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Monday, 26 March 2001
Page: 25587

Mr BARRESI (3:11 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business. Will the minister inform the House of any plans to alter the conditions of Victorian workers not covered by federal awards and agreements? What is the government doing to further improve workplace arrangements for these workers?

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business) —I thank the member for Deakin for his question. The Victorian government's 1996 referral of its industrial relations power to the Commonwealth was one of the most significant changes in 100 years of industrial relations history, because it meant that in at least one state of the Commonwealth we had one law, one tribunal and one system. That was very much to the benefit of workers and businesses in Victoria. The Victorian government now wants to celebrate the Centenary of Federation by re-enacting 1901 and by re-creating its own industrial jurisdiction with its own tribunal, commissioners, awards and orders! This will cost Victorian taxpayers $10 million a year. It might create a few jobs for the comrades, but it is potentially going to cost the jobs of up to 40,000 Victorian workers. Perhaps this is a last-ditch attempt to create a retirement home for Jennie George before she comes up here to be the third superannuated ACTU president on the Labor front bench.

This government has previously tried to enhance conditions for Victorian workers through its Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment (More Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 1999 that the ALP has blocked in the Senate. We are now proposing a specific package of measures to improve the conditions of Victorian workers not covered by federal awards: we are going to provide carers leave and bereavement leave; we are going to enable federal inspectors to take action on behalf of workers; we are going to provide extra protection to outworkers in the textile industry. If members opposite were really concerned about the condition of workers, rather than just the power of unions, they would back the government's bill when it comes into the House and the Senate.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —Members on my left are denying the Leader of the Opposition the call.