Fair Work Act review — no ‘silver bullet’: Shorten

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Fair Work Act review — no ‘silver bullet’: Shorten

Federal Employment Relations Minister Bill Shorten has said the Fair Work Act review will be released soon, but parties should not expect that productivity and other issues will be resolved by possible changes suggested.

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Federal Employment Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, has said the Fair Work Act review will be released soon, but parties should not expect that productivity and other issues will be resolved by possible changes suggested.

In an interview on Sky News yesterday he gave little away in terms of what, if any changes, to expect from the review.

Key points

Here are edited extracts from the interview, with points made by Shorten included:
  • ‘I hope to be in a position to release the report in the very near future, ideally that will be next week [beginning 30 July]
  • We’ll consult with the stakeholders as we’ve undertaken to do, employers, unions, state governments, and then in the number of weeks after we release the report we will then give a response to whatever recommendations are in it.
  • We’re keen to create arrangements which enhance productivity. What that also means to me is that a lot of what improves productivity in the workplace occurs at the enterprise level.
  • What I recognise is that if we’re going to have improved productivity we need greater cooperation and collaboration at high-skilled, well-remunerated workplaces in Australia. Regulation plays a role in contributing to productivity, as do other factors, as does world-class infrastructure, as does highly-skilled workforce, as does the quality of managerial leadership within enterprises itself. There’s no silver bullet to productivity, as I think you’ve even written yourself, Paul.
  • I don’t accept the proposition that the pendulum favours one group of stakeholders [unions] radically more than any other group of stakeholders.
  • I think in some workplaces there’s too much polarisation … I think in the vast bulk of workplaces people are getting on with business. Obviously we need to be able to create national wealth to help distribute fairly national income. The private sector is the engine room of jobs creation in our economy, that’s both small and big enterprises. So I — we want to see things which create — we want to see regulatory frameworks which enhance the creation of wealth at enterprise level but also the fair distribution and an adequate safety net.
  • … there were submissions made by some parts of the ranks of employers saying that the greenfields sites, that is the new resource projects where there’s negotiations to set up industrial arrangements before workers actually commence — the term — that’s why we have the term “greenfields” — is there a role for bargaining in good faith and light touch arbitration? There’s been some complaints from some quarters saying that negotiation for greenfield arrangements are taking too long to put into place. We’re listening very carefully to those submissions. We’ll study very carefully what the report has to say on that.’
Disabilities scheme and more . . .
  • [re] the adequacy of the welfare-to-work arrangements in terms of Newstart … Whats motivating the Government is to see what we can do to break inter-generational cycles of long-term unemployment. Whilst many Australians are doing okay, there are some who are missing out. Inter-generational unemployment is a disaster for generations of people. By the same token, I I am fully aware trying to get along on $249 a week is an incredibly difficult ask, so certainly we think that what the Senate investigation comes up with will be something which well look at with great interest.
  • The first thing is with the DSP there is the difference [between] the Disability Support Pension [and] the Newstart Allowance. The theory behind that has been that the Newstart Allowance is for people who are in between jobs, whereas the Disability Support Pension is a pension for people who have a permanent impairment, full stop, and it isn’t going to get any better or get fixed up. But your point about barriers to people going to work, I do think that there’s a lot of discrimination out there in the workplace against people with disabilities. If you look at the fastest growing groups of people going on to the DSP it’s older people, and that tells me that what’s happened is that as industry — as structural adjustment, or to put it, not too fine a point, people lose their jobs in their 50s and early 60s, especially if they have done one job for many years, they’ve generally been carrying injuries and impairments but they’ve turned up to work. Now the job they’ve had’s gone, they go on to the DSP, which is legitimate, they’ve got a permanent impairment of some significance. The barriers for these people going back into work are tremendous and I do think that when we look at solutions to people participating, partly it’s a debate about income support, but to me it’s also about tackling the endemic discrimination which happens to people with disabilities every day...’

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