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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Page: 13482


Ms LIVERMORE (Capricornia) (18:01): I rise to support the Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave) Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. This bill will deliver key reforms to the coalmining industry's long service leave arrangements and ensure that industry employees are given a fairer, more flexible provision to obtain their long service leave. On coming to office, the government moved quickly to ensure that legislation was passed in 2009 to ensure that long service leave arrangements for coalminers contained in industry awards were preserved in the transition to the new Fair Work system of modern awards. We did that to preserve and remove from any doubt a secure system for recognising and paying long service leave accrued by workers in the black coal mining industry.

There was a recognition then, however, that the 2009 legislation, while a necessary minimum to have in place in time for the 2010 transition to modern awards, would need to be revisited to transform the award entitlement to a statutory entitlement to long service leave and to address other concerns. The bill we are debating today picks up on those matters, which could not be fully addressed in time for the 2009 act. This bill provides amendments to four acts relating to the coalmining industry's long service leave arrangements and includes fairer provisions for qualifying for long service leave for employees, better arrangements for employers to access the scheme and minor amendments to the structure of the Long Service Leave Funding Corporation.

As we have heard from other speakers in the debate, the coal industry has a unique set of arrangements for the accrual and payment of long service leave entitlements, dating back to 1949. Coalmining has a long history in this country. It is a history characterised by miners seeking to improve their working conditions through determined negotiation and at times industrial action. Hard-fought gains, such as portable long service leave, should be given every protection and should continue to be updated, as we are doing here this afternoon, so that their application keeps pace with changes in the industry.

I am pleased to say that with the passage of the 2009 act the government guaranteed the continuation of those longstanding long service leave arrangements in the black-coal mining industry. That was important, because the long service leave arrangements developed for the industry addressed the specific circumstances of coalmining and sought to give miners similar entitlements and protections to those of workers in other industries. For very good reason, coalmining industry employees are entitled to transferable long service leave based on their time in the industry, not their time with an individual employer. Mobility of the workforce has always been a feature of the coalmining industry, and the ever-increasing demand for skilled and experienced miners will make it even more likely that miners will move from mine to mine and from employer to employer as opportunities open up for them. The long service leave scheme was designed to accommodate this mobility as well as to protect the entitlements in the event of company insolvency. It is not so much of a problem today but was certainly a real concern at earlier times in the industry's development.

Under the coal industry long service leave scheme, funding for long service leave is maintained by an industry scheme created by the Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave Funding) Act 1992 and related legislation. Since 1993 the funding of long service leave entitlements has been through an employer levy scheme and has been administered by the Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave Funding) Corporation. Under the Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave Funding) Act 1992 employers are reimbursed from the Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave Funding) Fund for any long service leave payments they make to an eligible employee.

The preservation of existing award based entitlements to portable long service leave in the black-coal mining industry and the administrative arrangements to support it were a priority for those in the industry at the time parliament passed the 2009 bill. Since then there has been a concerted effort by those from across the industry to come to agreement on outstanding matters. This bill gives effect to proposals developed by an industry working party to further improve the operation of portable long service leave. This has been a collaborative approach and credit goes to the many industry leaders and representatives who demonstrated their commitment to the future success of this important and unique long service leave scheme, among them the Mining and Energy Division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Queensland Resources Council, the Mine Managers Association of Australia and a number of other trade unions representing workers in the coal industry. The changes put forward by this group and adopted by the government benefit both employers and employees in the industry.

Employees in the black-coal mining industry now have a legislated minimum long service leave entitlement. Provision is made for all eligible employees, whether full-time, part-time or casual, to accrue long service leave in the mining industry. An eligible employee will be entitled to long service leave of up to 13 weeks when they have completed a period or periods of qualifying service totalling eight years or more. As the member for Dawson described, coalminers certainly earn that long service leave in the work they do and the very long shifts they work. A new rule for calculating qualifying service will mean that employees will be able to have their service recognised when there are breaks in service. The eight years of qualifying service can be calculated as the total number of years of service, with breaks in between, as long as a break does not exceed four continual years.

For employers the bill provides for an improved approach to how the long service leave levy is imposed on them, to more closely align amounts paid into the fund with reimbursement amounts. There is a greater compliance role for the Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave Funding) Corporation and change to the structure and representation of the board of directors. All of these amendments go to creating a legislative long service leave entitlement that is backed up by consistent and transparent administrative arrangements so that it works in the interests of employees and employers in the coal industry.

The importance of having that certainty and fairness has been brought home to me by the case of Daniel Vincent, who came to see me earlier this year in Moranbah. Daniel is the kind of person the coal industry relies on for its success. After serving his apprenticeship he has built a career in the industry working for BMA. Daniel came to see me because he discovered that his time as an apprentice—four years during which he worked hard to learn his trade—was not accredited towards his qualifying service in the coal industry, because at that time he was not employed directly by a coal mining company but instead by a group training organisation, which is a very common occurrence in the industry.

I have brought Daniel's situation to the attention of the workplace relations minister and I continue to correspond with him about it. I am assured by the minister's office that the kind of case that Daniel has described was one that the working group gave consideration to in coming up with these reforms. Consequently, I believe that following the passage of this legislation Daniel will be in a position to ask the corporation to recognise the four years of his apprenticeship as part of his qualifying service in the coal industry for the purposes of accruing his much deserved long service leave. I will continue to work with Daniel, and with the further support of Daniel's union and the minister I hope to get this matter resolved once the legislation comes into effect on 1 January 2012.

This bill is further proof of this government's commitment to the coalmining industry, and particularly the miners—the men and women—of the Bowen Basin, whom I am very proud to represent in this place.