Page 3790 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 18 October 2005

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MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (5:11): I am happy to be able to speak to this matter. The community in which we live has a responsible government, a government which I am proud to be a member of, a government that has instituted legislation which is responsive to the needs of our community and which protects the rights of all its citizens in a free, fair and safe society. In particular, the Stanhope government, largely under the direction of Minister Gallagher, has created a system of workplace regulation whereby Canberra workers can attend their offices, go on to their building sites, go about their daily work, with an understanding that their rights and their safety are protected.

We need to look at the legislative record. In this place we have seen legislation passed protecting the rights of workers in the area of workers compensation; we have seen the institution of guidelines to ensure a safe working environment through occupational health and safety amendments; and we have seen the introduction of industrial manslaughter legislation. The government has done this, despite operating within the prism of a commonwealth industrial relations system that has gradually moved towards the principle of individualism and, in doing so, has slowly but surely pushed the negotiating power into the corner of the employers.

This government has introduced forward-thinking legislation because we are a proactive territory government that does not hide behind the policy and political positions of federal representatives. We recognise that we are here to represent the citizens of the ACT and that a core aspect of that representation must be to ensure a positive working environment for ordinary, hard-working Canberrans.

It is because of this responsibility that we must object in the strongest possible terms to proposals put forward by Minister Andrews in recent weeks. Although the rhetoric surrounding these announcements looks good at first glance, with phrases like “freedom of choice” and “flexibility in the workplace”—I must say one has serious doubts when a minister is forced to apply so much gloss to cover the dross—the true effect is going to be one of diminished choices, with a much worse negotiating position for employees and job seekers.

Instead of a situation whereby salary and working conditions are collectively negotiated or protected under independently applied awards, the new system will mean that employers will be able to push workers on to individual secret contracts, with no protection of basic conditions, and, if the worker rejects the contract offered by the employer, they do not get the job. It is as simple as that.

This should not surprise us. It has become quite clear that the federal minister does not pretend ignorance of the plight of ordinary Australians who seek job security. In fact, Mr Andrews argues that it does not really matter if a person loses their first job, because the majority of Australians will move quickly on to a second job in the early stages of their career. If Mr Andrews has anything to do with it, people would be moving between jobs at a rate of knots—a treadmill of jobs or an un-merry go round, as it were.

I understand that the mechanics of this legislation have already been talked about at length during this debate and that this will not be the end of our defence of ACT working conditions in this place. So I will not bore the Assembly with repetition. Instead, I want

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