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Wednesday, 17 August 2005
Page: 17

Senator MINCHIN (Minister for Finance and Administration) (10:37 AM) —I apologise for Senator Patterson’s absence. She has had to depart. I will briefly respond on behalf of the government to the contributions made. I thank and support Senator Murray for his clear support for AWAs. At least we know that the Democrats do support the right of individuals to be employed under AWAs. It is always difficult to work out exactly where the formal opposition—that is, the Labor Party—stand on AWAs. They send mixed messages. At least the Democrats’ position is clear, but I am disappointed that that support for AWAs is not sufficiently strong to enable the Democrats to support this particular provision in this bill and that they will be joining with the confused opposition in opposing it.

All I can do is restate that I think the opposition is misplaced. I think it perfectly reasonable and certainly not extreme for the government to require TAFEs simply to offer their staff the option of an AWA. TAFEs should be doing that anyway. It would be pretty outrageous if they were not to offer their staff AWAs. All this bill does is ensure that such an offer is made, and it is entirely a matter for the individual staff as to whether they choose to work under an AWA or not. It is just ridiculous and damaging to the credibility of the opposition to claim that such a proposition is extreme—their new favourite word for our government. It is not extreme at all to ensure that staff at TAFEs do have the opportunity to choose whether or not to work under an AWA. The government strongly oppose the amendment proposed by the opposition.

Question put:

That the amendment (Senator Wong’s) be agreed to.