Federal ir bill to be delayed in committee

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Federal ir bill to be delayed in committee

The Federal Government’s massive industrial relations blueprint was introduced into the Parliament on Thursday (23 May) and quickly shunted off to the Senate Economic References Committee from which it may not emerge until 22 August.

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The Federal Government’s massive industrial relations blueprint was introduced into the Parliament on Thursday (23 May) and quickly shunted off to the Senate Economic References Committee from which it may not emerge until 22 August.

The Committee has the following terms of reference:

(1a) whether the various State industrial jurisdictions can or will provide adequate protection for workers employed under State agreements;

(b) the implications for the Australian economy;

(c) whether the provision of the Bill will fulfil Australia’s international obligations and whether the provisions of the Bill will effect Australia’s international relations;

(d) the effects of similar provisions in other counties;

(e) the extent to which the proposed legislation impacts on the national skills accreditation, traineeships, apprenticeship system and vocational education systems, and whether State legislation will be complementary to the Federal Act;

(f) whether any proposed powers exercised by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) would be better exercised by another Federal Government body, and whether further consequential amendment/s will be needed to other acts to achieve this;

(g) whether any proposed powers exercised by another Federal Government body would be better exercised by the AIRC, and whether further consequential amendments will be needed to other acts to achieve this;

(h) the impact on small business of the proposed legislation and the extent to which the proposed institutional arrangements provide adequate support for small business in dealing with industrial matters;

(i) the extent to which proposed Budget cuts will reduce the capacity of the AIRC to perform its role;

(j) whether the Bill as a whole or in part is constitutional;

(k) the extent to which State legislation on unfair dismissals complements or will complement the proposed Federal Act;

(l) whether the provisions of the Bill provide a fair balance between the rights of Employers and organisations of employers, and the rights of workers and unions;

(m) whether reporting mechanisms on the progress of enterprise bargaining are adequate and might need to be improved in light of the Bill;

(n) the impact of the proposed legislation on the balance between work and family responsibilities;

(o) the impact of the current and the proposed Bill on youth employment and training;

(2) That the committee advertise for submissions in the media and conduct public hearings in each State and Territory capital city;

(3) Further consideration of the Bill be an order of the day which may not be called on until after the Economics References Committee has reported on the Bill.

The main concern with the Committee’s terms of reference is that the Committee, which is controlled by the Opposition parties, does not have to report until 22 August 1996. The Minister for Industrial Relations, Peter Reith, has complained that using a reference committee for this purpose (as well as for the Telstra Bill) is unprecedented.

It is understood however that the Democrats are beginning to acknowledge the Government’s mandate. The Democrats on the other hand also argue that their role is to "help" the Government and that the best way they can do this is to subject the Bill, because of its size and importance, to lengthy debate. The Democrats have suggested that the Government separate the unfair dismissal reforms from the rest of the package in order to enable those particular provisions speedy passage, but the Government has rejected this possibility arguing that all the amendments are interdependent.

Note also that the Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, Bob McMullan, will present his address in reply to the Bill next Thursday in the House of Representatives. The Bill will then be subject to debate in the House. It is understood that one of the main points that the Shadow Minister will be seeking to make is the difference in philosophical approaches between the Government (which assumes that the bargaining position between employers and employees is equal) and the Opposition (which believes that the bargaining position is not equal).

 

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