Geraldine Doogue talking to candidates at a public forum !yesterday at Caddies in Carrington Street, !Lismore.
Geraldine Doogue talking to candidates at a public forum !yesterday at Caddies in Carrington Street, !Lismore.

Page Nats candidate defends IR laws

By Alex Easton

THE 'worm', which caused such a ruckus during the televised leaders' debate last week, caused another ruckus in Lismore yesterday.

It came during a debate between Page Nationals candidate, Chris Gulaptis and Labor candidate Janelle Saffin for Geraldine Doogue's ABC radio show Saturday Extra.

Mr Gulaptis had just been hit with the inevitable question about the Federal Government's controversial WorkChoices package.

The small audience at Caddies Cafe broke into raucous applause at the question during what had been a relatively tame debate.

"I think we just heard from the worm," Mr Gulaptis quipped before launching into a defence of the Government's industrial relations laws.

He claimed there were only about 1000 more workers under AWAs on the North Coast since the laws were introduced, but about 4000 more jobs within the past few months.

Mr Gulaptis also rejected claims by anti-WorkChoices campaigner Angela Pollard that the package was cutting into wages, and in the case of one woman, had jeopardised her house when her salary fell so much she could no longer afford her mortgage.

Northern Rivers residents moved to the region accepting they would be paid lower wages as part of the trade-off for living in one of the most desirable parts of Australia, he said.

More to the point, Mr Gulaptis said Page voters weren't overly concerned about the package. They were more worried about the absence of a radiotherapy unit at Lismore Base Hospital and the state of Grafton Base, he said.

Ms Saffin rejected that line, saying she and Mr Gulaptis 'must be knocking on different doors' because the issue came up every time she went doorknocking.

Ms Saffin said recent jobs growth could be chalked up to 17 years of national economic growth.

Uniting Church pastor Bob Rutherford said WorkChoices was 'absolutely an issue'.



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