Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (14:24:31) — I would like to make a brief contribution to the Long Service Benefits Portability Bill 2018. As many of the speakers before me have said, and as we all know from the amount of time this bill has been on the notice paper, this bill provides portable long service benefits to certain industries and, I would say, certain vulnerable industries. I met a number of workers who will be positively impacted by this change. They were cleaners who might have been cleaning the exact same building for 25 years; it is just that they had eight different employers during that time. It was the same situation with security staff at the National Gallery of Victoria who I spoke to. Again, the contract for security is changed every few years, but the security staff may well stay there, and yet this excludes them from getting long service leave. I think this bill has a lot of merit. Unfortunately I have one area of considerable concern.
We are talking about people like Jadwiga Dodok, who worked in the same building for 26 years. She had 10 different employers over that time, but she kept doing the same job; she kept being loyal and diligent and working hard. However, she did not qualify for any weeks of long service leave, and this is a physical job. This is a job where her body will take the toll; this is a job that, going into her 60s as she is, she may not be able to continue. But like 61 per cent of cleaners in Victoria, she will miss out on long service leave entirely. Similarly, 74 per cent of security guards will miss out on long service leave entirely. This bill is a matter of equality, and I think that was certainly what the parliamentary inquiry found in 2015. It is about fairness, and I am largely supportive of the concept of what is within the bill and the reforms. We already have a portable long service leave scheme covering the construction industry. We have had that for decades, and I think that has been working relatively well. Every other state in Australia has it. There is already a scheme in the ACT covering cleaners and security guards. So the policy, I think, is fair and good. My concerns are wrapped up in who gets covered where there is no need for them to be caught up in this legislation.
This legislation also recognises the changing nature of work. In the 21st century we are not necessarily even going to have the same job for 10 years. One thing we can be certain of is that we do not know what the jobs will be in 20 years time. We have no idea what sorts of jobs our children who are going to preschool now will be doing or what industry and what work will look like in the future. What I do recognise is that it will not be stuck in one place; it will not be the person who works in the same office or on the same factory line for 25 years and retires with the gold watch having spent decades in the same place doing the same thing. That is not what the future of work is going to look like.
My concerns with this bill relate to the application of this scheme to community health. I am a huge champion of community health; this is money incredibly well spent. Community health provides that much-needed health care to people who are the most disadvantaged in our community and is at the forefront of preventative health. It is enabling people to get good diets. Looking at Cohealth in South Melbourne — and I talked about dental systems here the other day — they have eight chairs and they see nearly 5000 clients a year. No private health sector could provide that. Community health does this brilliantly. What they also do brilliantly is deliver a portable long service leave scheme, and they have done for years. They have an enterprise bargaining agreement that entrenches this, and it is a good scheme, so by adding this other layer as this bill does to the community health sector it does mean additional administrative costs and, perhaps more substantially, much-needed money taken off the balance sheet of these important community institutions and organisations. They are not rolling in it — I can tell you — but they are doing remarkably great work.
The North Richmond health centre, which is obviously close to my heart because of its connection to the supervised injecting centre, was able to organise a volunteer dentist there, so that incredibly marginalised, homeless group of drug users is now getting dental services. And this is the really extraordinary work that community health is able to contribute, and rather than taking anything away from community health, I think we should be adding to it. It is where we can really get into our communities, and if we are talking about preventative measures, whether that is preventative measures on family violence or preventative measures on inequality — all of those issues — this is where we can have early intervention. As Lyn Morgan, the chief executive of Cohealth informs me, this legislation will probably add somewhere between $200 000 and $500 000 a year in costs to her organisation. This means $200 000 to $500 000 a year that Cohealth will not be able to spend on the community, and I think that is a terrible outcome.
I appreciate that the government has introduced amendments that recognise the complications with the childcare sector and that recognise the complications with disability workers with the implementation of the national disability insurance scheme. But I am really disappointed that the government has rejected suggested changes that would have seen community health workers retaining the same rights and protections to portable leave without disadvantaging the sector in this way. I have been partly reassured by the minister’s office that some of this will be dealt with in regulation. I cannot say that the sector is reassured by the response, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll pop it into regulation’.
November is nigh, and I think the sector really wanted some legislative assurances rather than assurances that the regulations would ensure that there was no double dipping and that this would be streamlined. The sector is not assured, and I would take their advice that they do not feel comfortable with that. Having said that, I support the notion of portable long service leave, and I was very much moved by all of the people that I have met, particularly in the cleaning and security sectors, that talked about their long-term commitment to their work, which was not returned in long service awards that most of us would take somewhat for granted.
I will continue to listen to the debate. I will continue to consider the amendments that the government is putting up and the amendments that the opposition is putting up, and I will certainly hold my decision on this bill. As I say, I am completely in favour of the concept, but my major concern is how it will affect the community health sector.