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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3804 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

In 1995 the Hidden Cost of Fashion report was released. In 1996 the home workers code of practice and FairWear were born, and there were submissions to the Senate inquiry from employer organisations for the first time acknowledging the outwork issue and making public their opinions and proposals to the Senate. Four Corners at that time provided further impetus by exposing companies. Australia Post and Country Road signed agreements with the TCFUA following media exposure linking their names with exploitation. That was fairly significant.

In 1997 FairWear established networks in each state and began joint actions with the TCFUA against targeted retailers to get the home workers code of practice in place. By 1998, slowly but surely, manufacturers and retailers started to sign the code, as a letter writing campaign and regular actions continued. FairWear representatives visited management of some manufacturers and fashion houses.

In 1999 the New South Wales government made a pre-election promise for a strategy, including legislation, to stop exploitation of outworkers. There was a win in the court. The Full Bench of the Industrial Relations Commission handed down its decision to retain the outworker clauses of the clothing trades award 100 per cent intact.

In 2000 FairWear attended Fashion Week in Melbourne incognito, decorating tables with leaflets and outworker information. In 2001 there was an accreditation, labelling and sewing manual to make the code work for outworkers. In 2002 FairWear has asked to represent community interests in the New South Wales Ethical Clothing Trades Council. Hunter Gatherer was the first retailer to become accredited to the code.

As I mentioned, the retailers association some years ago initiated a voluntary agreement under which individual retailers could sign on to work cooperatively with the union to ensure their suppliers were looking after workers. Some, such as Target, did so. However, this relied on individual retailers and meant that those who did not opt in were left unregulated.

A mandatory code means that retailers who do the right thing are not disadvantaged, and most importantly it offers protection to all workers, not just those lucky enough to be working ultimately for retailers who have opted in. I have noticed over the years with different voluntary codes that business groups end up asking for a mandatory code, because they realise that the responsible players are suffering due to the work of the irresponsible players. It is quite an interesting process to watch.

Ms Gallagher's motion asks us to note that this is an issue for every jurisdiction to address. We do not know how many outworkers there may be in the ACT, but this is the kind of responsibility which must cross state borders. We buy clothing, et cetera made in Australia, and we want to know that those items have not been made by children and exploited workers.

The code of practice proposed is modelled on the code already taken up in New South Wales, to be mandatory next year, and to which Tasmania and South Australia have committed. The Greens do not necessarily see the fact that other jurisdictions have taken up a scheme as good reason for doing it ourselves. I mention these schemes by way of saying that there is an established scheme which we can pick up.

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