Page 4813 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 14 December 2005

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family” admits that 84 per cent of the federal certified agreements contain at least one family-friendly or flexible-hours provision, with half containing two. These agreements covered 94 per cent of all employees under federal certified agreements. In short, the current system is slowly addressing the need for family-friendly provisions in the workplace agreements. A dramatic shift to secret individual agreements not only is not necessary but also will have a detrimental effect.

Ms Gallagher also emphasised to the committee that the ACT was very much a small business jurisdiction. With the vast majority of our workers in businesses of less than 100 employees, the federal government has effectively stripped ACT workers of their rights to unfair dismissal action.

Mr Speaker, the ACT government will closely monitor the impact of WorkChoices and will do what it can to mitigate its effect in the ACT. I believe that Mr Gentleman’s work and family select committee will be a particularly valuable tool in shining a light on the darkest parts of the labour market where unscrupulous employers, and we have ample example of that across the chamber, are most likely to take advantage of Howard’s deregulated and employer controlled labour market.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.14): I certainly support Mr Gentleman’s motion. I would like to express some disappointment in this debate, for there are several points that the Labor Party is yet to pick up. There are many reasons that the Labor Party is opposed to the restructuring of employment regulation. Whilst some of them may be based, as Mr Mulcahy has predictably said, on the presumed self-interest of Labor politicians and union officials, it is a facile interpretation of the labour movement to presume that this self-interest is the underlying reason for the very strong resistance to the federal government’s WorkChoices legislation.

Any fair-minded and intelligent observer would acknowledge that there are real concerns with the consequences of an entirely bendable work employment environment—and we know who will get to do the bending of this workplace environment—and that those people most likely to suffer damaging consequences from these changes will be those with the least bargaining power, with the lowest level of education and with the least resources of affluence or community organisations behind them.

In that context, I believe that it serves Australia well that the Australian Labor Party, perhaps because it had no choice, has spoken out strongly against this legislation and has made a public commitment to unpick much of this new regime should it ever regain power. I think it assists Australian democracy enormously if the ALP does have a discernible identity and if it can be seen to be standing up for a set of values for a view of a kind of Australia that it would like to support. If actions do indeed speak louder than words, and they do, then never have we witnessed such a Tweedledum and tweedledumber performance by a Labor opposition which seems to be falling over itself to make itself indistinguishable from the government that purportedly it is in opposition to. The ALP has chosen industrial relations to make a stand, and in this the Greens do support it.

That leads us to the more frightening and antidemocratic component of that raft of legislation which we have seen brought in and passed by two houses in which the coalition has a majority—17 pieces of legislation. One of the last to go through was the

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