Page 4805 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 14 December 2005

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sectors where they find employment, usually jobs with a lower skill base, will be forced to bring their conditions of employment down to compete. But, should they try to exercise the right to choose, to politely decline substandard employment conditions, they will lose any form of government financial assistance for eight weeks.

WorkChoices and welfare to work are not about choices. They are not about flexibility, about workers exploring their options. These changes are designed to crush the collective, to reduce workers’ rights and entitlements, and to reduce the options available to the unemployed. They will jeopardise worker safety and they will jeopardise family life.

Though the bill is now an act, my determination to see this legislation overturned has not wavered, and I call on the federal government to scrap their WorkChoices act, and, while they are doing that, to scrap the welfare to work changes.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (11.49): Mr Speaker, these motions from the Legislative Assembly branch of UnionsACT are indeed repetitive and tiresome. We have had the same old mantra, the same old scaremongering, that we have heard in this place, sadly, on many occasions before. We heard it all before in 1996 when, according to Labor, the sky was going to fall. Labor were predicting disaster then, but all of their predictions have been proven to be embarrassingly wrong.

I had a barbecue last night, something that apparently we are not going to be allowed to have anymore. The world is still continuing sensibly, although there has been a mad scramble by union officials in the last few days to file award changes. Talk about being asleep at the wheel. They have sat around, collected their generous salaries and benefits, and suddenly they are saying, “My God, our position is suddenly being challenged and we will have to do some work.” I am afraid they have left their run way too late.

The sad bit about this whole debate is the absolute nonsense that has been trotted out in it; not sensible, constructive changes, but scaremongering, trying to frighten people into believing that suddenly we are going to have a whole lot of increases in industrial injury and deaths and the family barbecue will end. People are being frightened by being told that they are going to lose everything they have got.

Twelve months from now I will be keen to see Mr Gentleman stand up here and explain to us what the impact has been of those 12 months. He is going to be very embarrassed. The same sort of rot was trotted out in 1996. A fellow by the name of Kim Beazley said then:

The Workplace Relations and Other Legislation Amendment Bill strikes at the heart of the desire by all Australians for a fair as well as a productive society. If we pass this bill into law, we will return the workplace to the battleground it used to be …

I know that Mr Beazley’s father was an eloquent speaker; I remember hearing him at times. But Mr Beazley is no chip off the old block and his predictions about the industrial relations environment have been, sadly for him, proven completely wrong.

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