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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 11 Hansard (Thursday, 15 November 2007) . . Page.. 3426 ..

but these agreements give workers an ability—it is particularly pertinent in the full employment situation now—to sit down and come up with conditions that suit them; conditions that suit what they want to do and suit their ambitions. That is a far more sensible way of working out how things should work in the workplace than having things arbitrarily handed to people from a union.

Funnily enough, even your own party seems, to a slight extent, to have realised that. I go back to a case—not Dollar Sweets; I always get the name wrong. There was a case in Victoria involving a factory. They had a choice in the late 1980s—probably in the recession we had to have; Mr Keating’s recession we had to have. Either the factory was going to lose 10 per cent of its workforce, because it simply could not continue and it would go under if something was not done, or the workers would have to agree to a different type of arrangement. The case went to court.

Mr Barr: Ten per cent pay cut.

MR STEFANIAK: They did. They actually took a pay cut to keep their mates in employment. And guess what happened: the company survived. About one or two years down the track, the company started making some very good profits; the workers were rewarded accordingly and ended up with more money in their pockets than if nothing had happened. Everyone was very happy indeed. That was the start of some sensible reforms which occurred in labour law, and it has been well and truly enhanced over 11 years by a very competent federal government.

What would you lot prefer? You would prefer, for the sake of blind ideology, to have 10 per cent of workers actually lose their jobs than to have some adjustment made—maybe everyone taking a tiny pay cut while a company gets its act together, the situation improving and then the workers benefiting when the company survives. That is the true Australian spirit; that is true egalitarianism; that is looking after your mates. To accept a situation where 10 per cent of workers lose their jobs simply because of a restricted artificial industrial relations system—which is something that certainly did happen; it happened in the 1970s, in the 1980s—

Mr Barr: It is possibly the case that, if the chief executive had taken a five per cent pay cut, everyone would have been fine.

Mr Pratt: That’s okay. Unemployed comrades are better than none at all.

MR SPEAKER: Order! Mr Pratt. Order! Mr Barr.

MR STEFANIAK: That is totally unrealistic. I know what the average worker would think in relation to that. I make that comment in relation to this interesting report by the Assembly in terms of working families in the Australian Capital Territory.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (11.07), in reply: I thank members for their contribution to this debate on the report of the Select Committee on Working Families in the Australian Capital Territory. I thank Dr Foskey for her comments.

It is clearly a point of difference between the federal Labor and Liberal parties in this up-and-coming election, and I do not think it matters what Mr Hockey has said today.

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