Govt blasts critics but won't give out data, says union

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Govt blasts critics but won't give out data, says union

The union covering academics has pointed to the contradiction between the Federal Government attacking researchers who produce reports critical of WorkChoices, but then refusing them access to the data which would allow for a thorough analysis.

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The union covering academics has pointed to the contradiction between the Federal Government attacking researchers who produce reports critical of WorkChoices, but then refusing them access to the data which would allow for a thorough analysis.

Last week Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, denounced a report which showed workers on collective agreements as almost $100 a week better off than those on Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) as tainted by its union connections, even though a Government agency funded half of it.

He claimed researchers Dr John Buchanan and Dr Brigid van Wanrooy were 'former trade union officials who are parading as academics' and questioned their motives, even though their past connection with unions was minuscule.

And recently, Workplace Authority head, Barbara Bennett, wrote to two researchers denying them access to samples of AWAs.

Privacy protected

Researchers have previously been allowed access to this data, with privacy being protected by blacking out the names and addresses of the individuals concerned.

Dr Carolyn Allport, NTEU President, said this development is 'completely contradictory'.

'On the one hand, the Federal Government has sought to demean and undermine the work of researchers in this field, while on the other its own Workplace Authority is now denying academics access to the very data they need to ensure their work has rigor,' she said. 'Universities have an important role in providing objective, evidence based research, analysis and opinion to governments and the community, without fear or favour. How can academics undertake their research if they are deprived of the very information that they need to ensure their work is credible?

Public interest the loser

'The public interest is the loser from this latest development, which will hinder research that could further illuminate the debate on workplace relations.'

She said she found the Workplace Authority's decision particularly perplexing given that researchers have previously been given access to the same data they are now being denied.

'All Australians have the right to know what our laws mean and the public should not be denied information that will assist them to make informed decisions,' she said. 'NTEU would request that the Workplace Authority reconsider its decision and allow the researchers concerned and any others access to the crucial data they need to complete their work.'

Changed tack, now it's IT to blame

However, the Authority today changed tack and denied it is refusing to publish details of thousands of collective agreements lodged since the introduction of the fairness test.

It blamed the agency's new information technology system for the delay in putting agreements up on the website. Bennett said the details will be displayed shortly, but could not say whether it will be before the election.

'We're working on the IT system as I said. Our priority is the fairness test and to get agreements considered and passed and a decision made on that,' she said. 'At the same time, we're working on our IT system so we can have those agreements up, so employees can see their agreement.'

However, unions say the delay in publishing the agreements is because workers are trading-off benefits despite the fairness test and the Government doesn't want voters to know this before the election.

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