Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014

I rise to oppose the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014 and to make a brief contribution to the debate. As this government legislation stands now, I cannot support it, because, as it reads, it creates the potential for undermining and lessening Australian workers' rights and the safety of workplaces. Specifically, the areas of the bill with that potential are part 4, 'Individual flexibility arrangements', or IFAs, where the legislation creates the possibility of overtime rates, penalty rates, allowances and leave loadings being taken away from vulnerable workers; part 8, where it limits the right of entry of union representatives into workplaces; and part 9, about employee termination, where the Fair Work Commission, or FWC, is not required to hold a hearing or conduct a conference when determining whether to dismiss an unfair dismissal application under section 399A or section 587.

I will be honest: I am doubtful that this legislation will live up to its title of 'fair work'. So today, on behalf of Tasmanian workers, I oppose the passage of this legislation. However, once the leadership of this Senate and of this ministerial portfolio is settled, I would be happy to sit down with our new Prime Minister and his new minister, whoever that may be, and negotiate in good faith for the passage of this legislation after certain changes and guarantees from Prime Minister Turnbull that have been outlined by other crossbench senators, including Senator Xenophon.

I hear the Labor Party's arguments and warnings about this legislation. I think their concerns are legitimate, and this legislation needs to be drastically improved to protect workers' pay and conditions. However, I know that, under the leadership of Mr Abbott and Mr Truss, this conservative government had an aggressive, hostile attitude to Australian workers and their representatives. That makes me less likely to trust this Liberal-National government and its industrial relations legislation.

In recent times, there have been a few key examples of Australians being sacked and replaced by cheap overseas workers. The network of people I will lead to the next election is founded on four key policy principles. The first is food and water security, the second is energy security, the third is national security and the fourth, as always, is Australian job security. This legislation and the Liberal-National attitude towards sacking Australian workers and replacing them with overseas labour could be a lethal combination for our working families, and it attacks the principle of Australian job security. Senator Nash in her contribution talked about giving dignity and respect to Australian workers. But where was dignity and respect for our workers when 36 Australian maritime workers were sacked and replaced by cheap foreign workers on Caltex's oil tanker Alexander Spirit? There was no dignity and there was no respect for those good people, those hardworking Australians.

Instead of fighting for those workers' jobs, members of the Liberal government became cheerleaders for foreign workers. They were foreign maritime workers who were not required to undergo rigorous security, criminal history and health checks by ASIO, the Federal Police and other government agencies. All Australian maritime workers are required to undergo rigorous security, criminal history and health checks by ASIO, the Federal Police and other government agencies before they are allowed to work on board our ships. That is a reasonable risk management strategy to have in place, given that crews are in charge of vessels like oil and gas tankers, which could easily explode or be made to malfunction, with devastating consequences to the Australian public and our environment.

So why would the Liberal government make it easier for overseas crews, with no Australian security or health checks, to operate oil and gas tankers in our coastal waters and ports? There was no dignity and respect for the 32 Australian workers employed on North Star Cruises in Western Australia who stood to lose their jobs if their boss, Bill Milby, followed the advice coming out of the Deputy Prime Minister's office. I was shocked when I heard that respected maritime businessman, Mr Bill Milby, from North Star Cruises, had been told by an Abbott government official that 'If he wanted to make more money and compete with the foreign competition—after proposed Liberal changes to the Coastal Shipping Act were passed by this Senate—Bill should sack his Australian crew on board his Australian built cruise liner and replace them with cheap foreign workers.' I invited Bill to my Senate office for a chat.

Bill repeated what he was told by the staff of the Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister. I believe Mr Milby told the truth. But I cannot understand why this Liberal-National government is so keen to kill off Australian workers' jobs and replace them with overseas workers? Is it just an insane hatred of unions and their workers? Does their hatred go that deep that they are prepared to trade off Australian jobs for foreign workers? I think this question has to be asked. One of the worst examples I have seen of this government's eagerness to sack Australian workers and replace them with foreign labour is in the manufacturing of defence clothing. The situation is described in an email I received from Michele O'Neil, the Secretary of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia.

Michele wrote:

Dear Senator,

Further to my email of 7 July 2015, l am writing to update you on the latest developments in our campaign to secure our members' jobs at the Workwear Group's factory in Footscray. We have been informed that Minister Kevin Andrews and the DM0 have made the wrong decision. They have decided not to place further orders with The Workwear Group, resulting in the company announcing that our members will lose their jobs in September. There is still time to change Minister Andrews' mind. Your support and efforts over the last few months resulted in our members still working today. Applying further pressure on the Defence Minister, urging him to change his decision, could save these 45 workers' jobs. I have attached a letter addressed to the Minister calling on him to make the right decision this time. I have to add that it is 'funny' that Kevin Andrews cannot work out the right way to spend $100 million, yet he is in charge of a portfolio that is worth billions of dollars—and he is justifying why he should keep his job! Maybe it is time he went.

Today, I once again call on the new Prime Minister, as an expression of good faith, to show that his government's hostile attitude towards Australian workers has changed and to personally intervene, along with his new defence minister—because the old one should be sacked for the way he has betrayed these workers—and ensure that the factory stays open, that Australian defence clothing manufacturing jobs are secure and that we keep a viable, local and competitive industry for government uniform supply. I will not even go into security.

In his second reading address to parliament, Minister Pyne said:

The measures in the bill will help encourage investment in new projects that are important to the Australian economy by preventing unions from vetoing greenfields agreements. I am willing to talk about that point with the Prime Minister and his new defence minister.

However, I close by making this point. If we want to encourage investment in Australia and maintain Australian workers' wages and conditions, we must:

(1) guarantee that Australia's fuel, gas and power are cheaper than our major trading partners so that our manufactures, small businesses and farmers can profitably compete on unfair world markets whilst maintaining the wages and standard of living of Australian workers;

(2) legislate to make sure that state and federal governments buy local first in their procurement policy and support local manufacturing, even if it means paying a few more dollars than they do to overseas competitors—and I am talking about our steel making industry and workers;

(3) support voluntary national service for our young people, which would allow them to join the military for a year and learn some skills or participate in trade training and apprenticeships. I oppose the legislation before the House.