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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 13 Hansard (4 December) . . Page.. 4414 ..


Debate resumed from 26 June 1996, on motion by Mr Berry:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR DE DOMENICO (Minister for Urban Services and Minister for Business, Employment and Tourism) (4.16): Mr Speaker, the Government opposes this Bill. The Government is opposed to the central objective of the Bill because it is inconsistent with the Government's business development strategy for the construction industry. Furthermore, it would mean that construction employees in the ACT would enjoy benefits that, with the exception of South Australia, are available to no other construction industry employees throughout Australia. Mr Speaker, the Government also opposes the Bill because the timing of its introduction is completely at loggerheads with timing and consideration of the actuarial report on the Construction Industry Long Service Leave Board, which is the principal report which analyses the liabilities of the scheme and provides guidance on the employer contribution rate, the standing of the scheme reserves and the long-term trends in the scheme's assets. Unlike the Government's Bill which contained a sunset clause which passed through this Assembly at the last sitting, this Bill, if passed, will establish in perpetuity a heavy demand on the Long Service Leave Board's accumulated reserves and will seriously erode the capital base of the scheme, to the long-term detriment of the industry.

Mr Speaker, it is the strategy of this Government to improve the capital base of the scheme to the point where scheme reserves can sustain future employee liabilities at the lowest possible cost to employers. This strategy aims to ensure that the scheme can remain a significant investor in the ACT economy. As you are probably aware, Mr Speaker, it already owns properties such as Manning Clark House in Tuggeranong, which houses the headquarters of the Department of Education and Training. It aims also to reduce the labour cost burden on employers, thereby increasing productivity and investment by construction firms, and it aims to ensure that employees are guaranteed their future long service leave payment.

This Bill, if passed, would result in employee benefits which exceed the national standard for long service leave for construction industry employees. At present the ACT entitlement, as prescribed by the legislation, is identical to that in those States which surround the Territory, namely, New South Wales and Victoria. In addition, all the other States, with the exception of South Australia and the Northern Territory, have a similar entitlement, though expressed slightly differently. Mr Speaker, no other State has an intention at this point in time to review their long service leave benefits for construction industry employees. Clearly, the ACT will be out of step with virtually the whole Australian construction industry if this Bill is passed. Of critical importance, Mr Speaker, is that the ACT will be out of step with New South Wales, which, even with a Labor government, is not proposing to increase employee benefits as proposed by Mr Berry's Bill. In fact, Mr Speaker, it might be asked what motives Mr Berry has in introducing this Bill at this time. Why did he not take such a step when he was the Minister, or why did not Mr Lamont when he was Minister?

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