Page 1107 - Week 04 - Thursday, 21 April 1994

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Commonwealth to implementing the undertakings of the Prime Minister and Mr Brereton on this issue. I wish to assure the Assembly that I shall be doing everything in my power to see this issue resolved before the resumption of debate on this Bill. I have given my officers directions to act and I shall be taking up the matter personally.

While speaking of issues involving the Commonwealth, it is relevant to explain that establishing our new public service requires counterpart legislation by the Commonwealth Parliament. Last year the then Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Public Service Matters, Mr Brereton, gave the Government a commitment that the Commonwealth would match the Territory's legislative timing. I understand that the Commonwealth intends to introduce its legislation next month. Because of rules that now apply in that Parliament, in theory that legislation cannot be passed until the next sitting, which will take place in August. I have written to the Prime Minister asking for his assurance that the Commonwealth will adhere to its commitment given last year. I shall inform the Assembly of the Prime Minister's response when it is to hand.

I should also inform the Assembly that the new service will not include ACT firefighters in its initial period of operation. While the Government believes that there are substantial advantages to both employer and employees in having firefighters as members of the new service, the United Firefighters Union has raised with the Government some legitimate concerns about the effects of incorporating a disciplined, uniformed service such as the fire service into a broader public service that does not operate along the same semi-military lines as the fire service. The Government and the union have agreed that negotiations shall continue and that the union will review its position at the end of the year in the light of experience with the operation of the Bill. I am confident that at that point both parties will be much better placed to assess the advantages of firefighters being employed under the provisions of this legislation.

It should also be pointed out that the ACT police will not be covered by this Bill. They will continue to be employed under the provisions of the Australian Federal Police Act. I am pleased to say, however, that the ACT teachers will formally become officers of the ACT Government Service. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as other officers, including mobility within the service and the Commonwealth Government.

I turn now to the policy objectives of the Bill. The shape and culture of the ACT Government Service, as the service will be formally known, needs to be uniquely suited to the ACT. The Government was very clear from the start about its policy objectives in relation to a separate service. It was important that the service be a unified and merit based career service of permanent officers, under a single employing authority; that it operate on the basis of clearly enunciated values, principles and ethics; that it provide for equal employment opportunity for all in every respect, so that every position at every level is potentially available to any officer; that it treat all employees equally, for example, by appointing industrial employees as permanent officers, in the same way as their white-collar colleagues; and that it in no way reduce the rights and entitlements of existing employees.

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