Turnbull surrenders over individual agreements

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Turnbull surrenders over individual agreements

The Federal Opposition has completely dropped its traditional support for individual workplace agreements in an apparent bid to ensure that industrial relations is not in any way an issue at the next federal election.

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The Federal Opposition has completely dropped its traditional support for individual workplace agreements in an apparent bid to ensure that industrial relations is not in any way an issue at the next federal election.
 
The Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull has signalled that the Liberal party’s previous position has been totally abandoned. This is despite his deputy, Julie Bishop, being an avid advocate of individual agreements.
 
WorkChoices is dead
 
At a press conference yesterday after IR Minister Julia Gillard had tabled the Fair Work Bill in Parliament, Turnbull said:
‘We accept that WorkChoices is dead. The Australian people have spoken.’
Turnbull’s defence for abandoning individual agreements was to say:
‘We have been advised by industry that the Government’s changes in the Fair Work Bill to provide individual flexibility in awards and in agreements are sufficient – and on this basis we do not oppose those changes.’
Turnbull said the Government’s changes to workplace relations come at a very difficult time for the Australian economy.
 
Take Govt on trust
 
‘We take the Government on trust that these changes have been carefully considered and will not cost jobs,’ he said.
 
Turnbull acknowledged that industry stakeholders support key elements of the Bill.
 
‘We believe that within the Government’s new workplace relations framework union accountability must be maintained and unlawful behaviour penalised,’ he said.
 
Turnbull said the Opposition will not oppose the Government’s Fair Work Bill in the House of Representatives but reserves its right to propose amendments to improve the operation of the Bill.
 
This would be done in the Senate Committee process without seeking to frustrate the Government’s election commitment to implement its Forward with Fairness election policy.
 
Turnbull would not be drawn on what amendments the Opposition would propose, but said there would be hundreds of amendments proposed by the Government alone.
 
Flexibility
 
He said Gillard had emphasised ‘again and again’ in Question Time that everybody has to obey the law in questions relating to union behaviour.
 
‘So I imagine if there are any opportunities for improving accountability, and improving the accountability in particular for those guilty of unlawful behaviour, Julia Gillard would welcome it,’ Turnbull said.
 
Shadow IR spokesman Michael Keenan was asked:
'Whatever happened to you standing up for WA business’s passion for individual contracts? Are you now mute on that issue or do you think that the Government has come up with a good set of legislation? ‘
‘The Government has flexibility clauses within the legislation,’ Keenan said. ‘We’ll be very interested to hear from business about how they’re going to work during the Senate committee process. But the feedback we’ve had so far is that business thinks that they can work with those clauses to get the flexibility that they require.'
 
Not dogmatic
 
Question: ‘What was actually wrong with AWAs Mr Keenan?’
 
Keenan: ‘We’re not dogmatic about the instrument that we used to get flexibility in the workplace. The point is we need workplaces that are modern and flexible and the feedback we’ve had from industry is that they can work with these flexibility clauses and obviously these are the sorts of issues that we’d like ventilated when the Senate does its inquiry also.’
 
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