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Tuesday, 4 April 2000
Page: 15197


Mrs CROSIO (10:39 PM) —I rise tonight to pose a question to the government: what value does this government place on the working people of our nation? I think I can answer for it, and that is absolutely none. We have allowed the last four years to go by during which we have not introduced or attempted to introduce legislation to protect the rights of workers who through no fault of their own—through employer insolvency—have lost all their entitlements. The National Textiles decision made by this government was certainly good news for the 300-odd workers, but it highlighted what the government has now failed to do, and that is to establish a properly funded national scheme to protect all workers. I ask the question of the government: why was the government shamed into taking that decision? Why are the taxpayers paying when it is the employer who should be responsible? Why is the responsibility not left with the employer?

My private member's bill that I have introduced in this House three years in a row would have provided 100 per cent protection for employees. We as a nation can no longer afford to have an ad hoc approach to what is a very serious question. Workers across this nation, day in and day out, are losing out because they have no protection whatsoever. Large groups get media attention. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business are very sympathetic to them—they listened to them and said, `Yes, we are going to look into it'—but then they do absolutely nothing. The individual cases do not even make the headlines. So what about them?

I have stated this tonight because I want to bring to the notice of the House a letter that I received last week from a constituent of mine which needs to be made public—and I am doing so with their consent. The letter reads:

Dear Ms Crosio,

I have never had the need to write before to a politician but feel that something must be done to bring our plight to the notice of the general public. My husband John worked at Philips Service in Homebush for a total of 21 years and on the 29th December 1998 the division was sold to a company called 'Accalade Pty Ltd' Percy St Auburn which was owned by Clive Mathews, 37 Alicante St Minchinbury.

Many employees entitlements (about 57 people in total) were transferred to Accalade and consequently lost everything when the company folded on the 26th November 1999.

My husband was a conscientious employee and has been treated shabbily, we now have the report from the Administrator stating we will not receive a cent of our entitlements. We were given no choice by Philips in 1997 although some employees were lucky enough to be offered retrenchment, it was strange that the employees that were chosen were the “difficult” employees who caused problems whilst the dependable ones were transferred to Accalade.

This certainly makes one feel why be loyal and conscientious when this is the reward?

Clive Mathews has now opened another company, Denise Mathews being the Director, (his wife) Allied Industries, Seville St Guildford and I believe it's business as usual over there, is this justice???

I am constantly being reminded how this can happen by the Rutherford Workforce but in contrast to us, the Prime Minister is seen to be concerned and will assist them financially.

I wonder if you could at least make some enquiries as to the activities of this Clive Mathews and perhaps save future employees from our experience, he has outstanding debts of over $2,000,000!

Today we received a cheque from Clive Mathews for our own Superannuation contributions which he had not forwarded to the fund from the 21st January 1999. I wonder what caused this benevolence?

I have applied for the Safety Net scheme and hope to be successful.

Hoping to hear from you soon.

That is another instance where individuals do not make the headlines. These are individuals—not 300 or 400 workers that either come to the electorate office or come to this parliament and demonstrate and then the media take a sympathetic approach to them and the government acts—in situations that are occurring through everyone's electorates right across Australia. It should not be. Why should that man who has given 20-odd years of loyal service to a firm be now denied every penny that should have been legally his? And, as his wife stated, the only pennies they received were the ones that were not paid into the superannuation fund.

We have had a Corporations Law change come in recently, but that is not going to affect and even assist people like this. I have written to the Minister for Finance and Administration, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business to bring again to their conscience the causes, the concerns and the problems we are experiencing not only in my electorate but right across Australia. I believe it is time for this government to act. Surely to goodness a sympathetic ear is not what the workers want. They do not want charity; they want what is rightfully theirs. They want what they have worked for and what they are entitled to. They want this government to act. This government can act by bringing on for debate the bill that has been before this House for now three years. That bill, as I have stated before, can be amended and can be acted on. But, more importantly, if this government does not want to act on that private member's bill, at least it should bring in legislation that will no longer have employees across Australia being treated as shabbily as the Catalano family. (Time expired)