Workplace relations speech in Parliament

Reports today in an article in TheAustralian Financial Review by Ewin Hannan that Australia's largest carpet manufacturer is seeking to use the Abbott government's proposed national construction code to cut the workplace conditions of low-paid textile workers can leave Australians in no doubt about this government's true intentions when it comes to industrial relations. I echo the comments made in that article by Michele O'Neil, Secretary of the Textile, Clothing & Footwear Union, who noted the company's tactics showed the code's impact was wider than the government's stated intentions and its injudicious, unhelpful and inflammatory rhetoric.

Michele said:This is not just about how a union official behaves on a construction site … It's about a textile worker not being able to have an agreement that protects their job.

This is true. But of course it is about more than this. Australian workers should be subject to one set of workplace laws that secure fairness, fundamental rights and safety at work. This should not be too much to ask in any democracy, but it is clearly too much to expect from this mean and tricky government, which is wilfully, ideologically blind to the realities of Australian workplaces and which is, more so, heedless of the human consequences of this ideological agenda.

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