Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 4 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1054..
MR SPEAKER: I do not get a sense that Mr Gentleman is reflecting upon the work of a committee. He is referring to issues concerning the commission's test case, but I will keep my eye on that, Mrs Burke.
Mrs Burke: Thank you, sir. Would it not be the case that that some of the comments just made were reflecting upon the outcomes of the select committee?
MR SPEAKER: I did not get a sense of that, but I will listen closely.
MR GENTLEMAN: Mr Speaker, the ACT government strongly supports the view that the federal legislative framework governing ACT employers and employees should encourage industrial cooperation and facilitate simple and quick resolution of industrial disputes. Importantly, the legislative framework also should protect the rights of employers, employees and their representatives to negotiate industrial arrangements that suit their particular needs or requirements and should provide protections from unfair dismissal. That is what we would hope modern working conditions should provide for.
Research shows that in 2004 a very high percentage of private sector employees had signed an individual work contract. These contracts, or AWAs, had no additional family-friendly provisions and only 11 per cent included maternity leave, paid or unpaid. In fact, women fared worse than men on family leave, with 14 per cent fewer women having family-friendly provisions in their AWAs.
Mr Speaker, as you can see, it appears that women in the workplace are again the disadvantaged group in our society. In the past for Canberra workers it was the women that stayed at home to look after young children. Now, in our modern working world, it takes two incomes just to make ends meet and most women cannot stay home to look after their children.
Mr Speaker, this morning we heard Minister Barr give his inaugural speech. In that speech he spoke about the inability of this generation to afford to buy their own home. Not only are they unable to have their own home, but also the prospect of staying home to look after their children for an extended period is becoming impossible. Women are now often forced back to the work force and still have to care for their children.
Looking for available working hours, women often find employment in areas such as cleaning. A job as a cleaner is not something that should be scoffed at. In fact, I was once a cleaner in a second job, adding further financial support to my family. After working all day as a service mechanic at Phillip I would drive over to the Belconnen shopping mall to clean for four hours and then go back home to bed before getting up and starting it all over again.
Although the extra income was a great boost to my family, it was a hard way to earn it. My job was to clean the whole top floor of the centre at Belconnen on my own and that included the normal cleaning aspects of dust mopping, spot mopping, emptying bins and a full polish of the top floor every night. I was very lucky to have a good employer that treated me fairly, paid award wages and introduced the safety conditions that were needed in that industry.