Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) Amendment Bill

Posted on 12. Nov, 2009 in Speeches

I am pleased to speak in support of the Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) Amendment Bill 2009.

On this side of the house we welcome the return of decency and fairness to the conditions of working Australians. We rejoice whenever state and federal Labor governments legislate to support Australian working families.

As I pointed out in an earlier debate in June in this house, workers in communities such as the one I represent were treated harshly under WorkChoices. The unskilled or semiskilled migrant workers from non-English-speaking backgrounds and young people in retail were among the most exploited and vulnerable.

I strongly believe that as Australia has a national economy it needs a unified industrial relations system. However, it must be a system that treats its workers fairly and with dignity. That is why, during the dark days of the Howard years and WorkChoices, state Labor did what it could in Victoria to provide some protection to Victorian workers through Victorian legislation.

With the dismantling of WorkChoices, in June this year the Victorian Parliament passed the Fair Work (Commonwealth Powers) Bill 2009. That bill provided for a new referral of workplace relations matters to the commonwealth to enable the commonwealth to extend the application of the commonwealth Fair Work Act 2009 and associated legislation — fair work laws — to all Victorian employers and employees, subject to the public sector exclusions from the referral.

When we introduced that bill we advised that some refinements would be necessary as the commonwealth had to finalise arrangements with other states. As we know, South Australia and Tasmania are in the process of making referrals, and later this month the commonwealth will introduce a bill to amend the referral framework in the Fair Work Act to provide for these new referrals.

This bill is mainly technical and makes the necessary changes to accommodate the referrals made by South Australia and Tasmania.
As this bill needs to be passed in advance of the federal legislation, I wish this bill a speedy passage in restoring the rights of Victorian workers.

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