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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 9 November 2021) . . Page.. 3180 ..


The problems with pay, leave entitlements and superannuation in the hospitality industry are well documented. Many employers know that their staff will not accrue seven years of service, and they have factored that into their business model. We need to look closely at what we can do as a government to improve the conditions of workers in this industry, because the hospitality industry in Canberra is one of our biggest sectors, employing thousands of people.

Workers in our city deserve to have equal access to basic rights like long service leave. We in this place have the ability to improve this by expanding portable long service leave to cover more industries and more workers. In the current climate of economic insecurity, casualisation and unstable working arrangements, reforms like this are essential to protect everyone in our community.

MR CAIN (Ginninderra) (4.58): I move an amendment which has been circulated to members:

Add:

“(c) publish guidelines for ministerial decision-making under Part 2 Section 12 (Declarations by Minister—additional coverage of Act) and Part 2 Section 13 (Declarations by Minister—limitation to coverage of Act) of the Long Service Leave (Portable Schemes) Act 2009.”.

While I acknowledge the points raised by Mr Pettersson, it ought to be recognised that, while the scheme has a policy direction to protect employee benefits, there is also an impost on businesses in Canberra. This is implicitly recognised in the legislation, because only a few select industries are covered by this scheme.

There is certainly a place for the government to review the operation of this scheme in broad terms. However, what I would like to speak to particularly, a point to which my amendment goes, is that under the act the minister has some significant discretions. Under section 12, for example, the minister has the discretion to extend the effectiveness of the scheme over a selected business or employer. Under section 13 of the act, the minister has unbridled discretion to exempt an employer from the scheme. They are quite enormous and wide-ranging powers, it would seem.

The Assembly, when passing this legislation a term or two ago, provided these discretions to the minister. But what I would like to speak to in particular is that, at the moment, the exercise by the minister of either discretion is completely lacking in transparency. There are no guidelines or explanatory statements that inform the community about when such a power would be exercised.

As the minister is aware, I have made a submission on behalf of an organisation in Canberra. I supported their application for an exemption from the portable long service leave scheme. The answer that came back was, “No.” I pressed the minister for answers. The answer, in summary, paraphrasing, came back: “I have the power to do this and I said no.” I am aware that in at least one other jurisdiction that application would have been received favourably.


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