Matter of Public Importance Trade Unions

Matter of Public Importance

1 September 2015

Trade union influence

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — If that was an audition for the position of the next deputy leader of the government, next Deputy Premier of Victoria, the member for Keysborough needs a few more lessons, because that was an uncoordinated ramble and rant about a whole heap of disjointed things. Mate, if you are auditioning for Deputy Premier, you will need to take a few lessons in how you do that.

I rise to support the excellent matter of public importance moved by the member for Box Hill, and I commend him for the articulate way he addressed the issues in his contribution. On the other side of the house there is a belief that the unions should control government here in Victoria and Australia. The union movement wants to be the ruling class of politics in Australia. If you look at the career backgrounds of quite a few of the government members of Parliament, you will see they have come from the union movement. It is about having a supposed ruling class of the unions in government here in the future. When they get into government and are elevated up the ladder, it becomes about paying back their union mates for the support they gave over that time.

If you go back to the 2014 election campaign, you will find no worse example of a thought bubble that would have a major economic impact on this state. That thought bubble was, ‘Let’s have a public holiday for the grand final parade’. A fantastic thought bubble? I think not. It is a thought bubble that is not going to do Victoria any good. I will come back to the things the member for Keysborough said about it and address it from a country point of view. No‑one I have talked to thinks this public holiday is a good idea. Whether it be people here in Melbourne who would go out at lunchtime to watch the parade or whether it be the country business owners the member for Keysborough talked about, I cannot find anyone who thinks it is a good idea.

In my electorate I have Radcliffe’s, which is a restaurant and wedding reception venue. It was stung by the Easter Sunday public holiday — it had a wedding booked and had to wear the cost of the penalties. It lost money on that wedding because of the penalty rates. Radcliffe’s also has a wedding booked for the grand final parade holiday. It had to go back to the bride and say that it had to charge 25 per cent more because of the penalties, so now the bride’s family has had to cut back on the reception to meet their budget, all because of that holiday. It is a disaster for them.

According to the member for Keysborough, a number of businesses in Nhill will supposedly benefit from this holiday, but Jim White of Jim’s Butchery told the Wimmera Messenger:

I won’t be able to charge more for my products to cover the higher expenses. No‑one from my staff will be going to the grand final.

He is not going to pay the penalties to be open. Kelly‑Anne Merrett, owner of the Spot Cafe, said:

I love AFL but I have no idea why there needs to be a public holiday before the grand final. Penalty rates will kill small business therefore we will most likely close or trade less hours.

What I think we will find is that people may go to country Victoria during that long weekend but they will find that places are closed and they will not come back again because they will have been sent the wrong message. The member for Keysborough says it is going to be a boon. Tom Smith, CEO of Echuca Moama Tourism, said:

The increased costs will not be good for tourism.

It is a classic example of Melbourne‑based politicians making decisions which will impact the rest of the state.

I agree with Tom Smith wholeheartedly. This is not a good idea. The people I talk to who are in small business say that they will either have to charge more and run the risk of losing current customers or they will have to close. A lot of people will go to these communities and find that the coffee shop will be closed and the bakery will be closed. They will not get a good experience and they will not come back again.

When thinking about the grand final parade, did members opposite talk to DiMattina’s Restaurant? The same people run the Society Restaurant, and it is going to be closed. A lot of businesses here in Melbourne are going to close. It would be absolutely tragic if we have two West Australian teams in the grand final, but it may happen, in which case we will have a lot of visitors from interstate coming here with money to spend and expecting a positive experience, but a lot of businesses will be closed. A lot of grand final eve Friday lunch functions are now not going to be held because penalty rates mean people cannot afford to run them. I say to the member for Keysborough that country people do not think it is a good idea. There might be some people at the Benalla races who do, but most communities do not think it is a good idea.

This public holiday is going to cost Alcheringa, one of the aged‑care facilities in my electorate, $20 000, but it will not get one more cent from the federal or state governments to pay for it, and that applies equally across the health system.

Mr Pakula — $20 000?

Mr WALSH — Absolutely, $20 000. Alcheringa has three facilities and employs a large number of staff. It cannot afford that in its budget. It is not a good idea for country Victoria.

Moving on to the part of the member for Box Hill’s matter of public importance regarding the United Firefighters Union (UFU) and the Country Fire Authority (CFA), in the 9 or 10 months of this government I have not heard one minister from the other side of the table utter the word ‘volunteer’. They do not mention volunteers. It is all about the paid firefighters, it is not about the volunteers. Again, if you unpick the issues around the funding for the UFU, the fire services levy in Victoria is going to increase by 7.2 per cent to honour the promises made to the UFU during the election campaign. Rate notices are going out to landholders around Victoria right now and Victorians are seeing a huge increase in the fire services levy. A lot of people did not take notice of it when it was just an item in the budget, but they are now taking notice because the rate notices are going out. They are seeing the increases. The Premier promised that he would not increase taxes, fines and penalties greater than CPI — I did not realise CPI was 7.2 per cent, but 7.2 per cent is what is there.

The member for Keysborough was talking about presumptive legislation, but my understanding is that the proposal will effectively exclude the overwhelming majority of volunteers. It is just about the paid firefighters, and it will be very tight and effectively exclude all the volunteers. Members opposite should not say that they are sticking up for the firefighters, because the volunteers are the CFA. Something like 60 000 volunteers make up the CFA around Victoria. They are the heart and soul of the CFA, but those on the other side of the house do not like them and want to destroy them.

Mr Pakula — Destroy them?

Mr WALSH — The Labor Party is out to make life harder for volunteers, to have a union‑dominated organisation in the CFA to make it harder for it to do its job.

I will finish with the issue of the building code. You do not have to go back very far to look at the desalination plant and the exclusive union deal that was done with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Electrical Trades Union and what that deal did to building costs and the building industry in Victoria. You also have to look at what that did to the community of Wonthaggi. I have been to Wonthaggi a few times since the desalination plant was built. It is a community that has a serious drug issue, and it blames the CFMEU and its bikie mates for bringing drugs into the community and leaving the issue behind. The people who were working there were paid exorbitant amounts of money but had very little work to do and had a lot of recreational time, and unfortunately some of them got involved with illicit drugs and dragged them into that community.

Victoria is going to suffer from having a Labor government and a Premier who is beholden to the CFMEU because of what that will do to building costs. It will force business out of Victoria to Sydney. The New South Wales government is going gangbusters now. This government is destroying the infrastructure‑building industry here in Victoria; that industry is moving to New South Wales, particularly because of the domination of the unions and the secondary boycotts that are occurring. We do not have to look any further than at the battle between the CFMEU and Boral to see the unruly thuggery and intimidation done by unions in Victoria to the detriment of all Victorians.


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