Page 1101 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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Mr Mulcahy: I was, in anticipating discussion of a subject that is on the notice paper.

MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: Dr Foskey, I would just remind you: do not tread that line too tightly. Mr Mulcahy, there is no point of order at this point.

DR FOSKEY: Thank you. I urge the ACT government to value appropriately the work of those people who provide support and services to vulnerable members of our community. The government is also making an important statement about its commitment to community participation, recognition of and respect for our most disadvantaged citizens.

It is certainly true that the federal government’s approach to industrial relations has the impact of making work-life balancing more difficult for many employees. It is not true, however, that the federal government must take responsibility for all that is creating difficulties in this area. Before the ACT government takes too much pleasure in blaming the federal government for our out-of-balance system, it really must get its own house in order. Only then will motions such as these not be regarded as political grandstanding.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (4.45): I thank Mr Gentleman for putting this motion before the Assembly for debate. This government has a strong record of supporting progressive industrial relations practices. With the other state and territory governments, as we have just discussed, we have made submissions to the national wage cases, supporting socially just wages; and to the work and family test case, advocating reform to provide workers with a greater ability to balance work and family commitments.

By contrast, the federal government has consistently sought to entrench lower conditions in the workplace, whether it is through attacks on the living wage case and the commission or weakening collective bargaining in workplaces through the use of AWAs. As Mr Gentleman has already pointed out, many people have huge concerns about the use of AWAs and the effect that they have on eroding fair conditions of employment. This new template from the Office of the Employment Advocate has raised similar concerns with some, particularly in relation to work and family conditions.

The issue of work and family balance has become a focus of political, community and workplace debate. There are three key reasons why work and family balance is increasingly an issue for Australian workers. We have to ensure that the debate on the work and family collision continues and that we recognise the social as well as the economic effects of changing workplace policies and workplaces on individuals, families and communities. I think that this is central to what this motion is all about.

The changes in the way we work have been extreme in the last decade. Legislative changes are now creating new workplace cultures that are impacting on the way people balance their work lives with family and community responsibilities. The federal government, through its workplace policies, has also failed to recognise the changing demographic characteristics of our workplace and the employees who work in them.

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