Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (20 May) . . Page.. 442 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
not amount to running what we believe, on the basis of reasonable legal advice, is a fairly fruitless line of argument before the Federal Court. We do not believe that that is in the interests of the community or in the best interests of the taxpayer, who funds such matters. It was one thing to pass the legislation last year. We accept that. It is another thing to take the step being urged today by the Labor Party. That is a bridge too far and is, for a number of reasons, unwise and, I think, counterproductive to the best interests of the ACT.
MR BERRY (5.41), in reply: Let us put to rest one argument that Mr Humphries put. As you would expect from the Tories opposite, there is a great argument about the expenditure of taxpayers' money. There are 40,000 taxpayers out there who are affected by this legislation and who, if it is not upheld, will be affected in one way or another. Either they will not have the union picnic day or their bosses will not have to pay the penalty rates.
Ms Carnell: Those rotten bosses at the nursing home!
MR BERRY: As a boss yourself, Mrs Carnell, as an employer yourself, you will not have to pay penalty rates for your workers when they have to work in your pharmacy on union picnic day. Given the sanctimonious approach that was taken by the Government benches in relation to conflict of interest a little while ago, I am surprised that you even spoke on this matter today. There is clearly a conflict of interest in respect of that matter, if you take to its logical extension the argument that was put earlier by some of your colleagues.
That aside, the facts here are clear. There are 40,000 ACT taxpayers who are affected by this legislation. They are the people who benefit as a result of the union picnic day applying.
Ms Carnell: How many got it?
MR BERRY: Mrs Carnell asks, "How many people got it?". A number went to the picnic, and those who did not go to the picnic and had to work were paid. But the advice coming from the Government was, "You may not have to pay. You should check with your own legal adviser". In effect, it encouraged people not to pay. The end result was court action.
Mr Humphries, in his attempt at some sort of an erudite expose of the legal position, failed to understand what this motion is about. It is about the Executive acting on behalf of the people who put the Executive there. The Executive and other members of this Assembly have a responsibility to defend the Territory's laws. This is not about the rights and wrongs of union picnic day. This is about a decision by the Government not to defend a law of the Territory introduced because the bosses, the employers, were attempting to take away a benefit to workers - workers who are, incidentally, the same taxpayers you claim to defend. The same taxpayers, if they were working in your shop on union picnic day, would receive the benefit should this law stand, or they might have the day off, if you were a generous enough employer to give them the day off, and go along to the picnic, where they could have a cheap day out, cheaper than anywhere else on the entertainment calendar in the ACT.