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Millionth AWA sparks fresh IR debate -

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Reporter: Greg Jennett

Unions have attacked the Prime Minister John Howard for celebrating the signing of the
one-millionth Australian Workplace Agreement.

Transcript

TONY JONES: To politics in this country now and one million Australian workers have now taken up
individual workplace agreements, something the Prime Minister considers to be a milestone in
industrial reform. John Howard has marked the occasion with a party for the Adelaide man who became
the one-millionth person to sign. Unions say it's a dark day for all who have ever had to work
under an AWA. From Canberra, Greg Jennett reports.

GREG JENNETT: After nine years cooking up industrial relations changes, John Howard has got the
icing on the cake.

JOHN HOWARD: There you go. Well done.

GREG JENNETT: Disability worker Bob Raven is the one millionth person to take out an Australian
Workplace Agreement. The Prime Minister wasn't going to let the milestone go unnoticed.

JOHN HOWARD: Are you finding the working arrangement satisfactory? Flexible?

BOB RAVEN: I couldn't fault it.

GREG JENNETT: AWAs have been available since 1997, but it's since his WorkChoices regime that came
into force six months ago that Mr Howard says they have really taken off.

JOHN HOWARD: Something like 117,000 have been signed over the last six months and the month of
September saw something like 27,000 AWAs signed.

GREG JENNETT: But in Hobart, David Hurd was in no mood to celebrate.

DAVID HURD: I went into panic mode. I wasn't sleeping, I was very grouchy.

GREG JENNETT: The petrol station attendant knocked back an agreement, claiming it would have
slashed his hourly rate by up to $7 an hour.

DAVID HURD: I stood to lose $190 per week. That I could not do in my budget.

GREG JENNETT: The Office of Workplace Services investigated and found the service station operator
had done nothing wrong.

SHARAN BURROW: So it might be legal, but it's morally bankrupt and how on earth can working
Australians stay afloat if that is how companies behave using John Howard's industrial relations
laws?

GREG JENNETT: The million AWAs John Howard celebrates aren't all current. Unions claim the number
in operation is probably closer to half a million and still less than five per cent of the
workforce. If Kim Beazley gets his way, it will be even fewer this time next year.

KIM BEAZLEY: How he can boast about a million of those things escapes me, but he's got 12 months to
run on them and then we are going to change the system to a fair system.

GREG JENNETT: He can count on support from unionists like these, who turned out to spoil the
Workplace Relations Minister's party at the Industrial Relations Commission in Melbourne.