Speech by Jeff Lawrence to Rights at Work rally, NSW Parliament House, 15 June 2011

Jeff Lawrence
Comrades, we stood together 5 years ago in the Your Rights at Work campaign.  Together we told politicians – you can’t mess with our rights at work.  

We swung votes in record numbers.  We voted out the Howard Government.  We saw to it that he lost his seat as well.

Still the Liberal Party has not learnt.

After 5 minutes of being in Government.  Without a hint to the electorate who voted them in only 3 months ago.

The O’Farrell Liberal Government has waged an attack on workers, the likes of which we have not seen since WorkChoices.

And who does he attack?  Workers who the people of NSW depend on: Our nurses, teachers, fire-fighters, and those who work tirelessly to ensure services run in the community.

But these workers do not stand alone.  I am here to tell the public sector workers of NSW that the entire union movement of Australia stands beside them.  And so does the public of NSW.

Mark Lennon and Unions NSW stand firm – and has done a great job organising today.

And in parliament – I cannot think of a better person to prosecute the case than Robbo.  John Robertson Leader of the Opposition.

We are all standing firm together.  Why?  Because these laws are so wrong.  They are so bad.  That it is in the interest of every working person in Australia to see them gone.  

At the stroke of a pen Barry O’Farrell can remove rights at work of any worker in NSW public sector.  That is wrong.  That is unjust.

These laws would allow Barry O’Farrell and the NSW Liberal Government to cut pay and conditions.  With no negotiation.  No consultation.

To cut penalty rates, overtime pay, maternity pay.  All at the whim of the O’Farrell Liberal Government.

These laws breach international law by ignoring Australia’s obligations to labour rights such as the right to bargain and to take industrial action for better pay and conditions.

They overstep the state’s constitutional powers.

We cannot allow these laws to be passed.

Every Member of Parliament who votes for them must be held to account.

It is clear.  The Liberal Party has shown once more that it cannot be trusted with rights at work.

But where is Tony Abbott on this?  Where does the weathervane politician stand?

The man we’ve seen moonlighting at factories around the country, sitting in miner’s pubs, posing as the working man’s friend.

But now when workers’ rights are under attack, where is Tony Abbott? Nowhere to be seen.

Tony Abbott thinks he doesn’t have to take a stand.  He thinks he can hide behind it as “state issue”.  But it is not a “state issue” – this is an issue about the rights of all working people.  

It is about how hard working people of NSW who are struggling to keep up with the cost of living deserve a pay rise that won’t send them backwards.  It is about workers who deserve to have their hard fought for conditions protected.

I challenge Tony Abbott to tell Barry O’Farrell to get rid of these laws.

No person or party who cares about working people, about Australian jobs, about the services in our community could support these laws.  

Getting rid of the laws matters to every Australian worker and their family.

We must and we will – campaign once more – to protect your rights at work.