Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (20 May) . . Page.. 443 ..
MR BERRY (continuing):
The issue is that the Assembly has made a decision in relation to a particular law. It is not an issue about me or the Assembly instructing the Executive to have their lawyers join with the Trades and Labour Council and argue the Trades and Labour Council case. This is about the Assembly having its lawyers defend the right of the Assembly to make legislation which provides benefits to ACT taxpayers. ACT taxpayers benefit by this law.
Ms Carnell: It is not the issue.
MR BERRY: It is the issue. ACT taxpayers benefit by this law that was decided upon in this Assembly. The Government, by its inaction, hopes that those taxpayers will lose the benefit. The fact of the matter is that this is an argument about the elected representatives of the taxpayers rising to defend the benefits provided to taxpayers by this Assembly. The Government should be arguing for the constitutional ability of this Assembly to make laws.
Employers have put and lost an argument in respect of the standing of the law against a Federal award. It has its origins in a decision by the Full Bench of the Industrial Relations Commission - this has not been mentioned in the debate - which clearly recognised the right of State and Territory governments to make laws in relation to extra public holidays. The Full Bench of the Industrial Relations Commission referred to 10 public holidays plus any that the States and Territories might wish to legislate for. We legislated for this particular holiday to provide that benefit to our taxpayers. The employers did not like it; the Executive did not like it. The employers are now trying to attack it in the courts, and the Executive is doing nothing. That is a simple expose of what is going on. This has its origins in an acceptance by the Full Bench of the Industrial Relations Commission that State and Territory legislatures have the right to provide additional holidays for their workers. That is what we did.
The Government should be going along and arguing that case. It is a quite simple case. We made the law because the Full Bench said that we could. We have the constitutional authority to do so. I am not going to go any further into the law; but, if you do nothing, then the will of the Assembly will not be heard. You have not even written a letter saying, "We passed this law and we think it should stand". It is as simple as that. It seems to me that you have an obligation, on behalf of the taxpayers, to argue the constitutionality of the law.
We know that on many occasions you have joined with the Howard Government in the courts to defeat wages and working conditions, stripping back awards, but you have not consulted anybody. Mrs Carnell whispers, "When?". It was in relation to a recent test case in Victoria for hospitality workers. As far as I recall, you were willing participants in attempts to strip back awards. You support the stripping back of awards. Union picnic day is another valuable condition that ought not to be stripped away as a result of the actions of the employers. You have the obligation to defend it on behalf of your own taxpayers, 40,000 of them, who were given that benefit by this Assembly, and you should encourage the courts to make sure that it stands.