You are here

Long Service Leave (State Employees) Amendment Bill 2019

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Tags: Public Service, Legislation

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, the Long Service Leave (State Employees) Amendment Bill 2019 is solid legislation. It is modernising the current act and we will be supporting it.

I thank the members of the Department of Justice who gave us a briefing yesterday. It is disappointing that we only had the legislation for a bit over a week and it has come on today after our briefing yesterday.

We recognise that this is a clarification bill and it institutes a measure of greater fairness into the legislation. It deals with a long-standing inequity in the ability to obtain long service leave and that is for people who are employed under the Parliamentary Privileges Act of 1989. When you go into the Parliamentary Privilege Act, it is pretty clear on a black letter law reading of it, that the long service leave entitlements were initially only intended to be there for officers appointed under the Parliamentary Privilege Act. It is only 30 years ago but it does point to another time and perhaps a more hierarchical approach of ye olde times where other people who work within this beautiful precinct were not covered by the long service leave provisions in the Parliamentary Privilege Act. I am pleased to note that despite that, as I understand it, long service leave was awarded to people who were employed in this parliamentary precinct under the Parliamentary Privilege Act.

I note that there is a doubts removal clause in relation to that specific circumstance where, while the legislation did not cover those who were other than officers, did receive long service leave entitlements. There is a doubts removal clause which validates previous calculations made to employees.

In this building, under the Parliamentary Privilege Act, there is no secretary so there is a relevant manager or managers. That is an important change, 'relevant ministers' changed to 'relevant authority'.

On the point of consultation, I too received the same correspondence from the CPSU's secretary, Tom Lynch, late yesterday and again, I note that this is all quite rushed. As I recall, the bill was tabled on the Thursday of the last sitting. The union, which has the greatest level of responsibility for State Service workers, public sector workers, was not consulted and then there was a flurry of activity where we were given a briefing at 2 o'clock on the Monday afternoon before parliament sits and debates the bill today. The CPSU, having not been heard by the minister, writes a letter asking other members in this place to support an amendment which makes provision for people who have been operating at a higher level of duties in the State Service. I do not know, Ms O'Byrne, if you read any of Mr Lynch's comments into Hansard?

Ms O'Byrne - I read the reason for having it. I read the second, third and fourth paragraphs of that letter. The bit about consultation you could read in if you want, the one that talks about not being consulted.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, that is the point. During the briefing that we received yesterday I asked, 'Has there been contact with the unions, or consultation with unions? What is their feedback?,' and was very quickly told that there had been no consultation with relevant unions, particularly the CPSU. As I understand it, there had been a belated recognition that there had been too little consultation and that the CPSU, correct me if I am wrong, Attorney-General, were not given a preliminary draft, were they? They had to deal with the bill that was tabled. Is that right?

Ms Archer - I think that is correct, yes.

Ms O'CONNOR - There was nothing sincere, if you like, about consulting with the unions who have that collective responsibility for State Service workers. I do not understand why you would not do that. Why you would not do it, first of all, because you want the legislation to be the best that it can be? You want State Service workers to be broadly supportive of these changes. The politics is that it is better to say, 'we consulted' than 'we did not and we ignored a major union'.

Ms O'Byrne - It is a good bill. There is nothing wrong with the bill.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is right.

Madam SPEAKER - Through the Chair, please.

Ms O'Byrne - I was saying something nice about the bill, Madam Speaker. I thought you would be pleased with me.

Madam SPEAKER - I accept that but you might have forgotten I was in the room.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, it is good legislation. There is only one improvement to be made to it and that improvement has been referred to now by the Attorney-General in the second reading speech and by yourself, Ms O'Byrne.

It is interesting, the contrast. I want to take a moment to talk about the kind of consultation manoeuvres that we see come out of this Government. It will not consult on legislation that will impact on the lives of State Service workers - no consultation. However, if there is a community mood for us to have stronger electoral laws in Tasmania, if it is very clear that we have shamefully weak donations disclosure laws in this state, if it is a matter of national knowledge that we have the weakest donations disclosure laws in the country, if you can point to a state election result which was so infected by dark money -

Mr Tucker - Dark MOFO.

Ms O'CONNOR - You might one day, Mr Tucker, make a useful contribution in this place. You just might.

Mr Tucker - Thank you, Ms O'Connor.

Ms O'CONNOR - These are really important matters. You might laugh.

Madam SPEAKER - Can we have some discipline, please.

