Page 2101 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005

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relations reforms that the states were opposed to and that at the time the Senate was opposed to.

We all understand that we are working in a new world and that, come 1 July, the chances of the federal government getting its industrial relations reform through the Senate are much more likely than they have been in the past. Therefore, some of the requirements to link it to funding might be a bit outdated. But there certainly is a focus on limiting the involvement of employee representatives in the bargaining process and requiring parties to include options for individual agreement making.

Whilst this MPI concerns the University of Canberra, we have been told in relation to the schools agreement, for example, that in order to get $35 million from the commonwealth government, which does not employ one teacher in our system or run one school, we have to offer AWAs to all of those teachers, that they will no longer be allowed to operate under a collective agreement. It is highly unusual for someone who has an 8 per cent stake holding to say that this is a 100 per cent requirement across our system. It is something that is going to present some real challenges to the ACT government as it negotiates and finalises those agreements with the commonwealth. We are seeing this imposition of industrial relations reform in probably every area of agreement making with the commonwealth, certainly in any funding agreement with the commonwealth.

The higher education requirements came into effect on the announcement date, 29 April 2005. Universities will need to comply with these requirements and the governance protocols, which were tabled in the Assembly today with the legislation, in order to be eligible to receive increased levels of commonwealth grants scheme funds. Universities must have a certified agreement and workplace policies and practices that comply with higher education requirements. In practice, that means, essentially, that a university must offer its employees AWAs as an alternative to a certified agreement.

The federal government’s higher education requirements disempower employees and threaten the security of job tenure. The ACT government believes that this can only have a negative impact on the ability of staff to provide the first-class education that we expect and we demand for our students in the territory.

Ms Porter’s MPI referred directly to the University of Canberra, which employs more than 150 casual and 900 full-time staff, academics, cleaners, researchers and librarians. All these staff provide a direct service to students. The University of Canberra is expected to meet the federal government’s higher education requirements to ensure that it is eligible for rather small increases in federal government funding. However, these measures can only have a negative impact on the services and industrial relations culture at the University of Canberra.

Certainly, in all of the discussions I have had with the federal industrial relations minister and other ministers who have been negotiating agreements through the education and training portfolio, none of them has been able to say what is the current problem. They say that it is about creating productivity, creating jobs and allowing choice within the workplace and then in the same breath they say, “Look at how many jobs we have created. Look at the productivity improvements,” and that employees already have choice.

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