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Speech to sacked clothing workers, Parliament House, Canberra, 1 September 1999: transcript [workers' entitlements]

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Subjects: Workers’ entitlements


Well, firstly, can I congratulate you on the struggle that you’re putting up. The fact that you’re p repared to band together to defend yourselves is in the great Aussie tradition. The fact that you’re out there fighting - it puts you in a very long historical line of people in this country who have stood up for their rights. It’s a central industrial tradition, it’s also a central democratic tradition. And it’s good to see the Oakdale workers, who had such a success, out here with you on this issue.


Reith has had this on his plate for years now. He had a Bill in the House for months to pick up the sort of situation that you confront and if it had gone through at the time that we put it down you’d be in a different situation.


The problem in this country is that the balance has been shifted against the ordinary worker. The balance was shifted against the ordinary worker in the last piece of industrial relations legislation and in the signals Government has been sending the employers of this country. The balance has been shifted against the worker. And shifting it against the worker means that you shift it against the ordinary Australian family. I mean, look at the faces of the women who are here and the men. This is the face of modern Australia. These are the mothers, these are the sisters, these are the fathers, these are the brothers, these are the ordinary men and women of the Australian community on whom our future is built. And they depend, for a decent retirement, for a chance to restructure their life, for the opportunities for their children, they depend upon people sticking to their agreements - in real terms, not just in words - sticking to their agreements.


Restructuring your company in a way that means you can deprive workers of their rights got endorsed by this Government during the maritime dispute, and they’ve since been forced by the weight of opinion of ordinary Australians to walk away from that. But the problem is it’s taking them months and months and months to come to a conclusion.


And, in the meantime, one set of Australian workers after another is falling between the cracks. That’s exactly what is happening to you.


It’s time the Government got off its backside, got a decent, fair agreement together to protect ordinary workers’ rights and stood by people like yourselves who are building this nation: building this nation through your families, building this nation through your work.


Now, we have been pressing the Government on that for a very long period of time and we will keep doing it.


But if they fail, in two years time we will fix the problem.





dd  1999-09-02  10:34