Page 3256 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 17 September 2013

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that, without an increase to the percentage that I announced in the last week or so, the board would increasingly face challenges in meeting and paying the entitlements of workers as they fell due.

It would be negligent of me and of the government if we allowed the fund to be in a situation where workers were not able to be paid their long service leave entitlements. That is why the government has taken the steps that it has taken, because that does guarantee that workers’ entitlements will be paid as they fall due. That is the right and proper thing to do, based on the clear and detailed advice both of the board and of the actuaries that advise the board.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mr Smyth.

MR SMYTH: Minister, at a time when the construction industry is considered to be slowing, why are you increasing costs for businesses, and should you not be encouraging employment instead of putting up barriers to it?

MR CORBELL: I can just imagine the outcry from those opposite if workers were not paid their entitlements when they fell due if the fund was not able to finance and pay their entitlements.

Mr Coe: Companies are going bust right across Canberra.

MR CORBELL: So that is all right, is it? Workers can lose out on their entitlements? Is that your position, through you, Madam Speaker?

Quite frankly, the government has adopted a reasonable and staged approach to this. The government did stage the increase. The government staged the recommended increase over a period of close to two years. It did not do it all in one hit, it did it in two stages. It did it in two stages, to recognise the fact that industry did need time to adapt. But at the same time, we are not going to allow construction workers in this town to not be paid their long service leave entitlements because those opposite think it is too much.

The fact is that these workers have accrued their entitlements over periods, often, of two to three decades, and they are entitled to be assured that when they call on those entitlements they will be paid. And let us be very clear about the current economic circumstances. If there is a downturn in the construction industry, that means there are fewer people working in the construction industry.

What will those workers who have accrued their long service leave entitlements do? They will go and access their entitlements. We have already seen advice from the board that there is an uptake in the level of access to the entitlements that workers have under the long service leave scheme, and that puts more pressure on the fund. We must make sure the fund is in a position to pay workers’ entitlements. That is the right and proper thing to do.

MADAM SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Mr Wall.

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