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Tuesday, 22 October 2002
Page: 5610

Senator FORSHAW (4:17 PM) —I wish to respond to a couple of points made by the Democrats, through Senator Allison, and by the minister. Both speakers have misrepresented the position of the opposition and have suggested that disallowing standard 9 would deny workers with a disability certain rights, including rights to fair wages and so on. That is absolutely untrue. The reason it is untrue is this: standard 9 will not have legislative or legal force, in terms of all businesses having to meet the standard, until 1 June 2005. Businesses will be required to meet the new quality assurance standards by the deadline of 31 December 2004. So there is still some time to run before these standards have their full legal impact.

As I said in my remarks at the start of the debate, standard 9 does not, on the admission of the minister and as acknowledged by Senator Allison, provide a full and appropriate set of regulations for determining what would be the appropriate pro rata wages to be paid. As standard 9 says:

This prorata wage must be determined through a transparent assessment tool or process, such as Supported Wage System (SWS), or—

some other tool. Then it has been reiterated by the minister that the very process going on at the moment is the development of such a wage assessment tool. We are saying that in many ways standard 9 as it is contained within these standards is premature and confusing. We suggest it would be far better for the government to finalise the development of the wage assessment tool and bring that back to the parliament; then we will have the basis for the wording of an appropriate standard 9 covering employment conditions. That standard will be based upon workers with a disability receiving wages according to relevant awards, orders and industrial agreements, and receiving wages based upon what is contained in those agreements. We do not want to see confusion existing and then having to be corrected at some future date. There is time to deal with this. We understand that finalising this new wage assessment tool is no more than six months away—I might be wrong in that. There is plenty of time to deal with this in a more effective and a more complete way, given that the standards ultimately do not have their full impact and that the compliance date is 31 December 2004. Obviously, given the indications from the Democrats and the government, we are not going to succeed; but I am sure that this is a matter that we will return to in due course.

Question negatived.