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Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Page: 9701

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) (9:36 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill will continue existing transitional long service leave arrangements that apply to Telstra and its employees, pending development of national long service leave arrangements. The bill will avoid unnecessary administrative complexity for the company and uncertainty for employees, and recognises the unusual position that Telstra finds itself in as a result of historical circumstances.

Telstra was originally a government owned and operated entity and, as such, its employees were formerly Australian government employees covered by Commonwealth employment related legislation, including the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1976.

The Telstra (Transition to Full Private Ownership) Act 2005, enacted by the previous government, provided that Commonwealth employment related legislation ceased to apply when the Commonwealth ceased to have a majority control of the company. However, the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Amendment Act 2006 deferred this change in relation to long service leave for three years—meaning that Commonwealth long service leave legislation would continue to apply until 24 November 2009. At that time, Telstra employees would be covered by relevant state or territory laws.

As we have previously announced, the government intends to develop a national long service leave scheme, in consultation with the states and territories. These arrangements will form part of the National Employment Standards in the Fair Work Act 2009. Consultations on this new national scheme have commenced and are ongoing.

The fact that Telstra has been subject to Commonwealth long service leave legislation, and that this coverage will cease on 24 November 2009, puts it in an unusual position.

Telstra will need to transition from the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act to multiple state and territory schemes when current arrangements expire on 24 November 2009 and then back to a Commonwealth scheme when new national arrangements are implemented. To avoid the complexity and uncertainty that this will cause, Telstra and relevant unions have suggested to the government that existing transitional arrangements be retained until the new National Employment Standard on long service leave is put into place.

The government considers this to be a sensible proposal and is happy to facilitate it by making minor amendments.

The effect of this bill is to extend the transitional application of the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act to Telstra and its employees. This will preserve the status quo for Telstra employees with respect to long service leave entitlements until national long service leave arrangements are put in place through the National Employment Standards.

This bill will amend the Telstra Corporation Act and the Telstra (Transition to Full Private Ownership) Act to enable the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act to continue to apply to Telstra.

The bill will also make consequential amendments to the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act.

The government considers that this bill is a desirable transitional measure that recognises the particular circumstances of Telstra and its employees. It preserves the status quo pending development of national long service leave arrangements for all federal workplace relations system participants.

I commend this bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mrs Mirabella) adjourned.