I rise to speak in support of this bill and the amendments moved by the Treasurer and Minister for Industrial Relations. I wish to speak only briefly to this bill and I do so simply because it does what it says. I rise as a former lay advocate and Industrial Relations Commissioner, with 20 years as a workers’ rights advocate, as a unionist and as a local representative who delivers what I promise. The Industrial Relations (Restoring Fairness) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill will restore fairness. It will rebuild, it will repair, it is just, it is unbiased and it is equitable.
I want to acknowledge the work of the parliamentary committee on this bill. I also want to acknowledge this point: the government employees who have been listening to this debate, the parliamentary staff who serve us in this place, are some of the people that this bill is all about. I also wish to acknowledge the contribution of the member for Dalrymple, who ably represents two members of my family, two government employees living in Charters Towers. I say thank you.
To listen to the commentary from those opposite over the course of the past two weeks, one would think we are here to debate a bill that might impact on the operations of ASIO. That is the point, is it not? The debate that the opposition wants to have has very little to do with effective industrial relations. The objections to the bill from those opposite are not about whether or not the bill creates effective industrial relations systems and processes for a couple of hundred thousand Queensland government employees. It was clear from the committee hearings that I attended that little interest is apparent from the opposition in the effectiveness of industrial relations in Queensland. I attended the public hearings of the Finance and Administration Committee last Monday, 25 June 2015 for several hours. I am concerned about the focus of this debate by some. In four hours of hearings of the Finance and Administration Committee last Monday, the opposition members asked a total of 21 questions that pertained directly to the involvement of unions in workplaces. Their questions generally focused on whether or not the bill would have the effect of conferring on workers a greater level of propensity to become a member of their relevant union. I wonder if anyone here tonight can guess how many questions the opposition members of the committee asked about the service delivery impacts of this bill. Can anyone guess? The answer is zero. That makes it clear: 21 to zero—21 occasions that the opposition members raised concerns and objections about workers being represented in the workplace, having a right to have a say on their conditions, and zero in relation to the service delivery impacts of this bill.
Last week I met with a delegation of government employees in the Springwood electorate office. This last week I have personally spoken with over a thousand government employees on the telephone. I also thank Julie of Daisy Hill and Gordon of Shailer Park for taking the time to come to the Springwood electorate office to tell me why this parliament should vote in favour of passing this bill. I have also heard from health practitioners such as radiographers, as my parliamentary colleague the member for Capalaba spoke about earlier. They told me about the improved outcomes that important consultative mechanisms in the workplace have had. They explained the following outcomes benefitting the Logan Hospital CT unit and the patients who, unfortunately, end up there. They talked about their consultative committee providing radiographer training, decreasing stress and fatigue, reducing inefficiencies, reducing patient waiting times and improving patient experience. These measures not only reduce staff turnover in that department, saving this government millions in taxpayer funds; these measures save lives. I note the submission made by United Voice, the union that represents them, which stated—
The limitations under the current act—
are unacceptable and ultimately deny important rights and conditions to our members. Of particular concern to our members are:
...The prohibition on provisions that deal with training arrangements. Skills development and increased knowledge are critical to enable an employee to perform their role more effectively, to progress, and to contribute to improved outcomes in the workplace. Employees are often best placed to know what training needs are required and deserve meaningful input, as well as certainty, around the support that employers will provide by way of training and professional development ...
The Queensland government should aim to set the highest standards in workplace relations.
A submission to the 2014 Australian Senate Select Committee on Certain Aspects of the Queensland Government Administration pointed out—
Australia is also a signatory to a number of International Labour Organisation ... instruments, including the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention ... the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention ...
The submission said that Queensland’s Industrial Relations (Fair Work Harmonisation) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2015 introduced by the Newman government is inconsistent with ILO convention No. 87 and within ILO convention No. 98 that protects the right of individual workers to join together and take action to improve their employment conditions.
Australia and Queensland should set a high standard that we can all be proud of, and at this time I want to refer to an independent poll that was conducted this evening in the electorate of Everton, I believe. The telephone poll asked recipients—
When it comes to the Queensland government employing nurses, teachers and other public servants, do you believe that the government should set the example for working conditions that they want other employers to achieve, or should the government employ people on the minimum legal standards required and no more? Press 1 if you believe that the Queensland government should set the example; press 2 if you think it should not.
Seventy-two per cent of voters answered that the Queensland government should set the example for working conditions that other employers should strive to achieve.
This bill in particular, through its amendments that remove restrictions on the rights of parties to an agreement to negotiate, freely returns our state to those high standards. In the past two weeks, as I mentioned, I have spoken with literally thousands of employees of this government who want fairness restored. This bill will restore fairness for 31,000 nurses employed by this state, 50,000 teachers, 1,500 members of the Queensland Police Service, 3,145 ambulance officers, 1,470 child safety officers, 600 park rangers and the list goes on. The bill will deliver for those workers, their families and the Queenslanders they serve. They ask us to bring on the vote.