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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 20170

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (5:00 PM) —I would like to make a few comments on the Workplace Relations Amendment (Fair Termination) Bill 2002. The government has it wrong in relation to this matter. It has it wrong because it does not seem to understand how important job security is to Australian workers. Any survey of Australian workers that has been conducted in the last 10 years has found one thing—that the most important matter for them in their workplace is having some certainty as to whether they will remain in that workplace. That need for job security is of course related to the need to pay the permanent bills and the longterm mortgage—those matters that ensure the quality of life that Australian families deserve. That can only happen if they have some certainty in the workplace. The government's position on this whittles away at the job security that Australian workers aspire to. We already know there has been an increase in casualisation in the work force. There was some good news—and I am happy to admit it—about an increase in full-time jobs, and that should be acknowledged. But, in regulating workplace laws, the government should be helping and assisting families to provide certainty.

There is no reason why a worker who has worked in a workplace for 11 months and 29 days should not be able to seek recourse if he or she is unfairly terminated. The other practicality of this is that some employers—not all—will find themselves in a position to be able to terminate an employee short of 12 months so that they do not have to make them permanent, and there is no recourse for that employee. So in the work force today we see employers trying to broaden the interpretation of casual, which has to be constantly reviewed because there are people who are being called casual who are not casual, and we now see the government looking to lengthen the time a person would have to wait to get recourse to their rights if they are unfairly terminated. It reveals the lack of regard that this government has for Australian workers. The most productive element of our society is our work force, and the workers are being treated with contempt by this minister and this government when they do not recognise that workers have a right to certainty in the workplace. So I, along with the shadow minister and, I know, all members on this side, oppose the amendment to lengthen the lack of security in the workplace for Australian workers from six to 12 months. I therefore oppose the bill.

Question put:

That the motion (Mr Abbott's) be agreed to.