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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4261 ..

Long service leave portability

Debate resumed.

MR HUMPHRIES (4.06): Mr Speaker, as I was saying before my speech was interrupted, we have seen some stereotyping of opposition to this proposal. It was typical of the hysteria which has been generated around this debate, but it did not much illuminate the community with respect to what was going on. I repeat that I am happy to see workers have greater entitlements, but someone has to pay for those entitlements. We also have to acknowledge that there are some associated problems with conferring extra benefits. Benefits can create problems of their own. This needs to be worked through very carefully.

For example, if a worker is able to take with them their long service leave as a portable commodity when they leave the employment of a employer, say, after nine years, they are going to have difficulty going to a new employer, who would be aware that that employee would have only one year's service before going off on extended long service leave. That long service leave would be paid for, presumably, under this arrangement by the portable long service leave which is brought with them. Nonetheless, the employer would lose that employee for whatever the period might be-three or six months.

Not many employers are able to say, "I will take you on as my employee, but I realise that I am going to lose you for a fifth or a sixth of the next 18 months."That is not a particularly attractive arrangement. That might in turn cost the employee a job with such employers, because it is naturally not seen as an attractive employment proposition.

Similarly, an employer who employs somebody, say, for nine years before they leave, for whatever reason would be paying for the long service leave of that employee but in a sense not getting any benefit for it. An employer presumably sees in the payment of long service leave up to 10 years a reward for service and a capacity to have that employee back refreshed at the end of the period of long service leave. They do not get that in an arrangement where the employee can take the money from that employer and disappear somewhere else.

I do not think this arrangement should be taken at face value. We need to look very carefully at extending benefits in this way. I have no opposition to extending benefits in all sorts of areas, but they have to be paid for. I see in this proposal an agenda which is rather broader than it appears to be on face value. It is, as I suggested in my opening remarks, a soapbox for the government's backbenchers, all three of whom are here today. I see it as an attack on the Cole royal commission, which obviously rankles the ALP. I also suspect there are some factional issues because of the people who get a guernsey with this sort of thing. Particular unions have a particular interest in this. No doubt those games are being played out-not to the visibility and transparency of all the rest of us but presumably somewhere in the background.

This motion needs to be treated with a great deal of caution. I suggest to members that we not support an open-ended motion of this kind and, in particular, not support the process whereby the government of the day runs its government business through private members business on a Wednesday. We have seen this week after week in this place. It is not appropriate.

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