Industrial Relations (Restoring Fairness) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015

Mr ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (9.20 pm): I rise to oppose the Industrial Relations (Restoring Fairness) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. While I am on my feet tonight I will expose the toadying relationship the current government has with its union masters. Those of us on this side of the House are interested in the welfare of Public Service employees; not just those, however, who are union members. What hypocrisy that this bill dares to mention restoring fairness as part of its title. What it is restoring is the rights of union heavyweights to run this state as they did to different degrees under previous Labor administrations. Whatever the faults of the Beattie and Bligh governments, and there were many, they pale into insignificance when compared to the weakness of this union-controlled and dominated government. This bill does nothing about restoring fairness. It is a legislative front for union heavies to come into a workplace and bully hardworking public servants into becoming union members. I can understand the desperation of union leaders to bolster their positions with this bill, because only about 20 per cent of workers are union members. Even in the traditionally unionised public sector the proportion has dropped to significantly less than 50 per cent. If this government was serious about fairness in the workplace, as this bill proclaims, it would look at reforming provisions around enterprise bargaining and the process so that all affected workers have a say, not just union members. If unions are serious about representing their members, the best thing that they could do is to find savings, flexibility and efficiencies rather than scheming with this administration to entrench their own power.

The Courier-Mail identified the issue clearly in an editorial last month in which it said—

Its hard to think of a greater admission of failure than the fact unions in Queensland have had to call in a debt owed to them by the Labor Party and the Palaszczuk Government to keep going.

It went on—

... the fact this was pushed through as a priority by a Government which hasn’t been able to do or say much about creating and retaining jobs will do nothing to lessen the impression Ms Palaszczuk and her colleagues are there to look after their mates and the rest of us can wait our turn.

Who in this place, and we have heard them tonight, can forget the boast of left-wing United Voice union official Gary Bullock after the election when he referred publicly to United Voice MPs. These are desperate times for union leaders desperate to halt their slide in membership numbers so that they can reap the spoils of increased membership fees and influence. We saw recently revelations that soon after the Palaszczuk administration was sworn in the state secretary of the Premier’s own union, the Australian Workers’ Union, wrote to her demanding a meeting to discuss how the new government could reorganise the public sector workplaces to better suit unions. The head of the Together Union, Alex Scott, has admitted that unions pressured the government to reintroduce the union preference provision which will turn public sector managers into union recruitment agents.

Forty-five thousand public servants covered by the core enterprise bargaining agreement found to their cost that unions can be the enemy of workers because they operate to their own agendas rather than to the needs of members. The Newman government tried for two years to give core public servants a fair and reasonable pay rise, but the offer every time was blocked by Alex Scott and his Together Union cronies. Two-thirds of core public servants are not even members of the Together Union but they were denied a say until the Newman government acted to override the Together Union by granting a 2.2 per cent pay increase just before Christmas. The Together Union was not interested in a result. The Together Union was interested in yet another issue in the lead-up to the last election. When talking about that doyen of the workforce, Alex Scott, when one compares Mr Scott and his annual salary, of $212,500 last time I looked, to those junior people in the Public Service waiting all of those months—I think the process started in about April—to try to get a small pay increase going into Christmas, isn’t he one of the workers’ friends?

I also do not think Queenslanders voted to allow union bosses to have access to the personal details of every new government employee, overriding an individual’s right to privacy. What other antiproductivity policies does this union-owned Palaszczuk administration have in mind? While I am on my feet tonight I would like to give some of those people opposite who have only been in this place a few short weeks a little bit of a history lesson. If one goes back to the dying days of the Bligh government—remember those, when the government sold off Queensland Rail and the forestry— even it realised it had a problem with the growth of the Public Service completely out of control. It needed to do something about it. It formulated a plan. It went through and looked at each department in the Queensland Public Service, department by department, and figured out how many of those people in the Queensland Public Service were to lose their jobs.