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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 3 Hansard (6 March) . . Page.. 662 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

each time figures are published, almost without fail, membership falls. The ACT is no exception to that fact.

Figures published very recently by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that trade union membership in the ACT has taken a dive since 1996, when 33.4 per cent of employees were members of unions. Today that figure is just 21.5. Not much more than one worker in every five is a member of a trade union. One in every five, Mr Speaker. And we are being told here it is imperative that the ACT Legislative Assembly steps in and endorses the official trade union position on a wage rise!

I do not think, on those sorts of figures, that we are entitled to say the trade unions here-or anywhere else in Australia-speak for the majority of Australian workers. The facts are that the overwhelming majority of Australian workers choose not to belong to trade unions.

I want to make one brief comment, in the time left, about attendance at ministerial council meetings. There was a shot by Mr Corbell about ministers in the former government not going to particular council meetings very often. There are something like 30 different ministerial councils. It is simply impossible for ministers, in any government the size of the one we have in the ACT, to attend all meetings of ministerial councils.

Mr Corbell is going to hoist his government on a very precarious petard if he is going to assert that non-attendance at these meetings shows you do not care about these things. That is a comeback that we will be able to make lots of times in the next few years. It is impossible for the four ministers in this government to get to those 30 different ministerial council meetings. It is simply impossible to do that, particularly when they are in far-flung places like Western Australia, North Queensland, Tasmania and so on.

I simply say to the house that I do not think we should support the motion. It is basically about running an agenda for people whose particular application in the ACT has not been demonstrated much, it is about operating on the unproven premise that those on the lowest wages are experiencing deteriorating conditions in Australia, when there is evidence that the opposite is occurring. This is evidenced by the IPA study and by the NATSEM work on poverty in Australia, which showed that poverty was decreasing in the ACT and the Northern Territory. People in the territories were becoming better off, and levels of poverty were falling.

In those circumstances, I do not think it is appropriate to support a submission of this kind.

MS TUCKER (4.25): The Greens are happy to support Ms Gallagher's amendment. I am speaking to the motion as well. Regarding Ms Dundas' amendment to Ms Gallagher's motion, I will support it. I think there was a particularly reasonable point made by Ms Dundas on changing 'families' to 'working people'. As I understood her position, she is concerned about the use of the word, 'congratulate' because it was possibly politically provocative. Is that reasonable?

Ms Dundas: Yes.

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