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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 12 Hansard (18 October) . . Page.. 3743..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

employed in the ACT. Under the federal government's proposal, these workers will no longer have the option of pursuing an unfair dismissal claim if they are sacked, currently at a cost of around $50, and will instead face up to $30,000 in legal bills to mount an unlawful dismissal claim in the Federal Court.

However, a recent paper from the school of business at the University of New South Wales/ADFA shows that this is a fallacy. Instead, they have found the changes are likely to result in a tiny fraction of the numbers of jobs created quoted by the government. After a three-year comprehensive analysis, they found that the changes are likely to result in 6,000 new jobs if firms of 100 or fewer are exempted from both the state and federal systems—that is, across the country, 6,000 new jobs. The trade-off for this number is workers who are sacked unfairly face court costs of $30,000 instead of a simple $50 application fee, currently, before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

The situation is even more absurd when you consider that the two academics found the number of new jobs created under the federal system alone would only be 1,981, that is, the system that operates here in the ACT. When this figure is applied to the ACT private sector work force, you find that these changes are likely to create an average of just 68 new jobs in the ACT. This is not surprising when you consider that we already have the highest labour force participation rate in the country, at 71.9 per cent, which is 7 per cent above the national average. There is clearly nothing wrong with the current industrial relations system in the territory.

The federal government is expected to spend $100 million promoting these changes across the country. If we assume the 6,000 new jobs will be created across the country, each of these jobs will cost the commonwealth government around $161/2 thousand. At that rate, the Howard government may as well employ those 68 directly in the commonwealth public service. Under these changes, $16,000 will probably be the annual wage for an AS06.

Mr Speaker, you might wonder how these changes will operate in practice. We need only to look at the government's WorkChoices propaganda for an example. On page 20, we learn about poor Eric who believes his employer coerced him and several other employees into signing a collective agreement. He contacts the Office of Workplace Services with his complaint, and they proceed to prosecute Eric's employer. Of course, this will be a major change in strategy for the Office of Workplace Services, given that they only prosecuted two employers last year. Eric's boss is very unlucky.

Unfortunately, a line seems to be missing from the Eric example. The line missing might be: because Eric blows the whistle on his boss and dobs him in, he is therefore sacked unfairly and, because Eric is paid such a measly wage, he cannot afford an unfair dismissal action. As Eric's workplace has fewer than 100 employees, it is not subject to unfair dismissal laws and Eric, therefore, has no choice but to leave without argument, creating, of course, one more extra job for the economy. So we have 6,001 additional jobs. Economic growth in action! Where to for Eric? We need only to read about the infamous Billy, on page 15 of the same document, who gives up everything but the kitchen sink to get a job.

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