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More blame shifting from the Howard Government.



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M E D I A R E L E A S E

Stephen Smith MP Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations Member for Perth

15/05 9 March 2005

MORE BLAME SHIFTING FROM THE HOWARD GOVERNMENT

Today in Question Time the Leader of the Opposition asked the following question of the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations:

I refer the Minister to the recent collapse of Walter Construction which has left non-construction employees reliant on the Government’s General Employee Entitlement and Redundancy Scheme in order to receive any redundancy entitlements.

Minister, why do employees under this scheme have their redundancy capped at 8 weeks even though some employees, like those I met from Walter’s today, have worked for the company for over 40 years?

Minister, why does the Government not give Australian workers full protection when a business, like Walter Construction, goes under?

At the same time in the Senate, Special Minister of State, Senator Abetz conceded that the only time under the Howard Government that workers have received 100% of their redundancy entitlement was when the Prime Minister’s brother was the Chairman of the failed company.

Rather than the refreshingly honest admission from Senator Abetz, Minister Andrews chose to deny responsibility and seek to shift the blame of GEERS inadequacies to Walter Construction Administrators, Korda Mentha.

The Minister implied that any difficulty workers faced in receiving their entitlements through GEERS was due to a lack of cooperation from Korda Mentha.

This is an extraordinary position for the Minister to take, given GEERS officers refused to accept, with the Minister’s office knowledge, an invitation from Korda Mentha to attend a meeting with Walter Construction employees on 17 February 2005, to assist with redundancy arrangements.

Before shifting the blame on to Korda Mentha for delays in the assessment of GEERS applications by Walter Construction employees, the Minister should have admitted that employees who have applied for GEERS have been advised they could wait up to 16 weeks before receiving an assessment on their eligibility for the Scheme, let alone payment of their entitlements.

ENDS

Contact: Courtney Hoogen on (02) 6277 4108 or 0414 364 651