Page 3845 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 19 October 2005

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However, the strongest attack of all on this has come from the highly-respected Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations. The ACCER is an agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and has examined the proposed changes within the context of the body of Catholic social teaching and the church’s collective and diverse experience as an employer. As the minister for workplace relations, Kevin Andrews, is a prominent Catholic—as are Mr Mulcahy, Mr Seselja and Mr Smyth—I would expect him to pay particular attention to these comments.

The ACCER has released several media releases on this issue, as well as meeting with the minister. This meeting was followed by a letter and the release of a briefing paper on the reforms. Virtually all these publications have been critical of these changes. For example, in a letter to the minister the organisation’s executive officer, John Ryan, suggests:

A fundamental principle of Catholic Social Teaching is that work affirms, enhances and expresses the dignity of those who undertake it. The Church’s teaching on work does not permit the worker to be treated as a commodity in the marketplace. A worker should be able to establish and properly maintain a family and to provide for its future security.

In his letter, Mr Ryan questions the minister on his reasons for pushing through many of these changes, particularly why the government is taking minimum wage setting away from the Australian Industrial Relations Commission; what empirical evidence the government has to support the need to exempt workers from unfair dismissal laws; and what savings provisions will be available for award employees in the situation where the current award standard is greater than the proposed legislative standards.

The ACCER’s briefing papers go into even greater detail, systematically examining the government’s proposed changes and applying laudable Catholic teachings such as social justice, the nature and dignity of humanity and work. I would encourage all members of the Assembly, particularly those opposite, to read this paper. Obviously, everybody in this place knows that I am not a Catholic but that I am married to a Catholic. I was just sitting here earlier and thinking about that great encyclical Rerum novarum, which my other half is continuously harping on to me about. It would be good for Mr Mulcahy, Mrs Dunne and Mr Seselja to go and have a read of Rerum novarum.

Mr Mulcahy: I carry it in my briefcase.

MS MacDONALD: That is good. ACCER is reserving its final decision on the changes until after they have been tabled as legislation in the federal parliament. However, you cannot help but think that ACCER will have no choice but to ultimately condemn these changes. This is an unprecedented level of opposition. Here we have religious and community groups of virtually all persuasions speaking out against these reforms. Even those leaders close to Minister Andrews and the Prime Minister are opposed to the reforms.

These calls for the government to rethink its proposals are clearly having an effect. A recent Morgan poll found that only 10 per cent of Australians believe they and their families will be better off under the proposed industrial relations reforms. Nearly half of

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