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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 2 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 418..


Mr Samuel Kautai

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (6.16): Mr Speaker, just last week I met with union delegates from the Transport Workers Union of Australia. These delegates from a variety of industries were meeting to discuss and formulate programs about two very important workplace issues-WorkChoices and workplace safety. These men and women met because they believe it is their responsibility to best protect their members' interests and safety. I want to make that point clear. They believe it is their responsibility-not a right, not an entitlement.

In contrast, when this Assembly last sat, we discussed whether or not a union representative should have the right to inspect a certificate of currency in respect of compulsory insurance policies. This was a very specific debate confined to the role and rights of union representatives in such matters and, at the heart of this debate, two conflicting beliefs about the role of the union representative in any workplace matter.

On the side of government, there is a firm belief that there is a legitimate role for a collective association of workers, be this in the negotiation of workplace agreements or in respect of occupational health and safety matters. On the side of the opposition there is a firm belief that workers should not form a collective and should not have the right to be involved in matters of occupational health and safety in the workplace. They believe in a furphy world where the desire for profit does not challenge an employer to cut costs and where good employers are not forced to compete with those unscrupulous bosses who will stop at very little to ensure their pockets are lined from the toil of their employees.

Well, wake up and smell the subterfuge because the real world is not such a picnic. For the benefit of those deluded members of the opposition-in particular, for the benefit of Mr Mulcahy-I am going to tell another story. I tell these stories not because of any personal satisfaction in yet again proving the opposition wrong, but because those who enter parliament have a duty to all members of their electorate, not just the ones who attend their fundraising events.

I want to tell you about 19-year-old Samuel Kautai, a Cook Islander who arrived here in Australia two years go to do guttering work with a Sydney contractor. As part of the working contract Samuel had to live with his employer for these two years. His wage over this period averaged at just $56 a month. For this he worked 12 hours a day, six days a week. The work contract, deemed illegal by the building union, required Samuel to perform whatever duties demanded by his employer and forced him to remain in the job for two years.

No one would wish such working conditions upon any worker, and in Samuel's case I wish that this were the worst of his experiences as a worker here in Australia. But it was not. Last August, whilst on site, Samuel was hit on the head by his employer with a hammer. This was just one incident over a period of the two years I mentioned. Over his two-year stay, for the sum of $56 a month, Samuel was choked, kicked and bashed with a claw hammer. He was made to clean up his own blood. As a result of these attacks, Samuel has had his nose, jaw and teeth broken, he has lost the sight in one eye and he is

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