Rudd bowls Howard IR bouncers in question time

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Rudd bowls Howard IR bouncers in question time

New Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd moved quickly to assert his IR credentials in Parliament yesterday, asking Prime Minister John Howard three questions - all of which Howard avoided.

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New Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd moved quickly to assert his IR credentials in Parliament yesterday, asking Prime Minister John Howard three questions - all of which Howard avoided.

Retail trade and hospitality

In his first question Rudd asked whether the Office of the Employment Advocate (OEA) statistics for the September quarter show that since WorkChoices the biggest uptake of AWAs has been in the retail trade and in hospitality.

He asked whether it is not also the case that the labour price index for this September quarter shows that wages growth in these two areas has been less than the inflation rate.

'Prime Minister, is it not the case that this is the result of the government's industrial relations legislation?' Rudd asked.

Howard claimed not to trust Rudd's statistics and instead talked about the number of jobs created since WorkChoices was introduced and the history of real wage rates.

Rostering employees under WorkChoices

In his second question Rudd asked how Howard reconciled his assertion that the Liberal Party is 'a party of family values' with the fact that, under the government's industrial relations legislation, 'an employer can roster an employee to work at any hour of any day during the week and on weekends and then change those rosters without notice'.

'Prime Minister, how is it possible for families now to plan to spend time together on weekends under this new legislation from the so-called family values party?' he asked.

Howard said 'fairness in the workplace starts with the chance of a job'.

'The greatest gift that this government has given to the families of Australia over the last 10½ years has been the dramatic reduction in the level of unemployment,' he said. 'There is no greater cause of family stress and family breakdown than the loss of economic independence brought about through the loss of a job.'

Family values and trade unions

In a related question Rudd said: 'Prime Minister, are you saying to the Parliament that the legislation that you have introduced on industrial relations will have zero impact on a family's ability to plan to spend time together on weekends?'

'Prime Minister, is it not a fact that this government's industrial relations legislation represents a triumph of market values over family values, which is why the Catholic Church has come out and so roundly criticised this legislation from the beginning?'

Howard replied by talking about the benefits of the family tax benefits system. He also attacked the ALP's links to the trade union movement.

He then claimed: 'The impact of WorkChoices on family working arrangements is beneficial because it has introduced more flexibility. It has allowed Australian families to more adequately mould their requirements and their experiences around the needs of their workplace.'

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