Academics set to sue Hockey after 'bias' claim on AWA report

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Academics set to sue Hockey after 'bias' claim on AWA report

Two senior University of Sydney academics are preparing to sue Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, after he claimed they were biased in their study of the effect of AWAs on low-skilled workers.

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Two senior University of Sydney academics are preparing to sue Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, after he claimed they were biased in their study of the effect of AWAs on low-skilled workers.

The study, Australia@Work, found that employees on collective agreements were on average $106 a week better off than those on AWAs, and low-skilled workers had little capacity to bargain for better pay and conditions. It was based on interviews with more than 8,000 workers.

Hockey yesterday described the report's authors, Dr John Buchanan and Dr Brigid van Wanrooy, as 'former trade union officials who are parading as academics'.

Real intentions

Hockey also said of the academics: 'You have to look at their motives and sure enough you can identify what their real intentions are.'

It emerged yesterday that in a 25-year career Dr Buchanan had spent just four weeks working on secondment to the Community and Public Sector Union in 1990.

Dr Van Wanrooy had spent eight weeks researching an ACTU-funded study. However, she began her career in the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, working for Hockey's predecessors Peter Reith and Tony Abbott.

The study was half funded by UnionsNSW and half by the Federal Government's own Australian Research Council, apparently with the approval of Federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop.

Selective

On the ABC's 7.30 Report last night Hockey admitted he was being selective in his treatment of the report's findings after supporting its conclusion that 'most people are happy at work'.

Asked if the Government was 'taking out the bits that suit you' and criticising the potentially embarrassing parts, Hockey replied: 'Well, that could be the case.'

Treasurer Peter Costello yesterday described the report as 'contaminated' because of the union sponsorship, but today claimed that any threat by the academics to sue was 'ridiculous'.

Further doubt was also thrown yesterday on to the constant claim by Hockey that workers on AWAs get paid twice as much as those on awards.

No ABS research

Hockey says this is backed by ABS data, but Valerie Pearson, the Bureau's Assistant Director for Labour Employer Surveys, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the ABS had not done any research into the effects of AWAs since the introduction of WorkChoices in March last year.

The only AWA-related research it had conducted was in May last year 'on a pre-WorkChoices basis'. It would not study the effects of WorkChoices 'until May next year'.

Opposition IR spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, said the ABS data Hockey quotes came from 2006 and covered only the first five weeks of the WorkChoices legislation.

Research 'biased', says PM

Prime Minister John Howard also dismissed the research as biased at press conference yesterday.

He pointed to ABS figures which stated wages, after inflation, had risen by 3% since the introduction of WorkChoices, that there were 417,000 more people in work with 85% working full-time and that strikes were at their lowest levels since 1913.

'I would believe the Australian Bureau of Statistics ahead of something that is half-funded by Unions NSW,' he said.

A truth 'Hockey doesn't want to hear'

Gillard said this morning the Australia@Work report was 'telling a story Hockey doesn't want to hear, but it is telling the truth'.

'After today's report there can't be any further doubt. WorkChoices has hurt Australian working families,' she said.

'Confirms the obvious': Greens

'Contrary to the hysterics of the Government, the Australia@Work report merely confirms the obvious - that low paid workers are worse off under Work Choices,' said Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokeswoman on industrial relations.

'The Greens, amongst other groups, argued strongly at the time WorkChoices was being rushed through Parliament that the Government's laws would have devastating effects on the low paid and on young workers. This report is the latest to confirm our predictions.'

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