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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 1070

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (19:42): I am happy to address your question but I also want to basically disregard the majority of what you have said, because it is incorrect. Again—considering we are on broadcast and people are listening—I need to make it very clear: the code does not prevent or restrict the employment of apprentices or trainees. In fact, the code itself encourages the employment of apprentices and trainees.

And I will reaffirm for the record the note to clause 11(3)(a)—and this was included at the suggestion of the crossbench, and the government was more than happy to agree to it:

Note: this does not prevent the inclusion of clauses in an enterprise agreement that encourage the employment of apprentices.

As I said to you, Senator Cameron, the only part of that clause that would be non-compliant is in relation to the rigid ratio. You asked for the rationale as to why the government has made this decision. I will give you an example. Businesses, regardless of their size, should be able to manage the affairs of their own businesses. Despite the best efforts on behalf of employers—and in this case it is often going to be the small and medium employers—these clauses may be impossible to implement, especially for small businesses, despite their best endeavours, and result in a breach of the agreement unless the required number of persons are actually available to fill the positions. So what then happens is, because of the mandating of a ratio, you have just knocked out the ability for many small and mediums in particular to compete for government work.

Again, though, I go back to: the code does not prevent or restrict the employment of apprentices or trainees. In fact, what it does do is encourage the employment of apprentices and trainees, and that is specifically stated at clause 11(3)(a) of the code.