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Monday, 26 May 2003
Page: 14866

Mr SECKER (2:45 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Is the minister aware of the ACTU's new redundancy claim and the additional costs this will impose on small businesses? What impact will this have on jobs for Australian workers if successful?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —In response to the member for Barker, let me say that this is a government which encourages employing people, not retrenching people. This is a government which wants people to earn more and to keep their jobs rather than to lose their jobs. I am aware that the ACTU has now launched a test case before the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to double the standard redundancy entitlements from eight to 16 weeks, to extend redundancy entitlements to casual workers for the first time and, worst of all, to extend redundancy entitlements to the employees of small business for the first time. There are more than half a million small businesses in Australia which employ people. That is half a million small businesses that face the spectre of significantly increased contingent liabilities if this claim goes through.

Every small business with an employee of more than six years standing faces a contingent liability of more than $6,000 per person if this claim goes through. As everyone in small business knows, if you cannot afford to let people go, you cannot afford to take people on. How can the ACTU say that it supports the workers of Australia when it makes it so difficult for businesses to employ more workers? To their great credit, the Queensland and Western Australian Labor governments are refusing to support the ACTU's claim to extend automatic redundancy entitlements to the employees of small business. Successful Labor leaders understand the value of statesmanship. They understand the value of trying to look at the national interests. I commend their example to the gentlemen opposite.