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Wednesday, 20 June 2007
Page: 10

Senator WONG (9:47 AM) —I will outline Labor’s position on Senator Fielding’s first set of amendments. As I have indicated to Senator Fielding, the opposition will support these amendments, but I do want to make a couple of comments. First, I make this point. The Tristar issue primarily revolved around the fact that the company refused to dismiss employees, as Senator Fielding outlined. Whilst the move from 12 to 24 months might assist with that, the reality is an employer could still choose to simply refuse to engage in the triggering event for the entitlement, which is in fact the dismissal. To some extent these provisions will not ameliorate that, although I recognise Senator Fielding’s motivation. It is a fact that 24 months is certainly better than 12, and Labor will support these provisions. I reiterate federal Labor’s policy, which is to provide a statutory right of redundancy entitlement to all employees, save for those employed in businesses with fewer than 15 employees. This constitutes real protection for redundancy entitlements and this would have protected Tristar employees from day one.

I also note that the government states that it will support this amendment. I will wait with interest to see if the government intends to support Senator Fielding’s next set of amendments, which are intended to include redundancy pay within the definition of protected allowable award matters. Of course, that would in fact require that any subsequent agreement altering a redundancy entitlement would need to be assessed against the new fairness test. I also make the point that, under the government’s laws, people’s redundancy entitlements can be abrogated by a new agreement and that, unless the government supports Senator Fielding’s amendment or something similar, the fairness test will not ensure that an employee is at least fairly compensated should such redundancy entitlements be traded away in that new agreement. So the government’s colours on redundancy will be demonstrated again later in the chamber unless the minister has instructions to support both of Senator Fielding’s amendments, in which case we would say it is belated but appropriate.