Joint press conference with MCA, ACCI, MBA

07 December 2023

Event: Joint press conference with MCA, ACCI, MBA
Speakers: Bran Black Chief Executive Business Council of Australia; Tania Constable Chief Executive Officer Minerals Council of Australia; Andrew McKellar Chief Executive Officer Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Denita Wawn Chief Executive Master Builders Australia
Topics: Closing Loopholes Bill; industrial relations; Same Job, Same Pay


Bran Black Chief Executive Business Council of Australia: Thank you everybody. When this Government came to power it spoke about building agreement, building consensus and that's not what we have seen today. Actions speak louder than words. The actions that we've seen today have shown this Government isn't interested in consensus. It's interested in driving its own agenda. Let me be clear here, none of the business groups represented today and none of the business groups that have put out statements have any concerns with the proposals that had been put forward by Crossbench Senators Lambie and Pocock, no concerns whatsoever. What we are concerned about is the labour hire changes, and the union power changes that have been rammed through the Parliament today. What we've seen with respect to labour hire are changes that will result in greater costs for employers. But rather than make it easier to direct people, will actually make it harder for employers to engage new employees across Australia. In terms of union power, we are seeing with these changes that the unions will have unfettered access, uncapped access to training opportunities that have to be paid for by employers. They'll also have unfettered access to premises, that should send a shiver down the spine of every business in Australia. But there is a broader issue at play here and that is the quality of the consultation that has been on the table in relation to these reforms. These groups that are here today, have engaged in good faith with the Government. We’ve put forward submission after submission. We've appeared before Senate inquiries, and we haven't seen any of our concerns addressed in a substantive way. The Bill that was put forward by the Minister in its original form was unacceptable and did not account for the concerns that we’ve raised. But what we've also seen today is that the Bill includes a further more than 40 changes that have been rammed through the Parliament, without any consultation, and without any real consideration. And this comes at the worst possible time. The National Accounts were released yesterday and they showed that in the last quarter there was only a 0.2 per cent increase in economic growth. This is the worst possible time to be bringing forward changes that will have the effect of making it harder for businesses to engage workers all the way around the country.

Andrew McKellar Chief Executive Officer Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry: Thanks Bran. I agree with my colleague and certainly I think, once again, you see business united in its concern and opposition to the Bill that the Government's brought forward and to the announcement that they've made today. Frankly, what we're seeing today amounts to little more than political trickery. This is a dishonorable Bill that hasn’t been done with due process. It has been rammed through the Senate. These are significant changes. This is going well beyond supporting passage of non-contentious measures. We've seen the Government sneaking around the back corridors of the Senate at the last minute, the day before Parliament closes down for the Christmas break. We're seeing this being sprung on everyone at this time. So that is not the way to run any Government and I think the material issue here is that this puts at risk the relationship with important parts of the economy, with the business community, with some of their major industries and major sectors. There's no level of reassurance and certainly as we look into the new year, we urge the Crossbench Senators who are going to be looking at the remaining parts of this legislation to go away and rethink. Reconnect with your electorates. Go and talk to small businesses. Go and talk to people who are employing people out in the economy. Go and talk to people who have those jobs, who have casual jobs, who are working as trades people, as contractors in the gig economy. And say to them do you really think that this adds any level of certainty? Is this going to guarantee your jobs for the future? The answer is if the Government passes its legislation early next year, it won’t. We urge the Senate to regroup, rethink and to oppose what's left of this Bill. Thank you.

Tania Constable Chief Executive Officer Minerals Council of Australia: Good afternoon, Tania Constable, CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia. We saw the National Accounts released yesterday and a significant weakening of the economy. What we're seeing with the changes that have been put forward within this Industrial Relations Bill today is no less than economic vandalism. What we have seen is a problem for all of Australia. What we should be seeing is business and workers being able to benefit from industrial relations changes. But what we are now going to see is that we'll see job losses, we'll see significant job losses, and the Government needs to take full responsibility for every job loss from this point on. The business community has always been willing to work with the Government but the Government has not listened at any point in time. The changes that we wanted to see around labour hire have absolutely gone to the benefit of workers. For businesses across Australia we wanted to see balance, we wanted to see real jobs being created, and business moving forward, being profitable. And that would mean that we would see additional taxes, we would see additional services, we would see additional jobs for Australians. We've got none of that with these changes that we're seeing today. That should be a problem for all Australians and we are deeply concerned with the way that the Government has gone about this lack of transparency, lack of accountability today.

Denita Wawn Chief Executive Master Builders Australia: Master Builders has been conducting conversations with its trading members throughout the country over the last four weeks. And as we talk to packed rooms of tradies they say that they want to be able to run their business to meet the needs of all Australians in resolving a housing crisis. They have been particularly concerned around the provisions relating to subcontractors and independent contractors. And today, we've seen a deal done behind closed doors with no consultation of those who it most effects. To actually erode their rights to run their business to be highly competitive, and to ensure that they can actually meet those challenges that have been put by Government in terms of housing. There are alleged changes to that labour hire provision that we say are disingenuous. They were tinkering around the edges. They will still impact specialist subcontractors in the building and construction industry. You will be forced to go to the Fair Work Commission and argue your way out. That is not fair to the hundreds of thousands of small business specialist subcontractors in building and construction. We are also deeply concerned about the process upon which was undertaken today. We seek to argue and consult with Government and Crossbenchers in good faith. That has not been reciprocated through the entire process. The only way you can get something from this Government is if you do a little bill of deal at the end. We will not stand up to that style of approach. It's got to be two-way. We want to build for all Australians but we're not going to be we're going to now be hamstrung. And we implore the Crossbenchers in the February sittings that they seriously consider what is in the best interests of Australians, because that's not what's happened here today.

