Page 260 - Week 01 - Thursday, 16 February 2006

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basis of employment, how much employees are paid and whether they are members of the union that the officials think the employees should belong to. The government should not embody this special interest privilege for union officials in legislation; nor should they embody it for employer organisations as well. It is an inappropriate extension, an intrusion into the workplace.

The information contained in certificates of currency for compulsory insurance policies should only be a matter between the employer, who is paying for the insurance, the insurer, who hopefully covers the risk, and an authorised inspector, who is responsible for checking on compliance. It is not appropriate for certificates of currency to be inspected by union officials, because clearly such a provision in the bill has absolutely nothing to do with workplace safety. It is all about giving information to unions to increase their influence and bargaining clout. Of course the real agenda here is keeping track on contractors as opposed to employed labour. It is regrettable that the government is partisan on this matter, and they ought to rethink their position on this particular aspect of the legislation.

In the interest of fair and impartial governance, I urge members to support the amendment. The minister has previewed the government’s position on this, but it is very important that on the public record it be made quite clear that the Liberal opposition will have no bar of a measure of this nature that is designed to reinforce intimidatory tactics by union officials which we continue to see in this country and which, hopefully, over a period of time will diminish as more and more people in this city realise that their interests are not well served by union officials. There is now as little as 18 per cent membership; most of those will be in the public sector.

As I have said in this place before, unions do have a role to play. Many of the current leaders have lost track of their real duties and their obligations and, as a result, people are finding them increasingly less relevant. Whilst they may be propping up our colleagues opposite and providing the direction that they have to adhere to, most people in Canberra realise that arming union officials with these powers is not something they will warm to. Over time that message will continue to be heard louder and louder in this city.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (5.04): On behalf of Ms Gallagher, I indicate that the government will not be supporting this amendment, but I am sure Mr Mulcahy feels better for having made those comments. The opposition’s proposal is to remove subsection (c) from proposed new section 161 which removes these words “an industrial union of workers representing the worker employed by the employer” from the definition of “authorised persons” for the purposes of the certificates of currency scheme. This means that a worker’s representative would not have the right to request that an employer produce a certificate of currency.

The government believes that unions have a legitimate interest in ensuring that their members have access to workers compensation and that their members are covered by an appropriate workers compensation insurance policy. That is why we believe that unions should have the right to inspect this material.

Having unions involved in addition to inspectors and employers or principals will make a significant contribution to supporting higher levels of compliance with this part of the legislation. And we have already seen this. Already having union representees acting as

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