FEDERAL Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says the furore over Labor’s proposed media law changes is more proof of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s poor judgment.
The criticism came as the government defended its jobs record and flagged new checks on employers who abuse the temporary skilled migrant worker scheme using 457 visas.
Mr Abbott on Monday attempted to censure the government over its media laws – his first such motion since November.
The proposed media laws would become a similar policy disaster to the live cattle export ban, the East Timor asylum seeker detention centre, the carbon and mining taxes and “demonising foreign workers”, he told parliament.
“It’s yet another display of poor judgment”.
Leader of the House Anthony Albanese hit back saying the coalition had a track record of curtailing freedom, such as gag orders on charities receiving government money, lawsuits against newspapers and effectively outlawing unions under Work Choices.
“We will not be lectured to by (the coalition) … who represent decades of tradition of trying to shut down voices in our community,” Mr Albanese said.
The coalition had also argued in parliament against action on climate change, the national broadband network, hospital reform and industry assistance, the minister said.
The debate came as the latest Nielsen poll showed the coalition leading 56-44 on a two-party basis and Mr Abbott leading Ms Gillard as preferred prime minister 49-43.
Dismissing the poll result, Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said the government was focused on “issues that matter to Australian households” such as education, fair workplaces and care for people with disability.
The government announced new laws that will allow Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) officials to check migration records held by employers, to ensure compliance with the temporary skilled work visa program, known as the 457 scheme.
FWO inspectors – who already undertake 10,000 inspections of workplaces a year – would match migration paperwork with job descriptions and actual work undertaken under the visa scheme.
“My policy is always to see Australian workers in the front of the line when it comes to getting Australian jobs,” Ms Gillard told parliament.
“These changes are about two things – making sure 457 visas are not being used to undercut pay and conditions in our workplaces, and second … that we protect the jobs of Australians by ensuring 457 visas are only used for a job that an Australian worker cannot fill.”
Mr Abbott earlier announced a $10 billion roads strategy, including $1.5 billion for Melbourne’s East-West link, $1 billion for Brisbane’s Gateway project and $5.6 billion to complete the Newcastle-Queensland border Pacific Highway duplication. – AAP