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Speech: The Children of WorkChoices

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 17 Feb 2021

This government is full of the ideological children of John Howard. A fundamental project of the Liberal and National parties is shifting the balance of power from workers to capital. At every turn they will privilege profits of corporations, of billionaires and of rent-seekers over the wellbeing of people and communities. Their policy agenda is the result of laziness, malice and an irrational obsession with free markets and competition. Decades of market-led policy, labour market deregulation and union busting have diminished the quality of work for so many people. It has turbo-charged inequality and worsened the degradation of our environment. This government's version of common sense is that what is good for big business is good for the community. They have no real abiding belief in the value of meaningful work, social labour or care; no real commitment to the rights of workers to be safe, to be happy and respected at work or to be able to work and play and flourish. The only kind of flexibility that this government is interested in is supporting the flexibility of employers to hire and fire workers. Inevitably, favouring flexibility for businesses would mean precarity and powerlessness for workers. COVID-19 has shown us how dangerously precarious employment can be for workers and for society. That the government are trying to use this crisis to further undermine workplace rights, workers' pay and conditions in favour of businesses is cynical, it's despicable and it is staggeringly irresponsible. They have been wanting to do this for a long, long time.

With regards to the anti-worker IR omnibus bill, just removing the appalling measure to suspend the BOOT won't cut it; the bill will still remain appalling. It will still make it harder for most casuals to convert to permanent work, it still effectively casualises part-time workers without any increases in entitlements and it still locks workers and unions out of enterprise bargaining; it needs to be scrapped. Maybe workers' wages and conditions are abstract concepts to this government. Maybe they're so out of touch with working people they don't know how precarity and poverty feel. I lost count of the number of times I have sat right here in this chamber and watched members of the government giggle and gossip as they vote to plunge people into poverty, to take away their rights and dignity and to entrench and worsen inequality. Workers deserve so much more than the cold callous disregard of the Liberals and Nationals.


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