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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 15 Hansard (Wednesday, 14 December 2005) . . Page.. 4846 ..


… we see this bill as being obnoxious, insidious and fundamentally hostile to the interests of working people in this country. We see it as fundamentally opposed to the maintenance of living standards for working people in this country and as a device aimed at redistributing wealth and power towards people who are already extremely well positioned within our society.

That caused me to read closer Mr Gentleman’s motion. Point (2) says:

Calls on the Federal Government to admit the harmonious workplace relationship developed between employees, unions and employers have resulted in a productive economy, and retain workplace laws in their current form.

These are the workplace laws that the Labor Party said were obnoxious, insidious and fundamentally hostile to the interests of working people in this country. Ten years ago they were obnoxious, insidious and fundamentally hostile to the interests of working people, but today we have Mr Gentleman, the workers’ champion, calling on the federal government to retain the workplace laws in their current form. They love them; they cannot get enough of them.

Previously the Chief Minister interjected, “Things are so good. Why would you change anything?” This is the John Hargreaves line from the last time we discussed this: “We have done everything that has to be done. We never have to make another change. We do not have to progress; we do not have to take things forward.” Is that the attitude of this government to reform?

Economic reform is a continuing thing; industrial relations reform is a continuing thing. It has been happening, as was pointed out, since the 1980s and through the 1990s in this country in significant ways. It was embraced by Paul Keating; it has been embraced by the federal government; it is rejected by the current federal Labor opposition; and it is rejected by the government in the ACT.

I draw the Assembly’s attention to the contradiction between the words of Mr Gentleman’s motion and the words on the current industrial relations scheme that were put out at the time by the Labor opposition and by members of the union movement. They could not be believed then, and they cannot be believed now.

I want to touch quickly on another aspect of the motion. It talked about the workplace changes requiring secret ballots. I am still not quite sure—and I have not heard Mr Gentleman make the argument—as to what could be so wrong with secret ballots. What is going to be lost by having secret ballots?

Dr Foskey: Why don’t we do it here?

MR SESELJA: Dr Foskey interjects, “Why don’t we do it here?” There is a very good reason why we do it here. We are elected representatives. People need to know how we vote on any given thing. People do not need to know whether 12,400 workers voted one way and 8,200 the other way and know their names and their voting record; they are not elected representatives. There is a significant difference. That is why we do not do it here. But that is not an argument against doing it in the context of a workplace.


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