Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 1 Hansard (18 February) . . Page.. 117 ..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
In setting up the ACTION Authority, undertakings were given to staff that they would maintain their staffing entitlements. It was an unintended consequence that when staff of ACTION became employees of the ACTION Authority they ceased to be employees under the ACT Public Sector Management Act and therefore potentially lost their entitlements to transfer from ACTION back to the ACT public service and have their service in ACTION counted for the calculation of benefits and to remain in Commonwealth superannuation schemes, the CSS and the PSS.
All these things would have serious implications for the conditions of service. Most important in that regard would be the entitlements of members of the ACTION Authority to superannuation under the Commonwealth schemes. That was not in the spirit of the undertakings made by the previous government or this government to ACTION employees. It is on that basis that the opposition will be supporting this bill.
I note that scrutiny of bills committee reports have raised the issue of retrospectivity, but from my own look at this matter and the advice that I have received from the staff of DUS and the Parliamentary Counsel I can find no-one who would be disadvantaged by these retrospective provisions. I think that we need to keep in mind that it is not so much the retrospectivity that is bad, but that we actually disadvantage someone by so passing retrospective provisions.
I note that the scrutiny of bills committee's report No 24 raised issues in relation to the powers of the Commissioner for Public Administration that are set up under this act being needlessly broad. It was a lineball call for me as to whether they were needlessly broad, but I note that Ms Tucker has circulated an amendment to clarify this matter. It is a simple, straightforward and sensible amendment, and the Liberal opposition will support it as well. We lend our support to this bill because it is a matter of keeping our word to people to whom we made undertakings. I commend the bill to the house.
MS DUNDAS (4.29): The Australian Democrats are also happy to support this bill. It appears eminently sensible to unify conditions of employment across the ACT public sector. It serves no purpose to have different conditions for ACTION staff from those in the general ACT public service, except to perpetuate uncertainty and confusion.
The process of corporatisation has been undertaken as a precursor to privatisation and whether privatisation is ultimately pursued. Corporatisation is also a strategy used by governments to avoid taking responsibility for properly funding services. The executive and board of a public corporation are frequently forced to keep identifying cost savings to cope with a failure by government to increase funding to keep pace with rising costs.
In this cost-cutting environment, the wages and conditions of staff in corporatised organisations are particularly vulnerable, so I support this move to bring ACTION back to being closely in line with the ACT public service as it should provide greater security for ACTION staff. In general, I do not support retrospective legislation, but in this instance it appears that no-one will be disadvantaged by the retrospectivity and hence I am willing to support this legislation in this instance and its retrospectivity.
I note that Ms Tucker will be moving an amendment that I will be quite happy to support. It is sensible in terms of clarifying a section in the amendment and hence we will be supporting it.