Page 4812 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 14 December 2005

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failure to consult with anyone apart from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and apparently Mr Mulcahy, all in the name of helping small business, that very part of the community believes the changes will make no impact at all.

Mr Gentleman also made mention of the ridiculously short—five-day—hearing into the WorkChoices legislation, a hearing that, despite being kept to such a minute amount of inquiry, still resulted in 337 amendments being made to the bill. It is not a great leap forward to guess that had the inquiry had more time to consider the WorkChoices bill it probably would have recommended that the whole thing be scrapped.

The ACT Minister for Industrial Relations joined every other state and territory minister in appearing before that committee—an extraordinary display of unity amongst state and territory ministers, the like of which experienced Democrats senator Andrew Murray commented he had never seen before in his time as a senator—to condemn the WorkChoices legislation.

Minister Gallagher pointed out the negative impact that these changes will have in the ACT, changes which will come into effect from commencement in the territory. The ACT has the highest female work force participation rate in the country, of which we are particularly proud. However, one of the most worrying aspects of these reforms is the impact that they will have on working women.

A clear driver of these reforms is John Howard’s ideological obsession with placing people on individual contracts. Recent studies show that only some eight per cent of the AWAs registered to date have provision for paid maternity leave, that women on AWAs earn on average $5.10 an hour less than men, and that women covered by collective agreements have an hourly wage rate 11 per cent above women on registered individual contracts. Research also suggests that secret contracts offer less flexibility for work-family balance and provide less job satisfaction. Ms Gallagher emphasised to the inquiry how such research showed that the basic principles behind WorkChoices were flawed.

A joint submission by 151 academics to the Senate inquiry into WorkChoices stated:

Individual contracts such as AWAs represent a weakening of the bargaining power of employees and those with little bargaining power have difficulty in integrating work and family responsibilities. This applies particularly to women in part-time and casual work, and adversely affects equal pay.

A report prepared by Dr Barbara Pocock for the Victorian government on the impact of WorkChoices on working families concluded that AWAs on the whole are not family friendly and their promotion by the federal government is a retrograde step for workers and their families. Women, part-time and casual workers fare especially badly under AWAs. Dr Pocock’s research showed that only 12 per cent of the AWAs registered between 1995 and 2000 had any work and family provisions, only 25 per cent had family or carers leave and only eight per cent had paid paternity leave. To make matters worse, some 58 per cent of the workers on AWAs are denied long service leave and the majority of AWAs lack penalty rates.

Further, the federal government’s recently released document entitled “Work and family—the importance of workplace flexibility in promoting balance between work and

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