Page 3455 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 21 September 2005

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This is something that the former Labor Prime Minister, the man that Jon Stanhope used to work for, saw and wanted to continue. I think what we should have is a unified approach to this—an approach where Liberal Party, Labor Party, Greens and whoever else work together to improve the lot of the ordinary working man. We have gone a long way to doing that. There has been 14 per cent real growth in the last nine years. We have seen real growth, stronger growth, for low and middle-income households. We have seen real growth in the minimum wage under the current federal government as opposed to the negative growth that occurred under the former Labor government, and we want to build on that.

Should we be ashamed of wanting to make it better? No. Instead of saying the sky is falling in we should all be working together to make the situation better. The Chicken Littles among those opposite, who do not even know what is in this legislation, have already said it is going to be bad; that it is going to be bad because John Howard proposes it. Well, 1.7 million new jobs is not bad; 14 per cent real growth is not bad; the lowest levels of unemployment in 30 years is not bad; the lowest industrial disputation is not bad. I can make a good guess that the industrial legislation, when we see it, will not be bad, despite the nay sayers, despite the Chicken Littles, despite the “sky is falling” school of thought. This is a government that has got an agenda that will take Australia forward and keep it going forward, and that is something we all should be working to achieve.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (12.18), in reply: I would like to thank members for participating in this debate. I am pleased to see that Mr Mulcahy has so much intimate knowledge of the proposed changes. Perhaps he could share the details with the minister, or the workers in the ACT, because we cannot get the federal minister to do so.

Let me give you the facts. The federal government has failed to consult the ACT government on proposed IR changes. The federal government refuses to give a guarantee that no ACT worker will be worse off under the proposed changes. The changes outlined under the flag of flexibility are really about reducing worker choice. Worker-friendly provisions like annual leave, provisional leave and standard working hours will be up for negotiation, if negotiation really exists in a hostile working environment.

Mr Mulcahy talked about how great the AWAs, or secret contracts, are and how better off we are for their individuality. Well they certainly are not great for Sydney mum, Melanie Reardon, who queried an individual contract that denied her the one weekend in three she spent with her children. Her employer, Harvey Norman Liverpool, told her that if she did not sign the contract they would be unable to keep her employed. More distressing for Melanie was her employer’s refusal to allow her time off when her brother unexpectedly passed away. Is this the type of workplace we want in our society, where a mother has to choose between time with her children and employment, where a sister is not allowed to grieve with her family? Well I am sickened that the federal government, instead of legislating to abolish such practices, is assisting employers to make Melanie’s situation the norm.

Melanie’s story is no longer unique. Recently the Australian newspaper reported on a story of an employer who is offering employees 24-hour contracts that are renewed daily. The same employer that ran the operation a year ago, reopened the New South

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