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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 10 Hansard (28 August) . . Page.. 3430 ..

Mr Stanhope: You could make them independent contractors, I suppose, Mr Berry?

MR BERRY: Independent contractors might be a good idea. I think there will be a few of them thinking that in all of this we can have them as independent contractors and they can pay for their own. Some employers, the good ones, are doing the right thing, but the duds and the crooks are trying to avoid their responsibility for workers compensation and any other payment. They even go broke and refuse to pay their workers. So, let's not pretend. By and large most of the employers are good to their workers, but there are a few duds and crooks out there that need to be wrapped up in sensible legislation to ensure that workers are not disadvantaged by them. By allowing them to avoid their responsibilities and adjust their risk management by using labour hire companies in the way that they propose, I think we assist them in that course.

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services, Minister for Business, Tourism and the Arts and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (9.02): Mr Berry talks about the government saying something in the act. There is no act except the existing act. What he refers to is something in the act that we seek to replace. Why do we seek to replace it? Because it's inadequate.

What Mr Berry forgets to tell the Assembly is that in the new act that we, the Liberal government, want to put in-he ought to take off his ideological blinkers-there is return to work for workers. Proposed new section 10ZA is headed "Employer must provide suitable work for full-time, part-time and casual workers", and proposed new section 10ZB is headed "Employer must provide suitable work for contract workers". He refers to the failings of the old act which this government, a Liberal government, is seeking to fix here. The government will oppose his amendment.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (9.03): The position that the minister put is nonsense. What this is about essentially is redefining "worker". We all know what this is about. We are not stupid. You are trying to create a class of worker and pretend they are not workers, just through this sophistry. That is what it is. A worker is a worker. You are trying to redefine them. It is the same basic contract of employment that we are talking about. You are simply repackaging it to the disadvantage of genuine workers and to allow employers to abrogate their responsibilities. It's as simple as that.

MS TUCKER (9.04): I am finding this one difficult. We are not big fans of labour hire companies. Labor is correct in saying that in the way they are being used to remove responsibility and accountability, but I am also interested in seeing more responsibility taken by them. I think there is an argument that if you impose these responsibilities on the labour hire companies you will improve their performance. I think this is something that we are going to take an ongoing interest in, because I am not totally convinced that it is right.

Question put:

That Mr Berry's amendment No 3 be agreed to.

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