strike deals which leave workers worse off overall.
This sets a very dangerous precedent. It doesn't take very long to work out how this would play out in practice. You get a majority, a simple majority, in a workplace. A sweetheart deal for some workers, which does over a whole bunch of other workers. It doesn't leave much to the imagination to work out how this will play out in practice.
And you say it's only two years. Well, actually it's not. We’ve still got AWAs in operation. These things were abolished before 2010, but they're still in operation in the workplace. So just because they might be legislated for two years, they go on and on and on. Anybody who knows anything about IR will confirm that.
JOURNALIST: What about the, you know, the independent umpire has to approve these as well? If they’re dodgy deals then surely get the fair Work Commission is going to kick them out aren’t they?
JONES: We know what's going on. There's a pile on with the Government at the moment to put pressure on the regulators. To put pressure on the Fair Work Commission to approve deals that are going to cut workers’ pay. We're up for a discussion which ensures that businesses in crisis can put in place arrangements. We can't have something where the first place you go to whenever there's a problem is to cut workers’ pay. Is that really the way that we're going to recover from this recession? To make workers worse off overall?
JOURNALIST: The Attorney General’s been on radio this morning and said that the system as it existed just had to change to be able to create new jobs after the pandemic. If Labor’s opposed these changes, what would Labor do to sharpen up the IR system and create jobs?
JONES: There's been discussions going on for the last three months between the ACTU, the Industrial Relations Minister and business. A bunch of proposals have been discussed. But out of nowhere the Attorney General and the Prime Minister lump this idea in that we're going to have these special arrangements that leave workers worse off overall and that are going to cut pay. At no time during the discussion were these propositions raised. Of course we're willing to sit down with the Government. The ACTU’s been sitting down with the government in good faith saying, yep, there are problems with the bargaining system. We're up for discussions about how we make it work better. But at no time in any of the negotiations that have been going on with the Government has this proposition come up. This is a brainchild of Scott Morrison and Christian Porter aimed at one thing and one thing alone and it's to cut workers’ pay.