Wednesday, 30 November 2016
Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (10:23): We need to understand what is going on here with the Building Code. We do just need to reflect on the Fair Work Act. The Fair Work Act may not be perfect—that would be our starting point—but it does give protection to people's rights at work. I would even say it is a step to making Australia a fairer place. That is why we just need to consider what is going on with this amendment and with the Building Code in that context. The essence of the Fair Work Act does say that employees and employers can bargain about their conditions for their workplace. The really important aspect of it is that once they reach agreement those conditions have the force of law. That is the centrepiece and that is what the government is essentially trying to knock out—to absolutely destroy how industrial relations work. That is why we need to identify that essence of the Fair Work Act.
Let's remember what we achieve when we have that act in place, and what can end up having the force of law behind it: the hours of work, supporting apprentices and the issue of casualisation—one of the biggest problems facing the workforce in Australia. And then there is the contracting out that is going on. There are so many areas of our working conditions that are negotiated and that is why we need to ensure that this amendment is supported.
As a matter of basic principle, if an agreement complies with the Fair Work Act, that should be enough. The Fair Work Act already has a number of strict requirements about what can and cannot be in agreements. A Fair Work Commissioner is required to vet every agreement before it is approved and ensure it complies with the laws. That is why the Greens support the amendment and we urge that the Senate does so.
The CHAIR: The question is that amendment (1) on sheet 8015 be agreed to.