The Hon. C. J. S. LYNN: My question is to the Special Minister of State, and Minister for Industrial Relations. Does the Minister agree that there is an urgent need for the protection of workers entitlements? Does he also agree that the Government has failed to provide any process by which workers are assured that they will receive their entitlements if their employer fails? In light of the fact that the Minister, as Minister responsible, has not presented to this Parliament any alternative to the Federal Government's employee entitlements scheme, and the fact that he personally gagged debate on this issue at the recent national conference of the Australian Labor Party, does he accepts full responsibility for the many workers that he has failed to protect?
The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA: Those responsible for the outstanding employee entitlements should pay for them. They are the employers and, where relevant, related companies and directors, if they are responsible for the loss. The taxpayers of New South Wales should not have to pick up the bill for failed businesses. In October 1999 the New South Wales Government proposed to the Commonwealth a range of options to protect employee entitlements without unduly burdening taxpayers. The options included an insurance scheme, trust funds coupled with Federal tax concessions and Corporations Law changes. To date New South Wales has received no response from the Commonwealth to its proposals.
The Federal Government took a unilateral decision to set up an employee entitlements support scheme without meaningful consultation with the States. The employee entitlements support scheme can also be criticised for having been established on an administrative basis, and thus the Federal Government has bypassed the scrutiny and debate of its own Parliament. The Federal scheme disadvantages employees as it unfairly limits the payment of workers' entitlements to a maximum of 29 weeks pay, regardless of how many weeks pay they are owed, and is capped at a maximum level of $40,000 per year. The point is, as has repeatedly been said in this place by members of the Government and outside this place, the responsibility for workers' entitlements lies with the employers, and a decent scheme—
The Hon. M. J. Gallacher: What are you doing about it?
The Hon. J. J. DELLA BOSCA: I have just said what we are doing about it. We have already worked out the options by which a national scheme would operate. The Hon. C. J. S. Lynn referred to the ALP national conference. We adopted an absolutely fantastic employee entitlements scheme, and I am sure it will be implemented when the Beazley government is elected.