AIRC integrity and rule of law Bills need further consideration: Democrats

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AIRC integrity and rule of law Bills need further consideration: Democrats

The Democrats have raised concern over the Federal Workplace Relations unprotected action,codifying contempt, and compliance with courts and tribunals Bills, while the ALP has rejected them outright.

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The Democrats have raised concern over the Federal Workplace Relations unprotected action, codifying contempt, and compliance with courts and tribunals Bills, while the ALP has rejected them outright.

The Democrat and ALP stances were tabled in Federal Parliament yesterday in an Employment, Workplace Relations and Education Legislation Committee Report on the three Bills.

Unprotected action

The Democrats said that in principle the laws surrounding unprotected action needed to be tightened so that such action occurred less often.

But they did not believe the Government’s Workplace Relations Amendment Improved Remedies for Unprotected Action Bill 2002 necessarily provided the answer.

The Democrats questioned the notion that the Bill would speed up remedies for unprotected action under section 127 of the Workplace Relations Act.

Existing provisions under the Act already required the AIRC to hear and determine applications under section 127 as quickly as possible.

And, the Government said themselves that the existing provisions worked in the majority of cases.

The Democrats believed that on the evidence available the AIRC was processing applications as quickly as possible. They questioned whether the problem was actually a lack of resources.

They also questioned the interim orders proposals, saying that the Government’s own evidence suggested that the AIRC was already able to make such orders.

The Democrats also thought it would be best to give the AIRC some discretion over the issue of interim orders and not set fixed mandatory time frames such as a 48 hour rule.

Democrats were also going to consider whether to propose that all agreements under the Workplace Relations Act have effective dispute resolution provisions to assist the AIRC arbitrate disputes.

Codifying contempt

Under the Workplace Relations Amendment Codifying Contempt Offences Bill 2003, the Democrats questioned the real need for codifying the generic criminal contempt offence under section 299 of the Workplace Relations Act, considering the Government’s own evidence found that no action had ever been taken under that section.

The Government proposal seeks to ‘ensure that the Commission is properly protected from contempt style behaviour and perjury’.

The Democrats said they needed to examine this issue further.

The Democrats supported increasing penalties for those who ignored AIRC and Court orders, but wanted to examine the provisions further in relations to their deterrent effect.

The Democrats noted concerns in relation to changing matters to which penalties apply, criminal penalties, and proposed prohibitions on giving false evidence which do not require that false evidence relate to matter material to proceedings.

Compliance with Courts and Tribunals

Under the Workplace Relations Compliance and Court Tribunal Order Bill 2003, the Democrats weren’t convinced that the Workplace Relations Minister should be involved in seeking financial penalties for non-compliance with orders or directions of the AIRC or the Court.

Especially since the Government proposals go beyond non-compliance with orders preventing strike action.

The power to seek financial penalties should be left up to the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions and the Courts.

According to the Democrats, a mechanism was already in place to deal with non-compliance of orders under section 127 of the Workplace Relations Act to stop industrial action, but was not being utilised.

The Democrats will investigate this issue further before debating the Bill.

On the issue of the disqualification amendments, which propose that office holders and employees of registered organisations be disqualified from holding office for five years if they are fined for non-compliance with a court or AIRC order, the Democrats will give further consideration.

In particular, the Democrats will consider Government proposals that allow an application to e brought by the Minister with no requirement that a Court be satisfied that the disqualification is justified; automatic disqualification subject to appeal; and the costs of appeal.

The ALP

The ALP rejected the Bills outright.

‘These bills are blatantly unbalanced and, if passed, would further erode the rights of working Australians and the unions that represent them.

‘The evidence presented to the committee shows that these bills will not assist in the efficient operation of our industrial relations system, and that these bills are instead likely to increase the risk of ongoing conflict.

‘There are many reforms to the Workplace Relations Act that could assist with the resolution of industrial disputes, but none of them are contained in these three bills.’

 

 

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