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Monday, 13 December 1993
Page: 4410

Senator BELL (4.16 p.m.) —The Australian Democrats will also be supporting this amendment on a similar basis to that which has been expressed by the government. The expression `belt and braces' may be appropriate, but we think that it is better explained in the actual text of the amendment moved by Senator Margetts. The final part of that amendment is quite instructive. Proposed subsection (4) in part reads:

If it—

meaning the commission—

considers that there has been a failure to consult or explain . . .

I think they are very important words. They are words that we really need to be careful about when looking at what has happened with the Industrial Relations Reform Bill, as proposed. At one stage in the very longstanding debate on it, I suggested that the minister needed to consult more widely. At that time I suggested that those with whom the minister should have consulted were the employer groups. Again, in this process, there was also a period in which there were certain other affected parties who believed, rightly or wrongly, that they needed more consultation. I would like to quote from a couple of letters I received in this regard. Both are from the National Pay Equity Coalition. The first letter of 31 August in part reads:

The National Pay Equity Coalition believes that the government's proposals to extend enterprise bargaining to non-union areas will be a disaster for women. We have compiled a page of facts and figures to let you know the true situation regarding women and non-union bargaining. We hope you find them informative.

I communicated with this group and I presume the government did too. Because of the outcome, I presume also that the government consulted and did what this very amendment suggests the commission may ensure is done. The government must have taken some trouble to explain as well. I believe there were also alterations as a result of this first communication. On 19 October, I received a communication from the National Pay Equity Coalition, which in part reads:

The National Pay Equity Coalition is much happier with the final version of the industrial relations legislation than we were with previous suggestions. We believe that adequate safeguards that protect women's wages and conditions are now in place.

It then goes on to express one of its remaining concerns. I think that process is an admirable process and one which we should ensure takes place at any alteration or consideration of any alteration to people's terms and conditions of employment. Senator Margetts's amendment ensures very completely that that will take place, even though proposed section 170MC(1) reads:

The Commission must certify an agreement if, and must not certify an agreement unless, it is satisfied that:

(b) the agreement does not, in relation to their terms and conditions of employment, disadvantage the employees who are covered by the agreement.

I interpret that Senator Margetts is attempting to ensure that all employees who are covered by that agreement are taken into account, not simply 50 per cent plus one. With this amendment, Senator Margetts is attempting to ensure that, when this bill says `employees', it really does mean `employees'—all of those who are considered by it. I think it is a worthy amendment to achieve that purpose and therefore we support it.