Page 3757 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 18 October 2005

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committee, so far as this place is aware, because we are yet to have any proceedings that are public.

MR STANHOPE: I am very pleased to respond to this question from Mr Gentleman. It is interesting—and something that members of the Assembly, I am sure, have noted—that one of the most vocal sections within the community in relation to the commonwealth’s industrial relations proposals has been the churches. Leaders of the Catholic, Anglican and Uniting churches and of the Salvation Army, in the last week or so, have each raised very, very significant concerns about the impact of the industrial relations laws on Australian society, in particular Australian families.

The most vocal has perhaps been Archbishop Peter Jensen, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, who, I am sure members are aware, recently suggested that, without shared time with family, people might as well be robots. Similarly, the new Anglican primate, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, spoke out against the planned changes, saying that they could lead to serious injustice in the workplace. Archbishop Aspinall said he might even join in a picket line to defend unfair dismissal laws.

Similarly, Anglican Archbishop Peter Watson from Melbourne recently said:

Weekends and leisure time are not optional extras. They must be preserved for the wellbeing of individuals, families and the whole community and, ultimately, for the health of the economy.

These are matters of justice and equity about which Christian leaders cannot remain silent and will not remain silent.

In addition, the Catholic Cardinal of Sydney, George Pell, has also been critical of the changes. Cardinal Pell, a self-confessed social conservative no less, has expressed serious concern about the potential for these laws to impact on individuals, in particular the most disadvantaged. The Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations executive, John Ryan, has said that the proposed reforms do not deal with issues of fairness and balance; they only provide safeguards “after the fact”.

Local Catholic bishop Pat Power has also expressed his concern. Bishop Power has said:

What the law should be doing is protecting the most vulnerable people.

The Uniting Church president, Dean Drayton, has suggested that the package is more about choice for business than protecting workers. The president of the Uniting Church, Dean Drayton, has said:

Workers are not commodities in the service of greater profits—they are people trying to make a decent life for themselves and their families.

It is interesting, then, to recapitulate in relation to this industrial relations package embraced by the opposition in this place, that no less than Archbishop Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney; Archbishop Peter Aspinall, the new Anglican primate; Archbishop Peter Watson, Archbishop of Melbourne; Cardinal George Pell; the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations executive officer, John Ryan; Catholic bishop

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