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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 26 September 2019) . . Page.. 3989 ..

Public Sector Management Amendment Bill 2019

Debate resumed from 1 August 2019, on motion by Mr Barr:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MISS C BURCH (Kurrajong) (3.23): Mr Assistant Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak on the proposed amendments to the Public Sector Management Act. I also welcome the clarification that this amendment brings regarding long service leave arrangements and the benefits that this clarification will bring to public servants accessing these entitlements.

The technical adjustments brought forward under the amendment, including the changes to the definition of “employee” to ensure that the Long Service Leave Act does not apply to a public employee, will help the administration and provision of long service leave entitlements within the ACT public service. By mandating that this law applies prospectively, the amendment allows ACT public sector employees currently accessing long service leave entitlements to do so under the arrangements most beneficial to them. I welcome the clarification provided by the insertion of a new definition of an eligible person under the act.

However, the Canberra Liberals will not be supporting the changes to the formalisation of information sharing to unions into territory legislation. Legislation that unduly increases the influence and power of certain groups over others, with no apparent benefit, is not good governance. Section 242A of the Public Sector Management Amendment Bill is yet another example of this.

We need to be absolutely clear what this is really about. This is not simply a move to align ACT legislation with the arrangements already in place under existing EBAs. Nor is it about strengthening the rights of ACT public servants. This is just another move to increase the stranglehold that the unions have over government here in the ACT. This is about expanding the power of the unions beyond what is necessary and beyond what is reasonable. It does this in several ways.

As a feature of enterprise bargaining agreements, the agreed framework put in place regarding the distribution of new starter public servants’ private information to the unions is also a key part of the negotiation process. This means that public servants are able to have a say as to how and where the information of new colleagues is distributed, and how that option appears in their contracts. As the explanatory statement reads:

The decision to adopt the ‘opt out’ system was negotiated as part of the enterprise bargaining agreement and selected as the preferred option.

However, section 242A of this amendment effectively removes that option to have the opt-out information sharing arrangement renegotiated as part of future enterprise bargaining agreements, disproportionately increasing the bargaining power of the unions during future negotiations. This arbitrary increase to union bargaining power does not come with any net benefits to public servants or their workplace conditions.

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