Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2021

I am delighted to oppose the Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2021. It is a bill introduced by a draconian government—the self‑entitled mass of people, sanctimonious drones and enemy of the worker, otherwise known as the Liberal Party of New South Wales. Yet another day in this place and yet another attack on the worker by the New South Wales Liberals. Government members can call it what they like. They can try to shadow it over by saying that they are protecting small businesses, but there is no greater friend of small business in this State than the New South Wales Labor Party. I have a newsflash for members opposite: Small businesses also want to look after their workers and make sure that they are okay. The bill is unnecessary at a time when it will affect the people who have protected us. It is the responsibility of this Parliament and the responsibility of any government to protect workers, particularly those who protected us.

When we go through the bill the ideological agenda of a very conservative government is clear. Only Labor stands to fight for workers and that is why we oppose the bill. I commend all my colleagues, particularly shadow Minister Sophie Cotsis and the member for Shellharbour, Anna Watson, who are in the Chamber, as well as Ryan Park, who spoke earlier. Government members like to make contributions saying they are protecting small business, but that is a joke. Small businesses do not want the bill. They do not need it; it is unnecessary. The bill is just another way for the New South Wales Liberal Government, which embodies conservative ideology, to despise workers. The Government does not want workers to be protected at work. We on this side of the House have fought for those protections for over a century and we will continue to defend them. That will not change. The Leader of the Opposition raised some significant economic facts. The data is in and we have drawn comparisons to Victoria.

To bring it back to a local level, we are talking about workers who went to work to not only get paid but also because they actually cared. Our nurses, council workers and transport workers legitimately care about the communities and the industries they work in. They care about the people they service in a range of ways. For the Government to introduce this bill at a time when we are trying to recover economically and socially is nothing short of atrocious. Government members like to say that there is no greater friend of the worker than them. But when workers have friends like the Liberal Party in New South Wales, they do not need enemies. Yet again we see a bill that will diminish workers' entitlements. I have another newsflash for Government members: Not everyone is on a high wage. Not a everyone earns a good salary. A lot of those workers who defended and protected us, and worked hard to help support communities across the State, are not on big money. But they still went to work at the beginning of the pandemic.

It was a scary time when no‑one knew what would happen. Would they get COVID? Were they going to get Delta? They did not know but they still went to work—not just for money but because they knew it was the right thing to do. Proud Australians and proud workers, unlike many members in this place, put themselves before others. What thanks do they get from this Government? They get a bill to remove their protections. If this Government had any kind of integrity or dignity it would introduce a bill to provide further protections for those workers. But, no, we have a government in this State that wants to wage a war on workers at every opportunity. We on this side of the House will unapologetically fight for them and defend them, and we always will. I have said before that I am proud to be from the industrial arm of the Labor Party. I acknowledge my labour movement brothers and sisters, and unions, including the United Services Union, which fights for our council workers, transport workers, health service workers, nurses and midwives.

Whoever you are, even if you are not a member of a union, Labor will fight for and defend you. We are a great party because we stand for great things. There is nothing greater than fighting for those who cannot fight themselves. We will fight this bill all the way. We oppose it, and we will oppose any other legislation that this Government introduces that hurts working families. Why? Because they are just as equal and as entitled as anyone else in this society. They may not get paid as much but they are just as important, if not more important, than some executive elsewhere. We take nothing away from people who do well, but for the Government to bring this bill before the House while we recover from the pandemic is nothing short of offensive. To Government members I say: Go back to your communities and look your workers in the face. Explain to them in real terms—be fair dinkum and honest—why you made the decision to remove entitlements and diminish protections by voting for a bill that is unnecessary.

Why is the bill unnecessary? Because it is based on the Liberal Party's ideological approach, which has long stood since pre‑Menzies. More than half a century before that the Labor Party existed to stand and fight for workers. We did that then, we do that now and we will forever do it. We will not cop this bill. I commend crossbench members, who are also doing the right thing by opposing the bill. They do not oppose it because of politics but because they know it is the right thing to do. They know it is the just thing to do. They know that they could not possibly go back to their communities and say that they voted for a bill in Parliament that reduces workers' rights. Those workers will not complain or play games because they are the people who went to work to try to help support their communities. This bill says more about a government that is out of touch, inept and the enemy of the worker. It is nothing short of a disgrace. I was going to seek an extension of time, but I shall not because I know that many more members wish to speak. The Opposition opposes the bill. Labor members will forever defend and fight for the worker until our dying breath. We will stay here as long as it takes to fight. We will fight for them because we know that they are out there fighting for us and they cannot be in here. I thank the House.

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