Page 1940 - Week 06 - Friday, 6 May 2005

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MS MacDONALD: The sky is going to fall in and all the businesses in the ACT will collapse if they stay here because there is this terrible additional impost on employers; they cannot cope with having to factor in the long service leave provisions for seven years instead of 10, so they are all going to go across the border. But across the border they would have to do it after five years, so I find Mr Mulcahy’s argument quite an interesting one.

I commend this bill. Members may or may not recall that in the Fifth Assembly I moved a motion to ask the government to look into the issue of portable long service leave in the territory. I know that that was an issue that stirred up quite a bit of controversy within the business community and it is not necessarily a thing that is easy to do. My argument then was, and remains, that employment conditions are changing. Long service leave has long been changing. Look at the construction industry or the cleaning industry. We have portable long service leave in these areas.

This amendment bill looks at people who work in the same industry year in, year out, but who have breaks because the work is of a seasonal nature, and it takes that into account. It is important to acknowledge that we have people out there who are giving their time, over lengthy periods, to the same employer or the same group of employers and yet, because of the nature of the employment, have no access to long service leave. Things are changing. The nature of employment is changing. We do not have people signing up for life to jobs any more, as a general rule. The estimations are for between five and seven jobs in a lifetime, and I think that is increasing as time goes on.

We as a society need to say; “Yes, how was it that long service leave came about in the first place?” Long service was introduced, as I understand it, as a result of people wanting to return to the mother country, England. The amount of time that was given in the first place took into account the amount of time that it would take to get on to a ship, travel back to England, see your family and then come back to Australia. We obviously do not need to get on a ship and travel back to England any more, but we do feel that it is important to provide those breaks in service that people need over time.

I believe there is a lot more that society needs to be doing to take into account the contribution that people make to society as a whole through their work. That is a discussion for the country that is not taking place at the moment. I would like to see it take place, but I think this bill addresses a number of the concerns about the changing nature of employment and that is a good thing.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (9.45): If, as Ms MacDonald says, this bill is addressing changing natures of concern about employment, let us have a changing nature of concern about employment bill rather than the ad hoc way in which this government continues to modify the Long Service Leave Act. It is the revisionist, light-on-the-hill Labor Party stuff that you see in the minister’s speech that gives me great concern.

Ms MacDonald has just said that the reason we got long service leave originally was for a month on the boat, a month in the old country and a month on the boat back. But apparently that is not quite true. The government believes that long service is an important condition that is well established in Australian workplaces and that it

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