Ms SPENDER (Wentworth) (15:05):
My question is to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.
Senator Pocock has said that you made a commitment to him to review modern awards. Can you please confirm that you have made the commitment and provide further information to the chamber, particularly regarding the form of the review, its timing and whether it will be conducted independently of government?
Mr BURKE (Watson—Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Minister for the Arts and Leader of the House) (15:05): I want to thank the member for Wentworth for the question and also acknowledge that both the member for Wentworth and a number of members of the crossbench in this House raised issues here that have ended up being part of the negotiation that's taken place in the Senate. The review of the awards is one of the issues that had been raised by crossbenchers within this House as well.
The review is something where final decisions of government, through its mechanism, haven't been taken yet, but it is my intention that the review will commence next year. The reason for the review and one of the reasons why I readily agreed to it is, as part of the secure jobs, better pay bill, we're not only updating the objects of the act we're also updating the objects of the modern awards. That means the award system will now have objects that it didn't have when it was developed. For example, the principles of gender equality, particularly under the amendments that were made here, will now be requirements of the act but they weren't requirements when the awards were developed—similarly for secure jobs. Secure jobs, once the legislation is passed, will be an objective of the awards but it wasn't when they were designed.
Certainly I'm not proposing that the review would be limited to these issues, and they'll be a decision of government as to the full breadth of it, but when you change the objects of the award system I think it's very important that you then have some sort of review to work out what that actually means for the awards themselves.