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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 3 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 749 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

In conclusion, I say again that I think the government does have an obligation to fairly treat its existing employees and not just throw them on the scrap heap if they do not fit their commercial plans. If there is a need for a new skill mix within ACT Forests, and there may well be, I think the government should first look at retraining and redeployment of existing staff rather than sacking them and bringing in new workers on contract. If there are any employees in ACT Forests who are happy to take a redundancy package because it suits their plans, then, of course, I would not stand in their way. However, I do not think that employees who do not want to leave should be forced to through involuntary redundancy. I think this is poor staff management and it should not be undertaken by this government.

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services, Minister for Business, Tourism and the Arts and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (11.54): Mr Speaker, there has been much said here this morning. This really is about the viability of an industry long term and a number of jobs in the industry that can grow. The potential of this region and its ability to grow more jobs, and its ability to secure the 350 jobs in the region, is based on ACT Forests. ACT Forests is the linchpin of any future expansion and, indeed, the retention of the current jobs across the industry at about the level of 350.

We do not compete. We do not compete because our overheads are too high and because we do not, as Mr Kaine so appropriately outlined, have practices that allow us to operate in the modern world. Our overheads are double what is the accepted industry norm, which is about $60 to $75 per hectare. Ours are up at the $150 mark. So there is a dilemma. There is a dilemma about what we do and how we restructure.

The motion that Mr Berry put forward today is about the restructure. It is curious, Mr Speaker. We hear lots of noise, but we need to come back to the facts. The fact is that we have too many staff. We cannot compete in the market because that is our largest overhead. Mr Speaker, we have to lose some of those jobs.

The packages that are on offer by ACT Forests represent, for most staff in the lower ranges, an effective doubling of the standard package on offer for any other worker in the ACT public service and the APS. It is curious. We hear from those opposite that the packages are not generous enough. Overall this is a better deal than FISAP, the forest industry structural adjustment package, which was agreed to by the Trades and Labour Council in New South Wales, the CFMEU in New South Wales, and the ALP government of New South Wales. They are better than those offered in New South Wales or by the private sector. These packages are better than anything ever offered in the ACT or Commonwealth public services. They are better than what those opposite offered when they were in government from 1991 to 1995, Mr Speaker. They are far better than what these people bleat about. They were voluntary redundancies. They were all voluntary. They had the choice. What we are offering is much better than what has ever been on the table before.

Mr Speaker, the package was tailored to meet the specific needs of the forest staff. When we put it together we took into consideration the age profile, the likelihood of redeployment, and the type of work that the employees are used to and would like to do . What we have done is offer a package-$15,000 for staff with up to 25 years, an

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