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Thursday, 11 October 2012
Page: 12067

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (12:39): I speak in support of the Social and Community Services Pay Equity Special Account Bill 2012 and the Social and Community Services Pay Equity Special Account (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2012. The member for Menzies was the architect, the author and the apostle of Work Choices, imposed on the community sector. What a mean-spirited response we saw from those opposite there today, saying they will support this bill! But they did nothing to support low-paid workers, particularly the 120,000 women of the 150,000 employees in this sector who will get assistance from this particular legislation today. It will make a big difference in my home state of Queensland and I particularly thank the Secretary of the Queensland branch of the ASU, Kath Nelson, and the Assistant Secretary Jenny Thomas for the work they do and the great work they have done on behalf of Queensland women, particularly those who work in the social and community sector.

Those opposite should hang their heads in shame for their inaction, their inertia and their inactivity in this sector. The fact is that we are putting close to $3 billion on the table, putting in a special account providing for those women particularly, and for those men who work in women and children's refuges, run support centres for people with a disability, lead counselling, family support services and emergency housing services—organisations in my electorate such as Focal Extended, Our House, IRASI, Ipswich Women's Centre Against Domestic Violence, Riverview House and many others. What are those opposite going to say about this when they go back to their electorates? 'We did nothing for nearly 12 years about this issue.'

We have put money on the table to achieve this just and fair outcome for the low-paid workers of this country. Those opposite say words but when it came to the legislation that they passed when they were on this side of the chamber it was not for workers—it was antiworkers. This legislation is for workers, for those people who make our community a more decent and humane place. That is what we are doing here today—150,000 workers will get assistance across the years from this legislation and what it does for them.

Under the terms of the equal remuneration order handed down by Fair Work Australia, about 150,000 SACS workers will get that assistance. From 1 December, wage rises are the nine instalments until 20 June 2021 totalling between 23 per cent and 45 per cent. It is a significant win, especially for women. For those employees in Queensland this is the fulfilment in large part of that heads of agreement signed between the Australian government by the then Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard, and Linda White on 30 October 2009 in relation to low-paid workers across the country, preserving the new rates for Queensland employees and also achieving similar outcomes with the submission made to Fair Work Australia for employees in other states through pay equity and work value claims.

What we are doing here is making sure that those workers in those areas get the kind of wage justice they deserve. The decision to create a special account demonstrates our commitment to working families across the country, to SACS workers and, through our submission to Fair Work Australia on an historic equal pay case, for wage justice in this sector. The funding here will go towards funding the wages of those workers.

I am pleased that those organisations in Queensland will get the help that they need pursuant to this legislation. This includes Commonwealth funded service providers subject to the transitional pay equity order made by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission on 12 June 2009. Those Queensland social and community sector workers will be transitioned over time to the Fair Work Australia equal remuneration order. That is a good outcome for my home state of Queensland when Campbell Newman and the LNP government are financially plundering the social and community sector and organisations like TASC funding through Queensland, which we had to step in and support because people were at risk of homelessness. Indeed, workers in those sectors were supported by this federal Labor government when those opposite said nothing while those services were being taken away from tenants and those other people who were struggling—people with a disability, people who are semi-literate, people who are financially challenged. Those opposite said nothing about that.

This legislation will help workers in those sectors to make sure that they create the kind of society we want—decent and humane, a fairer system, a stronger economy but a fairer society. That is what this federal Labor government is all about. We are committed to making sure those workers get it. This legislation will provide it for them. The ASU across the country, but particularly in my home state of Queensland, deserves recognition, acknowledgment and applause for what they have done. It goes to show what a federal Labor government does: it stands up for the poor, the vulnerable, the weak and those with a disadvantage, while those opposite stand up for everything that is mean and tricky. It was once again shown by the speech made by the honourable member for Menzies that they are committed to the pernicious, destructive attitude and legislation which we call Work Choices, and which we got rid of after the election of this federal Labor government. I commend the legislation and I commend the Minister for Community Services Julie Collins for the great work she has done.