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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 4 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1053..


Modern working conditions—impact on Canberra families

Discussion of matter of public importance

MR SPEAKER: I have received letters from Mrs Burke, Mrs Dunne, Dr Foskey, Mr Gentleman, Ms MacDonald, Mr Pratt, Mr Seselja and Mr Smyth proposing that matters of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion. In accordance with standing order 79, I have determined that the matter proposed by Mr Gentleman be submitted to the Assembly, namely:

The impact of modern working conditions on Canberra families.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (3. 52): Today I bring to the attention of members a matter of public importance revolving around the modern working conditions of Canberra families. Last night I heard from Sharan Burrow at a May Day dinner that working conditions have changed a lot over the last 100 years. Some of these changes have been for the better and some, most definitely, have not been for the good of Canberra families.

The achievements in productivity and working conditions over these years have been accomplished largely through collaboration and negotiation between workers, often represented by their unions, and employers, often represented by business representatives. It is through the work and leadership of the union movement that workers have been given a voice in their own workplace and it is that voice, the voice of workers, that I am here today to discuss.

Mr Speaker, to insist that workers have the right to work in a safe environment and to allow workers the right to collectively bargain with their employers are some of what the ACT government strives for. The work of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission members in facilitating and arbitrating on agreements and settlements is widely seen by workers and employers as of great assistance. Working conditions available to workers across the ACT have been improved by previous AIRC decisions.

Conditions such as the right to 52 weeks of unpaid maternity leave, granted in 1979, allowed working women the opportunity to care for an infant child rather than having to resign or go back to work earlier than desirable. The right to five days of paid carers leave to care for a family or household member was granted in 1995 and is now an established community standard. In 2005 and 2006 many awards have been amended to include the latest family test case provisions that enable women to request an additional 12 months maternity leave and a return to part-time work when they return to their job.

All these improvements are of great benefit to working families and the society generally in which we live. Unfortunately, these kinds of decisions may not occur in the future when the commission test case becomes a thing of the past under the new workplace changes that the federal government is forcing upon us.

Mrs Burke: I take a point of order under standing order 63, Mr Speaker. I would remind the member, through you, that we should not reflect upon a matter before a select committee at this time and I feel that we are getting a little bit close to that.


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