Business welcomes final step in national IR system


Business welcomes final step in national IR system

Last week’s finalising of the national industrial relations system for private sector employers and employees in the states has been welcomed by business.


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Last week’s finalising of the national industrial relations system for private sector employers and employees in the states has been welcomed by business.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) said federal, state and territory governments had moved closer to a single national IR system from 2010 and a nationally harmonised OHS system by 2012.
Peter Anderson, ACCI chief executive, said that although there are disagreements between the business community and governments on some aspects of workplace laws, ‘we are currently seeing cooperative federalism take sizeable steps towards completing national frameworks for IR and OHS regulation that were commenced earlier this decade’.
‘Considerable achievement’
‘This is a considerable achievement given our political and constitutional history,’ he said.
‘Ministers are to be congratulated for keeping an eye on the national interest, and overcoming jurisdictional barriers that complicate legal compliance for employers, especially for companies that operate across state borders.’
‘As much as today's steps represent good progress, governments need to make sure that both IR and OHS laws do not place unreasonable compliance burdens on business, including the majority of employers that still operate only in one jurisdiction.’
‘National legal frameworks mean a greater diversity of businesses have to be catered for under the one system. This being the case, intergovernmental agreements that underpin these laws need to provide for workplace flexibility, not just rights and obligations.’
NSW, Qld refer powers
After a meeting of the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council on Friday, New South Wales and Queensland officially referred their IR powers to the Commonwealth.
Qld IR Minister Cameron Dick said the new system was a ‘win–win’.
‘It’s a win for Queensland workers as it gives them the protections they need and deserve,’ he said.
‘At the same time it gives business and industry the certainty and stability industry and business needs to move forward in tough economic times.’
‘Quite simply what has underpinned this going forward is something that could never have occurred under the previous government; that is a level of cooperation between the states and the Commonwealth, something that was unheard of in those times,’ said SA IR Minister Paul Caica.
Could state Libs pull out?
Asked whether future state Liberal governments could pull out and fragment the system again, Federal IR Minister Julia Gillard said what had been negotiated was ‘a change for the long-term with an inter-governmental agreement’.
‘But what I would say is it is always possible for a Liberal Party hell-bent on taking away basic pay and conditions from working Australians to achieve that, and working Australians know that the Liberal Party comes to government promising all things but in government the track record shows you get delivered legislation like WorkChoices,’ she said.
‘That’s why it’s so important that [Opposition Leader] Tony Abbott come clean with the Australian people and actually tells the Australian people what he intends for workplace relations — and it’s WorkChoices no matter what he chooses to call it.’
Still talking with WA
Asked if there was any hope of getting Western Australia into the system with their current government ‘or have you given up on that front?’, Gillard said dialogue with Western Australia was continuing.
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