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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (8 August) . . Page.. 2529 ..

Parental Leave (Private Sector Employees) Amendment Bill 2001

Mr Berry , pursuant to notice, presented the bill.

Title read by Clerk.

MR BERRY (10.40): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, the Parental Leave (Private Sector Employees) Amendment Bill 2001 demonstrates Labor's commitment to workers in our community. This bill amends the act passed in 1992, legislation which I introduced.

Members will understand that before that time parental leave was not available for private sector workers, but it has become a standard in the public sector, with provisions for some pay and so on.

The Parental Leave (Private Sector Employees) Act 1992 took up the 1990 decision of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission covering maternity leave, paternity leave and adoption leave. As I said when introducing the bill in 1992, it applies the national standard for parental leave to those workers in the private sector who are not covered by awards or who are covered by awards which make no provision for parental leave and do not preclude such an entitlement.

The act has served Canberrans well. Today I introduce an amendment to the act to include the most recent decision of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. In that decision, the commission extends the coverage of parental leave to casual workers. My amendment today extends that decision to private sector casual workers in the ACT. At a time when casual work is on the increase, many workers find that they are working for long periods as casual workers. To extend parental leave to those workers is timely.

Mr Speaker, casual work for many these days has become a permanent feature of life, and this is recognised by the Industrial Relations Commission. Entitlement to industrial features like parental leave ought to be available for workers who, not by their own choice, are locked into casual work because that is the only work available. These workers, who have a reasonable entitlement to continuing employment as casual workers with a particular employer, should not lose that entitlement by virtue of the fact that they need leave for parental purposes.

This does not involve a payment to casual workers, but it does involve an entitlement of a job once the need for parental leave has concluded. These days casual work has become a permanent feature of workers' lives. In many ways, it has become a difficult one. For example, in casual employment, it is very difficult to get bank loans to purchase cars, houses and so on. It is a cruel reality of the Howard/Reith/Abbott industrial relations system that more and more workers are being pushed into less secure employment arrangements which make them subject to the predatory behaviour of some employers. That is not to say that that is the case for all casual employees, but such arrangements are used more widely these days than they have been over many years.

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