WorkChoices too complex for Hockey, claims Labor

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WorkChoices too complex for Hockey, claims Labor

Labor has accused Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, of not understanding the 'complex' WorkChoices laws his Department administers.

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Labor has accused Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, of not understanding the 'complex' WorkChoices laws his Department administers.

Hockey was asked in Parliament yesterday, if workers under 18 'waive' their right to have access to the official AWA information statement 'do their parents get access to this information statement?'

'Minister, if parental consent is needed for the AWA, should this important information be given to their parents?'

'Anyone under the age of 18 who is signing an AWA requires the consent of a parent. That is the answer,' said Hockey, who then went on to talk about unemployment rates.

'Doesn't know about his own Act'

ALP Member for Grayndler, Anthony Albanese, then rose on a point of order: 'Mr Speaker, if the Minister does not know about the operation of his own act, he should just say so.'

The Speaker ruled him out of order.

Labor's IR spokeswoman Julia Gillard said later the 'correct' answer to the question on young workers requiring parental consent 'is that there is no mechanism in the legislation for the parent to obtain access to the AWA information statement, despite the parent being required by legislation to indicate their consent to their child entering into the AWA'.

'This means that parents required to consent to their child's entry into an AWA, miss out on seeing important information, such as being able to appoint a bargaining agent in connection with an AWA,' she said.

Employees' rights

According to the Office of Employment website, the AWA information contains such information as what must and must not be included in an AWA, and employees' rights when signing them.

It also says employees must be given access to the AWA and the information statement for at least seven days, unless the employee agrees to waive that requirement in writing.

Hockey was also asked by Gillard: 'If an employee is entitled to a casual loading of 25% under an Australian pay and classification scale, to what casual loading is the employee entitled if the employee enters into an Australian workplace agreement?'

Hockey replied: 'It could be more. That is the nature of an Australian workplace agreement. People can be paid more under an Australian workplace agreement.'

'Correct' answer

In a statement later in the day Gillard said the 'correct' answer to the question is that 'the legislation guarantees a casual loading of just 20% when the employee enters into a workplace agreement, regardless of what the employee was previously guaranteed under the employee's Australian Pay and Classification Scale'.

Gillard said the Minister's 'inability to answer these fundamental questions regarding the operation of his act is worrying'. She said Hockey's apparent inability to explain his own WorkChoices laws showed they are 'complex, unfair and unworkable'.

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