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New Bill would further undermine AWA safeguards.

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26 June 2002

New Bill would further undermine AWA safeguards

A new Bill introduced by the Government today will further undermine the safeguards designed to protect workers who enter into Australian Workplace Agreements and do nothing to dispel the cloud hanging over the Employment Advocate’s existing approval practices.

I have written today to Minister Tony Abbott urging him to ensure that the Employment Advocate is complying with the existing law which requires him to be sure that each AWA passes the no disadvantage test (NDT).

Under a special fast track programme, the Employment Advocate relies on assurances by employers or private consultants that AWAs meet the no-disadvantage test.

But any delegation of the function of checking AWAs to make sure they comply to somebody other than a public servant is unlawful.

Last week, Mr Hamberger said: “We will still be checking that all the AWAs pass the NDT.”

But only three weeks ago at a Senate Estimates hearing, Mr Hamberger said: “We would not check every one.”

“The scheme to ‘fast track’ AWAs by allowing employers to certify their own agreements pass the test has been ill-conceived right from the beginning,” said Mr McClelland.

“Spot checks aren’t good enough. The Employment Advocate has a responsibility to prevent workers from being exploited and his office is under a statutory obligation to ensure that each and every AWA meets the no-disadvantage test.

“Tony Abbott talks about applying the ‘rule of law’ in Australia’s workplaces. But his first duty should be to ensure that his own Employment Advocate is observing the rule of law particularly when the laws are intended to protect the most vulnerable.”

One effect of the new Bill will be that workplace agreements can take effect before the Employment Advocate has even considered whether the AWA passes the no-disadvantage test.

For further information: Jonathan Kirkwood 0425 231 690

Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow M inister for W orkplace Relations

Robert McClelland MP