Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (20 May) . . Page.. 436 ..
MR BERRY (continuing):
Most shameful in this entire approach has been the Government's attitude. One expects the Executive, the Government, to defend the laws of the Territory when they are challenged by various bodies from time to time. It was a great pity that the Carnell Government refused to defend the laws of the Territory passed by this Assembly in the last term. This Government was invited to appear before the Federal Court, where it could have defended the laws of the Territory; but it refused to do so.
My motion requires the Government to defend this law with vigour, that is, to go to the courts and defend it with all that is necessary to ensure that the law prevails in the Territory, as this law was the wish of this Assembly. It is all right for the Government to sit back smugly and say, "They have passed the law, but we are not going to enforce it", or "We are not going to defend it", or "We are not going to do anything about it. We will wish it away". That has been the case in relation to picnic day. The Government opposed the legislation. I understand why they opposed it. I understand their ideological position on these issues. They do not care about wages and working conditions for workers being reduced. That is a function of the Liberal Party in society, and everybody understands it. It is a function that some bosses feel they have in society, and everybody understands that. The mean-spirited ones, in particular, pursue this course constantly. Other employers are not so engaged in the pursuit of these sorts of mean-spirited activities.
The Government has refused to defend these laws, according to the advice that I have. This motion requires the Government to defend the laws of the Territory, in particular the union picnic day, against attacks by the bosses, in order that those workers who were assured of this holiday when the Assembly last passed laws in respect of it may have this holiday. As a result of this motion, the Government would be required to defend the law with vigour. I do not need to say much more. It is pretty plain what the motion sets out to do. It is about a law of this Territory which was passed after full debate. We do not need to go over all of the issues about union picnic day again. We have in front of us a matter of principle which is worth preserving - that is, once a law is passed by this Assembly, the Executive should defend it with vigour. It is not just this law but any law. It is a law of the Assembly, not a law of the Executive.
MS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (5.19): This motion would have to be a Wayne Berry special. Only Mr Berry would have brought forward this kind of motion and expected anyone, let alone the Government, to take him really seriously. What Mr Berry is asking the Government to do is not only wrong but also nonsensical, for several reasons. Let me put it in simple terms, devoid of any union ideology, so that members can understand exactly what Labor is asking the Assembly to do. Last year the Assembly passed a law recognising the trade union picnic day as a public holiday. Back then, the Government said that the law could be ambiguous in its application, and I have to say that that has proven to be right.
Mr Berry: No, it has not.
MS CARNELL: It has obviously proven to be right. At the time, we gave out advice to employers and employees which basically said that they should get independent legal advice because we were not certain just how the new law should be interpreted.