Page 2669 - Week 08 - Friday, 1 July 2005

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bringing in $23.50 an hour and sometimes less. For an owner-driver working on a contract of carriage this means that, for $23.50 an hour or less, the driver is paying for the vehicle, insurance, superannuation, workers compensation, income tax and any other costs associated with the employment, with no guarantees of work. The minimum cost of running this courier van is $38.50 an hour. The contractor is expecting owner-drivers to pay $15 an hour just for the privilege of delivering government mail.

This is not employment, and it is not a fair contract. This is an example of outsourcing the costs of labour and expecting others to pick up the tab. The realities in a deregulated labour market are that the only ones who can pick up the tab are those who have very little choice about doing so. The federal government, despite all the rhetoric, is not encouraging small businesses and is not supporting these owner-drivers in getting on their feet. They are outsourcing the costs of labour and expecting others to pick up the tab.

This situation occurs every day across the ACT and across Australia. It is driving owner-drivers into debt and into poverty, and it is also causing some serious safety concerns. As owner-drivers are put under more and more financial pressure, they are forced to work harder, drive for longer hours and, in some cases, cut corners on maintenance and repairs. The unregulated nature of the transport industry and the unfair nature of some of these contracts are not only driving some owner-drivers into debt, they are also driving many into danger.

We now face further changes to industrial relations which may see both an expansion of a deregulated labour market, so that conditions like this proliferate in sectors additional to transport, and further degradation of conditions in industrial relations. This is what deregulation really means. In engaging in the debate about the future of Australian industrial relations and employment relations here in the territory, it is important that we consider examples such as these and consider what changes we can make together, to prevent the exploitation of people’s labour and ensure minimum protections for all workers, no matter how they are employed.


MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (10.45): Going through the 2005-06 budget papers, especially for a second or third time, you cannot fail to notice the recurrence of certain key words. Of course “sustainability” is one. Everything this government does is apparently sustainable in one sense or another. There is also the word “community”. Indeed the very title of the Treasurer’s presentation speech was “A budget for the community”. The community, he said, had been consulted so that community needs could be addressed and the whole community included. That is, of course, unless you are part of the non-government schools sector. That is why I was slightly surprised to discover that this very same government has decided that it cannot, or will not, provide a relatively modest amount of start up capital for a proposed Canberra community television initiative. Certainly this is a government which, on its own reckoning is of, by and for the community.

This project followed the demise of Capital news and Prime news in 2001, which sought to provide a local news service along with local programming and, of course, local production. In addition, it would provide a much-needed gateway for young Canberrans

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