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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3795 ..

Textile, clothing and footwear industries-mandatory code of practice

MS GALLAGHER (11.29): I move:

That this Assembly recognises that:

exploitation of outworkers employed in the manufacture of textile, clothing and footwear products in Australia is an issue for all jurisdictions to address;

outworkers are one of the most exploited groups in the Australian labour market receiving an average wage of $3.60 an hour;

consumers have inadequate information on the conditions under which their textile, clothing and footwear products are manufactured.

Furthermore, the ACT Legislative Assembly calls on the ACT Government to:

implement a mandatory Code of Practice for Retailers in the ACT to ensure corporate transparency in relation to textile, clothing and footwear contracts;

establish a Fair Trading Code Administration Committee to oversee the Code of Practice;

amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act (1989) and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, to ensure jurisdictional consistency for outworkers; and

move to ethically source all ACT Government textile, clothing and footwear contracts through the government procurement process.

The motion I have moved today concerns a group of Australia's most exploited workers-textile and clothing outworkers. An outworker is someone who operates from home, most often for terrible wages in unsafe environments, to produce or alter the goods we wear.

When one of us here puts on a pair of shoes, we hardly ever ask the questions: where did this product come from and who manufactured it? If we did ask these questions, we would often be appalled by the answers.

I would like to recount the story of an outworker family here in Australia:

Since the age of 11 or rather since coming to Australia, which was seven years ago, I helped my parents with the work. We all did. As a little girl I helped with minor tasks such as ironing of the facings, sewing simple hems and lines etc. However, since 1994, when my older sister started Year 12, I had to step in and take her place at the sewing machine. This means doing everything from sewing hems on dresses to collars on shirts to finishing the whole garment.

There were days when the work was needed urgently. My parents would stay up all night and I had to get up at 5am in the morning to sew until it was time to go to school. Those days I used to do my homework during recesses and lunch at school because there was simply no time to do it at home.

Being an outworker family there is no time off, no holidays. We work every day of the week, every week of the year. Even now, a day away from our New Year, there is work to be done at home.

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