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Tuesday, 19 June 2007
Page: 107

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL (8:35 PM) —What you are saying, Minister, is essentially that if an agreement is found to be unfair the onus will be on the employer to remedy it. We are talking about an 18-year-old. Everybody in this country knows that when young people front up to work for the first time they are given a document and told: ‘Sign on the bottom line and you’ve got a job. If you don’t sign, you haven’t got a job.’ There is no negotiation. Senator Webber in her contribution on the second reading debate went through, chapter and verse, a workplace agreement which was being offered in the mining industry in Western Australia to experienced workers—not to people 18 years of age who have just come out of school to go into the workforce—and they were told: ‘Sign it.’ You cannot even take a copy of it away. You have to sign it on the job: ‘Here it is. During your lunchbreak read it over. Give the copy back and sign it or you haven’t got a job.’ And those people do not have a job.

Senator Webber —That’s right.

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL —In fact, Senator Webber’s contribution has forced the Office of Workplace Services to write to her seeking information so they can go and inquire into the circumstances of that agreement. Minister, don’t you sit there and tell us what ACCI told us at the inquiry: that there is not one instance of these things occurring, that it is all a figment of our imagination, that it is all being generated because the ACTU is running a scare campaign. There are a multitude of these circumstances out there that we all know about where people are being forced into adopting or accepting agreements which they do not want to have a bar of, but they have no choice because it is the only way they can get a job.

I have asked you a simple question which you have not, in the past 25 minutes, even come close to attempting to answer. That is: how does an employee in those circumstances—an 18-year-old coming into the workforce for the first time—actually seek to remedy a deficient agreement in such a way as to get the conditions they are seeking and not the conditions that are being imposed upon them by an employer? I have not heard the answer. If you are not prepared to answer it, just tell me and I can go and do something else.