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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8034

Senator LUDWIG (11:31 PM) —There are two points that I wish to make. One is in relation to the amendments that the opposition has moved. Since the Hamzy case of 16 November 2001, there has been no hue and cry from small business about suffering from the provisions that currently apply to them. In fact, small businesses got on with it. So I do not think that the world will end, as the government sometimes makes out that it will, or that small business will fold its tent and disappear. That in itself is instructive for those parties who are minded to assist in supporting Labor's amendments. What we are trying to do is ensure that there is fairness and that it does not tip the balance to a point that is unfair, as the government would have it.

I was going to raise the second issue during the first part, but I waited to see what the government would say. One of the difficulties in this area is that, if you do not address this in the way that we say it should be addressed, you do get some unusual results. A case in the Supreme Court of Victoria called Pettet v. Readiskill LMT Mildura 2001 ended up in the Supreme Court of Victoria Court of Appeal, before three judges of that court. The appellant, Mr Ian Edward Pettet, was a self-represented litigant who claimed wrongful dismissal because he was obliged to comply with the directions as to the use of a time clock given under the terms of his contract. The question was whether the refusal to comply amounted to repudiation.

During a certain period, the government would make no provision for a place for a person such as a casual worker to complain. In this instance, an employee who had only been employed for a very short period was seeking, whether rightly or wrongly, a remedy somewhere. That remedy in this instance took him to the full court of the Supreme Court of Victoria. You may argue about the fairness or otherwise of the ex-employee's case, but the argument we are making is that, if you do not allow the industrial tribunals to deal with these things and if you try to exclude them, there will always be an avenue for an employee to take to pursue their case. For all intents and purposes, the Supreme Court of Victoria is an unusual place for an employee to end up in. The judges, in dealing with that matter—and I think this is instructive—said:

The dispute ... has generated a great deal of heat and not much light ...

The amendments that the opposition has put forward are fair and they deserve support.