Page 3427 - Week 11 - Thursday, 15 November 2007

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Mark my words: if the Liberals are returned, there will be an even bigger attack on workers and unions in Australia over their next term in government.

Mr Stefaniak started off by saying that only 14 people had appeared before the committee. Mr Stefaniak, just on one workplace visit we had more than 40 people at the Canberra Hospital. We did many of those. And, of course, the people that presented before the committee were representative of thousands of workers and families in the ACT.

Mr Mulcahy: Twenty thousand?

MR GENTLEMAN: I said “thousands”. In dismissing the recommendations of the report, Mrs Burke clearly shows her ignorance of the plight of working families. The derogatory comments made by Mrs Burke and her colleagues in response to the tabling of the report of the select committee on working families are hardly surprising. We need only look at Mrs Burke’s handling of the company Endoxos, which she was involved in a few years back. The history of what transpired in that company and how the decisions Mrs Burke made impacted on the employees are a disgrace.

Mr Mulcahy: Point of order, Mr Speaker: I think that Mr Gentleman is straying significantly from the committee’s report on working families. I do not believe that Mrs Burke’s affairs prior to entering parliament were the subject of any discussion or evidence before that committee.

MR GENTLEMAN: On the point of order, Mr Speaker, I think what I say in the debate will give background as to why Mrs Burke has dissented from the committee’s report.

Mr Mulcahy: Mr Speaker, that is really drawing a long bow—attributing motive to a member’s actions along those lines and then trying to tie it into a matter that was not in any way related to the performance of her parliamentary duties.

MR SPEAKER: Leaving aside what Mr Gentleman said, this is about a point of order that you have raised. This is about an issue of industrial relations; the mention of companies that have had particular industrial relations policies is relevant.

MR GENTLEMAN: Thank you, Mr Speaker. It can hardly be seen as an endorsement of a champion for workers’ rights, Mrs Burke. It is not surprising that Mrs Burke has slammed the work of the select committee, given the effect her family company’s decision had on the families of their employees.

Mrs Burke claims that the draft recommendations are no longer relevant and are in danger of being overtaken by events, with a federal election now imminent. Does this mean that she accepts that a Labor win at the 2007 federal election will result in a federal Labor government throwing out this dreadful legislation? Or will we see three more years of Liberal-led government that will ensure another round of workplace reform, shattering any remaining rights that workers have?

Let me go to a recent Canberra Times article about Paul and Kate, who have been Liberal voters and say that they have been pretty happy with the Liberals. They are now voting Labor, purely because of the WorkChoices legislation. Paul stated:

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