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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 4 Hansard (16 March) . . Page.. 1061..


MR GENTLEMAN (continuing):

(3) recognises some of the benefits of flexibility, particularly incorporating family friendly conditions into Canberra's workplaces; and

(4) reaffirms the importance of workers having access to secure employment, regular working hours and appropriate remuneration for work performed.

The motion I bring before the Assembly today refers to a specific matter: a template for the employment contract recently released by the Office of the Employment Advocate, a federal government agency. The ramifications of the release of this template extend far beyond its immediate take-up by employers. It relates to matters that I believe are the crux of social and economic development in Australia and, indeed, here in the ACT.

The issues of work and family balance, flexibility in employment and the inherent tensions in the employment relationship challenge the people of Canberra every day as they seek to be good workers, good parents, good partners, good friends and good bosses. The capacity of government to engage in long-term planning for sustainable economic and social development and to implement cross-workforce and cross-industry policy reform places us in a unique position. In releasing this template for an Australian workplace agreement, the Office of the Employment Advocate raises important issues for government. The template, which is available on the OEA website, draws a distinction between voluntary and compulsory overtime and undermines the principle of ordinary hours of work by averaging hours over a four-week period.

The very fact that this form of contract is encouraged by a government agency is indicative of the role played by the federal Liberal government in employment relations. Defining success in industrial relations purely in terms of productivity is an ideological objective. This is the preferred path of the Business Council of Australia in their recent position paper Workplace relations: the way forward. It is also the position endorsed by the federal government. Federal industrial relations minister, Kevin Andrews, was quoted recently as saying that the minimum wage should be determined on the basis of economic factors. Under this federal government, fairness is being locked out of industrial relations.

The template released by the OEA is just one part of the chiselling away of the principle of fairness in Australian industrial relations. Yet the implications of government adopting this approach are negative for our society and even, on their own arguments, for long-term economic growth. This aggressive intervention into sectors and functions of the industrial relations system will cement the privileging of short-term profit over sustainable economic growth, social cohesion and equity.

Chronic under-employment plagues some in our society while others are working the longest hours in 20 years. It is government that is uniquely positioned to consider how to rectify these problems, to engage all stakeholders: business, unions, workers, their families and our communities, and to plan for the future to ensure sustainable economic growth that considers social and economic security.

Achieving balance between work and life is a difficult task-as workers and their families can attest to-the achievement of stimulating and fulfilling work that achieves remuneration sufficient to meet the fiscal demands of the modern family, while building


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