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Wednesday, 6 June 2001
Page: 27466

Mr RIPOLL (9:46 AM) —While there are many who have been affected by the recent collapse of HIH and One.Tel, the people who least deserve to lose out are the workers left unemployed and without their entitlements. The 1,400 employees of One.Tel, who are low paid workers and contractors rather than being directly employed, will most likely miss out on all of their entitlements, if not most of their entitlements. Such things that most people take for granted—accrued holidays, superannuation, long service leave or redundancy payments—may well be lost to these people. It is claimed that around $19 million to $25 million is actually owed to these people. On the other hand, employees of the failed National Textiles received a special one-time only 100 per cent payout of all their entitlements in a bailout package from the government.

You could be excused for thinking that this was a selfless act of a government concerned about the plight of the workers and the rights of Australian workers but, unfortunately, this act has not been repeated since for other failed companies. Of course, there is one differentiating fact between the National Textiles company in Australia and every other company that fails—that is, that the other companies that fail do not have on their board as a director the brother of the Prime Minister.

Mr Hardgrave —Come on.

Mr RIPOLL —It is true.

Mr Hardgrave —The Prime Minister's brother has nothing to do with it.

Mr RIPOLL —One never said he had. I am just pointing out a fact. That is a fact. So if in Australia your company is lucky enough to have Stan Howard on the board, when you go bust there will be a special one-off payment to bail you out. Hearing the PM's feigned indignation regarding the plight of the workers flooded back memories of the long forgotten Howard's battlers. Where are they now? The Howard battlers are doing it tougher than ever, in particular workers caught up in corporate collapses under this government.

It now seems in Australia that, if you are a wealthy corporate highflyer, few laws apply. Massive bonuses are paid for failing to deliver and you are further rewarded by taking no responsibility for the lives left wrecked by your actions. But there is something that the government can do. A private member's bill introduced four years ago by the member for Prospect, which would give workers the protection and peace of mind they need and deserve, could be brought on and debated. If there is any bill that the government should swiftly move to have debated, it is this one, but the government refused to debate the issue at all. This situation should not be allowed to continue, with the lives of workers and their families ruined because greedy corporate criminals can pay themselves millions in bonuses, pay workers low wages, deliver no results and then deliver a failed company on top of that. I call on the government to take action to help Australian workers. It is as simple as that. Let us bring on the debate on this private member's bill. Do we have to wait for more corporate collapses before the government does anything real or long term to actually deliver something for Australian workers? (Time expired)