Young Workers Protection
Ms ANGELA D'AMORE: My question is addressed to the Premier. What is the Government doing to better protect young and vulnerable workers?
Mr MORRIS IEMMA: I commend the honourable member for Drummoyne for her interest in the protection of workers, particularly young workers. The question is indeed relevant in light of the WorkChoices laws, which are so bad for workers and their families. Since their introduction in March the New South Wales Office of Industrial Relations has received more than 82,000 calls from workers and businesses being hurt by the changes—workers losing hard-won entitlements and conditions, workers stripped of holiday pay and penalty rates, workers demeaned and threatened with the sack. Despite the more than 82,000 victims of the Liberals' WorkChoices laws, we have had not one word in their defence from the Leader of the Opposition—just a cold-hearted pledge to sack 29,000 New South Wales government workers and put them on the scrapheap.
It is not just workers who are being hurt by WorkChoices. Small business owners also are calling the Office of Industrial Relations, confused and frustrated by the red tape and extra costs imposed by WorkChoices. In fact, a recent survey by small business software and service provider MYOB found that most small businesses believe WorkChoices is unfair and damaging to their communities. So even small businesses have cottoned on. Only 9 per cent of those surveyed said they planned to use any part of the WorkChoices legislation—despite small business being put forward as one of the needs for this legislation—and only 10 per cent believed the laws would improve business productivity in any way. WorkChoices is bad for workers, bad for business and bad for New South Wales.
I can advise the honourable member for Drummoyne that the Government is doing everything in its powers to protect New South Wales from the Liberals' WorkChoices laws. Last year we introduced new laws to protect front-line public servants, such as nurses, firefighters and ambulance officers from WorkChoices. Today I am proud to announce that the Government will introduce new laws to protect the 150,000 young people under the age of 18 years who are in formal employment in this State. Today, in the public gallery are three such hard-working young people, Joel, John and Christy, who will benefit from these new laws. The Government is determined to protect young workers because, unlike our opponents, we do not believe in an Australia where employers can exploit children and young people—hence our legislation to protect young workers from exploitation. The choice is clear: under us, protection for young workers; under them, 29,000 sackings and WorkChoices all round.
Today I announce the latest part of our plan to protect workers and families from WorkChoices—our legislation is based on the State's constitutional power to protect young people. Young people on State or Federal awards will be protected by stringent minimum conditions. Wages and conditions will have to be at least at the level provided by New South Wales awards and legislation. Young workers will not have to bargain individually to maintain their existing penalties, allowances, training pay and training leave. Young people will have access to the services provided by the New South Wales Office of Industrial Relations, and they will be able to get information about their employment rights—we believe they should still have those rights—and receive help to enforce their entitlements.
When that bill comes before the Parliament it will afford another opportunity for the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues to show whether they back the families and young people of New South Wales, or whether once again they will squib the chance to stand up for the people that they allegedly represent. As we know, the record of Coalition members on standing up for workers and their families is pathetic. When asked to support this Government's High Court challenge, the Leader of the Opposition is on record as replying:
Yes…no…um…I've got no comment on that.
When asked if he would keep the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission or shut it down, he responded:
We'll spell that out later in the year.
We are still waiting. But on one industrial relations issue there can be no doubt about where the Leader of the Opposition stands, and that is to sack 29,000 workers. The Leader of the Opposition was desperately backtracking on the 29,000 sackings, claiming that the 29,000 was "not my figure"—as was recorded in the Sydney Morning Herald. That is despite the fact that that number and even higher numbers have been repeatedly reported as Coalition policy. I am happy to share the record with the House. I quote from Radio ABC Riverina of 16 March this year:
The 29,000 came about because of our calculation of the number of bureaucrats.
The Sydney Morning Herald of 22 February this year said that the Leader of the Opposition's:
… broad strategy is to cut the 300,000-strong public service by 10 per cent.
And 10 per cent of 300,000 is 30,000. Further, in November of last year we had this from Club Life—
Mr Andrew Stoner: Is this what you are getting for your $4 million media monitoring package?
Mr MORRIS IEMMA: No wonder there is confusion whether it is 29,000 or 30,000.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of The Nationals will come to order.
Mr Andrew Stoner: You spend $4 million on media monitoring, yet you are sacking staff in Parliament House. You are a hypocrite.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA: And the Leader of The Nationals wants the food subsidy brought back! Club Life reported:
… Every year a little over 30,000 people leave the public sector … if you were to implement a freeze on the bureaucrats and replace that person from within, you'd immediately be saving more than $2.3 million a day.
So there is the Coalition's plan: to cut 29,000, or 30,000, public sector jobs, despite the audit released in February finding that more than 80 per cent of workers in the service are in frontline service, and a further 7½ per cent are in essential support roles.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Members of the Opposition will stop calling out.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA: Some 80 per cent of the State's public sector are in frontline service; another 7.5 per cent are essential support to frontline services staff, which leaves 33,000 workers who could be the target of cuts by the Leader of the Opposition. He has confirmed that it is 29,000, but on other occasions he has confirmed that it is 30,000. He accepts that 80 per cent of the 300,000 are in frontline service provision and he accepts that another 7.5 per cent provide essential support to them, so the pool from which he will get 29,000 is 33,000. If that is not his number then somebody must be going around the radio stations of the State impersonating the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Government members will come to order.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA: Whether he gets the 29,000 from the back office or through natural attrition, it does not add up. What does add up is that to get anywhere near the 29,000, frontline nurses, teachers and police will have to be targeted.