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Thursday, 2 December 1976

Mr FRY (Fraser) -Mr Deputy Speaker,I support this legislation, basically because it embodies the objectives that the Labor Party set out to achieve in its short term of office. Contrary to what the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) said, the passage of the Labor Party's legislation on this subject was not stopped by the events of 11 November or 13 December. It was the extended period of obstruction and frustration which went on for many, many months before the events of 11 November which stopped our legislation. Our Bill on this subject was just one of the victims of that period of intense frustration suffered by the Labor Government. It is only just that this legislation should be made retrospective to 1973. That is the least that this Government could do.

Generally, we applaud the Bill. We welcome it. It is pleasing to see that all long service leave conditions wilt now come under the one Act. People who are permanent, temporary, parttime or part-time temporary employees will all be covered. Many people in Canberra have been employed on a part-time basis for many years. Among the disadvantages of being a part time and not a full time employee is the lack of reward for service and lack of financial security which are embodied in many ways in long service leave conditions. We welcome these provisions on those grounds. There are many other aspects of the legislation which we applaud. It is good to see the removal of the limit on long service leave to 12 months. Again, this provision was a disincentive for people to serve for long periods in the Public Service.

Another heartening provision is the portability of long service leave entitlements being extended to people who enter the Commonwealth Public Service from local government. Most people will agree that the 2 levels of government- federal and local- will improve if there is a greater interchange of personnel between those and other levels of government. Lack of portability of long service leave entitlements was one disincentive. We applaud this provision. We hope that it will result in a greater interchange of people among the different levels of government.

However, there are a couple of aspects of the Bill about which we are not happy. I will mention these briefly. This Bill is less generous than the former Labor Government's legislation in its proposed rate of accrual of long service leave after 10 years. The honourable member for Canberra referred to this. The difference is quite substantial. Under the Labor Party's legislation, after 10 years' service 5 months' leave was accumulated for that 10 years ' service. This legislation provides 3 months' leave for 10 years' service. In adopting this standard, the Government has failed to acknowledge the need for and the justice of a higher rate of accrual for people as they become more senior in their service and of the greater need for them to take longer periods of long service leave.

I believe that the attitude of the Labor Party on this aspect was most progressive; the passage of such a provision would have been most welcome. Had it been introduced it would have provided an added incentive to the Public Service and would have resulted in better service in the Public Service. After all, this provision is a far cry from the ideas which are current in some of the more progressive countries of the world where some form of sabbatical leave is being considered. That is the direction in which we should be looking. Certainly, in view of what is happening under the present Government, such an attitude would be quite inappropriate. Instead of looking backwards as this Government is doing, we should be looking forward to the day when it will be practical to talk about sabbatical leave in the Public Service. I hope that at some future time this will become a subject for serious discussion. The idea of the present Government is not to provide incentives and, in fact, to provide disincentives for people to serve in the Public Service.

The other important aspect of the scheme which, I think, can very justly be criticised is that relating to the invalidity provisions. One category of people will be worse off under the provisions of this legislation. While I recognise generally the progressive aspects of this legislation, it is unfortunate that any provision should mean that some people will be worse off. This is the position in relation to the furlough provision which allows pro rata three-tenths of a month for any year or part of a year whereas, under the present provisions, there is a minimum furlough allowance of 2 months for periods from 4 years to 8 years. In other words, anybody with 4 years' service who was invalided out of the Public Service received a minimum of 2 months' furlough. Under the proposed three-tenths of a month pro rata provision in this legislation, an employee would need to serve 7 years before, on invalidity, that employee was entitled to 2 months' furlough.

As I said, at present furlough of 2 months is available after 4 years' service. People who fall into that category and who are invalided out of the Public Service are certainly worse off under this legislation. That fact cannot be denied. Under the existing legislation, invalidity after 7 years' service would attract a furlough entitlement of 2.1 months. Invalidity occurring between 4 years and 7 years service under this legislation would result in the public servant being definitely worse off. Those 2 provisions in relation to furlough invalidity payments and the lower accrual rate mean that this legislation is certainly inferior to the Labor Party's legislation.

In his second reading speech, the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) said

The remaining changes, on the other hand, are generally supported by practices elsewhere.

This claim is quite misleading, as the honourable member for Gellibrand has pointed out. In fact, 3 States have legislation which is better than what this legislation proposes. In New South Wales entitlements after service of 20 years, 30 years, 40 years and 50 years are relatively better than what this legislation proposes. Long service entitlements in Western Australia are superior for service of 15 years, 30 years, 40 years and 50 years. The long service leave provisions in Queensland are better right across the board. We often say nasty things about Queensland, but it has much more progressive long service leave provisions than are available in Canberra. Public servants in Queensland are approximately 10 per cent better off in the accrual rate of long service leave right across the board.

So, in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, long service leave conditions are superior to the provisions contained in this legislation. The Commonwealth provisions will be basically the same as those applying in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. The Commonwealth's provisions are not better than those of any State in the Commonwealth. There is no suggestion that, through this legislation, the Commonwealth is to be the pacesetter in respect of long service leave conditions. The provisions in this legislation are very mediocre. Generally, when a new scheme is introduced, it represents an improvement on existing schemes. That is not so in this case. The new scheme will be worse than those in 3 States and the equal of the schemes in the other 3 States. It is not better than the scheme in any State. No aspect of it represents pacesetting.

The complexity of Australian Government operations today- particularly when we consider the type of government that we have now at the federal level- demands an extremely competent Public Service. We should provide conditions which will attract the very best people in the land to the Commonwealth Public Service. I do not think we should be satisfied to have conditions which are second-best, third-best or the equal of others. I think there is a much more demanding job to be done and we should be, if anything, a little bit better than the States. We should be the pacesetters. I do not think we should apologise for being pacesetters because, as I have said, government today demands the very best brains and the best trained people we can attract in the community. We will certainly not attract those people by offering long service leave conditions that do not compare favourably with those of other States.

The other aspect, of course, which we will have to consider later and which also indicates the lack of the Government's awareness of the need for a very high standard of Public Service is the idea that has been put up in other legislation for management initiated retirement. What a great incentive that is going to be to the Aus.tralian Public Service! It is just another indication of the lack of imagination and the lack of appreciation of the need to attract the very best people to the Service by the present Government. It is to be deplored. Of course, that is the subject of other legislation which we will have the opportunity to discuss later. Generally we applaud the legislation now under consideration. It is progressive in some respects. It is just bringing us up to date with some of the States. It leaves us behind 3 States. It is not as good as the former Labor Government's proposal in respect of the accrual rate, and it certainly disadvantages certain people in respect of provisions relating to furlough.

It was very good to hear my colleague the honourable member for Canberra admit that people in Canberra had in fact been having a tough time. They have been having a very tough time since 1 3 December last year. This, of course, will not make it any easier when they compare their situation with that of people in other areas. I do not want to go through the reason why they are going through a tough time because that is well known to everyone. When my colleague admits it there is no need for me to press the point.

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