Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3809 ..
MS MacDONALD (12.15): I thank Ms Gallagher for bringing this motion before the Assembly. I would like to talk about a few things from personal experience before talking further on the issue. Many people would know of my former experience working in the union movement. Before I came to Canberra, this land of milk and honey, I did a year of voluntary work on a program called Asian Women at Work. I was involved in teaching English to Asian women who worked in the textile, clothing and footwear industry.
They were the lucky ones. They were not outworkers. They were working in factories. The so-called factories were generally garages in the back streets of places like Marrickville. Those workers were on good wages in comparison to outworkers. They might have been getting paid $5 an hour as opposed to $2.20 a piece if it passed inspection.
I also remember my experience in 1994 campaigning for that great Australian institution the Australian Labor Party in the seat of Cabramatta.
Mr Hargreaves: It is a wonderful club.
MS MacDONALD: It is not just a club. I remember doorknocking in Cabramatta. For those people who do not know what Cabramatta is like these days, it is a very multiculturally diverse area. There are people from Cambodia, Vietnam and other areas of South East Asia. There are quite a few Thais as well as the older multicultural backgrounds of the Italians and Greeks.
It is largely the Vietnamese and the Cambodian communities that make up the poorer areas around the railway station. It was a very eye-opening experience for me doorknocking in 1994 for the party. Home invasion was a big thing in those days. You would walk up and down the stairs and knock on the doors in these very poor flats. Some of it seemed almost like Third World conditions. Maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but they were dirt poor. You would knock on the door, and you would know somebody was home, because you would see somebody move behind the peephole. They would not open the door, even to me, obviously a young woman who posed no threat. They were so terrified to do it.
I remember one instance. There were a few but there is one which sticks clearly in my mind. The door was opened by an Asian lady. She had a young baby in the lounge room. There were piles of blue material stacked around the lounge room floor. This would have been a bed-sit or a one-bedroom flat at most. The entire place was taken up with bundles of blue material which were being made up into clothing. The lady's English was not good enough for me to have a conversation about the forthcoming by-election. I could see that she was clearly under a lot of duress to get the pieces made up, so I let her go. That was eight years ago. It still sticks clearly in my mind.
I would sound the alarm on a couple of areas of exploitation or potential exploitation. They have already been raised by Minister Corbell. In the clerical and IT areas in the ACT there is a great deal of potential for people to be exploited. I was the organiser for the Australian Services Union clerical branch here in Canberra for five years and got to see a lot of the unhappier sides of the work force in that area. It is a potentially growing area of exploitation.