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Wednesday, 25 March 1998
Page: 1215

Senator HOGG (9:32 AM) —When I left off in my speech last night on the Workplace Relations Amendment Bill 1997, I was looking at that part of the second reading speech of the Minister for Workplace Relations and Small Business (Mr Reith) in the other place where he referred to employers being protected from frivolous and mali cious claims. My concern here primarily is that the issue is not about frivolous and malicious claims; it is about the rights of people to seek redress when they have been removed from their employment. It is terribly important that this idea that is being peddled in the minister's second reading speech is absolutely put to rest. The fact is that people are being denied a right of natural justice which this government is seeking to remove through this legislation.

The last thing I wish to look at in the second reading speech of the minister in the other place is this. The minister said:

It is an unavoidable fact that the defence of an unfair dismissal claim, however groundless, is especially burdensome for small businesses.

This is a complete nonsense. The fact of life is that these people will be denied a fundamental basic right, a right to seek their job where they have been unfairly dismissed. In relation to the `however groundless', people invariably do not seek to redress their dismissal because it is groundless; it obviously has a substantial meaning to them and for them. The provision that the government is trying to bring in will do nothing other than to encourage employers to abuse the rights of their employees. Far from being groundless, there will be many grounds upon which employees should be able to claim reinstatement but will have it denied because the government seeks to have this legislation passed through this Senate.

Employees with genuine claims, and there are employees with genuine claims, will be totally disadvantaged by this bill. The fact is—and this was brought out by previous speakers in this debate—that there are very few people who will be covered by the provisions of this bill anyway, because most of the people in small businesses, as has been stated earlier in this debate, are people who are covered by state awards. Very few people are going to be touched in effect by this legislation. Really, this legislation has no purpose other than to provide the government with the trigger for a double dissolution. The legislation should be rejected as it has no moral basis whatsoever. All it seeks to do is to deny people their basic rights.