Back to work bill


Second reading

Ms RYALL (Ringwood) — I rise to make a contribution to the debate on the Back to Work Bill 2014, and I want to correct the record. The member for Yan Yean seems to have a short memory. When Labor was last in government, it was the rivers of gold that ran through to Victoria from the Rudd stimulus package that kept this state in the black, and when that tap was turned off we had a $6 billion write‑down in revenue in the first two years of our government. It is easy to sing as if all were well. Billions of dollars flowed into Victoria from the Rudd and Gillard governments, but a $6 billion write‑down is more than 10 per cent of the budget of this state.

Although members of the opposition will not be opposing this bill, we do have some major concerns about it. The bill provides that a scheme will be implemented to defray some of the costs of hiring an unemployed or retrenched worker; that forms will have to be filled out, claims made; records kept; and that further compliance costs will be imposed upon business through that. The bill tells us that the minister will put together some criteria, but the problem is that no‑one really knows what those criteria are. In fact I do not think that members of the Labor government know what they are either. The bill provides that there will be a scheme and some criteria, that there will be ways to deal with objections, reviews and appeals and that there will be administration and enforcement if claimants do not comply with these things.

In relation to these criteria, we have to ask: where is the government’s accountability on producing some criteria that are not included in the bill that is to pass through this house and this Parliament? Those criteria should be scrutinised by the Parliament, and the people of Victoria deserve having us make sure that the Labor government delivers on the 100 000 full‑time jobs that it said it would create. We all know what happens when Labor tries to manage money — it is not a pretty sight — and Victorians certainly know about the billions of dollars that were lost in waste and mismanagement when Labor was last in office. We also know that the government has not worked out the criteria the bill refers to, because a draft could have been circulated. When these criteria are formulated, will they be open to rorting?

The Premier and the Treasurer are really saying, ‘Trust us’ — and this from a party that brought us the desalination plant at $1.8 million a day for 27 years, myki, the north–south pipeline and $1.44 billion in cost overruns on IT projects. This ‘Trust me’ comes from a Premier who said, ‘We will not rip up the east–west link contracts because of the risk to the state’. It is interesting to think about the ripping up of contracts putting the state at risk. The Premier has admitted that doing so would put the state of Victoria at risk and compromise investor confidence and sovereign risk. On the issue of trust, I think the staff of the Linking Melbourne Authority would be saying, ‘Don’t trust them’, because before the election Labor said that those people would have jobs, but now, after the election, Labor is sacking them. This all comes from a government whose members are using taxpayer funds to try and get people into jobs. The irony of this is, on the one hand, spending money on trying to create jobs while, on the other hand, sacking people. I think that the Victorian people would see that as a bit incongruent.

I cannot avoid quoting the Premier from his press release of 23 December in relation to this scheme. In it he says:

The Labor government will get our state back to work, because every job is worth fighting for.

The hypocrisy is breathtaking, because I just think of a few things that have happened of recent times. Were the jobs at Dairy Bell and Ernest Hillier Chocolates worth fighting for? If so, where was the Premier? What about the jobs at Betta Foods, and the 3700 jobs for the east–west link and the jobs at the Linking Melbourne Authority? And what about Oz Minerals?

Where was the Premier during the fight to keep that company’s head office in this state instead of 60 jobs going to Adelaide under the direction of the South Australian government, which fought for those jobs and took them from Victoria. Our Premier said nothing — he was missing in action. Every job is worth fighting for except those and the others that get lost. When the Premier was in opposition, he was going to be the saviour of jobs, but he has done nothing to secure and fight for those jobs.

We look at Labor’s public holiday, which comes at a cost of up to $1.6 billion in productivity losses in this state. That is aside from the $201 million that would be lost from the retail and hospitality sectors just as a result of that one public holiday. That is double what Labor is going to spend on this $100 million scheme. Government members say, ‘Don’t worry. We are having a public holiday’ — and that is going to cost the hospitality and retail sectors $201 million. It is a little bit incongruent.

In terms of the contradictions there — I am not sure how many of those opposite have ever run a business and employed staff, but I have employed multiple staff members — the interesting thing is that to implement a scheme like this you have to understand business compliance costs. I can tell members that there are over half a million small businesses in this state alone, and no decision to employ someone is ever taken lightly. An example of what Labor brings to bear is a lack of understanding of business and certainly of small business.

In the overall scheme of Labor’s bad decisions — we can see that world’s best practice in that area being the desalination plant, with a benchmark of $1.8 million a day — this is probably minor in comparison, but it does illustrate an ignorance of what makes an economy productive and an ignorance of the drivers creating sustainable employment. The government has no understanding of economics and does not understand that a strong economy is the basis for strong employment and that a strong economy comes from having the infrastructure that is needed so businesses can be more productive than they currently are.

It is not about spending money on congestion. It is not about spending money being stuck in traffic in terms of time and fuel costs. It is about getting products and services to where they need to be in an efficient manner. The money that businesses save can be reinjected back into their organisations and businesses so that they can grow and employ more staff. To deny the east–west link is to deny one of the fundamental projects that our economy in this state needs to make business more productive and to make ensure that our economy has further output to ensure that we can inject funds back into business to employ more staff. We do not need a Labor government that increases the cost of doing business.

In terms of key performance indicators, obviously Labor’s KPI will be to create 100 000 full‑time jobs from $100 million, and the Victorian people will hold the Labor government to account on this. Three months and one day of employment is not a full‑time job. The minimum requirement for a person or a company to employ a staff member is three months and one day. Whether that is a full‑time job in the eyes of the government, I am not sure, but I do not think it is a way that any other Victorian defines a full‑time job. Opposition members have some significant concerns about this bill. We need to make sure that it is implemented properly and that it faces the proper scrutiny. I look forward to seeing these criteria and to determining whether they provide the best value for dollar for the Victorian people.