Page 583 - Week 02 - Thursday, 17 February 2005

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This means that the minimum wage would stop being a living wage in Australia.

The report also recommends slashing the number of allowable matters within awards. For anyone who has followed that, already we have slashed the awards down to 20 allowable matters. But this report recommends slashing it down further to only six allowable matters. This would include minimum hourly rates of pay, ordinary time hours of work, superannuation, annual leave, personal carers leave, parental leave, public holidays and a dispute settling procedure.

The report recommends radical reform to the AIRC, vesting the Employment Advocate with jurisdiction to review enterprise agreements. It says, “This proposal would remove perceptions that there are different standards applied to AWAs and certified agreements and increase the contestability of the AIRC’s service delivery function.”

It also recommends reforming unfair dismissal laws. Allegedly, Australia ranks 13th in the world “difficulty of firing index”. I was not aware that we had a difficulty of firing index, but there you go. Reforms in this sector will lead to lower job security and a hire and fire approach to workplace disputes. The report stresses the benefits of casual jobs and argues against having them demonised—making underemployment and family stress a reality for many more workers. The report also suggests harmonising state and federal workplace systems and states that this should be done in the same way as happened with the national rail gauge.

It will not surprise many in this chamber that the federal minister, Mr Kevin Andrews, was broadly supportive of the thrust of this document. In reply to questions from his backbench colleagues during question time this week, Mr Andrews provided the House of Representatives on Monday with some fine quotes from the BCA document to support his case for so-called workplace reform. If Mr Andrews is broadly supportive of the broad thrust of this report, one has to wonder whether he is broadly supportive of any of the detail. Are any features of the BCA report likely to make it into the workplace relations bill currently being touted around federal parliament?

As a federal territory, we have an expectation that the commonwealth will talk to us on matters that affect our jurisdiction and, certainly, the workers who reside and work in this town. It is a great disappointment to me, as the local Minister for Industrial Relations, that the federal minister, despite repeated requests from me and from many of my industrial relations minister colleagues around the country, has not consulted with me on any significant piece of legislation that he has presented to the House of Representatives. That is despite repeated requests that the commonwealth negotiate—not even negotiate, but just talk to the ACT government about the workplace relations reform that they intend to impose on the ACT. In fact, the rumour is going around that federal ministers spend more time talking to their Liberal colleagues from this chamber than they spend consulting with the ACT government over important industrial relations issues.

Certainly, if you read the media release from the opposition spokesperson for industrial relations, it seems that Mr Mulcahy goes speeding off up the hill to get constitutional advice from the federal territories minister and the federal workplace relations minister on some of the government’s policy agendas here.

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