Take Note of Answers - Workplace Relations


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (15:09): This is what you can expect from Senator Cameron, with that diatribe of misinformation, accusations and political attacks against one of the most successful ministers this parliament has seen for a long time, who just happens to be a woman. It's interesting with Senator Cameron and a couple of other Labor senators that the vicious political attacks always seem to be on successful women ministers such as Senator Cash, Senator Payne and Senator Fierravanti-Wells. I just wonder why that is.

Senator Cash doesn't need me to defend or protect her. She's more than capable of doing that, and she has done that against vicious personal attacks by the likes of Senator Cameron over many, many months now. Why are Senator Cameron and the union movement so determined to attack Senator Cash and try to bring her down? It's because they know she is successful at her job, she understands the portfolio brilliantly and she can identify the rorts and rabble that pass as the union movement in Australia at the moment. No wonder only nine per cent of workers in the private industry in Australia choose to belong to a union movement.

I'd like to ask Senator Cameron—and also Senator Ketter, who I see here but who I might say takes a much more reasonable approach to policy debate—to explain to us how the superannuation industry is going to deal with Labor's policy on slashing the income of lower paid pensioners and older people with their dividend imputation approach? Both of those senators that I mentioned have been directors of large superannuation companies. I'm not quite sure of Senator Ketter's case, but I know in Senator Cameron's case as the director of one of Australia's biggest superannuation funds he was dragging in a salary of $150,000. He should understand just what the impact will be of Labor's policies on the superannuation holdings of people on very, very limited income. I challenge Senator Cameron to actually explain to this parliament just what impact the Australian Labor Party's policy will have on retirees and pensioners if their imputation policy goes ahead.

I want to quickly turn to the penalty rates that were the subject of the question and of Senator Cameron's diatribe. In passing, I say it is typical of Senator Cameron to accuse the government of doing something with cleaners' wages. He knows we all love the cleaners. As the President explained just previously, this is an independent process, quite removed from the government, and no decision's yet been made. Yet that doesn't stop Senator Cameron making these false and vile accusations on behalf of a group who we all love.

On penalty rates, I just reiterate again what Senator Cash said so well in answers given in question time. These penalty rates are determined by the Fair Work Commission. Who set up the Fair Work Commission? It was the Australian Labor Party in government and, in particular, Mr Bill Shorten. Who made the decisions on penalty rates? It was that Fair Work Commission set up by the Labor Party, the chairman and most of the members of which were appointed by the Australian Labor Party in government. I make no comment about that. I think they carefully looked at the issues and came to the decision. But it wasn't a government decision. In spite of Senator Cameron continually misinforming the parliament and anyone who might be listening to this debate about that fact, those decisions on penalty rates were made by the Labor set up and appointed Fair Work Commission, the independent umpire that Labor at one stage used to support.

If you want to talk about penalty rates, just have a look at the example Senator Cash gave about Mr Bill Shorten in his time as a union leader in giving away the penalty rates of lower paid workers. Senator Cameron should understand the truth of these matters. 

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