Sue Page no fan of early IR laws

By Alex Easton

RICHMOND Nationals candidate Dr Sue Page says she would have voted against the Government on its original WorkChoices legislation had she been in Parliament at the time.

Speaking at a candidates' forum at Byron Bay on Friday, Dr Page said the original legislation disadvantaged the nation's most vulnerable workers.

She said she would have opposed it on the floor of Parliament.

However, Dr Page said she supported the legislation as it stood now.

Dr Page and Richmond MP Justine Elliot had been answering a question on whether they would vote against their parties if legislation or a motion went against the interests of Richmond residents.

"We'd had (Australian Workplace Agreements) for 10 years, but what they created with WorkChoices was a dramatic shift," she said.

Dr Page said big changes often resulted in problems, and in the case of WorkChoices it left young people and people on low incomes without adequate protection.

The introduction of the fairness test meant people earning less than $75,000 per year could not trade away benefits such as overtime, holidays or sick leave, she said.

Dr Page and Ms Elliot both said they were prepared to cross the floor if necessary.

However, neither seemed enthused about the idea.

"I can commit to do that," Ms Elliot answered, before adding: "I'm in a party I agree with; that believes in fair and just workplaces."

Dr Page said she was in one of the few political parties that did not penalise MPs who crossed the floor.

"The interesting thing is what happens to that candidate after they've crossed the floor," she said.

"In the Liberal Party candidates who do that suffer a stunting in their political career.

"Labor Party members who do that tend to disappear at the next election because their party rules say they have to be disendorsed."

Dr Page said Nationals MPs had crossed the floor in Parliament 27 times as of March this year, although she conceded maverick Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce had accounted for most of those occasions.

She was unable to say whether any Nationals MP had crossed the floor in the House of Representatives.

Dr Page said she did not believe she would have to cross the floor if she entered Parliament.

This was because she expected she would be able to negotiate with her fellow Coalition members to get outcomes she agreed with.

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