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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 13 Hansard (14 December) . . Page.. 4302..

Industrial relations—WorkChoices

(Question No 1447)

Dr Foskey asked the Minister for Industrial Relations, on 13 December 2006:

(1) What procedure has the ACT Government committed to in making Enterprise Bargaining Agreements with its employees in order to ensure that it doesn't exploit the disproportionate bargaining powers that it enjoys as an employer under the WorkChoices legislation;

(2) Is it practical for the ACT Government to introduce legislation to require employers of young people under 18 years of age to provide employment terms and conditions at least equivalent to applicable awards.

Mr Barr

: The answer to the member's question is as follows:

(1) To all intents and purposes, the ACT Government is making workplace agreements with its employees in the same way that it did prior to the introduction of Work Choices.

Some practical changes are necessary and are being made. For example, under Work Choices, existing awards cannot be varied in any significant way - they will be effectively frozen. Consequently, where they don't constitute prohibited content under Work Choices, the ACT Government is translating award provisions, on a no disadvantage basis, into the core template agreement.

(2) The ACT Government currently regulates the employment of children under the Children and Young People Act 1999. The Government is considering the possibility of further regulating the employment of young people to protect them from the impact of the Commonwealth's Work Choices legislation.

While the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (WR Act) generally excludes all State and Territory industrial legislation, section 16(3) of the WR Act creates an exception to that automatic exclusion for State and Territory legislation which deals with specified subject matters, including "child labour". "Child labour"is not defined under the WR Act, and it is not known to what extent the commonwealth legislation will tolerate industrial relations laws targeted at young people. There is the possibility of automatic over-ride because of inconsistency with the WR Act, or specific exclusion by the Commonwealth through regulation. An additional factor is that ACT legislation is particularly susceptible to being overridden by Commonwealth legislation because of the Australian Capital Territory Self Government Act 1988.

Officers from the Office of Industrial Relations are closely monitoring the introduction and operation of child employment laws in other Australian jurisdictions including the recently passed NSW Industrial Relations (Child Employment) Act 2006. Officers are also monitoring the Commonwealth Government's response to those laws to guide consideration of further regulatory options.

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