Journalist: A question for Tania, are you considering campaigning against these laws, or, continuing your multimillion dollar campaign against these laws?

Tania: Let's be very clear about what this means for the resources industry. This is a declaration of war on the resources industry. This is not just about industrial relations, we've seen a whole raft of legislation and amendments being put forward on not just industrial relations, but on taxation arrangements, environmental legislation, energy. All of these issues are going to mean that the resources industry stops investing in Australia. What does that mean for the average Australian? That means if we don't see investment we are not going to seek jobs in places like Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia, Northern Territory, all reliant on the resources industry. Thousands and thousands and thousands of jobs, thousands of businesses across Australia. What that means is we are going to see a weaker Australia. At a time when we've got cost of living, we cannot afford this. So the resources industry will not stop putting forward our concerns about a Government that are economic vandals. They are a Government that does not care about workers. They are a Government that does not care about business. And we need to make sure that all Australians get that message. This Government does not care about Australians.

Journalist: So just to clarify, are you going to continue that multimillion-dollar campaign?

Tania: The resources industry will put forward our concerns, we’ve put forward our concerns in a very constructive way, we have not been listened to. We will keep putting forward our concerns across Australia. That means that every Australian will hear about what this is going to mean to the average Australian. When you attack the resources industry, you attack superannuation accounts. When you attack the resources industry, you attack jobs. When you attack the resources industry, you attack every part of our cost of living. The cost of energy, the cost of groceries, the cost of transport, the resources industry have paid half the corporate taxes in Australia. And we can't lose sight of that. This Government are economic vandals and should not be allowed to get away with what they've done today.
Journalist: Is it worth it if you still keep campaigning against the laws that have already passed?
Tania: This is not about industrial relations. This is about the Albanese Government’s attack on business. They don't care about business. They're running a campaign that supposedly is all about unions. It's about union powers, and payback for winning the last election. We need to make sure that this Government, this Albanese Government gets the message. The message is that you don't care about workers, you do not care about business. And you certainly don't care about the states of Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia, Northern Territory, all the big resources states. That's the message we're sending to the Albanese Government today.

Journalist: Is any of that going to be targeted at the Crossbench? Are you disappointed that they gave into Labor on Same Job, Same Pay and on wage theft?

Tania: We're very concerned about deals being done in secret. The Crossbenchers have been talking about transparency, accountability, and making sure that there is integrity in Government process. What we've seen today is anything but transparency, accountability and integrity. That's our concern as we see it. So the Crossbenchers, should never have done a deal today. We have supported the Crossbenches approach around some things that are very fundamental to Australians about making sure that the health, safety and wellbeing of our frontline workers, Ambulance workers, Fire Fighters, Police, on things like PTSD all got through. The business community as a whole supported those issues and supported the Crossbenchers strongly. So yes, we're disappointed. And we don't believe that the Crossbench needed to do a deal with Government today because those issues were always going to be passed. This is a very complex Bill that the Government intentionally tied vulnerable people and tide our emergency services into what are very controversial issues. Same Job, Same Pay, casuals, union powers and ‘employee like’, those things should have been set aside for debate next year. That should have happened. And we're not going to allow the Government to get away with that.

Journalist: So would you expect to run ads up to the next election and can you say whether Labor and the Crossbench will be the target of your pressure between now and next year?

Tania: The resources industry is going to make sure that every Australian understands the consequences of not just industrial relations, but what the Albanese Government are doing right at the moment. We are seeing a weakened economy. The National Accounts yesterday showed how quickly that is occurring and the resources industry in the investment that is made across Australia is key to keeping this economy strong. We've seen a weakening of that today because was who was going to invest in Australia when we're seeing legislation after legislation that benefits unions, union membership, union power. Does not allow balance in terms of business getting on with what it does well, and that's creating jobs for the economy. We need to see more jobs in the economy, there will be no investment occurring when we're seeing this sort of decision being made, in secret without consultation, and without the businesses that will make a difference to the economy.

Journalist: Is threatening to run a wider campaign up into the next election more broader than these IR Laws?

Tania: The resources industry and the business community are sending a very strong signal today, we are unhappy with the changes that we have seen that have been made in secret. Without consultation. This has become becoming a modus operandi of the Government to do secret deals. Every Australian needs to know how disingenuous this Government is, how concerning it should be for every Australian across the economy. And we'll make sure that every Australian gets that message.

Bran: One of the things that we're most concerned about is that incrementally there is change upon change that makes Australia a less attractive place to do business. We've seen that today. We've seen that with other proposals that the Government's putting forward. We've seen that with other decisions that the Government's taking. What we need to do is remember that we're facing into a pretty significant fiscal challenge across the country. And that is that by 2060, according to the Government's own Intergenerational Report, we're not going to have the money that we need to pay for what we already do. So the only way that we can get around that is by attracting investment into this country, we need to have the right investment settings to do that. And decisions, actions, like what we've seen today are the exact opposite of Government.

Journalist: Will the BCA back a wider campaign?

Bran: The BCA will continue to work so that people understand the reforms that have been passed today and the implications of those reforms on the economy. And we will also, really importantly, continue to make sure that Parliamentarians looking at the residual components of this Bill understand what the implications of those proposed changes are. Because we're deeply concerned about the changes that are still foreshadowed with respect to casuals. We're deeply concerned about the residual changes that apply to union power. And it's important that Parliamentarians in this place understand what those implications are.


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