Page 259 - Week 01 - Thursday, 16 February 2006

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Workers Compensation Amendment Bill 2005 (No 2)

Detail stage

Debate resumed.

The bill.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (4.59): I move amendment No 1 circulated in my name [see schedule 1 at page 281]. The effect of this amendment is to remove the union representative as an authorised person to inspect certificates of currency for compulsory insurance policies held by an employer with an insurer. The bill, as it stands, makes information obtained in certificates of currency available to union officials, thereby entrenching the problem of union right of entry to a workplace.

The minister earlier today said that she had never heard of a problem with this, but in fact there are celebrated examples of which I am aware from various parts of Australia. The location has little bearing on the fact that it is a practice that can be misused. In fact I am aware that, in one section of the hotel industry, officials of the Miscellaneous Workers Union started turning up at hotels and going into the guests’ bedrooms whilst they were assigned to particular guests, on the pretext of wanting to talk to their employees, the housekeepers, in their place of employment.

This illustrates the heavy-handed approach of the unions. It is always about the housekeepers in hospitality because often it is people from other countries—and we hear this speech about multiculturalism—that seem to gravitate to those jobs. They are new to Australia; they take that sort of work; and of course it is easier to intimidate people who have a limited command of the English language and who are not as familiar with the circumstances in Australia.

Mr Corbell: It is easier to take advantage of them, too, Mr Mulcahy.

MR MULCAHY: The minister talks about taking advantage of them. It has certainly been my observation, in the hotels to which I am referring, which are some of the major chains in Australia, that those people were very well taken care of.

Of course it is always easy to put pressure on people when union officials turn up. We saw that with some of the celebrated characters from the Miscellaneous Workers Union in Sydney. Mr John Morris, the man they call the silent senator, who spent an entire career in the Senate without much of an utterance at all, would come down to Canberra in his union capacity and turn up at the steps of the Hyatt Hotel in Canberra and drag the housekeepers out and tell them that he was looking after their interests.

There are many examples I have observed where right of entry has been misused. It is lamentable that this government wants to continue in that vein with this aspect of its legislation in what otherwise is a sensible bill. I reiterate that the government has caved in to it is union paymasters on this issue.

The purpose of giving union officials the status of authorised person at subsection 161 (4) (c) is to give them carte blanche to get hold of details of who is employed, the

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