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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 10 Hansard (25 September) . . Page.. 3753 ..

MS DUNDAS (5.56): The ACT Democrats are glad to give their support to this bill. Employment for life is a concept alien to most modern workers. Once almost all jobs were permanent, but that is now the exception rather than the rule. We know that most young workers will have more than one employer in their lifetime and are likely to be retrenched more than once. In such an environment, it is only fair to reduce the minimum period of service to earn an entitlement to be paid out for accrued long service leave following retrenchment.

Of course, where an employee leaves a job voluntarily or an employee is sacked for misconduct, there will be no additional cost to the employer. This change mainly affects employers who sack workers who have given at least five years of competent service. The provision requiring payment to be made to the estate of a deceased employee who gave at least five year's service will be an additional impost on employers, but it is unlikely to prove to be a large additional cost.

The provision adding an extra day's leave for each public holiday falling within the leave period is a sensible change. To avoid being penalised under the existing act, employees had often carefully chosen the start and end dates for leave to avoid losing public holidays. This change means that broken leave periods will no longer be necessary to avoid losing these leave days. I doubt that there will be any noticeable rise in cost for employers as a result of this change.

This bill is to be commended for bringing the ACT law on long service leave into line with New South Wales in the areas of entitlements upon retrenchment and additional leave to cover public holidays. It makes sense for workers' entitlements to be the same in Canberra as in Queanbeyan, particularly as some workers have jobs on both sides of the border.

I know that the minister is undergoing consultations on long service leave at the moment and this is not the only discussion of long service leave that we will be having in this place as there will be more in the near future. Even though this piece of legislation is quite simple, I think that any further debate we have on long service leave will be a little bit more complicated and will need to be considered quite carefully in terms of what we are asking employers to do as well as what we are giving employees. Finding a balance will be the challenge.

MS GALLAGHER (Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (5.59), in reply: I will be very brief as well. I thank members for their support for this simple but important piece of legislation. I think the fact that it enhances the current conditions is very important. It also brings Canberra workers into line with Queanbeyan workers, which is quite sensible and is something that has broad community support from my discussions with employer and employee representatives. It is nice to see that community support being reflected in the comments of other members today. I have to say that Mr Pratt's speech was perhaps the best speech I have heard from him. It was supportive of the government's agenda and took, I reckon, less than 10 seconds, which was fantastic.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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