Hockey will decide what is 'fair' in AWAs

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Hockey will decide what is 'fair' in AWAs

The Federal Government's new AWA fairness test legislation contains no guidance on how non-monetary compensation is to be assessed and no method for determining whether such a benefit is of value to an employee, the NSW Government claims.

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The Federal Government's new AWA fairness test legislation contains no guidance on how non-monetary compensation is to be assessed and no method for determining whether such a benefit is of value to an employee, the NSW Government claims.

Instead, Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, will 'direct' how the fairness test will be applied.

The NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca, told Parliament yesterday that the State Government had this week made a submission to the 'hastily convened' Senate inquiry into the legislation.

Unworkable

'In our submission to the Senate inquiry we make the point that the Howard Government's half-baked amendments in the shadow of a Federal election will do nothing to alter the fundamental unfairness of WorkChoices, and they are clearly unworkable in any practical sense,' Della Bosca said. 'The concept of fair compensation for the removal of protected award conditions is not defined in the bill.

'There is no guidance as to how non-monetary compensation is to be assessed, and there is no method for determining whether a particular benefit is of value to the employee.'

Autocratic power

Della Bosca said the bill builds on the 'autocratic power' the Federal Minister will have in determining workplace arrangements.

'The bill allows him to make directions to the Workplace Authority Director on how the so-called fairness test is to be applied, including what non-monetary factors may be considered to be of value to the employee,' he said.

Della Bosca said Prime Minister John Howard's 'latest cynical attempt at window dressing' will not ensure fair compensation for the removal of most protected award conditions, is unbelievably complex in its terms, is subjective, indeterminate and uncertain in its application, and lacks transparency and a capacity for reviewing decisions by a neutral or independent party.

Mountain of red tape

'The "tweaking" of the Workplace Relations Act, as Hockey calls it, comes at a cost of $370m to taxpayers over the next four years, through the employment of hundreds of extra bureaucrats to check the Australian workplace agreements,' he said. 'This means businesses can look forward to being buried under an even bigger mountain of complexity and red tape.'

Della Bosca said the that it does not even apply to the 300,000 workers who have had their 'protected by law' award conditions stripped away under Australian workplace agreements lodged since the introduction of WorkChoices, confirms 'what a cruel hoax the bill is'.

No independent umpire

He said the WorkChoices system still lacks an independent umpire that can provide fair, inexpensive and fast workplace justice when disputes and disagreements arise.

'Families seeking justice will still have to resort to a costly legal process through the courts that most workers simply cannot afford,' he said.

Della Bosca said that, as with WorkChoices, the States and Territories were not consulted over the fairness test changes.

Arrogant and secretive

'The first opportunity we had to sight the new legislation — comprising 144 pages of disjointed amendments and explanatory notes — was when it was introduced to the Federal Parliament last week, giving those who are interested in the bill only five days to decipher it and meet the Senate inquiry's deadline.

'This arrogant and secretive conduct is typical of the Howard Government, and it is precisely why it got WorkChoices wrong in the first place — the Howard Government refused to talk with the States and Territories.'

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