In the few minutes I have left to speak today on the Fair Work Amendment (Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industry) Bill 2011 I note that all we have heard this week with regard to any legislation we have put up is the antiworker and anti-union comments from those on the other side. We have heard about the union thugs and the union bullies but I have not ever heard from that side of the employers who hold the power as being employer thugs or employer bullies, and as most of us know there are certainly a lot of them out there. Their comments on the union movement throughout the week have been very disrespectful and a gross injustice to all those many fine men and women who are out there every day—union delegates, union officials and the ACTU—working to improve the rights of everyday Australians in the workforce.
I offer my congratulations and commendations to the TCFUA and the ACTU for succeeding in helping us get this bill to this place today. It has been a long struggle. They have been working on it for over 15 years; there have been a number of Senate inquiries and the Brotherhood of St Laurence has done reports. All those reports show that outworkers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry are vulnerable and do not get paid the right amount of wages. Some of them work for as low as $2 or $3 an hour and they work really long hours just to try to make ends meet. They are often non-English-speaking migrants and so are a vulnerable group in our community that is taken advantage of.
It does not matter how many people on the other side stand up, as a number of senators opposite have done, and say that this is not going to improve anything—this will improve the working rights for people. To be quite honest, if it improves the working rights for one person then I think that lot should be supporting it! But oh, no! They come in and say: ‘No, no, no, no. We’re not going to support this because the unions are behind it. We hate the unions. The only people we like are those rich mining people.’ They have no logical arguments. I listened to those arguments and I did not think the previous speaker was talking about the same bill for half of his contribution.
Senator Furner: Very confused.
Senator BILYK: And I was confused, Senator Furner, not because I do not understand the bill but because I could not relate what was being said to the bill that we are discussing. But those union people have worked hard not just over the past year but for decades—15 years or so. The first Senate inquiry went back to 1996, I think, and there may well have been some earlier. Senator Collins participated in that. Those opposite were in government for 11½ years and they did nothing. They just want to move back to Work Choices. We know that is what it is all about. Your problem is that you know that the people of Australia know that is what you want to do, so you come in here and run fatuous arguments and disingenuous comments about unions, union officials and those everyday working people who are members of those unions. You all ought to be ashamed of yourselves. You need to get your policies together. You need to get them funded, and tell the people— (Time expired)
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! The time allotted for consideration of this bill has expired. The question is that the Fair Work Amendment (Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industry) Bill 2011 be now read a second time.