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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 06 Hansard (Thursday, 5 May 2005 2005) . . Page.. 1866 ..

the tax revenues and create the employment in the ACT. They are the people we ought to give first regard to.

It is interesting that in this territory—and we will talk a little bit more about this this afternoon—in 2003-04 government employee expenses increased by 30.4 per cent over the previous year. I do not think the inflation rate is like that; I do not think it is even at that level in Argentina anymore. They have run from $963 million to $1.256 million.

That massive blowout places enormous pressure on the private sector in trying to compete for workers. We hear about skills shortages. If there is some doubt that this is just Liberal rhetoric, I would urge the minister to sit down and talk to people like the Canberra Business Council, and the various other employer groups that are on her various advisory groups, and get an understanding of how hard it is for them to recruit people in this city because of the pressure placed on them by governments who want to become pacesetters in conditions and wages.

The government needs to be conscious of the impact of its actions on the ability of the private sector to create jobs and create opportunities. The minister for economic development says he wants to make Canberra the most business-friendly place in Australia but, of course, the actions of his colleague from the left make Canberra distinctly unfriendly.

I quote the Minister for Industrial Relations. She said, “This bill will put the ACT at the forefront of every other jurisdiction.” That is, of course, code for putting the ACT private sector at a clear disadvantage to interstate competitors. It makes the term “business-friendly” nothing but a hoax. It is tough enough in this country competing with imports from other lower cost markets. We have talent in this country. If we price our people in this town out of business—

Mr Gentleman: What’s the price, Richard? How much is it going to cost?

MR MULCAHY: —competitors in other parts of Australia will invariably capture business opportunities. Mr Gentleman is dismissive of the price of increasing the cost to employers because he does not have to deal with this problem. It is all these measures they keep bringing in, and we have been signalled that there are more coming. At the end of the day people reach a point where they say, “Look, it’s better to do business elsewhere; move the shop into another place.” Even in the other Labor states they are more sensitive to the needs of the business community.

The bill will impose costs on the private sector due to more workers gaining access to long service leave entitlements because of the shorter qualifying period. Although a smaller point, there is a possibility of overpayments to workers, who have collected a pro rata long service leave payment, continuing employment and then resigning, which would mean, under normal circumstances, the foregoing of those entitlements.

The opposition rejects this bill outright on the grounds that it will increase business costs and damage the capacity of business to compete, grow and provide employment. Moreover, we would urge the government to move beyond its cringing obedience to union masters, to behave more like a government and instead be interested in the wellbeing of all Canberrans—to recognise that, in the latest figures published, only

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