Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 2456..
MR BARR (continuing):
The government certainly was able, with the CIT, to reach an agreeable productivity offset. We are now in a position where I hope to be able to see CIT teachers get their four per cent pay rise, beginning from 1 October this year. We were able to reach agreement there. So, on the basis that we are able to find agreeable productivity offsets, I am happy to continue that conversation, but it certainly will not be done and I certainly will not be participating in meetings where there is a series of unreasonable demands placed upon the government.
If we are to have a fair dinkum negotiation on that, we will do it on mutually acceptable terms and not in some sort of way that insinuates that the government will be held to ransom by a series of industrial actions. As I said, that does nothing to resolve this issue. All the industrial action does is inconvenience parents and students, and it costs teachers money. Every time they go on strike their pay is docked. That is a requirement of the WorkChoices legislation, and the government will not be breaching the law.
All I have said to the union is that the longer they delay this matter the further away they will be from achieving the pay rises that they want and the government wants to deliver to them. ACT teachers are the best paid in the country and they have the lowest contact hours. The government is seeking some productivity offsets in order to achieve the pay rises that we believe ACT teachers deserve, but there needs to be a return to the public education system, some increased productivity, and that is what the government is asking for.
I do note the mixed message that is coming from the opposition here, in that I understand that Mr Mulcahy has on many occasions berated the government for not seeking productivity increases in order to fund additional pay rises. I am seeking to ensure that there is a good outcome for the territory, that there is a good outcome for our public education system and that there is a good outcome for teachers. Of course I want our teachers to be the highest paid in the country, but we do require, if we are going to be able to deliver pay rises above three per cent, a productivity offset, and that is what I am seeking.
MRS DUNNE: I ask a supplementary question. Minister, what are your conditions for recommencing negotiations with the AEU?
MR BARR: As I indicated in my previous answer, I am willing to meet with the union to discuss a range of options where we might be able to find mutually acceptable productivity offsets, as we were able to do with the CIT. But I have indicated that a climate of industrial action, demands, threats and statements such as "we will only meet with you if"are not conducive to achieving a fair and reasonable outcome. I still have the time available in my diary on Friday morning to meet with the AEU. If they are prepared to come to the table without the threat of industrial action, without the blackmail and the intimidation, I will meet with them.
MS MacDONALD: Mr Speaker, my question, through you, is to Ms Gallagher in her capacity as Minister for Health. The minister will be aware that I was on the health committee in the last Assembly which inquired into and brought down A pregnant pause,