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Wednesday, 29 September 1999
Page: 10946


Mr BEVIS (5:56 PM) —I will endeavour to make this my last contribution in this bracket of amendments to the Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment (More Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 1999 . I say one thing only about the tally circumstance, and that is that the commission decision which the minister has sought to put an interpretation on in the course of this week is actually not a final decision. They have sought further submissions. The matters on which they have sought further submissions include a bonus structure. It will be interesting to see what the final determination of the commission is. When the final determination of the commission is available, we might find the minister less cocky than he was earlier this week in question time.

There are two or three additional matters that I do need to address. One is the decision this government took, along with its insane propositions about jury service and defence leave, in its 1996 legislation, which we are seeking to amend here, to remove leave for people to donate blood. As with jury service, the operations of the Red Cross blood service are fundamental to the way in which our community functions, yet the government decided to make it harder for ordinary men and women to donate blood to the Red Cross. Not surprisingly, the Australian Red Cross blood service have been moved to make a submission to the Senate inquiry they are so concerned about what has occurred. In their submission they say that, since the removal of this provision from awards, blood collections have fallen in comparison to last year's figures by 2.4 per cent in New South Wales, 4.7 per cent in Queensland and 8.4 per cent in the ACT.

Two years ago this government decided to abolish leave for people to give blood, and as a result—surprise, surprise—fewer people are now giving blood. The Red Cross pinpoints that as one of the key contributing factors in the drop in the number of people who are now providing blood to the blood bank. What an absurd decision for any government to take. Why would you do it? You would do it only for the crassest of political reasons that only this minister and this government could devise. We seek in our amendments to restore some commonsense in that.

The other amendments here touch broadly on the question of how workers have their conditions protected. One of the themes that runs through this government's industrial relations legislation is its desire to reduce minimum conditions, to reduce the role of the umpire and to force workers onto individual contracts. I want to make an observation about individual contracts. There may be opportunity later to make a few more comments. In relation to individual contracts, I want to quote from some people who might surprise the government in this respect. There is a quite worthwhile publication simply titled Workplace Relations Act 1996. It was penned by Joe Catanzariti and Mark Baragwanath. These two gentlemen are well respected in the industrial relations field. Mr Catanzariti is a partner in the law firm Clayton Utz, not normally renowned for its support of left-wing causes. Mr Baragwanath was a solicitor there and he is now a lecturer in the field of industrial relations. In their book on the 1996 legislation, they talk about what happens when you have individual contracts and when you do not have the protection of collective bargaining. They say this:

In a situation where the agreement is with an individual employee, that employee has virtually no bargaining power.

The minister stood here and said that the government is on about allowing workers and employers to negotiate their conditions fairly without interruption. He knows, and everyone in the country knows, that what Catanzariti and Baragwanath say is the case. In fact, when this system was established and when the Harvester judgment came down in 1907, Justice Higgins actually commented that the contract entered into under those arrangements was the same as the contract between the sheep and the wolf—and we know who the wolf is. The simple fact of life is that, without the protection that the Industrial Relations Commission and the umpire afford, workers left by themselves to negotiate their own conditions are left in a very parlous state. These amendments we have moved we strongly support. They restore some decency to the rights of workers to have collective agreements. They restore some decency to the award system and allow the Industrial Relations Commission the independence to go about its work unhampered by this government. (Time expired)

Amendments negatived.