Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1354 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
I have concerns, as my party does, about the ongoing vacancy of the former Ansett call centre in Tuggeranong. I wish the Labor Party and the minister luck in securing a solution and creating an opportunity there. That is what we want. That is what we set out to do.
Like Ms MacDonald, I call on the minister to tell us what action is being taken to assist former Ansett employees. I hope he has a good news story. They deserve all the sympathy we can give them, all the empathy we can muster and all the support we as a territory of people who care can give them to help them find new jobs. The opposition will be supporting the motion.
MS GALLAGHER (5.43): I rise in support of Ms MacDonald's motion, and I thank her for the opportunity to speak on this matter.
The collapse of Ansett Airlines is an Australian tragedy, but I think the terminology "collapse" hides a little too much of the Howard government's culpability and responsibility for the matter. The term "collapse" connotes an unavoidable accident, a tragedy no-one could foresee. It connotes suddenness; it connotes extreme weakness.
I do not think the workers who lost their jobs in Ansett accept any of these terms as reflecting the company they worked for. I do not think their conduct displays extreme weakness. I think, and so do many other Australians, that this company was allowed to fold because of flawed government policy.
Workplace relations minister Tony Abbott had the gall to accuse the staff and unions of Ansett of being responsible for the collapse. This is the government which abandoned the so-called carcass of Ansett at the beginning and tried to abandon the retrenched workers, who it believed should have to fight for every cent of their entitlements.
Let us look at the people who have suffered because of Ansett's demise-the now former employees. Let us look at the struggle the employees have had to access their entitlements under another policy flaw of the federal government. It was not that long ago that the federal government stepped in to save employees in the National Textiles saga. The government found money for the sacked employees but can offer only $10,000 to workers in similar situations under legislative changes.
It denied the seemingly more legitimate policy alternative of employer-funded entitlement schemes or even jointly funded schemes. Instead, it preferred to blame the victim while secured creditors made off with the settlement.
It is estimated that the average Ansett worker was due 43 weeks redundancy entitlements. These are entitlements, workplace rights, which would help every single Ansett employee and their families pay the bills and find new work.
Many of the workers here in Canberra were members of the TWU and the ASU, which fought hard, and continues to fight, for Ansett workers. There can be no doubt that this was a disgraceful situation, however. The unions and their members were at least able to