Coalition ‘talked into WorkChoices,’ claims Abetz

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Coalition ‘talked into WorkChoices,’ claims Abetz

The Opposition is planning a minor reform to the ABCC and a better deal for workers who have been underpaid, but IR spokesman Eric Abetz claims the former Government was ‘talked into’ WorkChoices.

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The Opposition is planning a minor reform to the ABCC and a better deal for workers who have been underpaid, but IR spokesman Eric Abetz claims the former Government was ‘talked into’ WorkChoices.
 
Abetz has specifically rejected the previous Coalition policies of a 100 worker limit on the unfair dismissal laws and the abolition of the No Disadvantage test.
 
In a speech to the WA Liberal Students Federation this week Abetz doesn’t say who it was who ‘talked’ them into WorkChoices, but the obvious implication is that he is laying the blame at the feet of former PM John Howard.
 
Feet on the ground
 
Abetz said the challenge for the Liberals at the moment is to ‘remain focussed, keep our feet on the ground and engage, not with the theoreticians, but with those with the real life experience’.
 
‘Me thinks (sic) if the previous Government had taken soundings from small business and workers alike, the small business definition for unfair dismissals at 100 full-time-equivalent employees would have been overwhelmingly rejected,’ he said.
 
‘Same with the removal of the No Disadvantage test. No one actually was calling for these changes in the workplaces around the country.
 
Electoral cost
 
‘Yet somehow, we were talked into it and suffered the electoral cost that even more importantly, dislocated and created uncertainty for the lives of many Australian workers.’
 
Abetz said one area a Liberal Government would address was the interest paid on money owed to workers while the FWA Ombudsman was tracking them down.
 
‘Why should big Government be the beneficiary of the interest earned on the back pay owed by employers to employees?’ he said.
 
‘Once the money has been recovered, the FW Ombudsman then seeks to find the relevant employees. Often they are not found for six, 12, or more months.
 
‘During that time consolidated revenue earns the interest. Under a Coalition Government the individual workers will become the beneficiaries of those earnings.’
 
‘Reluctant’ support for ABCC
 
Abetz also said he ‘reluctantly’ supported the coercive powers of the ABCC.
 
‘People can be forced to partake in interviews,’ he said. ‘I reluctantly support that power because of the greater evil being perpetrated by criminal elements and thugs within that sector.
 
‘But why not offer a full audio visual of the interview conducted to the person interviewed immediately on the cessation of the interview — it’s fair, it’s reasonable and should in no way impede the power of the Commission. It is just another step in looking after individuals.’
 
Abetz said he would also have more to say later on Labor’s individual flexibility agreements.
 
The CFMEU today called on Abetz to explain what safeguards he proposes to impose on the ABCC if the Coalition is elected.
 
‘What exactly does Senator Abetz mean by safeguards?’ said CFMEU Construction Division national secretary, Dave Noonan.
 
‘What plans does the Coalition have other than maintaining this flawed commission and its draconian powers?’
 
Noonan said the trial of Adelaide construction worker, Ark Tribe, continues from 20 July in Adelaide.
 
He said Tribe is being dragged before the courts because he raised a safety issue on site.
 
Sceptical, says union
 
The unprecedented court case has lead to growing community concern over the ABCC and its extreme powers.
 
‘Construction workers and, indeed, all Australians should be very sceptical of the Coalition’s musings on the ABCC,’ Noonan said.
 
‘It’s time for the Federal Opposition to come clean on this issue and spell out their plans.’
 
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