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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4675 ..

MR BERRY: Mr Speaker, when we look across Australia we see that there are different benefits applying in some States than there are in others, but that is not unusual. I recall that, when I was in the New South Wales public system as a firefighter, we had different benefits from those which existed in the Commonwealth; in fact, they were better. It was two months' long service leave for the first 10 years, and half a month per year thereafter. That is equivalent to seven months after 20 years. I transferred to the Commonwealth; it was three months after 10 years, and one-third of a month thereafter which, of course, is six months after 20 years. That differential has been there for a long time, and I do not see any signs of that happening in the Commonwealth.

This argument about being out of step with New South Wales does not carry any weight at all, because it is commonplace for different conditions of service to exist across borders. In due course, workers on one side of the border or the other may seek to achieve the benefits which apply in another place, and that is fair enough. That is why this is fair enough, because this will bring the ACT into line with South Australia and the general benefit which applies in the Northern Territory. This is a fair increase in a benefit to a group of workers in the Australian Capital Territory who have a special arrangement for long service leave. It will come at no cost to the building industry for many years. That will be a good thing; there will be beneficiaries at no cost to the building industry. Mr Speaker, as well, according to the Minister's promise, the training levy, which has been excised from the long service leave legislation, will be dealt with in the future.

Mrs Carnell: On the basis that there will be no increase in the levy.

MR BERRY: Mrs Carnell chirps up, "On the basis that there will be no increase in the levy". Well, there will not be. In fact, if the employers renege on its promise to cooperate, and the Government reneges on their promise to provide training funds from another source, then I, for one, will be bringing legislation into this place to plonk it right back in the long service leave legislation which is before us today. This nonsense about cross-border differentials being a driving issue to prevent us from increasing benefits for workers in the ACT is just a load of nonsense; that is all it can be described as. There are thousands of examples where differentials exist in benefits across borders throughout this country.

This is, as I have said, a fair amendment to the legislation. It is something that has been, as far as our position is concerned, on the public record for a long time and is something, if achieved, I would be very proud of, because it would surprise nobody that the Labor Party is about improving the lot of working people. I am pleased that it is also the policy of a number of other speakers who have already spoken on this Bill, because that is a compassionate view of the world. That is a compassionate view of the world, where people are entitled to a fair share in the wealth of the world. The fact of the matter is that this is a very fair share, because it gives access to a fund which is many millions of dollars in surplus and the result will not impact on the building industry for many years, according to Mr De Domenico. Mr Speaker, I need say no more in relation to this amendment, other than to urge members to support it. I thank those members who have risen in this place in support of the legislation and I wish it a speedy passage through the Assembly. I give notice that, in the detail stage, I will be moving an amendment to the legislation, but I will speak to that issue later.

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