News Parliament

MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE - ECONOMY

I think it's fair to say that the rank and foul stench of hypocrisy hangs heavy over the opposition benches this afternoon. They come into this House bleating and preaching about inequality, but for years the Leader of the Opposition and the unions, the puppet masters who put you into this place, have been selling their own workers down the river. How is that for equality? Let's look at the recent history. In 2006, on the opposition leader's watch, when he was head, the AWU agreed to cut penalty rates for workers at Target, Big W and Just Jeans. When he was in control of it they cut those penalty rates. How is that for striking a blow for equality? Or take the Rydges Tradewinds in Cairns, where they got rid of penalty rates for workers—cut them under the Leader of the Opposition's watch. How is that striking a blow for equality? The rank and arrant hypocrisy from those opposite is breathtaking.

But it didn't stop at the Leader of the Opposition. Oh, no—you listen! Let's go back through what happened at Cleanevent: $75,000 from Cleanevent to AWU Victoria, where they paid workers well below the award. They stripped them of penalty rates, overtime and staff loadings. Those casual workers were entitled to $176,000 more under the award than they got under the enterprise agreement. Did the workers know that those deals were being cut?

The deals go on and on: Chiquita Mushrooms, $24,000, where the AWU falsely invoiced the payments as paid education leave and they were never disclosed as payments to the Chiquita employees. How is that striking a blow for equality in this country? Did you tell the workers when that was going on, when your puppet masters were doing that to their own workers?

How dare you come into this place and preach and bleat about inequality when you perpetrated the atrocities of inequality against your own workers?

It goes on. There were thousands of dollars from Huntsman chemicals to AWU Victoria, apparently in return for good relations with the unions. Did you tell the workers that was happening at the time? Are you proud of striking another blow for the workers in that case? We can go on and on. There was over $150,000 from building companies to the former BLF, used to construct beach houses. The payments were apparently to secure industrial peace and good relations with the union. That was another blow they struck for equality in this country. How dare those opposite come into this House and preach to this place, in the Australian parliament, about inequality after the atrocities they perpetrated on workers in this country? The hypocrisy just goes on and on.

As Roger Wilkins, the Deputy Director of the Melbourne Institute, said, as we heard today, inequality, if anything, has been declining in this country. Between 2006 and 2014, the largest falls in household wealth occurred in the richer households, with the measure for the top one per cent of income earners falling 9.3 per cent whilst the lowest 10 per cent had an increase of 25.7 per cent. Inequality is declining. The proportion of Australians earning half the median wage has fallen to 10 per cent from 13.5 per cent in 2010, according to the ABS.

It is this government which is getting on with the job of reducing inequality in this country. In the last financial year 240,000 jobs were created—the largest increase since before the global financial crisis. We heard that from the Treasurer today. What a fine record to be proud of. That's a real benefit to Australian workers, to actually give them a job as opposed to those opposite, who did nothing but sell the workers out for years—all under the watch of the Leader of the Opposition.

Let's talk about bridging inequality in education and the great Gonski reforms. I know the member for Fairfax is very excited about those new Gonski reforms—$24 billion in extra funding which benefits every school across regional and country Australia. The schools in my electorate are no exception. Every one of them has benefitted—by millions of dollars for the bigger schools, and even the smaller schools get a significant funding increase. We are very proud of the work this government has done in bridging the inequality issue in this country, as opposed to the rank hypocrites on that side of the House.