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Wednesday, 7 March 2001
Page: 25220

Mr BEVIS (9:54 AM) —Mr Speaker, I had resumed my seat in the expectation that, in the normal course of these matters being discussed in detail in five-minute exchanges, the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business would stand and explain what tallies are; what it is that the government wants to stop happening. I would have thought that was a fair expectation for me to have in the parliament. The minister—the record should show—has declined now twice to answer that question and, indeed, on the last occasion declined to make any comment, merely precipitating the end of the debate. So let me assist the minister, and my doing that might help explain why the opposition does not support this move by the government.

The minister said that these matters would be interpreted by the commission and should be left to them. The commission has already made its decision. It made its decision in 1999, unequivocally. In a decision specifically about the meat industry, it determined that the tally system then in place would be abolished and required the parties to go away and come back with a replacement system that embodied better incentive payment arrangements. That was the decision that was taken. Indeed, the expectation I believe of the parties is that some time in the course of the next two or three months that matter will be finalised by the Industrial Relations Commission. So, if we do nothing as a parliament, all tallies will be removed—the commission already decided that in 1999—and a new system will be put in its place. That will happen if the parliament does nothing. So it is a legitimate question to ask of the government: why are you persisting with this bill when the only thing it now deals with is tallies in the meat industry?

My question was not a rhetorical question. This is a serious issue that the government has simply glossed over. What is a tally? If we are going to proscribe it by law—it will not just be the commission dealing with this legislation; you can bet your bottom dollar that this will find its way into the federal courts, and I would not mind betting that it finds its way into the High Court somewhere down the track—what is it that we are saying cannot be included in a meat industry award? The Productivity Commission, when it looked at tallies—and this was its report in 1998 that the government used as the lever to try to force tallies out—said:

There are two forms of tally—head tallies and unit tallies. Head tallies are simpler, and usually specify the number of heads that equate to minimum and maximum tally. Unit tallies are more complex, and are calculated according to a formula which takes into account the number, size and condition of animals, the size of a work team, and a prescribed amount of labour input per head.

The mumbo jumbo of that is that you basically get paid according to how many beasts are slaughtered. That is, if you like, a shorthand version of it. That is not too dissimilar to what the Industrial Relations Commission itself said. This issue is not a straightforward one. The Industrial Relations Commission actually produced a background paper on it, which it distributed in September 1999 at the time it made its full bench decision. The paper had a section that said `What is a tally?' and described it in these words:

A tally is one form of the more general case of payment by result systems of work.

You might ask yourself: what is the difference between a `payment by result', a `tally'—which, remember, is defined as the number of beasts that have gone through—or an `incentive scheme' where clearly the incentive is based on some count of beasts going through the abattoir?

The commission may well be able, on a case-by-case analysis of the facts before it, to distinguish between these things. They may look at particular awards and the history of those awards and surgically discern one from the other. But I put it to the parliament that it is folly for the parliament to blanketly exclude things called tallies, as this bill does, when the minister cannot give us a definition, when the definition provided by the government's own Productivity Commission is comparable but not the same as the Industrial Relations Commission's definition and when, in a lay person's terms, the three definitions are basically interchangeable. Whether you call it `incentive payments', whether you call it `payment by performance', whether you call it a `tally system' or whether you call it `payment by results', the common interpretation of all of those phrases is basically interchangeable. (Time expired)