Our reluctant celeb
By BELINDA SCOTT
ANNETTE Harris can't believe she has become a national identity.
"It's unbelievable ? they've even heard of me here in the outback," said the Coffs Harbour woman who has become a symbol of the debate over the new industrial relations laws.
The part-time Spotlight employee went public last month with her concerns after she was offered a five-year AWA which would have replaced a raft of award conditions with a single 2c-an-hour pay rise and turned her from permanent part-time to a casual worker.
Mrs Harris, who has been camping with her husband and friends in the Queensland bush, arrived at Mt Isa on Monday afternoon to find herself greeted by strangers as 'the Spotlight lady from Coffs Harbour'and 'the 2c lady'.
Mrs Harris is a reluctant celebrity.
"I did an interview with ABC Lateline yesterday and then I couldn't sleep all night for worrying about it," she said.
"I hope I've got a job when I go back."
But she is buoyed by the support she has received from other ordinary Australians, saying not one person has said she's done the wrong thing.
She is not sorry that she spoke out about the problems with AWAs and said she had advised young Spotlight workers also offered AWAs not to sign them until they had discussed them with their parents.
"I stood up for what I believe in and for my children and other people's children," she said.
"I'm the tip of the iceberg, it's a whole new ballgame and the kids aren't streetwise.
"I saw them waving the front page of the Advocate in Parliament before we left.
"I said 'oh my God, that's me ? they've got my face in parliament.
"But I thought it would all die down. It has become a political football, but people have to be made aware of what's going on."
A lifelong Liberal voter whose family have been employers themselves, she has now deserted the Liberal Party because she said John Howard's latest IR reforms showed no compassion for low-paid workers.
But she said she had not been against earlier changes to IR laws.
"Commonsense should prevail," she said.
"If someone is caught stealing, they should get the sack straight away ? not be sent off for counselling.
"I don't profess to be an economist, I'm a mother and a wife.
"You have to run the country as a business but you can't continue to take from the poorest of people."
She said low-paid workers were the bottom brick in the wall of the economy.