22 March 1999

Does Chika have the ticker?

As the NSW election campaign goes into the final week, the Liberals have eventually unleashed their secret weapon. NSW Opposition Leader, Kerry Chikarovski, has come out fighting.

Scraping the bottom of the pork barrel, Chika, as she now likes to be known, is once again playing the trumped-up crime card.

Having already ensured all the major crime groups are in our daily media diet, the Coalition, spurred on by their National Party cohorts, is now targeting white-collar crime.

Chika makes a point

Under a Coalition government, office workers who take more than their fair share of sickies will be placed on a national crime register.

"Employers have a right to know if they are about to employ a habitual sickie-taker," Chika said.

"For too long there has been a view in the community, and among many habitual abusers that sickies are an Australian way of life," Chika thundered to the Liberal claque.

"The community has every right to expect workers to be involved in meaningful tasks for at least eight hours a day."

According to a recent Liberal survey only 1 per cent of workers are actually too sick to work when they take a sickie. The other 99 per cent are just bludgers who are rorting the system.

The Liberal Party, if elected, have vowed to introduce tough new laws to publicly shame these offenders. Workers, found to be taking a day off when they are in fact quite well, will be forced to do community service.

In order to catch these offenders Chika is proposing yet another new crime force to deal with the problem.

"If elected, we would rush special legislation through Parliament giving police officers powers to apprehend suspect sickies," said Chika.

"Anyone out on the streets during normal office hours would have to produce a valid doctor's certificate, or be carrying a special employment ID card which would be issued by their employer."

"Police would have the power to apprehend anyone not able to produce valid proof that they are indeed allowed to be out on the street."

"Business is losing billions of dollars a year because of the slack attitude of their workers," a Liberal spokesperson confirmed. " If we can only cut this chronic absenteeism by 1 per cent we can save big business $1000 per year, per employee. This is not the sort of money to be sneezed at."

The Government Minister for Police, Peter Ryan, was unavailable for comment.

However, Paul Whelan, a spokesperson for the Police Commissioner said it was unlikely that any extra police would be available for any new task force as resources where already stretched to the maximum and it would be years before new recruits would be trained to the necessary high standard required, in the time frame available.

The Opposition Shadow Minister for Police made it clear they were serious. "We know the cafes were these people congregate," he said. "We are prepared to make the tough decisions. We are prepared to crack down on these latte-drinking louts."

Under the Liberal proposal, offenders would be shamed by having to wear special shirts while doing community work.

These lime green and yellow shirts, designed to stand out, are very similar to the type of shirts Ray Martin wears while relaxing around his home. A spokesperson for Ray Martin refused to comment.

Latest polls indicate that Chika hasn't provided the necessary boost to get the Liberals over the line.

Their attempt to encourage voters to accept their proposal to sell the State electricity industry by offering a $1000 incentive to each voter, was probably a little misguided.

As the people of NSW reflect that the Olympic Games were "bought", they are unlikely to sell out at this election.