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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Page: 13480


Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (17:51): I will take the opportunity to speak very briefly on the Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave) Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. As the minister quite rightly has pointed out, this bill is the result of a working party having done some work in respect to the recommendations and the reforms that are obviously being debated today and form the basis of this legislation. Having said that, it was also interesting to listen to the minister's second reading speech and the comments he made in respect to it, because long service leave per se is a matter that this government and our side of politics have been very much in support of for many, many years. In fact, others would and might properly say that here in Australia we have long service provisions that many other countries in the world would dearly like to replicate. At the end of the day, it is all about ensuring that people who work within industries are properly remunerated for their service with those industries, and part of that remuneration comes in the form of long service leave and similar entitlements that go with any employment.

This particular bill does make some key reforms to the black coal mining industry long service leave scheme. These are, as the minister quite rightly pointed out, important reforms that have been developed by the industry working party and, as I understand it, have the support of key employer and employee associations in the coalmining industry. I think that that is an important point that we need to make: the reforms do have the support of both employers and employees. It is not often that we see that being the case. In fact, all too often we see conflict between the employer and the employees in terms of what they believe is fair and appropriate compensation. But, in this case, it seems that we do have agreement between both parties, and that is commendable. It is commendable because it is my view and always has been my view that, where you get cooperation between employers and employees, you ultimately get the best outcomes.

I note that, in some European countries, many companies have embraced that principle in a very strong way, where they have tried to come up with a structure for their industries whereby the employees share in any profits that are made by the employer. It seems to me that, if we could replicate that in Australia—more so than what is currently the case—it might be a good thing both for the profitability of the companies and for industrial relations more broadly and more generally. These reforms include a legislated minimum long service leave entitlement; an improved approach to how long the service leave levy is imposed, to more closely align amounts paid into the fund with reimbursement amounts; a greater compliance role for the Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave Funding) Corporation; minor changes to the structure and representation of the Coalmining Industry (Long Service Leave Funding) Corporation board; and transitional arrangements to facilitate the transition from the award long service leave rules to the new statutory entitlement rules. The changes benefit both employers and employees, as I have said, and are vital to the ongoing success of this industry.

The last point I would simply make about this matter is that right now, as I speak, we are debating the minerals resources rent tax in the other chamber. One issue that is absolutely relevant to that debate is that it applies to both the coal and iron ore industry sectors. It has also been alleged by speakers opposite, time and time again, that the future of the coal industry will in fact be impacted as a result of policies that this government is introducing. I just want to make the point that that certainly does not seem to be the case from my observations and from the investments that have been brought to the House's attention only in recent months. In fact, quite the opposite seems to be occurring. But, more importantly, to have this legislation coming through the parliament at the same time as those claims are being made I believe is quite significant and, quite frankly, highlights that the views being expressed by members opposite about the possible damage to the coal industry as a result of the other legislation are simply not borne out by the representatives of the coal industry themselves.

As I said, I wanted to make some brief points about and comments on the bill. Having done that, I commend the bill to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): Can I thank the member for the assistance in the Main Committee this afternoon.