Page 4118 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 15 November 2005

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Industrial relations

MR GENTLEMAN: My question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Minister, I understand that on 2 November the federal government introduced its radical industrial relations WorkChoices legislation into the House of Representatives. Can you inform the Assembly of recent activities in response to the legislation?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Mr Gentleman for the question. It is both timely and pertinent given the considerable discussion and opposition to this legislation evident in the community and I take the opportunity to inform the Assembly about certainly a couple of recent events.

Today is the national day of protest against this legislation. This morning many of us here, including Assembly colleagues—noticeably, of course, no-one from the other side—joined with the Chief Minister to take part in a virtual country-wide meeting to protest against the proposed changes. The meeting here was held at the ACT racecourse in Mitchell.

It was a truly historic meeting, without doubt Australia’s biggest ever meeting of working people. Was there one member of the opposition there? No. It was the ACT’s biggest community meeting, but there was not one member of the opposition strong enough or brave enough to go and listen to what the community is saying about these proposed laws.

Workers were motivated to come out in such numbers because the changes proposed by the federal government represent the single biggest reduction in working people’s conditions of employment in this country’s history. That is the legislation that is being pushed through the federal parliament. It is the single biggest attack on the conditions of working people ever in this country’s history. The opposition say, “Look at the growth in the minimum wage.” The federal government has opposed every single application for growth in the minimum wage since 1996.

Mr Smyth interjecting—

MS GALLAGHER: They lost the commission hearing, Mr Smyth. That is why it grew. The submissions accepted by the commission were the submissions of the state and territory governments, who have consistently had claims closest to the decisions delivered by the commission. What is the response of the conservatives in Australia? It is to abolish the commission, discontinue these wage cases and ensure that minimum wages do not grow. That is the legislation that is before the federal parliament.

Close to 4,000 members of the ACT community gathered this morning to voice their opposition to the changes via satellite hook-up using Sky Channel. The unified message of all the communities attending across Australia was a strong message to the federal government advising them that we are opposed to the changes and urging them to rethink their ideological attack.

The meeting today built on community events that have been happening for some time now dating back to May, when the Prime Minister made the first indication of his desire

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