Motion: Workers Rights

Hon. GW ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting the Premier) (5.50 pm): I move—

That all words after ‘conditions’ be deleted, and the following words inserted— and congratulates the Newman LNP government for enshrining these values in the 54th Parliament and promoting job opportunities throughout this great state.

Tonight, I want to focus my remarks on an important section of the Queensland workforce, the Public Service. This government’s goal is to reform and renew the Queensland public sector to make it the best Public Service in Australia. The people of Queensland are entitled to a Public Service that provides the services they need and the Public Service has a responsibility to deliver those services as efficiently and in the most professional manner possible. That is what they are getting from this government. To help public servants deliver the better services that Queenslanders demand, this government has put in place a renewal and reform process that ensures that public servants have the right attitude, support and skills.

The development of the new, aspirational Queensland Public Service values was an important outcome from extensive engagement with thousands of employees across the state at all levels. Given the extent of renewal that we are leading across the sector, it was essential that we gathered the views of employees on the values that should be put into action in their workplaces. The Pulse survey and forums also asked employees to discuss the behaviours and culture in their current workplaces and to provide their views on the way they would like to work in the future if we are to provide better value for money for the people of Queensland. The extensive staff consultation produced five values to guide and drive Queensland’s public sector into the future: putting our customers first; turning great ideas into action; unleashing the potential that exists amongst our 220,000 strong workforce; taking calculated and courageous decisions rather than doing things the same way we always have; and empowering our people by developing and supporting them to perform at their best. If we ensure that those values are manifested, we will provide better workplaces, more engaged employees, increased productivity, better services to the people of Queensland and reduced cost of services to taxpayers. Our culture and values renewal is an investment in our people and central to the broader renewal framework to achieving the government’s goal of becoming the most responsive and respected Public Service in the nation. The new values will support public servants in their workplaces as they strive to deliver smarter, simpler and better outcomes for Queenslanders.

Having more public servants does not automatically equate to a better Public Service, just as having fewer does not mean a less effective Public Service. The government has a responsibility to utilise taxpayers’ money in a way that provides the best possible service to the greatest number of people within existing financial constraints. The opposition’s motion ignores the fact that unions can sometimes be the worst enemy of workers, because they operate to their own agendas rather than to the needs of members in terms of pay and conditions. A case in point is the frustrating negotiations that have gone on now for nearly 18 months over a new enterprise bargain agreement for the 50,000 public servants who are covered by the core agreement. Since the end of last year the state government has been trying to give core public servants a fair and reasonable pay rise, but it is being blocked by Alex Scott and the Together union at every turn. We have been opposed at every stage by the Together union, which is supposedly standing up for workers. Two-thirds of core public servants are not members of the Together union, but so far they have been denied a say in what pay rise they should get. 

The continuing opposition from the union forced the Public Service Commission to ask the Industrial Relations Commission to conduct a direct ballot of all core employees to try to resolve the situation. The union wanted the minority of affected public servants who are union members to decide the outcome for all core public servants. The commission refused the request. So the matter remains in the arbitration process.

The government is of the firm belief that it is only fair that all affected employees have a say, not just the minority who are union members. If the government had its way, core public servants would have had a 2.35 per cent pay rise backdated to July last year, but because of the Together union these public servants are being denied a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. I noticed Alex Scott on the television news tonight.