Dems look for IR replacement for Murray

News

Dems look for IR replacement for Murray

The Australian Democrats are looking for a new IR spokesperson in the wake of Western Australian Senator Andrew Murray's announcement yesterday that he will abdicate his portfolio responsibilities and remain a 'Democrat in exile' for the foreseeable future.

WantToReadMore

Get unlimited access to all of our content.

 

The Australian Democrats are looking for a new IR spokesperson in the wake of Western Australian Senator Andrew Murray's announcement yesterday that he will abdicate his portfolio responsibilities and remain a 'Democrat in exile' for the foreseeable future.

Murray withdrew his support for party leader Natasha Stott Despoja in Perth yesterday, two days after former Party leader Meg Lees resigned from the party, citing among other reasons concern over the party machinery action following her recent comments on a possible full sale of Telstra.

But Murray's stepping down from IR does not necessarily mean the Federal Government will find easy access through the Senate for its raft of IR reform, including unfair dismissal exemptions for small business (see 106/2002).

The Government currently has 35 votes in the Senate, and needs four more votes to pass its legislation. With Lees now an Independent, the Democrats' numbers are down to seven, but there are still two Greens, two other Independents, a One Nation Senator and 28 Labor senators to contend with and none of these look immediately likely to vote with the Government to pass IR legislation.

The Government relied on a deal done with former Democrats leader Cheryl Kernot to pass its Workplace Relations Act in 1996 - Murray was involved in those negotiations and has also indicated his support for Government plans for a unitary IR system (see 132/2000).

But Murray was vehemently against the Government's proposed small business reform, saying the Government's claims that the laws would create 50,000 extra jobs were unbelievable and warning that the Democrats were not afraid of a double dissolution (see 106/2002).

While attempts to reach a spokesperson for Stott Despoja were not successful today, a member of her office said it was too early to tell who would replace Murray, who is only one month in to his new six-year term, and has indicated he may take on a greater role again at some stage in the future.

Previously, Queensland Senator John Cherry has stepped in when Murray has been absent, most notably last December when the Government moved to exclude casuals from unfair dismissal remedies via Regulation (see 320/2001).

Cherry, who was IR advisor to the party for five years before becoming a senator, told WorkplaceInfo then he had 'serious doubts as to whether the Regulations are legal'. He also signalled that the Democrats were concerned with the 'rise and rise' of casual employment, saying that would be part of a range if issues the party would be concentrating on, as 'you can't look at unfair dismissals in isolation'.

The Democrats' IR policy going in to last year's federal election was further left than the major parties' policies. With the University of Adelaide's Dr Barbara Pocock - who prepared a report for the ACTU's reasonable hours test case (see 206/2001) - advising Stott Despoja, the party's platform included 12 weeks' paid maternity leave, job security for casuals and a Fair Hours fund (see 246/2001).

 

 
Post details