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MPI [Matter of Public Importance] on workers entitlements: Parliament House, Canberra, 22 June 1999: partial transcript.



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THE HON PETER REITH MP

MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, WORKPLACE RELATIONS

AND SMALL BUSINESS

LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

PARLIAMENT HOUSE

CANBERRA ACT 2600

 

22 June 1999

 

PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON PETER REITH MP

MPI ON WORKERS ENTITLEMENTS, PAR LIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

 

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The extent of the problem is important. In 97 — 98, three thousand companies were in liquidation, receivership or under deed of company arrangements but we do no t know the value or the value of the lost entitlement. So we have a general sense of a proportion of the problem, but I must say the data is inadequate, generally, other than that more generalised information. The ACTU claims that on an annual basis about seventeen thousand workers suffer from not receiving their full entitlements of about an average of seven thousand dollars each bringing the total loss according to the ACTU’s claims of around one hundred to one hundred and fifty million dollars a year. I don’t accept their claim, but just put it on the table, I suspect it is a bit on the high side, but as the data is inadequate it is reasonable to refer to that estimate that they’ve made.

 

In looking at what the possible solutions are you therefore need to say “well, this is the extent of the problem, let’s look at the cost of the solution might be” because obviously if the cost of the solution is more than the actual cost you are suffering, you need to see whether there is a better way. A trust fund based on a one half of one percent of the private sector gross salary and wage costs, a trust fund of that magnitude has been estimated on the advice to me to have ajob destroying impact, a cost ofjobs because of the additional burden on industry of up to twenty five thousand jobs. Now, that is one estimate but I think it does give people an order of magnitude, there is a trade off here which needs to be calculated as best as we can so that we understand the dimensions of the problem and the dimensions of any cost of any solution.

 

There are a number of options that we have looked at. Strengthening the corporations law is certainly one which we have adopted which the Treasurer is moving through the cooperative process with the States, that actually is a important step forward, should have been taken years ago, has seen progress under this Government something which Labor has failed to do. Limited priority over secured creditors is another option, this means for the specified amount of employees claims between one and five weeks wages depending on the employees length of service and age would rank ahead of those secured funds and secured creditors in the winding up of an insolvent company.

 

 

dd  1999-06-24  10:58