The Hon. GREG DONNELLY [5.14 p.m.]: Like a kangaroo caught by the driving lights of a fully laden B-double cutting through the misty fog on the Pacific Highway just north of Grafton, The Nationals just do not get it. To be fair, members of the Liberal Party are suffering from the same self-denial. It is as though not one of them studied physics at high school. None of them seems to recall Newton's laws of motion and the principles that underpin them. The mass combined with the velocity of the B-double means that when it collides with the kangaroo, the kangaroo comes off second best.
Voters in New South Wales are counting down the days to 24 March 2007 when they will get the chance to flatten both Coalition parties and their candidates for their blind, slavish support for John Howard's WorkChoices legislation. Like the kangaroo, members of the Coalition have absolutely nowhere to go. Pathetic attempts to deny it was their fault and blame their Federal colleagues have not, and will not, succeed. You can choose your friends but you cannot choose your family. The Liberal-Nationals in New South Wales were amongst the biggest supporters of John Howard's WorkChoices legislation. Every last one of them championed the cause of these terrible workplace laws. Indeed, some of them truly believed that the laws did not go far enough.
Those cowards, afraid to speak up and draw attention to themselves, believe in their hearts that our labour laws should set little more than a basic hourly rate of pay and that everything else should be left to the market to set. They see the work of people as little more than a cost that must be managed and kept as low as possible. Tragically, as time passes, the list of WorkChoices victims grows. As we approach the six-month anniversary of the legislation we find that tens of thousands of workers have been ground up and spat out by the legislation. Some brave individuals have spoken up about the grave injustices caused by WorkChoices and I commend them for what they have done.
The people who are speaking up are precisely the people who I, and many others, said would suffer grievously at the hands of WorkChoices—women, young people, part-timers, casuals, the semi-skilled and the unskilled. Their stories have been told and will continue to be told because the truth about WorkChoices will prevail. The other day I had the privilege of meeting Amber Oswald and her father. Amber was one of the earliest victims of WorkChoices. As the details of her case are well known I do not intend to repeat them. Suffice it to say that Amber, with the support of her union, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union [SDA], stood her ground and took on her employer, Pulp Juices Pty Ltd.
The Australian workplace agreement that the company tried to impose on her cut her weekly wage from $99 to $59. Pulp Juices did that because it thought it could. In litigation that is now before a Federal magistrate the company has admitted that it failed to pay its 21 workers under the terms of the certified agreement. It has acknowledged that what it did to Amber and her workmates was illegal. Interestingly, and rather tragically, the truth of this matter is that if the company had been less ham-fisted in the way it went about executing the plan, it could have got away with this all above board. I guess that Pulp Juices and the many other companies that follow its footsteps in the future will not make the same mistake twice.
What about Annette Harris from Spotlight, Coffs Harbour? Once again I do not intend to canvass the details in relation to this matter. She, too, with her support of her union, the SDA, stood her ground. Annette continues to enjoy the benefits of her State award. However, there is no similar luck for new employees at Coffs Harbour or any other stores around Australia. To twist the knife a bit further, whilst Coffs Harbour employees were offered the princely sum of an extra 2¢ an hour to remove a whole range of State award entitlements, employees at the recently opened Mount Druitt store lost the whole lot for nothing—a swag of State award entitlements given the chop for not 1¢ of compensation. In a moment of frankness about the whole issue, Spotlight's general manager for marketing said:
We are doing what we were told to do by the legislation.
Perhaps I was incorrect in describing Opposition members as kangaroos. Instead of being kangaroos perhaps Liberal-Nationals members are the bunnies; I am not sure. In the end, though, it does not matter. The B-double is bearing down on them and I am glad that I am in the cab of the truck and not sitting on the Pacific highway dazed and confused and pondering what will happen next.