Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall urges Government to consider separating Fair Work Amendments

8 November 2022

I would like to voice my disappointment with the government after having sat place for three years where debate was curtailed and after on a number of occasions we jumped straight through the consideration in detailed stage. This motion effectively is curtailing that consideration in detail stage. I accept and respect that there is an attempt to move beyond the use of suspension of standing orders and gagging debate altogether, and I appreciate that effort, but it is nevertheless a mechanism by which we are curtailing the very important role this place should have in scrutinising legislation in the third reading stage, around consideration in detail, around having the opportunity to question the minister responsible in relation to this legislation, and also in relation to debating amendments. Now we have under this motion a proposal where they will all be bundled together under one person and there will be very limited time for debate on each amendment.

Some may be cynical and say that, ultimately, government has the numbers, so what does it matter? It does matter when courts are later considering the implication or inference from this legislation. When they are trying to convey meaning, they will look at second reading speeches, they will look at the explanatory memorandum and they will look at questions raised during the consideration in detail stage. They will take direction from what the minister may have said as to what was the intention behind the wording of legislation. This is a very important stage.

As the member for North Sydney has said, this is really important legislation to get right. We are absolutely in support of raising wages, but the reality is that the urgency with which this is being pushed through from a debate point of view is not going to translate to wages. We know enterprise bargaining takes time. If anything, by adding the complexity of some of the changes in this legislation, it is likely to take even longer. The reality for the people on the ground—and I have heard the minister and others talk about this being about raising wages for women and feminised industries. With respect, by bundling it all in, we are losing the advantage of some of the good changes that are in this legislation around the BOOT test. They are being completely superseded by the divisive debate around the more contentious elements.

I strongly support and urge the government to consider the separation of this bill and to pass without delay the elements that have consensus, that have social support and that have social licence. Business, unions and everyone has come together to make those good changes to the BOOT test and other elements. They are not contested. But around the multiemployer aspect these streams are contentious. They haven't had consideration. They were first exposed only some eight days ago. As the member for North Sydney has said, we have all scrambled to get as many briefings as possible and to try to consult with our communities, but there is no way I have had the opportunity to consult properly, so through this motion there will not only not be proper scrutiny in the consideration in detail stage; we also will not have been able to bring the community on board to understand or even be supportive of all the changes that are proposed in this legislation.

The unfortunate outcome is legislation that may well imbalance what had been really good and had introduced really good changes. That message is completely lost to many communities because of the desire to rush the final part of this bill. I think that's a really unfortunate situation to have put the parliament and the government in, so I don't support the motion because I do believe that consideration in detail is incredibly important. Scrutiny is important, and I would urge the government to think about their approach. The Leader of the House was very vocal at the start of this parliament and during the last parliament about wanting the processes of this place and the parliament to be respected. He said that we need to restore integrity to this institution. I strongly say that this is not how we go about it.