Page 3867 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 19 October 2005

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the weekend, meaning you can stay home with your kids during the week—if all of these are taken away, then the incentive for women to go to work and to have a life outside the home, if they choose to have that, will be taken away from many women. The ministers for women around the country have joined together, and these are the concerns that are expressed right across the country.

Here in the ACT, again we will see the impact more significantly. We have the highest female job participation rate in the country. The proportion of women with children under four in the ACT is 10 per cent above the national average. So things such as family-friendly conditions, carers leave and maternity leave are all areas where the ACT, if these are taken away, will be impacted.

I know that those who are supportive of these reforms will say, “But that is not the case. These are not being taken away; there are going to be minimum standards.” There are going to be four minimum standards; that is it. We are not talking about paid maternity leave and those sorts of entitlements here. Anything above those four minimum standards is in the firing line. And to say that they are not and that women on awards will currently get the award protection that they deserve ignores the reality of what bargaining in the workplace is like. The push for AWAs, which this legislative framework is going to allow, will mean that those who are currently enjoying the protections of awards or collective agreements will have those protections taken away.

I know that earlier Mr Seselja talked about the success of AWAs and how he had successfully negotiated himself a very nice pay deal under the AWA proposals that have been in place since 1996. It is true that the commonwealth public sector has been the area where the push for AWAs has been the strongest. I know from my own days at the CPSU that, from 1997 on, it became pretty much mandatory to have a clause in a certified agreement that said, “An AWA can be offered at any time to anyone under this agreement.”

The reality is that, eight years later, 87 per cent of commonwealth public servants remain on collective agreements. If you take the SES out of it, 87 per cent of the public service have voted with their feet and have voted for a collective agreement. The people who design the laws, frame the laws and design the framework for the laws that we are all to work under, are the ones that go, “No, thanks.”

We have all watched the recent industrial dispute at the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations where the people drafting the legislation that Mr Mulcahy allegedly has seen and has been briefed on have taken industrial action to say, “We don’t want to go under that model. We want the right to collectively bargain and to have those protections offered to us in the workplace.” These are the people who know what is in there. And 87 per cent of commonwealth public servants say no to them.

Here in the ACT, we have a policy of not offering AWAs. All the arguments about the increased flexibility, attraction and retention of AWAs have not been a reality since 2001, when the policy changed with the new government and AWAs were not offered routinely and, in fact, were not offered at all. We have got, under our current certified agreement, to have a clause called special employment arrangements for those areas where there needs to be addressed some of the particular aspects of particular

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