Ms SPENDER (Wentworth) (15:06):
My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.
One of your arguments for last year's IR reforms was the need to increase wages for childcare workers. Six months later, no multi-employer bargains have been completed, childcare workers don't have commitments to increase wages and some childcare centres in Wentworth, like the one I saw last week, are only offering half the places because of staff shortages. Wouldn't it have been better to fix the awards and make a difference to families and workers now?
Mr BURKE (Watson—Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Minister for the Arts and Leader of the House) (15:06): I thank the member for Wentworth for the question. I'll go through a couple of different issues that are raised. First of all, in terms of the award review, which was something that the member for Wentworth sought during the debate and was ultimately negotiated with the Senate as well with Senator Pocock, there are further discussions happening now about the nature of that award review. The review of the awards is in particular in the context of the new objectives in the act, and those objectives go both to secure employment and to gender equality, which obviously is particularly significant for the rates of pay for people who are working as early childhood educators.
In terms of multi-employer bargaining, the different parts of the act commence on different dates. The multiemployer provisions haven't started yet, so the reason why no multi-employer agreements have been concluded for early childhood education is those sections of the act don't commence until June. What we have seen, though, is exactly what I predicted in the sense that, immediately, we have seen a whole lot of employers come back to the table on individual enterprise agreements with their workforce, workplace by workplace. Our preference is always that you get individual workplaces negotiating and having those agreements in place. That's always the best option, but the problem has been, in a whole lot of feminised sectors, that hasn't worked. That's why we needed to open up the rules for multi-employer bargaining. They commence in June, so right now we're in a phase where we're seeing a really serious acceleration in the number of negotiations that are happening for enterprise agreements, and I expect, the moment that the laws start to open up in June, that's when we will logically see an increase in the engagement with multi-employer bargaining.