Page 3440 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 21 September 2005

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you can see, the ACT working people agreed with the introduction of legislation not only by voting the ACT Labor Party back into power but also as a majority government for the first time in the history of self-government.

We in government have to care for the consequences. We have been elected to represent the people of the Australian Capital Territory, minimum wage earners included, Mr Mulcahy. I move that this Assembly calls on the federal government to remember its role as representative of the needs and wants of all workers and, in doing so, consult immediately with the ACT government on the proposed changes to industrial relations laws in order to ensure the protection of existing employment conditions for ACT workers.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (11.22): That was a most extraordinary dissertation from Mr Gentleman in relation to the industrial relations regime but not one that either accords with my research or with the facts as they are known to me. Let me talk, first of all, about consultation with state and territory governments. As has been determined, in fact, Minister Andrews recently wrote to the ACT government—to Mr Hargreaves, I believe, when he was acting IR minister. He told him that the government remains “open to input on its reform plan, from state and territory governments”.

At the last workplace relations ministerial council meeting the minister indeed agreed with state and territory ministers to continue consultations on its proposed new framework. Indeed, state and territory governments have an open invitation to contribute to this process. States and territories have been invited to refer their powers to enable them to have the benefits of a single IR system, as the ACT, NT and Victoria currently do. Consultation does continue. I have undertaken consultation—that will surprise members opposite—with the labour movement, which I continue to do on a regular basis. I would urge them to enter into dialogue, rather than take an entrenched position of opposition to much-needed reform, indeed reform which has been dismissed rather frivolously here this morning but which only this last week was urged on Australia by the International Monetary Fund as an essential step forward in improving our economic base.

Claims have been made that terms and conditions are to go out the door. That is not the case. The government is not eliminating or outlawing any terms and conditions that currently exist within the federal system. Even matters which will no longer be in awards can continue to exist in agreements. That will include penalty rates, long service leave and so forth. Employers and employees who wish to keep their current terms and conditions will be able to do so. Workers currently on awards can transfer those terms and conditions into agreements, which will now be able to run for up to five years instead of the current maximum of three years. It will provide longer-term security and certainty for the work force in our community. Employees will be able to keep their conditions until they agree to new arrangements with their employer.

There are also guaranteed protections coming under the new arrangements to be introduced federally. In contrast to recent union scaremongering—and I must commend them on the advertising, it is very effective; as I said to some of your colleagues recently, it is a pity it does not let the truth interfere with the reports—lunch breaks, public holidays and a minimum of four weeks annual leave will continue to be protected in the new legislation.

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