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Monday, 18 November 1996
Page: 5385

Senator COONEY(1.35 p.m.) —I want to say a few things about this. I am glad to see Senator Murray is supporting the opposition and the Greens (WA) on this. I think when he does support us we ought to give him some thanks for that, because he has been getting a fair deal of stick, if I can use that expression, Senator Murray, and they are often difficult decisions to make.

Listening to what Senator Lundy and Senator Conroy said, this is one of the big issues in this legislation. It is a problem that has been growing for years. There are cases such as the Odco case. That was a very prominent case and one you will remember. May I say just as a passing reference that it was the first case my son, Sean, ever instructed in. It was wrong, because he was on the losing side. I always thought the bench was a bit astray there.

I understand the government's position on this. This legislation moves further along the line of industrial legislation in this country being supported more by provisions in the constitution other than that which refers to the settlement of interstate disputes. For example, it relies more on the corporations power. If you were to give independent contractors—they are vulnerable, for the reasons that have been given already—protection under this act, would that not be more consistent with the underlying constitutional bases this act will now have than has previously been the case? In other words, would not giving protection to independent contractors be more consistent with the way this act is going?

Why is the government not taking this opportunity that is now presented to it by shifting to new bases for the legislation to look after independent contractors, who in very many cases are in identical positions to that of employees—except for very fine lines drawn, usually as a matter of evidence, trying to distinguish between employees and independent contractors.