Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 1786 ..
MS TUCKER (3.52): The Greens will be supporting this motion. We definitely support strong, effective public services. I notice that Ms Carnell accuses the Opposition of trying to wind back the clock. I do not believe this is about winding back the clock. It is about making a judgment that the economic reform agenda pursued by Liberal governments around Australia and federally may not be delivering the outcomes that they have been promising. Cuts to the public sector, other general reforms, outsourcing, competition policy, the attacks on workers' rights and conditions, are all part of this same economic reform agenda that we need to stop and think about. Unfortunately, governments such as this one and the Federal Government are not willing to do that. They do not seem to understand that the community is becoming more and more concerned and worried about what is happening in Australian society.
That certainly was the scene at the ACTCOSS conference which I have just come back from. I think this Government is totally out of touch with what the real experience of Australians is at this time under their agenda. I believe that in the last two years 3,000 jobs have been lost from the public sector. The ACT Government service is stretched, and workers are having even greater expectations placed on them. It is common knowledge that, when voluntary redundancies are offered, not all the tasks completed by an individual disappear. There is a residual workload - that is, some jobs are left and someone has to do them. This naturally has resulted in a threat to the health of workers and the morale of those people.
At the same time the service provided to the community is questionable. The community has created public services through its contribution by taxes and rates. The community, including those employed in the government service, deserves better. They are entitled to job security, and decent wages and conditions determined by more than the CPI.
The enterprise bargaining model is based on determining productivity and new initiatives to work smarter. This approach naturally relies on mutual trust and respect. An attack on workers' jobs, pay and conditions, a refusal to negotiate with the union, a legitimate representative under industrial legislation, and an attempt to fragment them by negotiating very small localised agreements, destroy this trust, severely affect workplace productivity and disrupt service provided to the community. I really do not understand why a government would put this much at stake unless they wanted sweeping reforms that were necessary to cut costs.
I call on the Chief Minister to manage the situation without creating such unnecessary turmoil. The Government is proposing 50 agreements that would require small discrete units such as city rangers, parking operations and libraries to negotiate their own agreements. This is counterproductive as these units would find it difficult to find productivity savings themselves, but as parts of larger units it would be possible, perhaps. The Government seems to want to crush any collective approach and reduce the government service to small fragments disconnected from the rest of the service. It astounds me, Mr Speaker, that the Government is happy to engage in such a timely exercise when, in fact, it could work with the union, an organisation that is expert in determining wages and conditions, rather than creating considerably more work for the Chief Minister's Department.