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Monday, 12 October 2015
Page: 7279

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (13:28): The government will be opposing the Green amendments. I turn to the amendments on sheet 7554. The government does not support these amendments. They would remove the capacity to request flexible working arrangements from the National Employment Standards and that is not consistent with the intended operation of the Fair Work Act. The existing entitlement 'requests flexible working arrangements' is designed to support families and others in balancing work and their responsibilities outside of work. They are also designed to promote discussion between employers and employees about the issue of flexible working arrangements and the government believes this is an appropriate balance.

The current provisions recognise that there are certain groups that face difficulties in engaging with employment and provide legislative support for these employees to access flexibility. While the provisions work to support eligible employees manage work and other responsibilities, they are also drafted to ensure that the competitiveness and viability of businesses will not be impeded. The government will not be supporting those amendments.

I will now turn to the amendments on sheet 7560. Again, the government will not be supporting these amendments. We believe that they would have the effect of predetermining the employment relationship between an employee and an employer irrespective of the parties' wishes. It is the government's clear position that individual employees and employers are the people who are best placed to determine what employment arrangements suit them. It also must be noted that not all casual or contract employees wish to become permanent employees. Casual employees have the flexibility to refuse work at any particular time, for example, to accommodate study or family responsibilities. They may also prefer to receive additional remuneration through the casual loading rather than the benefits that apply to permanent employment—for example, annual leave. The proposed amendments, as I said, allow someone other than the affected employer and employee to determine the employment relationship, and that is not a position that the government support.