Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 3788 ..
MR HIRD (10.33): Pursuant to order, I present Report No. 39 of the Standing Committee on Planning and Urban Services, entitled "Long Service Leave (Cleaning, Building and Property Services) Bill 1999", together with extracts of the minutes of the proceedings. I move:
That the report be noted.
Mr Speaker, it is with pleasure that I submit to the parliament today the report of the Standing Committee on Planning and Urban Services on its inquiry into the Long Service Leave (Cleaning, Building and Property Services) Bill 1999. I say "with pleasure", Mr Speaker, even though the committee has not been able to reach a unanimous position on this Bill. The fact remains, however, that this inquiry worked as committee inquiries are supposed to work. A reference was given by this parliament to the committee, the community was invited to make submissions, submissions were received, and witnesses gave evidence to the committee. The committee engaged in serious debate about the issues before it and a report was compiled that fully outlines the range of viewpoints put to the committee. Mr Speaker, the fact that we still have different viewpoints is a strong indication that we are a healthy, democratic parliament at work in the Territory.
As to the Bill itself, Mr Speaker, I would be the first to congratulate Mr Berry for recognising the problem that exists. Mr Berry is, as always, championing the cause of people who he considers are disadvantaged in the workplace, and in this case he has reason to be concerned. Whether or not this Bill is the best way to tackle a problem is, however, a different issue. The evidence received by the committee endorses Mr Berry's contention that a certain group of workers appear to be disadvantaged in terms of their ability to access appropriate long service leave provisions. On that basis Mr Rugendyke and Mr Corbell, my colleagues on the committee, have recommended that the Bill should proceed as presented, and I am sure that they will take the opportunity to explain their viewpoints shortly. I have not been able to join that view, Mr Speaker, for reasons which I will elaborate on now.
My first problem with the Bill as presented is the title itself. I recognise that this is not a major issue behind the philosophy of the Bill but it is confusing, as attested to by witnesses to the inquiry. This Bill is about contract workers in the cleaning industry and, whilst workers in other industries may be employed as cleaners, the terms of the Bill do not adequately recognise the difference or the fact that other awards may already cover these workers. The Government, and other submitters, have identified many similar definitional problems with the Bill, and I contend that at the very least these problems should be addressed before the Bill proceeds any further. There is also the issue of the existing legislation and regulatory practices, particularly those of ACT WorkCover.