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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 11 Hansard (14 November) . . Page.. 3477..


MR PRATT (continuing):

year only one or two of them had been trained. That is not how you retain your volunteers.

The other point, too, is that there are experienced firefighters who have been away from the fireground perhaps for a couple of years and understandably need to have refresher training. Why not empower the brigades and the SES units to undertake the on-the-job training that would allow these people to be certified to be retained for use on the fireground? That is not happening. I think that goes to the heart of the crisis that the government currently has with volunteer numbers.

Industrial relations laws

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (4.50): This morning the High Court of Australia delivered the decision on the federal government's IR laws. The decision handed down by the High Court effectively means that millions of Australian workers have lost their rights at work.

The High Court decision has given the Howard government the right to use its IR laws to strip away 100 years of protection for working families. Over these past 100 years, working Australians have benefited by these laws, enabling them to share in economic good times and the knowledge that they were protected by an award system. The prospect that a regular wage increase would assist them through the tough times was assured.

The right to bargain collectively for the benefit of all workers has also all but gone with the widespread introduction of AWAs, which pits worker against worker in a race to the bottom. The net result of these contracts will be the further erosion of workplace conditions, which will ensure that employees on AWAs will struggle to make ends meet. This is a disastrous decision for ordinary Australian families already struggling to make ends meet in a climate of higher interest rates and the current drought conditions, which make the cost of living prohibitive for many struggling on the basic wage.

Today's decision, coming one day after the federal government announced more changes to the IR laws, will do nothing to enhance the working and living conditions of ordinary workers. These changes further erode the working conditions of Australian workers, further entrenching the rights of the employer over those least able to protest.

One of the changes announced yesterday was to provide employers with an extensive right to stand down workers at any time there is a downturn in the operation of their business or during times of industrial dispute. The uncertainty will cause incalculable harm to most workers. How can a mortgage be paid on time or food provided for families if the employer has the right to stand down people without pay? For those with accrued leave, be it sick or annual, that is how they will be paid during those times, but for those without accrued entitlements, how they will survive is of no consequence to this federal government at all.

One of the fundamental principles of the Australian psyche has always been the notion of a fair go for all. One of the most insidious results of the past 10 years of this


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