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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 2865 ..

MR CORBELL: No, Mr Pratt. There are seven other jurisdictions, right around Australia, which share that view. In fact, the Commonwealth is the only jurisdiction which does not share the view that AWAs are fundamentally a divisive measure. Mr Deputy Speaker, all Labor states and territories share the same philosophical viewpoints on that. That is not surprising, Mr Pratt. The AWAs are fundamentally unfair and divisive.

Mr Pratt: They are not unfair.

MR CORBELL: I heard you in silence, Mr Pratt. I ask you to allow me the same courtesy. Mr Deputy Speaker, the government is moving to replace AWAs with a clear management standard which allows flexibility where agencies need to recruit individuals who cannot otherwise be attracted under the normal pay range and salary awards and conditions-as an interim measure. When the new certified agreements and enterprise bargaining arrangements are in place, those will provide the appropriate mechanisms to attract necessarily qualified people into the ACT government service.

The government has taken steps to remove the divisive and secretive measures. Let us not forget how the previous government sought to use AWAs. They would advertise that there was a position available in an ACT government agency and say, "By the way, if you want to accept it, you will have to take an AWA." Where is the choice in that, Mr Pratt? Where is the freedom of discretion for the employee in that? There is none. Indeed, it just shows how wedded they were to getting AWAs into the workplace because of their ideological obsession. Mr Deputy Speaker, we want equitable and transparent arrangements, and that is what we are putting in place.

MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (5.14): After listening to the comments of the minister, I wanted to make a brief contribution. He points out that there is a preference on the part of Labor governments for arrangements which include unions. He says they prefer not to have AWAs because they tend to be arrangements which exclude unions. He is quite right about that. These arrangements should have enough flexibility to be able to suit the needs of particular individuals and workplaces. They are not governed by one-size-fits-all kinds of rules.

The minister puts forward this proposition, which will now dominate the industrial landscape in the ACT public service. He is entitled to do that, as he is the Minister for Industrial Relations in the ACT. To further and elevate the interests of peak union bodies in the course of this debate, his emphasis will be on providing that kind of arrangement.

That is fair enough, except when you overlay that with the reality-the statistical fact-that in the ACT, as elsewhere in Australia, union membership has been falling steadily for the past decade. Today, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, not much more than one in every five workers across the ACT is a member of a trade union.

Although the ACT public service might have a different profile from the average across the territory, the chances are it is not so different. While it has that kind of profile, the task of imposing a union-centric industrial system over a system where a large

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