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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (7 August) . . Page.. 2440 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

Labor thinks that the legislation is ideologically based. It seeks to take away rights previously held by employees of Assembly members and impose upon them a different set of arrangements in the context of an industrial dispute. Mr Speaker, that is an inappropriate course for this Assembly to be taking and the matter ought to be settled industrially.

I am not able to go to all of the issues which are the subject of the industrial dispute, and it would be pointless for me to do so. I merely draw the Assembly's attention to the fact that there is an industrial dispute on foot and we are seeking to introduce legislation which will undermine the settlement of that dispute in an appropriate forum. So, Mr Speaker, I oppose the bill.

MS TUCKER (11.31): Mr Speaker, this bill clarifies that the employment conditions set under the Public Sector Management Act apply by default to staff of members where such conditions are not already included in the employment agreements of these staff.

In principle, we agree with these amendments, but I do not support the fragmentation of employment conditions that is arising across the agencies of the ACT public service as a result of agency bargaining. I acknowledge that there is a need to ensure that the LA(MS) Act is consistent with these new arrangements.

While in general I believe that staff of members should be employed under similar terms and conditions as apply in the ACT public service, I recognise that the nature of the work in the Assembly and the fact that there is no guarantee of permanent employment requires that there be some differences from the standard public service terms and conditions. There is also the need to cater for the differences in operations between individual members officers and different parties.

I understand that most staff in the Assembly are already employed under contract and that there have been moves from the ALP to establish a certified agreement covering some Assembly staff. The linkages back to the public service are therefore becoming more fragmented, and I think it is reasonable for the legislation to reflect this.

This bill also puts into place new reintegration arrangements for public servants who work for members and who wish to return to the ACT public service. I understand that this is necessary because the Commonwealth Merit Protection and Review Agency, to which the LA(MS) Act referred such applications, no longer exists.

I think the opportunity for public servants to work in members' offices provides benefits to both sides. Members get staff who are experienced in ACT administration and public servants get experience with how the Assembly works. I can understand that public servants may be reluctant to work here because of a perception that it will negatively impact on their careers. Making sure that these public servants can maintain their career options within the public service and also making sure that their employment here can be recognised in terms of gaining a promotion will help to overcome this barrier.

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