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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 2558..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

these draconian reforms will have a negative impact on the ACT community. In that regard, I think the response of unions, community organisations, representatives of working men and women and Australian families has signalled their thoughts and feelings around this most appalling legislation.

In the context of WorkChoices there is now a litany of examples of abuse—abuse which of course the Liberal Party insisted would never occur. They said that employers would work within the spirit of the legislation and respect the rights of their work forces. But we know now repeatedly and I think continuously—we will see more and more of this as the legislation bites—the extent to which the WorkChoices legislation will be abused and the impact it will have on our communities, on our families and on individual working men and women.

We have seen just in this last week, in relation to the welfare-to-work reforms, which to some extent should be considered in this debate, the response of leading moral community service providers such as St Vincent de Paul and their absolutely damning critique of welfare-to-work. Their expression, their refusal, is unprecedented—and there is a whole stream of community sector providers who are refusing to work with the commonwealth because they believe its welfare-to-work programs are immoral.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (4.01), in reply: I would like to thank all members of the Assembly that have stood in support of this motion. The health of workers is a very serious matter that needs to be addressed. My colleagues have raised concerns over the occupational health and safety issues that will arise since the introduction of WorkChoices. There have been strong links to the higher levels of unsafe workplaces and the introduction of Howard's new IR laws, as Ms MacDonald would have stated. I would like to reinforce those issues.

With the introduction of WorkChoices there has been a prevention of unions attending workplaces to inspect issues of OH&S. Pressures on employees to negotiate away conditions such as meal breaks, public holidays and two weeks annual leave in order to remain competitive are detrimental in terms of occupational health and safety and workers compensation.

A report titled The Shape of Things to Come has stated that WorkChoices will create a vast pool of low-paid workers with worse health and shorter life expectancies than their wealthier peers, promoting a general decline in health standards. In a second report, Marion Baird of the University of Sydney's business school stated that WorkChoices is likely to undermine and alter employment rights and entitlements, and will impact on the ability of workers to participate in families and communities. Another report of research conducted by researchers at the Australian National University assessed almost 1,200 employed professionals aged between 40 and 44 years for depression, anxiety, physical and self-rated health. The researchers found that 23 per cent reported high job strain—high demands and low control—while 30 per cent reported high or moderate job insecurity. Job insecurity and job strain were both clearly associated with poorer physical and mental health, even after adjusting for factors such as gender, education, employment status and personality. Job insecurity was particularly strongly associated with poor health outcomes, with the likelihood of depression for those in insecure employment being four times higher. The research team concluded:


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