Page 231 - Week 01 - Thursday, 9 December 2004

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The overall effects of these amendments are to reinforce the government’s commitment to all enclosed public places becoming smoke free by 1 December 2006 and to move confidently, in cooperation with the community, towards that goal. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth) adjourned to the next sitting.

Fair Work Contracts Bill 2004

Ms Gallagher, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (11.25): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

The Fair Work Contracts Bill I have introduced today will, if passed, establish a new tribunal system to ensure that fair and equitable wages and working conditions are extended to dependent contractors working in the ACT.

In the ACT, employees are protected by a system of minimum awards established by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. However, the federal award safety net does not extend to contractors. In recent years we have seen rapid growth in “non-standard” working arrangements. This has seen an increasing use of casual employees, labour hire employees and contract workers. For many contractors, however, the contractual relationship is not one of genuine independence and equal bargaining power.

The Fair Work Contracts Bill will establish a legislative scheme to ensure that vulnerable contractors who do not have equal bargaining power are protected against exploitation. It will assist in preventing unscrupulous employers from undercutting federal award standards by engaging contract workers on lower wages and conditions than are required for direct employees.

In many cases, contractors perform the same work as direct employees, wear the business uniform, and have their tools and equipment branded with the business logo. They are often unable to perform work for any other businesses, due to their hours, or are expressly prevented from working for other businesses under the terms of their contract.

Dependent working relationships of this nature create unequal bargaining power when contracts expire and have to be renegotiated. Due to their unequal bargaining position, contractors can often find themselves in a take it or leave it situation, faced with the option of either accepting an unfair contract or finding a new job.

Unfair contracts do not just undermine industrial standards about pay and conditions; they also undermine safety standards. Where the financial rewards for performing work

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