Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 13 Hansard (Thursday, 12 November 2009) . . Page.. 4944 ..
MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (11.49): Sorry about that; I thought that Ms Hunter adjourned the bill and therefore had the call. It was a bit confusing the last time this was debated.
The Canberra Liberals opposition will not be supporting the Long Service Leave (Community Sector) Amendment Bill 2009. It is not because the bill itself is in any way lacking; the bill itself is sound and is based on the already existing legislation for the cleaning and construction industries. It is not even because of the principle of a portable long service leave scheme for the community sector; it is a worthy principle. It is the underpinning implementation processes and the ongoing management and administration of the scheme that are flawed, and they are flawed in a number of aspects.
Before those opposite start moaning that this is opposition for opposition’s sake or it is somehow anti-worker, let me say two very simple things. First, I have listened to the concerns of the community sector and its peak advocacy bodies. Second, this bill has potential to create the exact opposite of its intended purpose. It has the potential to stifle attempts to attract and retain staff in the community sector. The bill seeks to establish a mandatory portable long service leave scheme for the community sector, similar to those operating in the cleaning and construction industry, to operate from 1 July 2010.
The former minister, in promoting the scheme for the community sector, claimed that the community sector is no different from the construction or the cleaning industries. I hope that the new minister will not be so naive. But just in case, here is some news for the day: the community sector is different; it is very different from the construction and cleaning industries.
Firstly, the sector includes both not-for-profit and for-profit organisations covering an extraordinary range of specialist services and activities. Secondly, many of the people who work in the sector work in quite specialised fields and disciplines and have quite specific and specialised qualifications in those fields. Accordingly, they are less portable than many of us might think.
Thirdly, many of the people who work in the sector do it because they want to work with people and they want to work in their specialised fields and disciplines. They develop relationships, often long-term ones, and they work to maintain those relationships. This makes them less portable.
Fourthly, many not-for-profit organisations have to operate on the smell of an oily rag, and, as such, cash flow for them is a hand-to-mouth balancing act. Fifthly, the community sector organisations are price takers, not price makers. Their business structures are often such that, unlike in the commercial sector or the building or cleaning industries, they cannot simply increase their costs and pass them on to the end user. They have to find ways of absorbing those costs within their organisation.
This will mean one or more strategies, such as reduced staffing levels, reduced services or even more modest accommodation. Finally, many not-for-profit