Page 3787 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 18 October 2005

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just argued for in moving to a collective agreement? Are they going to trade away and accept the minimum? If you listen to the Liberal opposition, the minimum is good enough for everyone else. And if it is good enough for everyone else, then it is good enough for us as well.

I stand here and honestly say it is not good enough for me; it is not good enough for my family; it is not good enough for my children. I do not mind defending that position. But to have those opposite accept this and sing the praises of what is quite clearly factually incorrect is just sickening.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra) (5.01): Like Mr Mulcahy, who is about the same age as I am—I am not quite sure whether he is six months older or I am six months older—I certainly recall the days when you could walk into the employment agency and there would be a choice of jobs. They would say, “Where do you live?” In my case, I remember I once said, “Narrabundah.” They said, “Here are a couple at Fyshwick.” That was great. I just had to hop on my motorbike and I was there in 5 minutes. Those were the days when we had full employment. Two or three per cent or so was the unemployment rate. That was the tail end, I suppose, of the Menzies legacy.

I can also recall the rather chaotic days of the Whitlam government when everything went completely out of kilter; we had massive inflation; and it became that little bit harder to get a job. I can certainly recall the days in the 1980s when we had such things as youth unemployment rates of between 30 and 50 per cent. I recall those figures when I was a candidate for the Senate in 1987 and again for the seat of Fraser in about 1993. There were very significant youth unemployment rates. In more recent times, in the last 10 years, there has been a complete turnaround and we are seeing unemployment rates getting back down to what they were probably in the late 1960s and early 1970s—about five per cent. That is absolutely fantastic for the work force because it means that there is greater choice out there for people.

I can also remember some of the very restrictive closed-shop arrangements—the restrictive practices, the fact that if you were not in a union you did not get the job. I was not in the BLF, and I had to be sacked from a labouring site once, I remember, by Peter O’Dea. As it turned out, I did not particularly worry. It was a part-time job I had in the holidays and I was going back to uni. But if I had a young family and did not want to join a union I would have been in all sorts of problems then. We have got a much fairer system now and a better system to ensure Australians, especially young Australians, have a much greater chance of getting jobs.

There are a few points raised by members opposite in relation to this matter that need to be put to rest. Firstly, terms and conditions are not going to be abolished. The federal government is not eliminating or outlawing any terms and conditions that currently exist within the federal system. Even matters that will no longer be in awards will continue to exist in agreements, including penalty rates and long service leave. Employers and employees who wish to keep their current terms and conditions will in fact be able to do so. Workers currently on awards can transfer those terms and conditions into agreements that will now be able to run for up to five years, rather than the current maximum of only three years.

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