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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 843 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

as a result of these moves by the Federal Government is that, in effect, the victims of our economic system - the unemployed - are being blamed for the problem. Mr Speaker, my Labor colleague in South Australia has introduced similar legislation to that which I have introduced today, and my Labor colleagues in other States will be moving in the same direction.

I would just like to focus on the sort of people who might be affected by this legislation. Aged blue-collar workers trying to live off retrenchment moneys but barred from social security benefits and access to free job services often still have relatively young families to support and are the hardest to find jobs for. So, they would be more desperate, and shysters would be able to prey on people like that, absent proper regulation. Women seeking to re-enter the work force after an absence of some years to raise children, if their partner is still in employment, cannot be guaranteed a free job service or appropriate training or reskilling. We need to protect those people. They are an important part of our community.

Part-time workers looking for a full-time job are an important group, when you consider that most of the jobs being created are part-time jobs. In fact, the employment growth rate in the ACT consists mostly of part-time jobs. Students are affected by the legislation, as are newly arrived migrants, barred from social security benefits for two years. They are just right for exploitation. Those are the sorts of areas of exploitation that must be prevented in a humane society. A person waiting for six weeks before they are declared eligible for unemployment benefits would be desperate for a job, too. These are the sorts of people who are most desperate to get a job. They are the most vulnerable and they are also the least likely to have the money to pay an employment agent to find them a job. They are the sorts of people whom John Howard's system makes it unattractive for employment agents to take on; but they could still be exploited if there were not proper regulation of the operation of employment agents in the Australian Capital Territory.

We have already seen the situation where the ACT Government charges some people a $25 fee to go on the Education Department's employment waiting list. So, it is obvious that the Government would not concern itself about the private sector imposing these sorts of fees. The Labor Party is concerned about the possibility of this sort of exploitation. That is why we have raised the matter in the past and that is why we have persisted with it. Some people in this chamber have not been as concerned about the exploitation of the unemployed as Labor and others in this chamber have been, and that is to their discredit. But we now have the opportunity to ensure that the unemployed do not face further disadvantage and exploitation.

In having this Bill drafted, I used the Employment Agents Acts of New South Wales as a guide, using its provisions to amend the Agents Act. While the Bill I am introducing appears complex, its principles are less so. This Bill sets out to include a new class of agent - employment agent - in the scheme of business regulation provided under the Agents Act. It will require the licensing of agents in much the same way as travel agents are licensed and, specifically in clause 11, makes it an offence for an employment agent to charge someone seeking employment.

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