Page 3865 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 19 October 2005
I rise, of course, to support the motion put forward by Ms MacDonald, particularly as Minister for Industrial Relations, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support and Minister for Women. We see, from the federal government’s WorkChoices documents, that many of the changes that they are talking about will significantly affect young people, women and those who are certainly not earning the type of salary that we know Mr Seselja and Mr Mulcahy have negotiated for themselves on AWAs.
If you look at the issue of young people for just a moment and take the federal government’s WorkChoices booklet—as I said, none of us has been privileged to have the kinds of briefings that Mr Mulcahy has had; so we can only go on the booklet that has been provided to us—on page 20, you can read the story of Bernard, a 17-year-old school student who is working as a cinema usher on the weekend. He is currently covered by an award and all the protections that the award system provides. However, his employer, according to the example, would like Bernard to sign an AWA. It does not say whether Bernard would like to sign an AWA but his employer would like him to.
Unfortunately, Bernard is under 18 and so cannot enter into this secret individual contract to trade away all his rights. The federal government has acknowledged that it is probably inappropriate to ask under 18s to trade away their rights under law as minors in the law. In order to be successful, Bernard’s employer must seek the signoff of Bernard’s parents. I guess, in a way, it is an admission from the federal government that those under 18 should not be put in a position to engage in a legal contract that would bind them when they are under the age of being able to do that. Previously this has not been an issue, of course, because they have been covered, like everybody else, by the award system and, if they are lucky enough, by a certified agreement.
Anyway, Bernard’s parents must join the party, sign off on the agreement and sign away, presumably, the entitlements that Bernard was previously getting under the award; otherwise, there would be no pressure to move him from the award to the AWA. Potentially, Bernard, I imagine, says goodbye to his penalty rates and his shift rates, his holiday leave and annual leave loading. He probably works public holidays. His hours will probably change week by week, I imagine, in a job like a cinema usher. And that is it. That is Bernard’s way of life until he is 18 and able to trade away his own rights, I imagine.
Let me deal with the impact on young people, particularly if it is their first experience in the labour market. Maybe some of us or maybe some of our children will be wealthy enough to engage bargaining agents to make sure that they will be in a position to protect some of their rights, but that might be for the lucky few. People like poor old Billy, who is, we presume, over the age of 18—although it is not clear from the example—on the dole, engages a bargaining agent, before he gets a job. He manages to pay for his bargaining agent out of his dole cheque. It is a very astute Billy, who has been out of the labour market for a long time to think, “Before I go and try to get an AWA, I had better engage myself a bargaining agent because that will make sure that I am at least on a level playing field.”
Then Billy’s bargaining agent trades away every condition that he could get. I am not sure what Billy gets out of the bargaining agent relationship. Perhaps Billy also needs to attend an education program that teaches him that the reason you engage a bargaining