Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 2757 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
The second concern I raise is how we balance the cost against the benefits that are derived from the scheme. I put this question to members and ask them to answer it themselves. We have here a scheme which is going to cost $100,000 a year to administer. Those costs are going to have to come from the agents themselves. The agents themselves are going to have to pass the costs on to their clients. So $100,000 is going back onto the community to administer the scheme.
What is the ill that we are curing with this scheme? Is it that people are being ripped off by employment agents who are charging too much? If that is the case, I invite members in this place, Mr Berry included, to put on the table correspondence or concerns expressed by individuals in the community who have in fact been ripped off by employment agents in those terms. I invite them to put that information forward in this place to explain the concern that we are addressing.
It is conceivable that we are using a $100,000 sledgehammer to fix an ill, a nut, which in fact does not exist. We have had no evidence put before us by the proponent of this legislation to explain where the problem is that we are trying to address. I suspect that there is no problem with respect to this matter that Mr Berry refers to. As a community, we should regulate as a matter of policy only where there is a strong public interest such as safety or the protection of public moneys or whatever, and in the first place should develop a process of self-regulation if that is possible.
My final argument is very simple. I put this on the record very clearly at this stage. There is a conflict potentially between the obligations on employment agents with respect to the Commonwealth and those on them with respect to the ACT. The Commonwealth Government is now requiring employment agents, some of whom are directly funded by them, to find own-source revenue, that is, revenue from their clients - for example, people who already have jobs but are seeking help with finding a new job, developing a resume or whatever it might be. These are not destitute unemployed people; these are people potentially in very good jobs. You might even say they are the Paul Barretts of this world.
They are the sorts of people the Commonwealth is now requiring employment agents to charge, and the ACT will be requiring them not to be charged. What does the employment agent do? What they will have to do, if we pass the legislation, is simply not take on as clients people who do not fit the Commonwealth's requirements - if they can. But they may be in breach of their contract or other service arrangement with the Commonwealth if they do that.
We have not considered the implication for employment agents in the ACT. We may be putting those agents in an unenviable situation. I strongly ask members not to rush into passing this legislation. It is a very ill thought through and dangerous piece of legislation.
MR RUGENDYKE (5.56): Until about an hour ago, I had not heard boo about this Bill. When I read the explanatory memorandum, I note that the principal aim of this Bill is to prevent the exploitation of job seekers by employment agencies; so at first blush it looks like something worth supporting. During the debate this afternoon we have heard of potential problems with this legislation. I do not know where the $1,000 fee comes