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Thursday, 12 May 1994
Page: 755

Senator TIERNEY —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment, Education and Training. It refers to concerns that employers participating in the jobs compact will be subject to the unfair dismissal provisions in the new industrial relations legislation. Today it is reported in the Canberra Times that Mr Crean stated that he is not able to alter the legislation, but hopes that employers will be able to work around the problem. I ask the minister to explain exactly how the unfair dismissal provisions will apply to the training wage and to the jobs compact and what does `working around the problem' actually mean?

Senator SCHACHT —I am not surprised that the opposition has raised this issue. There has been a lot of scaremongering by the opposition on this issue since the new industrial relations legislation went through. In particular, the opposition has been campaigning amongst businesses big and small in the community and saying that the unfair dismissal arrangements make it impossible to dismiss an employee for unsatisfactory performance and so on. That is not the case in the legislation. I would ask the opposition to be reasonably responsible, if not completely responsible, in not putting that out because it is, unfortunately, having an effect.

  I would point out that, as Mr Crean has announced, the training wage and the employment compact will be within award conditions. The award conditions are subject to the provisions of the industrial relations legislation. I have not seen the article in the Canberra Times. I believe Mr Crean's remarks would be referring to what I have already said, and that is that we would hope that employers would not be misled by the opposition's campaign in which it is saying that the new industrial relations legislation makes it impossible for employers to dismiss unsatisfactory employees. That is not the case. Sensible people in the opposition know that, and I call on the opposition to desist from putting that misinformation around.

Senator TIERNEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Perhaps Mr Crean is putting around a bit of disinformation because what he said today contradicts what he said on Tuesday. I point out that in the Herald-Sun on Tuesday the minister confirmed that the unfair dismissal provisions would apply. Yet today in the Canberra Times he says that he hopes employers will be able to work around the problem. Which of Mr Crean's statements is correct; Tuesday's or Thursday's?

Senator SCHACHT —I do not see any contradiction in either of those two statements in the way Senator Tierney quoted them. As I said in my original answer, Mr Crean was saying that we want people such as Senator Tierney to desist from creating a perception that it is difficult for employers to dismiss unsatisfactory employees. There is no contradiction. Senator Tierney quoted quite selectively to me. It is just part of his unfortunate campaign to create angst amongst employers and to create a perception that it is difficult.