Libs may ‘split’ IR bill to keep non-WorkChoices AWAs

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Libs may ‘split’ IR bill to keep non-WorkChoices AWAs

The interim IR Bill, which would abolish AWAs, will be introduced into Federal parliament on Wednesday but may face an attempt to ‘split’ it in the Senate.

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The interim IR Bill, which would abolish AWAs, will be introduced into Federal parliament on Wednesday but may face an attempt to ‘split’ it in the Senate.

The new Rudd Government faces its first Parliamentary sitting tomorrow (Tuesday, 12 February), but the day will be largely taken up with formalities.

Wednesday’s sitting will begin with a motion that apologises to the Stolen Generation of Aboriginal children and, then, will deal with urgent legislation, including the IR Bill.

However, the Opposition Workplace Relations spokeswoman Julie Bishop is considering a tactic of ‘splitting’ the IR Bill in the Senate so that Labor can go ahead with its pledge to abolish WorkChoices but that the pre-WorkChoices ‘no disadvantage’ AWAs would remain.

Liability

This approach will be rejected out of hand by Labor, and may not receive support in the Coalition Party Room, as many MPs consider WorkChoices a liability that they should rid themselves of immediately.

Their view is that the public makes no distinction between ‘good AWAs’ and ‘bad AWAs’ and wants to see the lot gone. They fear going into the next election with a public perception that a Liberal Government would reintroduce WorkChoices.

Bishop rejects this perception

‘We are not defending WorkChoices,’ she said at the weekend. ‘It is not part of our policy.’

However, she said there remained ‘unanimous support’ in the Coalition for defending the right of individuals to enter into a contract of employment with employers, subject to a no-disadvantage test.

Strategy

‘How we end up achieving that outcome will obviously be a matter of strategy over the next few weeks,’ she said.

Bishop said she would have no problem with Labor’s no-disadvantage test and its proposed new national minimum conditions, ‘subject to seeing the Bill’. Nor did the Coalition oppose plans to modernise and simplify the award system.

‘But the second element of their Bill is to abolish AWAs,’ she said. ‘So we say: “Separate the Bills, give us your WorkChoices stuff and we can get on with it”.’

Bishop admitted she had not formally asked the Government to do this, saying she would do so after she had spoken to shadow cabinet.

She has strongly argued that AWAs are an essential part of the successful economy, and have been of particular benefit to the mining industry in her home state of Western Australia.


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