Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 5047 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
As I said in response to the original motion to wind up Totalcare, I have little confidence that the winding up of Totalcare Industries will eliminate the problems that I think exist within the business, chiefly the risk of the ACT government undercutting private ACT small businesses in the provision of services to the private sector. We are merely shifting a problem to the departments, who will now absorb Totalcare's functions. That being said, I commend the government for doing the right thing by the staff, who have been the pawns in this unsuccessful game. Hopefully, all employees who have spent five years on temporary contracts will be granted permanency and also those temporary employees who have worked close to this length of time. The wording of the bill makes this possible rather than mandatory but I trust the Treasurer will make sure that people who would have been granted permanency under public service rules will get security of tenure. It was the Treasurer who made the statement that no jobs would be lost, but I recognise that it is the Chief Minister who now has to implement that promise.
The use of temporary appointments to fill ongoing positions in Totalcare raised broader concerns about the use of temporary employment in other ACT government corporations and ActewAGL, where many former public sector employees have ended up. With the government professing such concern about the creeping casualisation of the work force, I hope they are keeping an eye on the rise of the use of temporary employees in jobs that were formerly ACT public sector jobs. As a key or exclusive shareholder in a corporation, the ACT government has a moral responsibility to do the right thing by employees-not just in Totalcare, as we are doing today, but in all other territory-owned corporations.
I commend the government for putting forward this bill in a timely manner. I hope that all the employees who previously worked for Totalcare have a long and successful career in the ACT public service.
MS TUCKER (5.17): I have already put on the record the position of the Greens on the restructure of Totalcare and how it has been changed, so I will not go through all that again. We are supporting this bill because it is about ensuring conditions for workers who are involved in this restructure.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Environment and Minister for Community Affairs) (5.17), in reply: I thank members for their contributions and for their support of this bill. As members have indicated, this bill is designed to make a number of quite simple and technical amendments to the Public Sector Management Act to enable the progressive transfer of Totalcare staff to the ACT public service, essentially without a merit process. Members have indicated why that is appropriate at this stage. The transfer of staff under the bill is part of a range of measures to wind down Totalcare. Just recently the Assembly agreed to wind down Totalcare through the disposal of all of the undertakings of Totalcare to the territory.
The bill simply sets in place arrangements to transfer Totalcare staff to the ACT public service without a merit process. That is appropriate, having regard to the decisions that have been made in relation to their place of employment. It deals with employment matters incidental to the transfers to provide structure and surety to those staff so that they may proceed into the future with the security that all people within the workforce deserve and are entitled to. I thank members for their contributions and their support and I commend the bill to the Assembly.