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Monday, 13 October 2008
Page: 5829


Senator ABETZ (8:10 PM) —I would have thought, under the International Labour Organisation arrangements, which the minister continually tells us we are all beholden to, the peak representative body for employees would be the ACTU. The minister’s reluctance to even acknowledge that the ACTU is the peak body representing Australian workers is, quite frankly, astounding. Of course, the reason that he did not want to answer that one is undoubtedly that he did not necessarily want to answer in relation to employer groups either. The International Labour Organisation, as I understand it, acknowledges the ACCI as the peak employer group and, if that is the case, then I think the amendments that were proposed by Senator Siewert and Senator Xenophon make a lot of sense.

Of course, what it also means is that the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations cannot play favourites and pick and choose people whom she thinks might be subservient to her particular whims at any particular time. That is why I am attracted to the position that, rather than giving the minister complete choice in this regard, there be some acceptance that within the Australian community there are such peak bodies.

One thing I would ask the Minister for Human Services is in relation to the agreement with the states. I have been kindly provided with the relevant page by some of the officers, and I thank them for it because I have not brought with me the intergovernmental agreement. Schedule 1 refers to matters to be included in Commonwealth legislation establishing the ASCC replacement body. In it, there is discretion for the minister to specify:

i. an independent chair, nominated by the Commonwealth Minister in consultation with WRMC;

ii. a member nominated by the Commonwealth Minister;

It also says:

iv. 2 members representing bodies which, in the Commonwealth Minister’s opinion, represent the interests of workers across Australia;

Would it unravel the agreement if this parliament were to say that, within the parliament’s view, the body that represents the interests of workers across Australia is in fact the ACTU?