Page 4561 - Week 14 - Wednesday, 23 November 2005

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over the five days of the inquiry. At least there was an inquiry, be it only five days. So short was the inquiry that neither government nor opposition senators were able to address all the submissions received, but that would not have concerned the federal government, which saw fit to describe these submissions as merely spam because they were received electronically as opposed to citizens participating in a democratic society. But I digress.

The committee did hear from 105 of those 5,500 who wished to participate. One such witness was Mr John Hart, chief executive officer of Restaurant and Catering Australia and a wholehearted supporter of the amendments proposed by the federal government. Why does Mr Hart support these amendments? I quote Mr Hart from the committee Hansard:

In short, restaurants, cafes and caterers cannot afford to continue to sustain increases of the magnitude awarded by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

I commend Mr Hart for his honesty. He has triumphed where the federal government has failed. He stated quite clearly that WorkChoices is about reducing workers’ pay. It is about further disadvantaging young workers, unskilled workers, and women in the workplace.

Mrs Burke said this afternoon that WorkChoices, along with the proposed welfare-to-work program, was about changing outdated systems. Mrs Burke must have been absent from the Assembly when I raised the recent use of a $6 weekly hire voucher for workers in place of wages—not even a DVD, Mr Speaker. She must not have heard me inform the Assembly that it was in the year 1900 that workers fought for the right to be paid in wages. Mrs Burke should have read the report handed down by her friends on the hill. I quote the government senators’ report:

… the objectives of the Work Choices Bill, foremost of which is ensuring Australia’s future prosperity, are consistent with the trend and intent of previous Government policies.

Mrs Burke, it is about prosperity. I can think of nothing more preposterous than a video a week in place of a pay increase. I digress again.

There are those who have already prospered from the proposals: those agencies involved in the $55 million taxpayer-funded advertising campaign and perhaps the Business Council of Australia, which now has the opportunity to display its creativity with new television advertisements. There is one certainty: those already disadvantaged in the workplace have not and will not prosper.

But the government refuses to acknowledge that in the report, nor does it acknowledge the arguments raised by pensioner and disability advocacy groups. The submissions received by these groups highlight how carers in the human services sector are already poorly paid. They highlight that turnover is already a major concern for the sector and that the encouragement of a means to further reduce wages through AWAs would only serve to worsen the situation. Of greater concern is the abuse of the proposals as a means of lowering the wages and conditions of working people with disabilities. So much for prosperity!

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