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Wednesday, 29 September 1999
Page: 10960

Mr BEVIS (7:07 PM) —by leave—I move opposition amendments Nos 7 to 10 and 41 to 56:

(7) Schedule 2, after item 3, page 7 (after line 16) insert

3A Subsection 4(1) (definition of Employment Advocate )

Repeal the definition.

(8) Schedule 2, item 18, page 9 (line 27) to page 10 (line 7), omit the item.

(9) Schedule 3, item 1, page 43, (lines 5 and 6) omit the item, substitute:

1. Part IVA

Repeal the Part.

(10) Schedule 3, after item 7, page 44 (after line 4) add

8 Paragraph 298T(2)(d)

Repeal the paragraph, substitute:

"(d) the Commission; or".

(41) Schedule 8, item 59, page 126 (lines 7 to 19), omit the item.

(42) Schedule 8, after item 73, page 130 (after line 15) insert:

73A Section 170X (definition of designated award )

Omit the definition, substitute:

" designated award , in relation to a person to whom an agreement will apply, means an award that the Commission, under section 170XE or under section 170EF has determined to be appropriate for the purpose of deciding whether the agreement passes the no-disadvantage test;".

(43) Schedule 8, after item 73, page 130 (after line 15) insert:

73B Section 170XA

Omit "the Employment Advocate or".

(44) Schedule 8, after item 73, page 130 (after line 15) insert:

73C Section 170XE

Omit "the Employment Advocate" (twice occurring), substitute "the Commission".

(45) Schedule 9, page 133-169, omit "Employment Advocate" (wherever occurring), substitute "Commission".

(46) Schedule 9, item 1, page 144 (line 28) to page 145 (line 25) omit section 170VD.

(47) Schedule 9, item 16, page 167 (lines 5 and 6), omit the item, substitute:

"16 Subsection 170WI(1)

(1) The Commission may issue a verified copy of any document filed with, or issued or approved by, the Commission under this Part. The verified copy may only be issued to a person who is or was a party to the AWA or ancillary document to which the verified copy relates.".

(48) Schedule 9, after item 17, page 167 (lines 7 and 8), omit the item, substitute:

"17 Subsection 170WI(2)

Omit "Employment Advocate", substitute "Commission.".

(49) Schedule 9, item 17, page 167, after line 8, omit the item, insert:

17A Paragraph 170WI(2)(b)

Omit "Employment Advocate or".

(50) Schedule 9, item 18, page 167 (lines 9 and 10), omit the item, substitute:

18 Subsection 170WI(3)

Omit "Employment Advocate" (twice occurring), substitute "Commission".

(51) Schedule 9, item 19, page 167 (lines 11 and 12), omit the item.

(52) Schedule 9, after item 22, page 167 (after line 24), insert:

22A Section 170WKA

Omit ", the Employment Advocate".

(53) Schedule 9, after item 22, page 167 (after line 24) insert:

22B Section 170WL

Omit "the Employment Advocate", substitute "the Commission".

(54) Schedule 9, after item 22, page 167 (after line 24) insert:

22C Section 170X

Omit "Employment Advocate", substitute "Commission".

(55) Schedule 9, after item 22, page 167 (after line 24) insert:

22D Section 170XA

Omit "the Employment Advocate or."

(56) Schedule 9, after item 22, page 167 (after line 24) insert:

22E Section 170XE

Omit "Employment Advocate", substitute "Commission".

These amendments deal with the abolition of the Office of the Employment Advocate. The Office of the Employment Advocate was presented by this government, prior to their election to office, as a vehicle through which individual workers could gain protection in the workplace. It was supposed to be the place workers could go if they thought their employer was not doing the right thing by them. In fact, the government's policy document even referred to the fact that it would have special concern for those in disadvantaged circumstances, those from non-English speaking backgrounds, women, and those in our community who generally do less well in industrial relations.

Now that we have had the office running for a few years, it is absolutely clear that they have done precious little of that. What they have done is expend a considerable amount of money, resources and human effort in endeavouring to undermine collective agreements. They have gone from work site to work site encouraging workers to leave unions, they have gone from work site to work site encouraging people to sign AWAs, and they have gone from work site to work site encouraging people to leave awards and agreements and to move into what is the minister's preferred model. But outside of this minister and the current caretaker Premier of Victoria there are not too many people in Australia who are attracted to those AWAs.

It might be useful to look at the operations of the OEA as explained by some practitioners in submissions to the Senate inquiry. A statutory declaration submitted by the Transport Workers Union sheds a bit of light on what happens on the ground. It refers to a union campaign to recruit people during the course of which they came across an employee of the Employment Advocate. The statutory declaration reads, in part:

I understand that soon after the programme had commenced a person whom I now know as Mr. Tim Mohr, an Employment Advocate, arrived at the On Line depot. Tim Mohr stayed for the duration of the five hours. During this period of time I spoke to many truck drivers some of whom had flagrantly broken driving hours, and some of whom also were driving vehicles that would be considered to be defective.

I observed during this time Tim Mohr took photographs of both myself and other officials whilst we were carrying out our duties. On one occasion I spoke to a driver who had been driving shockingly excessive hours and I requested that Tim Mohr come down and discuss the matter with myself and the driver. I told Mr. Mohr that the driver had worked some 16 (sixteen) hours straight and I asked Mr. Mohr `What are you going to do about it? '

Mr. Mohr said he was not doing anything about it at all and in fact it had nothing to do with him. The only duty he had to perform was `freedom of association'. He was not interested in any other matter.

Mr Cameron Thompson —Hear, hear!

Mr BEVIS —And we get `Hear, hear!' from the government benches in response to that. The statutory declaration goes on:

Approximately half an hour later I noticed a truck with tyres that appeared to be bald and defective. I again called on Tim Mohr and asked what he would do about it, but he replied again that it had nothing to do with him and that he was only there to see that freedom of association was carried out.

I stated to Mohr that his work description must be very narrow and he would not have much work to perform.

That paragraph in the statutory declaration continues:

It was quite obvious to me that the appointed `Employment Advocates' were not there to assist workers to do wage claims or offer any assistance . . . but were purely there for the purpose of persecuting union officials and current union members, and to ensure that workers were to be excluded from trade unions.

There is a statutory declaration that sets out what happens in real life, where the Employment Advocate had had drawn to his attention the illegal operations in the trucking industry and not only refused to take any action on it but pointed out to the Transport Workers Union official who raised it with him that that was none of his concern. That in fact was the honest answer from the Employment Advocate, because the truth is that the Employment Advocate has not, at any time, been about protecting individual workers in the way it was portrayed. The Employment Advocate has been and is the industrial police force for this government's political campaigns. It is an abhorrent office that has failed any reasonable test of equity and it should be abolished. (Time expired)