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Monday, 8 March 1999
Page: 2316

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL (1:56 PM) —I rise to oppose the Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment (Youth Employment) Bill 1998 as proposed by the government. The government's line in introducing this bill is to promote youth employment and reduce youth unemployment. Underlying this is an objective to permanently exempt junior rates of pay from the provisions of the Workplace Relations Act intended to prevent and eliminate age discrimination in awards and agreements and to promote the inclusion of junior rates of pay in awards and agreements.

Amendment to section 88A of the act direct the AIRC to encourage employers and employees to make agreements and when determining such an agreement for the commission to ignore discrimination on the basis of age. In fact, the AIRC is directed to ensure that they support junior rates of pay where young people are involved in a determination. With further amendments to the legislation, the way is open for junior rates of pay to become enshrined in the Australian workplace.

The motion to repeal subsection 170LU, paragraph (7), which currently excludes junior rates of pay from the operation of antidiscrimination provisions of the act until 22 June 2000, seeks to make this exemption permanent. This has been introduced before a conclusion has been reached by the AIRC in its inquiry into junior rates of pay, and the AIRC is required to report to the minister by June 1999.

I want to pose the question: why the sudden urgency in the government introducing this legislation? They introduced legislation back in 1996 which required the AIRC to inquire into junior rates of pay. Junior rates of pay have been the subject of inquiry and discussion in the commission for the past decade or so in terms of trying to find ways and means of dealing with the issues that are inherent in that debate. Why all of a sudden have we seen this rush of blood to the minister's head in terms of the introduction of this legislation into the parliament in order to get a result before 30 June?

Senator Sherry —He wants to be leader.

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL —Senator Sherry says that he wants to be leader. I think the competition between the two Peters is hotting up in terms of who is going to get to the wire first, should the boss fall over or get hit by a bus or retire to Lord Howe Island, seeing how he enjoyed it so much over the Christmas and New Year period. He got a bit of golf in, read a few books. Maybe that is a better proposition than sitting in the hot seat of the Prime Minister's office.

The reality is that you have to question what the real objectives are behind the introduction of this legislation. It goes to two speeches which the minister has made this year. One was to the legal firm Freehill Hollingdale and Page, where he put the question of junior rates of pay fairly and squarely on the agenda.

Debate interrupted.