Hockey defends lack of AWA statistics

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Hockey defends lack of AWA statistics

Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey has defended the Federal Government's refusal to release any more statistics on the content of AWAs, saying the loss of conditions could not easily be compared with improvements such as job-sharing.

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Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey has defended the Federal Government's refusal to release any more statistics on the content of AWAs, saying the loss of conditions could not easily be compared with improvements such as job-sharing.

Statistics released last year by the Office of Employment Advocate (OEA) showed that every AWA surveyed had lost at least one award condition, and many had lost overtime and penalty rates.

This admission was seized on by Labor and the union movement to the Government's severe embarrassment. No further statistics were released, and none are now gathered. In February Hockey said statistics on AWAs could not be compiled because there were too many of them.

Inadequate analysis

Hockey, who in his previous portfolio was responsible for developing the Australia Card, which will contain data on all 20 million Australians, said the job couldn't be done because '25,000 new AWAs are being signed each month'.

Yesterday in Parliament, Hockey said the statistics were not being kept because 'the analysis failed to take into account other benefits that have flowed, particularly to families, particularly to women and particularly to young people, out of the new regime'.

'It is very hard to put an economic benefit on the value of job-sharing for women,' he said. 'It is very hard to put an economic benefit on the value of shift-sharing for women. It is very hard to put an economic benefit on the value of bringing more long-term unemployed people into the workplace than ever before.'

Asked whether he would direct the OEA to re-commence gathering the statistics, Hockey said: 'No.'

'Compare apples with apples'

Asked by ALP spokeswoman on IR, Julia Gillard, to give one reason why he would not do so, Hockey said: 'Because, with the introduction of AWAs and the changes made under our laws a year ago, no-one has shown me a formula that allows you to compare apples with apples.

'If you have an AWA, that trades off penalties for higher wages ... some of those workers will want to have job sharing and shift sharing. There is a whole raft of women in particular who want to go back to work but want to be able to work from home,' Hockey said.

'They want to be in a position where they can have some flexibility in the workplace. The fact of the matter is that you can have a penalty provision but it might be the case that it is never accessed because an employer never lets an employee access the penalty rates.

'But there might be a bonus pool involved for the staff, at the end of the financial year. That bonus pool might have a value, and we do not know whether it is accessed or not.

'So the question is: how do you compare apples with apples? If the Labor Party thinks that the solution is to have a one-size-fits-all approach — which is the Labor Party's approach — to workplace relations that goes in to bat for the union bosses, we reject it and the workers of Australia reject it.'

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd then asked Hockey: 'how can the Government now claim that workers are better off under AWAs, given that the Minister has now told the Parliament that there is no methodology available for making any such claim?'

Hockey made no reference to the question in his answer, preferring to talk about the construction union being fined.

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