Federal IR Minister on the attack

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Federal IR Minister on the attack

The opposition to the Howard Government’s proposed use of its corporations power to produce a national workplace relations system is ‘opportunistic and hypocritical’ according to the Minister for Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews.

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The opposition to the Howard Government’s proposed use of its corporations power to produce a national workplace relations system is ‘opportunistic and hypocritical’ according to the Minister for Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews. 

The Minister also attacked South Australia’s new industrial relations legislation, saying it is ‘backward-looking’ and would bring higher labour costs and higher unemployment.  

Attack on corporate powers in IR reform ‘hypocritical’ says Minister 

The opposition to the Howard Government’s proposed use of its corporations power to produce a national workplace relations system is ‘opportunistic and hypocritical’ according to the Minister for Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews. 

Andrews said New South Wales unions have engaged former Supreme Court judge and Labor IR Minister Jeff Shaw to organise a possible High Court challenge against the Commonwealth’s proposed legislation.  

He said that three weeks ago UnionsNSW website Workers Online reported Shaw as arguing that ‘unions will have a strong case if the Federal Government attempts to over ride its existing industrial relations powers’ and casting doubts on the Commonwealth’s use of the corporations power.

Inconsistent

Andrews said that in 2000, Shaw told a Business Council of Australia Forum that:

'…the Corporations power has been liberally interpreted by the High Court and can sustain legislation designed to regulate the employment relationships between a corporation and its workforce.

'Industry and commerce increasingly crosses historically determined state boundaries. The wages and conditions of employees are relevant to national economic considerations and it will often be convenient for both employers and unions to have uniform national conditions.'

Andrews said that ‘Shaw is now being retained by NSW unions to produce advice that the corporations power cannot be used in this way – advice that he himself knows not to be correct’.

He said the Corporations Power has been used as a basis for workplace relations legislation for over a decade.

‘It was first utilised by the Keating Government in its 1993 industrial relations legislation, when then-industrial relations Minister Laurie Brereton boasted that: 

“For the very first time the bill provides for the use of the corporations power of the Commonwealth to facilitate agreement making, to provide for agreement making in every individual enterprise covered by a federal award in this country.”

‘The legal campaign being run from New South Wales is nothing more than a political campaign by unions desperate to defend a state system which gives a privileged position to the unions on which NSW Labor MPs rely for patronage and preferment,’ Andrews said.  

Related

High Court may block national IR plan, lawyers warn 

Andrews attacks SA’s ‘backward-looking’ IR system 

The Federal Minister for Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, has attacked South Australia’s new industrial relations legislation, saying it is ‘backward-looking’ and would bring higher labour costs and higher unemployment.

In a speech to a BusinessSA  seminar in Adelaide today,  Andrews said the Fair Work Act introduced this year ‘does nothing to addresses South Australia’s lagging unemployment rate and privileges third parties and institutions over employers and employees at individual workplaces’. 

Andrews said particular problems with the Fair Work Act include:

  • there is no limit on award matters, which in turn permits unions unfettered ability to demand anything in awards.

‘This can only impact detrimentally on individual businesses and as a result South Australia’s productivity,’ Andrews said.

‘A simplified award system provides the proper incentive for employers and employees to achieve workplace flexibility through agreement making.’

  • the approach to bargaining is also flawed.

‘The “best endeavours” bargaining regime combined with the powers of the state tribunal create a restrictive web of regulation that can only facilitate centrally arbitrated wage outcomes,’ the Minister told the seminar.

  • the right of entry measures highlight the complexity of multiple state and federal legislation.

‘At the federal level the Workplace Relations Amendment (Right of Entry) Bill 2004 will provide a single right of entry framework for constitutional corporations which balances the right of unions to represent their members with the rights of employers and occupiers of premises to conduct their business without undue interference or harassment,’ he said.

Andrews said the Rann Government was denying employers and employees in South Australia the right to have a state based statutory individual agreement system.

‘The federal system emphasises agreement making at the workplace and provides agreement making options for both individual and collective agreements thereby recognising that in a modern workplace employers and employees should be able choose an individual agreement,’ he said.

‘By passing this legislation the Rann Government has missed the opportunity to make South Australia a good place to do business.

‘South Australia continues to lag behind the rest of the nation in jobs growth. 

‘This situation can only get worse now that the so called ‘Fair Work Act’ has been passed.  

‘This increase in regulation - out of step with the needs of the modern workplace - means higher labour costs which in turn means higher unemployment.’ 

Andrews said a national workplace relations system would mean less complexity for employers and employees, lower costs for businesses operating out of SA and more jobs. 

Related

SA Fair Work Act 

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