Page 3871 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 19 October 2005

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get a job and can have employment; it is governed by whether your grocery bills are increasing through an unmanageable rate of inflation; it is governed by whether the business you are employed in or that you own has enough customers coming through the door, which is, again, dependent on the global economic outcome. It is not just a case of picking one aspect of the economy, wages policy, and saying everything else is insignificant.

What this federal government is constantly attempting to do is preserve Australia’s economic competitive position, which is, as I mentioned yesterday, an ongoing and major challenge that we cannot ignore, and it is doing it through a raft of economic and structural changes that range from tax policy to industrial relations to export policy. I believe that is why the measures they have introduced are commendable.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (4.00): I thank Ms McDonald for moving this motion today. Although this matter is continually debated in the Assembly, it is a matter worthy of discussion and it gives me an opportunity to outline the national Greens’ response to the federal government’s WorkChoices program.

Greens all around Australia agree with the Labor Party that WorkChoices will have a negative impact on minimum wage earners, women, casual workers and young people, amongst others. The Greens believe that workplace laws should be fair, protect all workers from unjust treatment, promote industrial harmony and enable us to collectively organise to negotiate fair pay and conditions.

The Howard government’s proposed IR changes are not in the interests of working Australians, families or small businesses. They will not strengthen our economy or improve our way of life. In fact, they will undermine it by lowering the wages and stripping back the awards, rights and conditions that we fought so hard for over the last century. This is a none too subtle effort by the coalition to destroy the union movement and make the already powerful in our society even more powerful. Later on today I will be moving a motion that, in part, discusses the impact of ongoing industrial changes at a federal level on minimum wage earners and casual workers. I will now focus on the negative impact that WorkChoices will have on women and young people.

Early in my working career I had the opportunity to work in factories. I worked with people who did not have, as I did, a university qualification that enabled me to move on. I worked with women who were probably symbolic of the kinds of people that will be badly affected by these laws. That was the late sixties. We have seen a lot of advances for women since then, but in those times people were unable to articulate their own demands. We are talking about a biscuit factory, which was largely staffed by migrant women of non-English speaking backgrounds, and a plastics factory, which was staffed by the ordinary married and young unmarried women of Bacchus Marsh.

These people did not really believe they had a voice. Even if they had an active union branch in their factory, they did not have the time to attend meetings. It is worth remembering in this debate that unions have not always been directly concerned with the rights of those people, although I do believe that things have improved in the union movement in the last decade or so. It is a criticism of unions, not just in Australia, but also in America and Britain, that the needs of women, especially women of non-English

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