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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 2838 ..

MS FOLLETT (continuing):

If the Chief Minister chooses, she can offer all, or some, of the existing chief executives contracts. If some choose such contracts, then so be it. If they do not elect to take such contracts, then the Chief Minister is at liberty to retain them on their current conditions or to remove them from their office and appoint another person instead. She is at liberty to make no offer at all to current chief executives. But, in such circumstances, the individual concerned - and I think that this is very important - retains the rights entrenched in the existing legislation. In a case as outlined above, the displaced officer may be able to return to an SES position within the ACT public service.

The critical difference between us and the Government is that we believe that current officers are entitled to the terms and conditions of employment that they were offered when they accepted their current positions. I repeat: It is an unacceptable proposition, to us, that workers at any level should have their conditions of employment legislated away. That is what the Government's legislation proposes. This offends, significantly, against the fundamental rights of workers. It was in order to protect such rights that the ALP was formed over a hundred years ago. Members will hardly be surprised that our position in protecting such rights remains unchanged.

I suggest to all other members of this Assembly that they seriously consider the alternatives currently before them on this issue. Both the Government's original propositions and my amendments allow the current Liberal Government to employ chief executives on contract. Indeed, the existing provisions and my amendments would allow the Government to have all chief executives on contract, if that were their wish. The choice that members have to make is whether they, as legislators, are prepared to remove the rights and conditions of service of employees by legislative action where such employees have no right of redress whatsoever. It seems to me and to my party that the more appropriate way to proceed is to allow the Government the option that it wants - and, as I have said, I am not averse to that - but also to protect the existing rights and conditions of current employees. I urge all members to very seriously consider whether the fairer way to proceed is the way that I have proposed, rather than what I call the sledgehammer approach that the Government is proposing.

MRS CARNELL (Chief Minister) (10.43): The Government will be opposing this amendment and the related amendments. I think that Ms Follett has certainly misinterpreted the Bill in its current form, because the overriding principle in drafting this legislation was to preserve the rights and entitlements of existing staff. In fact, apart from tenure, there are no changes in the rights and entitlements.

Ms Follett: Apart from tenure.

MRS CARNELL: Apart from tenure; that is right. Rights and entitlements are retained. In fact, transitional staff will continue to receive the existing special benefit on accepting early retirement. That was an interesting one, because initially, when we started the consultation, that was not in the Bill. But it was put to us by a number of people that that was an existing entitlement. We added it. This has been part of an ongoing consultation with the SES officers involved. Apart from tenure, the entitlements, rights and so on of people involved have been retained; things like leave entitlements, superannuation and EEO have been retained.

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