Page 4844 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 14 December 2005

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the structure of legislation, is about covering all cases. A lot of it is targeted at the lowest common denominator.

The facile statements that if you object to this legislation you are painting all employers as bad and all employers as pernicious are not the case. Each of us knows of employers that have been poor employers at some time. We know of employers that have a bad record in treating their staff, and it has been necessary to have a framework to support those people that were impacted upon by those employers that have little respect for their employees.

The legislation that has recently been introduced lessens the protection and the conditions that are available to those vulnerable workers and leaves—not all employees, but the ones that really need it—a structure in place so that there will be a decent place for them to work; otherwise the employer would demonstrate their total irresponsibility and lack of consideration for their employees, treat them badly and end up in industrial disputation with them. It happens from time to time; it certainly does. Therefore our concern, and my concern, is not about the bulk of employers. Enlightened employers know that you get better productivity if you have a decent relationship with your employees. Most employers know that, but not all of them know that.

Mr Mulcahy: And there are rogue employees.

MR QUINLAN: Yes. From time to time there are very poor records, even in this town, Mr Mulcahy. That is our concern. Our concern is to ensure that there is protection for all, not just the majority. We know the majority are going to be okay.

The other thing I might say is that a number of employer organisations have said, “We do not need all those protections there because we look after our employees; otherwise we would lose them. We do not want to lose them in these times of full employment.” There will not always be full employment. Despite all this great work that Howard and Costello have done, there will not always be full employment. If there happens to be a downturn in purchases, particularly by China, we will feel that; we will feel that keenly.

We need a process in place that lasts for all time. We need legislation for all seasons. We need legislation that will stand by the workers in good times and in bad. We need protections that will protect workers who work for good employers, and, unfortunately, we want legislation that protects workers who work for bad employers. We have to structure at the lowest common denominator to ensure that. That is the argument we are trying to put forward.

It is facile in the extreme to be saying, “Most employers are okay, so we will not have any protections. Most employers will look after their workers, so we will not have any legislative conditions.” Not all employers are decent people; not all employees are decent people. There needs to be a balance, but we still have to look at, I am afraid, the lowest common denominator.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo) (4.05): My colleagues have put the case very forcefully but I would add a few things. I speak with a sense of deja vu. I remember doing something similar not long ago. There have been a few motions similar to this brought before this

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