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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4223 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

This motion is fundamentally flawed. The proposal is fundamentally flawed. The fundamental call here is for all ACT workers to be given some sort of portability from day one of their first job. Fundamentally, all employers would be obliged to pay a levy into a government long service leave fund for each employee brought on.

I fail to see how the definition of long service leave applies here. Indeed, if Ms MacDonald were to have her way, the term would be an oxymoron. How do we have long service leave if employees do not give long service? Is this yet another example of the brave new socialist world where all is illogical and unfair? Why is it necessary to disadvantage long-serving, loyal workers who remain with an employer for many years? Why have long service leave as an incentive to encourage loyalty and consistency in business if everybody is entitled to be paid long service leave?

If we are no longer going to have long service leave because everybody is allowed portability for every five minutes of the working day, why are we going to impose this tax on business? In effect, this proposal means that government will be collecting yet another tax from business for what essentially is going to turn out to be a non-event.

Ms MacDonald talks about disparities between different industries. It is not clear exactly what she means there, but if this is supposed to draw a line of demarcation between the construction and cleaning industries and the rest, if that is what Ms MacDonald means, then surely the so-called disparity does not exist. I stress my earlier comment about the special conditions applying to those two industries which cannot apply to others. If it is claimed, however, that there is an inconsistency in the entitlements between industries with like working conditions, then that may justify examination. I look forward to further clarification on this issue.

Indeed, it must be pointed out that the ACT has the second most generous long service leave scheme in the country, only after New South Wales, so why do we need to tinker with it? There are differences between the ACT and New South Wales; so what? She points out in her motion that there are differences. Of course there are differences: two different jurisdictions, two different lots of conditions. The resource bases within the ACT and New South Wales in terms of what business can produce are entirely different.

Another very important issue is that the New South Wales business community may be better placed to absorb such impositions. It cannot be automatically assumed that the ACT business community can be forced to conform with New South Wales imposed benchmarks. The vast majority of ACT workers are covered under a federal award which, of course, must take precedence. Again, to suggest that ACT business, in terms of the costs it must incur to fund long service leave, should be forced to conform with federal benchmarks and the level of resources available to the federal government for funding federal awards is an absurdity and grossly unfair. I hope that that is not what is being proposed here.

Let's talk about the impost on business. Business is being hit everywhere with levies. In the ACT, we look upon our business sector to take the territory forward, to create the conditions to develop new opportunities, to create new jobs. This is not the time to be talking about imposing new taxes to impede business in its ability to move forward, but that is what is being proposed here. Why make business in the ACT more uncompetitive? Why impede growth? This is a near-sighted government initiative.

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