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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (27 May) . . Page.. 612 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

In May I announced that I was going to have some legislation drafted to make it illegal for employment agents to charge potential employees for their services. It is prohibited in New South Wales; it is against the law. Employment agencies cannot charge employees for getting them a job. They can charge employers for the administrative costs of getting employees a job, but they cannot charge employees. That general standard applies in other States - Western Australia and Victoria. Employing agencies cannot charge employees to get them a job. The Government, acting as its own employment agency, is charging people to give them a job, is charging them for the administrative fee. It came as some surprise to me shortly afterwards to discover in the Canberra Times that a government department was doing exactly what I had set out to prohibit in the private sector. That is why I have moved this motion. I want to see the same rules apply in both the private sector and the public sector. Why should there be any difference? In fact, the public sector has a responsibility in the public interest to provide employment for some people - for example, people who might be long-term unemployed, people who might have some disabilities, people who would find it difficult in the normal circumstances to find a job. They might be an applicant for one of these jobs and have to come up with the $25 as well.

Mr Speaker, this is an unfair, unconscionable charge. It sets a standard which, if applied generally, will impact heavily on potential employees, people who are out of work, people who are poor and people who cannot afford to come up with $25 to pay for their job. If it starts at $25, it will go up. One administrative charge is for the police checks. The next thing that we will see is that the departments will be charging more and more for the effort that they put into employing people. The ridiculous position is that only the well-off unemployed will be able to afford a job if this principle is adopted.

I never imagined that I would have to consider applying to the Government the legislation that I am having drafted. It merely requires carriage of a motion to hear the voices of this Assembly to ensure that the Government does not support the continuance of this levy. It is an unfair levy on people who should not be paying for it. Part-time teachers are charged for it, as are more lowly paid workers, including janitors and base-grade clerks. This is a government that will not enforce its own Occupational Health and Safety Act in relation to bank employees and customers. It is a government that threatened to lock out its own workers in a dispute that lasted for months and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.

The motion is a straightforward, commonsense motion which seeks to protect unemployed people looking for a job. It is an attempt to stop a fee for employment which is being levied not on high-flyers, not on the people who have $200,000 packages, but on people who are seeking to join a register to fill temporary vacancies. These are definitely not the high-flyers in this world, but people who are attempting to join a register to fill temporary vacancies on regular short-term or long-term contracts. In my view and in my submission to the Assembly, this is shameful, and it should be put to rest immediately. It is an embarrassment to this Assembly if we do not stop this fee.

MR SPEAKER: Order! The member's time has expired.

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