Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4225 ..
MR PRATT (continuing):
Surely, if female workers are covered under existing legislation regarding maternity leave provisions, there is no impact on their long service leave entitlements. If there is, then that is a fair point. That is to be examined by the Goward review and other reviews under way at the moment. Therefore, I do wonder whether this motion is a red herring. (Extension of time granted.) I agree that the lot of women in terms of maternity breaks needs to be addressed, and it is being addressed now by the federal government.
Paragraph 4 of the motion calls on the ACT government to reject the so-called underlying proposition put forward by the Cole royal commission. What sort of statement is that? I have found it hard to ascertain exactly what underlying proposition Ms MacDonald is referring to as this section of the motion is so imprecise. I assume that Ms MacDonald is trying to get on board to protect her union mates who are suffering by having to be transparent, for God's sake, to a commission which was set up to try to stop the unlawful practice of coercion, collusion, intimidation and other harassment within the construction industry, including, of course, any mismanagement of long service leave entitlements.
Might I point out that mismanagement of long service leave entitlements has been encouraged by schemes like the one we have in the construction and cleaning industries in the ACT. I understand that the system is so gummed up by questionable claims and questionable management practices that an overbloated fund is unable to be accessed by those construction and cleaning workers who are entitled to long service leave. Perhaps I am wrong. I hope that the Cole commission will get to the bottom of that and really answer the fundamental questions that ACT workers are asking.
For the government here to be criticising the Cole commission, frankly speaking, is to impede analysis of the long service leave system, which appears to be poorly managed. A clean-up would allow fair and timely access by ACT workers. Let's encourage that; let's get on board. A responsible government would encourage and support the Cole commission in terms of what it is trying to get to the bottom of.
In conclusion, I would say that this motion only encourages the placing of further imposts on business. It is another unfair, old-style attack on business. It is milking the sacred cow. This is not the way to guarantee jobs for the workers of the ACT. It is unfair on the majority of workers.
The long service leave scheme that we have in the ACT is the second most generous scheme in the country and it does not need tinkering with. Employees who are dedicated, who work hard-if I may borrow from the words that Ms MacDonald used-and who demonstrate loyalty will be discriminated against if these provisions go ahead.
Finally, the long service leave system in the ACT is fine but perhaps the management of it is not. Let the Cole commission look at it, let the Cole commission clean it up, and let the majority of workers get access to the entitlements they justly deserve and let those loyal workers who do give long-term loyal service be recognised as receiving an entitlement to which other people should not be entitled.
MR BERRY(11.59): The first time I became involved in debates about long service leave was in the mid-1970s, when the portability of benefits of firefighters who transferred from the New South Wales Fire Brigade to the ACT Fire Brigade was an