Page 765 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 29 March 2006

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Industrial relations

MR MULCAHY: My question is directed to the Minister for Industrial Relations. I refer to the Chief Minister’s announcement on 2 March of this year that the ACT government will intervene in the High Court challenge being brought by the states against the federal government’s work choices legislation. If this action is still proceeding, how much has it cost so far? What is the total cost expected to be?

MS GALLAGHER: I do not have the exact detail of the cost, but I am happy to take that part of the question on notice and provide the answer to the Assembly. It is important for the ACT that we take this step and intervene in the High Court proceedings. We are challenging the laws and the use of the territory’s power to override ACT legislation here. We will see how our case goes.

This legislation will have an impact on the community here in the ACT. The ACT government, along with every other state and territory, is opposed to these laws. We have not been consulted on the development of the bill. We were not given details of the bill until it was introduced into the parliament. We received the 400 pages of the regulations the same day that the media did, giving the detail of how these laws would operate. In fact, I had written to the federal minister seeking advice from him about when these laws would come into effect. It seemed very odd that, after the introduction of, I guess, his greatest piece of work—work choices—he was not telling anyone when his laws would start.

We, here in the territory, were in the position of having the laws come into effect straight away. For some reason, the federal industrial relations minister was refusing to tell us when the laws would come into effect. We were going on rumour. We had a phone hook-up—officials in the ACT government with commonwealth officials—in which they said they were not in a position to tell us when the laws would come into effect. It seemed rather odd—after all the hype, the millions of dollars worth of advertising and our being told how wonderful these laws were—that the commonwealth government could not indicate to us when they would commence these laws. We now find out through the media that they came into effect on Monday.

The way that the work choices legislation has been handled is a real slap in the face to people here in the territory by the federal government—the drafting and the introduction of the bill, and the drafting and the tabling of the regulations. The fact that the federal government refused to talk to us on any single occasion about how this law would affect the ACT, or listen to how the ACT government, as a democratically elected government, felt about these laws—the fact that they would not do any of those and that they just steamrolled them through—is a real slap in the face.

Those opposite are still smiling that it is in place. I am sure they would be smiling if Mr Bollard came and saw them this afternoon and talked them through his particular situation! They might get an understanding of what these laws will do to ordinary working people here in the territory when our children get jobs and work under the new legislative framework. It might be very nice for Mr Mulcahy to think that this is the way the landscape should look, but we do not agree with that. We do not agree to the point that we, along with the other states and territories, have decided to take High Court

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