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Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Page: 5053

Mr HAWKER (9:42 AM) —Today I want to highlight a petition that has been collected in my electorate by two young school students, Leticia Harrison and Matthew Spencer from Terang.

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition from students who lost their work after school at the Terang Home Timber and Hardware Store and other citizens of South West Victoria draws to the attention of the House of Representatives the decision of the Rudd Government to introduce a National Retail Award requiring a three hour minimum of work each day leading to the loss of work by students after school at the Terang Home Timber and Hardware Store and across Victoria.

We therefore ask the House of Representatives to call on the Rudd Government to support changes to the National Retail Award which would allow an employer to employ after school employees for less than 3 hours where the employee agrees and where business circumstances require.

They have been put in the awful position of having taken on after-school work at the Terang Co-Op only to be told that, because of Labor’s new awards which forbid anyone to work for less than three hours, they, along with a number of other people, have lost their jobs. Frankly, I find it extraordinary that we have a government that is now setting about quite deliberately to stop young students getting work experience. There is no excuse for it. It seems that Labor do not care two hoots about young people who are trying to better themselves by getting work experience after school. All Labor do is toady to the union bosses who say that there has to be a minimum of three hours work.

This petition, which has over 1,600 signatures, has been collected by these two young students—and good on them. They have been working very closely with the Liberal candidate for Wannon, Dan Tehan, who has been helping them in a number of ways to try and highlight the problem. The Prime Minister said on 2 February when this issue was raised:

… the Office of Fair Work will have their officers speak with the employer and the young people later today. We’ll try and work it through …

He went on to say:

… we also want to have a fair and balanced system which has got flexibility attached to it. That’s why … the Office of Fair Work, will have its officers deal with these folk, employer, employees, and see what we can work out.

That was in February and nothing has happened. There is a hearing, which will hopefully report at the end of this week. But these young people have not even been spoken to. This is absolutely outrageous. But what is extraordinary is that—surprise, surprise—as soon as this matter was raised, the Terang hardware store, the employer of these young people, was hit with a complete audit to search for breaches of the store’s regulations. Unbelievably, the media knew about this before the manager of the store. It is just such an extraordinary coincidence, and I think it speaks volumes about the way in which this Labor government works when it comes to helping young people and, more importantly, working with small business.

A survey by the Australian Retailers Association has found that almost 40 per cent of retailers will stop employing students to work after-school shifts and almost 20 per cent will stop employing them altogether. I have many examples in my electorate and I think it is an absolute scandal. Clearly, Labor’s claim that no worker will be worse off is an insult. In fact, Labor is all talk and no action. I commend these young people for getting this petition together. I have great pleasure in tabling it because I believe it highlights the real injustice that has occurred under this Labor government.