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Senator Wright speaks on workplace laws

Speeches in Parliament
Penny Wright 15 May 2013

Senator WRIGHT (South Australia) (17:53): The Australian Greens have a straightforward, principled view when it comes to protecting people's rights at work. The Greens know that workers are under pressure, that many are working longer hours than they would like and that many work in dangerous workplaces. The Greens know that there are those who would seek to take away these rights and to say that someone should have less rights than an accused criminal simply because of the industry that they work in. So our principled view is this: the Greens will always protect people's rights at work, and we believe people should enjoy equal rights whatever industry they work in.

What is clear though is that the coalition's ideological vendetta against building workers continues. Last week, we heard that they will seek to reinstate the industrial secret police in the building industry, the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which will remove the right to silence and allow people to be subjected to secret interrogations—less rights than accused criminals. Today, we see another attempt to strip away minimum protections.

The code which the coalition seeks to disallow sets out some minimum standards for construction work in this country and they are standards that should be preserved. Of course, the coalition had its own code when it was in power. That was a code which effectively controlled what could and what could not be in workplace agreements. The coalition, which routinely argue for freedom of choice and letting the market decide, were actually the first ones to use their power to step in and dictate what workers and employers in construction could and could not bargain about. The current code provides at least some level of protection for those in the construction industry.

It is a great shame that we are a few weeks before the end of this parliament and Labor still has not yet seen fit to fully get rid of John Howard's workplace laws. The Greens would like to see the rule of law applied fully and fairly to all workers and the last vestiges of the coalition's laws repealed. You can trust the Greens to stand up for what is right and to protect people's rights at work. If the polls are right, we are heading for an Abbott government in September. Heaven help us if they control both houses of parliament. Today shows that the only way people can protect their rights at work is by having Greens in the Senate.

Question negatived.

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