Young Workers Protection
The Hon. KAYEE GRIFFIN: My question is addressed to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Will the Minister advise the House of changes to industrial relations laws that help protect young workers in New South Wales?
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: The Opposition is unbelievable. Industrial relations, John Howard's strongest boot, is really playing on the electorate. It caused the Opposition to be hopelessly beaten in the election and is causing John Howard's Government to go headlong to the rocks. He is going to repeat the achievement of Stanley Bruce—a Prime Minister who lost his own seat in an election. The Full Bench of the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission has handed down guidelines to protect young workers from the unfair WorkChoices system. The guidelines apply to young worker protections put into law by the Iemma Government under the new Industrial Relations (Child Employment) Act 2006, and give employers clear guidance about their legal responsibilities. Combined with our laws, the no-net-detriment guidelines restore a fair set of State award conditions, ripped away by WorkChoices.
Employers who have entered into agreements under WorkChoices with a person under 18 years of age must now ensure that the total remuneration that a young person receives is comparable to the State award. The new guidelines also protect the following young worker provisions: reasonable notice of rosters and changes to shift and working hours; limitations on working late at night, early in the morning or late transportation arrangements; entitlements to annual leave and other forms of leave; and occupational health and safety protections. The commission found those protections were necessary because "There can be no doubt on the evidence that children employed by some corporate employers in this State are presently being exploited in a most unconscionable way." It also determined that "There was evidence there is a 'template' agreement being used by some employers to exploit children by severely undercutting wages and working conditions."
The Commonwealth's Office of the Employment Advocate's own website has featured lodged work contracts which set the hourly rate of pay for casual employees working on Sundays at 40 per cent less than the New South Wales award. And under Section 194 of WorkChoices there is no requirement for a minimum rate of pay for junior employees. In New South Wales more than 150,000 people under 18 years of age in formal employment will benefit from the new laws and guidelines. Even with the so-called fairness test, WorkChoices still allows basic workplace rights and entitlements to be ripped away. The Commonwealth's fairness test is a shameless scam that will do nothing to protect families from being exploited. Even the Federal workplace relations Minister, Joe Hockey, admitted yesterday that he could not guarantee workers would not be worse off as a result of his fairness test.
The WorkChoices system still lacks an independent umpire that could provide inexpensive and fast workplace justice when disputes and disagreements arise. No independent umpire remains to enforce any of the no-disadvantage provisions. Yesterday the Commonwealth Employment Advocate, who will be responsible for administering the "fairness test", told a Senate committee that hundreds of additional public servants would be needed to process Australian workplace agreements. This means small businesses will be paralysed by red tape as they manoeuvre their way through Australian workplace agreements. WorkChoices is now even more complex. It is interesting to note that while the Howard Government talks up its "fairness test", Federal Police are trying to find the source of the leaked documents that reveal the real impact of Australian workplace agreements on working families. Australian workplace agreement data leaked to the media last month shows that 75 per cent of them cut shift work loadings, 68 per cent cut penalty rates and 52 per cent removed public holiday pay. The only way to fix them is to put the Prime Minister and his tired, arrogant Government out of a job.