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Tuesday, 5 November 1996
Page: 5110

Senator MURRAY(6.45 p.m.) —Earlier Senator Forshaw picked up on a theme which began at the very beginning of this debate; that is, when Senator Sherry said he could not recall that amendments between two parties, such as the government and the Democrats, had been put before the house. We had quite an exciting time thereafter when the matter was debated. I just remind him that the minor parties did produce joint amendments on the Native Title Bill.

It is not unusual for joint amendments to be put. Joint amendments have been considered under the land fund bill, and I refer you to the 53 amendments moved jointly with the ALP government to the Health Legislation (Private Health Insurance Reform) Amendment Bill 1995. Joint amendments are not an unusual parliamentary device, Senator Forshaw. I am sure that it has just slipped your memory.

Secondly, you referred to consultation. Let me go through the range of consultation just in case you have slipped in the debate. There were 1,431 submissions both read and referred to by us, and hopefully by you. There were 18 days of public hearings. We have had numerous private consultations with employees and employer organisations. We have had numerous items of correspondence from them. We have also consulted as long or maybe longer with the ACTU concerning this bill as we have with the government. We have consulted at length with Professor Ron McCallum. We have consulted at length with the author of the New South Wales bill. So please do not give the audience to which you are talking the wrong impression that we have not considered this matter at great length. I appreciate that you do not agree with us, but we have done a very detailed and considered job.

We have been persuaded by many of these experts, many of whom happen to sit on your side of the political fence, that the amended section 89A will pick up the full range of award matters, while the transitional arrangements provide a more effective means to simplify and modernise awards than section 150A of the current Labor act. I believe that, if Labor were still the government, the award modernisation process under section 150A would have been accelerated.

In the former government's labour market reform package, Working Nation, this was made abundantly clear. You are fond of quoting things that I and Senator Kernot have said. Let me quote for Senator Sherry's assistance the relevant section of Working Nation. Page 31 states:

The Government—

that is, the Labor government—

believes that enterprise bargaining should be underpinned by minimum standards of wages and conditions provided through the award system. This should provide protection of core provisions such as minimum wage rates and loadings, leave, hours of work, termination, technological change and redundancy, superannuation, public holidays, mode of employment, union right of entry and dispute settlement procedures.

I think most of those are picked up with the bill. Let me quote to you your own words. Page 33 states:

The Government sees the process of further reforming awards and removing—

I emphasise `removing'—

detailed prescriptions as vital . . . there is a need to simplify awards to make their operation more flexible, while retaining their safety net function. An important role of the AIRC in this regard is to review substantially all Federal awards within a three year time frame and to remedy any deficiencies, such as obsolete and unnecessarily detailed provisions.

I further quote:

The Government is working to ensure that the AIRC and the industrial parties give the award review process high priority.

Progress reported.