Ms O'CONNOR - Through you, Madam Speaker, Mr Tucker might laugh at the point that the Greens are trying to make in this place, that the last state election, Mr Tucker, was contaminated with dark money. The Australian Electoral Commission returns show that of $4 million which was donated to your party only $1 million of that was declared in a way where the source of the money was known. One dollar out of every four your party got from corporate donors was declared in a manner that was transparent so Tasmanians know where the money came from; $3 million went into the Liberal Party coffers in a shady way, no transparency, so that Tasmanians when they did go to the polls had no idea who was putting the money into your party. Mr Tucker, when you and your colleagues come in here and puff yourselves up and talk about a strong, stable Liberal majority government, you are sitting on a one seat majority. Do not get too smug about it.

The only reason you got anything close to a safe set of numbers in here now is because Ms Ogilvie came in and sat on your side of the bench. It is barely a healthy majority, is it?

Madam Speaker, the point I am making is that there is a strong public mood for electoral reform. We have the weakest electoral laws in the country. It is obvious. Pull those corflutes down from those pokies pubs that you had them plastered all over.

Ms Archer - I said relevance to the bill.

Ms O'CONNOR - There is relevance, because an issue of consultation has arisen. No consultation on this bill, but on electoral reform in Tasmania we have a consultation process that is going out into Rip Van Winkle land so that this Liberal Government can drag its heels all the way to the next state election, rolling the money in from their corporate donors as they go. They are consulting themselves purple in the face to delay meaningful reform. I do refer members in this place. I hear the groans of the Attorney-General. You cop it, Attorney-General, because you ran away from the media in Westbury, you will not consult with unions, you are the House dobber.

I needed to make that point because it is galling that, when it suits this Government, they will consult forever and that is what is happening on electoral reform. When it does not suit them they do not consult, which is what has happened with the Long Service Leave (State Employees) Amendment Bill and with the prison they want to plonk in the town of Westbury.

We also recognise that the act was introduced at a time when most public servants worked a standard 7.6 hours a day. As we all know, particularly any of us who come into contact with people working in government departments, that is most certainly no longer the case. This bill is designed to adjust to those modern working arrangements so that entitlement for long service leave is calculated from days to hours.

The language has changed. Sick leave will be replaced with the words 'personal leave'. Personal leave can accommodate a range of reasons for leave, including if you need to look after a member of your family, or if you are experiencing family violence. There is a range of issues that will now be captured under a more appropriate term of personal leave. I had the original second reading speech and the draft simply includes the only change I can identify in the second reading speech, which is the inclusion of the mea culpa paragraph -

I can also indicate the Government will introduce an amendment to the bill with respect to State Service employees in receipt of a higher duties allowance. In appropriate circumstances employees will no longer revert back to their substantive classification for any periods of long service leave.

I do not know, Attorney-General, whether you have consulted with the union on your proposed amendment. Are we going to see the proposed amendment before you table it?

Ms Archer - Yes, you will.

Ms O'CONNOR - There is a set of words here that have been proposed by the Community and Public Sector Union. I will simply flag that in the absence of being able to see what has been drafted in the period between yesterday, when I had a briefing that gave no indication that this amendment was coming, and today I can indicate that, no doubt, this is the same form of words that Ms O'Byrne has in her amendment. On behalf of the Greens, I am making it clear that we reserve the right to introduce an amendment to give effect to that acknowledgement of the impact of time in higher duties on long service leave entitlements, or that there should be a recognition of that in long service leave entitlements. We will exercise our right to move this amendment, should the amendment that comes, whenever it does arrive from the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, not achieve this effect. The new clause A, which would go in on page 5 after clause 4, would insert the following new clause -

A. Section 4 amended (Salary) -

Section 4 of the Principal Act is amended as follows -

by inserting the following paragraph after (d) in subsection (iv) -

(e) Higher duties/more responsible duties or relieving allowances where the duties that attract the allowance would have been continuous but for the period of long service leave and are resumed immediately on the completion of the period of long service leave; and

(b) by omitting (c) from subsection 4(2).

It is disappointing how hastily this has been done. It is disappointing that you get two second reading speeches, you do not see the amendment that is proposed, you want to say good things about this legislation and you are treated like a mushroom. This is good legislation. We support it. We want to go into Committee. The Attorney-General has flagged that we are going anyway but we want to make sure that provision and the concerns of the union, which represents thousands of public sector workers in Tasmania, are listened to this time.