Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 2455..
MRS DUNNE: My question is to the minister for education. Minister, on Saturday the Australian Education Union made an approach to you in relation to its industrial action. It said:
... in the interests of public education the AEU is prepared to call off industrial action scheduled for next week—
that is, this week—
commit to meet with the Union, withdraw your demand for the cutting of school-based teaching positions, and engage in genuine negotiations.
Minister, why have you refused to withdraw the government's demand for teacher job losses? Why have you failed this test of good faith and why are you refusing to recommence negotiations with the AEU?
MR BARR: Yes, I did receive an email communication and some contact from journalists on the weekend in relation to some prompting from the AEU, I believe. In response to my statements in the media on Thursday of last week, when I indicated that I was prepared to meet with the union provided that they called off the planned industrial action and that I would not be meeting with them whilst ever they were taking industrial action, they met on Saturday morning, I understand, and prepared a series of demands that I must meet in order for a meeting to take place.
Those demands involved a requirement to meet with them by Thursday of this week and to withdraw the government's current pay offer. I was not in a position to accede to those demands. I have time available in my diary on Friday morning, the day after their deadline, and have offered up that date as a possible meeting time. I did indicate, as I have publicly, that I was more than prepared to negotiate alternative means of achieving both parties' ends; that is, from the teachers' perspective, a pay rise above three per cent per annum, and, from the government's perspective, some productivity offsets in order to meet the additional pay rises above three per cent.
I understand from some email conversations with the union that my response did not meet with their particular demands. I am sorry that that is the case, but I will not be blackmailed into meetings with the AEU on terms that are unacceptable to the government. I do not think that anyone should be blackmailed into meetings. If we are going to engage in this process in good faith, I think that both parties need to bring that good faith to the table. I have indicated to the union that I am available to meet with them on Friday morning and will be happy to do so, provided the campaign of industrial action and intimidation and the series of demands are taken off the table and we can have a sensible conversation about how we can achieve our mutual ends. I see that as being a fair and reasonable way forward.