Thursday 16th February 2006
NSWNA President Coral Levett told a senate committee her concerns about WorkChoices and its impact on nurses
Coral was part of an ANF delegation – three working nurses and an ANF industrial officer – who fronted up before the inquiry late last year.
She said the senators were obviously divided. ‘The Liberal senators’ body language and the questions they asked suggested they thought it was a waste of time. All the other senators, including the National Party member, seemed resigned that it was going to go through anyway but that they were worried.’
Coral says the Liberal senators didn’t seem to understand their own bill.
‘They said nothing would change if you were under a state award. When I pointed out that our reasonable workloads clause or the Victorian nurses’ staff/patients ratios were not allowable matters they just shrugged.’
‘The Greens senator and the Labor senators were clearly concerned. They asked a lot about the OHS implications of the new laws.’
‘Penny Wong (ALP, South Australia), especially, seemed to be on the ball. She had a terrific understanding of how it would impact on emergency services.’
Coral said she wasn’t able to even talk about unfair dismissal which wasn’t one of the terms of the inquiry. ‘I was cut off when I brought it up,’ she said.
Even though the senate committee was unable to change the bill Coral still thinks appearing before the committee was worthwhile. ‘It’s important to get across the perspective of nurses directly. It takes the wind out of their sails if you go there as a working community member. This is true for the media as well as for the politicians.’