Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3800 ..
MR PRATT (11.42): Mr Speaker, I rise to support the thrust of Ms Gallagher's concerns. We sympathise with the concerns raised regarding exploitation of textile workers or any other workers. We acknowledge the need identified by Ms Gallagher to ensure that there are measures in place to provide protection. It is also necessary for the Assembly and the community to be ever vigilant.
However, I do question the motion and wonder whether it is unnecessary, as I am aware that there are measures in place to protect ACT textile workers. I wonder whether Ms Gallagher's motion is simply a solution looking for a problem.
The introduction of a mandatory code of practice may be unnecessary. It may be a duplication. It could simply be another layer of legislation. The needs of employees and the obligations of textile business owners, I believe, are amply covered by national benchmarks currently in place.
I would point to the initiatives undertaken in the last couple of years by retailers and textile, clothing and footwear unions in New South Wales. New South Wales has introduced a code which is widely accepted. That was under an agreement struck by the retailers association and the unions.
ACT commercial activities and the rights of workers would best operate within the New South Wales environmental context. Why would we establish inconsistency by introducing a new code when perhaps provisions in place meet all of our needs? I hope we would not be seeking to introduce in the ACT something inconsistent with practices in New South Wales. That would create inconsistencies and duplication which would not only fly in the face of the rights of workers but also interfere with the good practice of business.
On 9 October 2002 the Australian Retailers Association and the national union, the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union, struck an agreement to introduce a national code, a national benchmark. That national benchmark was based on the successful New South Wales model. They have simply incorporated the New South Wales model lock, stock and barrel. The Australian Retailers Association and the TCFUA agreed that it was very important to have in place a national benchmark that allows consistency across all jurisdictions.
Why would the ACT union seek to buck the wishes of a national union? I am not sure that that has been explored, and I hope that Ms Gallagher, in her closing address, can tell me. Why would the ACT seek to have inconsistencies? Hopefully, that will not be the case.
There are no apparent major reports on exploitation of textile workers here in the ACT. If cases do arise-and perhaps they will-then existing national benchmark codes surely would be brought to bear. Yes, we must be vigilant against exploitation. But it would seem that the national instruments in place will meet those requirements. Ms Gallagher has quite rightly pointed out that FairWear, which is a national coalition of churches and community support NGOs, supports those national benchmarks.