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Monday, 13 October 2008
Page: 5832

Senator LUDWIG (Minister for Human Services) (8:26 PM) —There are two points I wanted to raise. One goes to the substantive issue that you went to first, Senator Abetz, which is—I will see if I can be plain about this—whether, if there is inconsistency with the IGA in the legislation, we are technically in breach of the IGA. What that would mean is that we would have to go back to the states to talk through whether there was going to be a change. That would cause delay and it could also cause the argument to be had again. As with most things, when you reach agreement and sign on the dotted line, you want it reflected in the legislation as agreed. Having reached agreement, that is our desire. If we had to go back, it could potentially put that IGA in jeopardy without having at least gone back and spoken to the states about it. Therefore, as the government, we are putting it up as an agreement and asking the Senate consider passing the bill in an unamended form.

In respect of the second issue, there is nothing in the legislation that contravenes ILO Convention 155. The convention stipulates that consultation must occur ‘with the most representative organisations of employers and workers’. Worker and employer representatives will be directly involved in the development of draft model legislation and draft model codes of practice by virtue of their membership on Safe Work Australia. In addition, the draft model legislation and model codes of practice will be subject to the broader consultation requirements of the Australian government before they are recommended to the Workplace Relations Ministers Council for approval. The bill, as I have said, requires a minister to appoint two members who represent the interests of workers and two who represent the interests of employers in Australia. These appointments can only be made following nomination by bodies that the minister considers represent the interests of workers and employers across Australia. There is nothing in the legislation that would impede the independence of the employer and worker representatives on the SWA.

Question put:

That the amendments (Senator Xenophon’s) be agreed to.