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Thursday, 26 September 2002
Page: 5042

Senator CROSSIN (6:00 PM) —I rise this evening to speak to the report for 2000 and 2001 on agreement making in Australia under the Workplace Relations Act. This report is prepared by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and the Office of the Employment Advocate. In particular, I want to draw the Senate's attention to two specific areas in this document. Comprehensive as it may seem, a number of questions still need to be asked not only about this government's policies on industrial relations but about how those policies are then translated into reality in the workplace and what that means for families in this country, particularly in relation to the casualisation of the work force in this country and the lack of family friendly work practices within enterprise agreements and Australian workplace agreements.

This report reveals that the proportion of enterprise agreements which provide for the use of casual labour has increased from 33 per cent to 71 per cent in the past two years. The figures in this document strongly suggest that the newly casualised workers enjoy fewer protections. The proportion of agreements that protect workers by regulating hours, wages and the numbers of casual employees has dropped from 16 per cent to six per cent. The proportion of agreements that provide for a casual loading—that is, the extra hourly pay to compensate casual employees for having no leave entitlements and no guarantee of work—has barely risen, from 25 per cent to only 29 per cent.

We have here a government that talks a lot about how it intends to help families in this country, but these figures show that families are under even more pressure with the new laws, as these laws prevent the award safety net restricting the use of casual labour. Casual workers have no access to paid leave or holidays to look after their families and, with no guarantee of continuing work, many find it impossible to secure a loan in order to buy a car or a family home. These figures show that under this federal government a secure, full-time, permanent job is becoming a distant memory for many families.

Under this government there is not an increase but a significant decrease in family friendly measures within the workplace and within workplace agreement entitlements. There is a decrease in the percentage of workplace agreements, according to this document, that contain flexible starting and finishing times for ordinary hours of work. In fact, that number has gone from four per cent in 1998-99 down to three per cent in 2000-01. There has been a decrease in the percentage of agreements providing for family and carers leave from 28 per cent in 1998-99 down to 27 per cent. There has been a decrease in the percentage of agreements that provide paid maternity leave or primary carers leave from 10 per cent down to seven per cent. There has been no growth in the percentage of agreements containing flexible annual leave. That has remained static at six per cent. Paid family leave remains at three per cent. Regular part-time work has not increased or decreased; it remains at seven per cent. Provisions for family responsibilities remain at three per cent, and child-care provisions remain at one per cent.

What we see here is a federal government that, when the figures are presented in a report like this and are tabled in federal parliament, really does not have any family friendly policies—they are not being translated into reality for families in Australia and they certainly are not the reality for workers and employees. (Time expired) I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.