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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13245

Mrs ANDREWS (McPherson) (21:27): This motion has two distinct parts. The first part of the motion deals with concerns about job losses in state governments around Australia and raises issues surrounding bargaining for wages and conditions in the public sector. The second part of the motion seeks a referral to the Standing Committee on Education and Employment for an inquiry into conditions of employment of state public sector employees, and I oppose that referral.

I find this motion extraordinary on a number of counts. As we are all well aware, not all states have opted to refer their industrial relations arrangements to the Commonwealth, and for some states there was only a partial referral. In Queensland and in New South Wales public sector employees are not covered by the Fair Work Act because successive Labor governments did not refer powers to the Commonwealth in respect of public sector employees and local government employees. Clearly, if federal Labor were to support this motion, it would be casting a vote of no confidence in the former Labor state governments of New South Wales and Queensland.

That the member for Melbourne now thinks that intervention in this area of workplace law by the federal parliament is somehow desirable is quite clearly misconceived. It directly challenges the right of the states to determine their own employment affairs. It is appropriate that, unless there is a direct referral of powers, terms and conditions of employment for state public sector employees fall under the jurisdiction of the state industrial system. It is not for the federal parliament to inquire into the terms and conditions of employment of state public sector employees and there should be no referral to the Standing Committee on Education and Employment.

The motion also refers to the supposed difficulties that public sector employees face in bargaining over wages and conditions. I would say that is not the case. In many industry sectors, public sector awards are the pacesetters and private sector awards follow and are very in line with the public sector. The same occurs in collective bargaining negotiations: the public sector leads the way and the private sector negotiations follow. Some unions actively seek to finalise agreements with the public sector before negotiating with the private sector—

Debate interrupted.