Hockey forced to deny plan for 'tougher' IR laws


Hockey forced to deny plan for 'tougher' IR laws

The Federal Government was today forced to 'reject' claims that it will toughen up its WorkChoices legislation even further if it wins the next election.


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The Federal Government was today forced to 'reject' claims that it will toughen up its WorkChoices legislation even further if it wins the next election.

Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, put out a two paragraph statement today saying Opposition IR spokeswoman Julia Gillard's 'claim that the Australian Government is planning to introduce new workplace relations laws is both wrong and deliberately misleading. I completely reject her claim'.

Hockey was forced to respond after leaving himself open to the claim by telling Channel 9: 'Any Government that rests on its laurels in terms of economic reform, be it tax reform, be it workplace relations reform or any other reform, is going to see the economy dip. We want the economy to remain strong.'

However Hockey also said the Government had 'no plans' to toughen up the WorkChoices laws.

Nothing to stop them

Gillard jumped on this statement, saying the Howard Government's plan was to introduce even tougher Industrial Relations laws if they are re-elected.

'I anticipate it will include things like tying Federal Government funding to hospitals, to aged care institutions and the like, to make it compulsory to offer Australian Workplace Agreements,' she said. 'They did that in this county's universities and [if] re-elected there is nothing to stop them do it elsewhere.'

Last year, Finance Minister, Nick Minchin, told the H R Nicholls Society the Government is planing 'another wave' of industrial relations changes if it wins the 2007 Federal Election.

He said the Government would need a mandate from the electorate for this new wave of IR changes and apologised to the Society that the current IR changes did not go further. He also said most Australians 'violently disagree' with the recent IR changes.

Costello a hard-liner

Federal Treasurer Peter Costello is also a hard-liner on IR, and was involved as a lawyer in the Dollar Sweets case.

Gillard said she thought the Howard Government 'is an old Government that has got arrogant, and because it's got arrogant it is convinced it's right and stopped listening to the Australian community'.

'If they were listening they would be hearing the screams of pain from these laws and they would recognise the majority of Australians just don't want them,' she said. 'But in their Canberra-based arrogance now they think they can get away with anything and they think through some smart political footwork they can fool the Australian people about this. Well I have got a lot more confidence in the Australian people than that.'

Flexible and fair system

In the Channel 9 interview, Hockey was asked by senior political reporter Laurie Oakes: 'When you say the Government has no plans at the moment for further toughening of these laws, could I pointed out that before the last election you didn't announce the plans that you introduced after the election either?

Joe Hockey: 'Well you can you say that Laurie, but certainly ...

Laurie Oakes: 'It's true, isn't it?

Joe Hockey: 'What we've introduced is a flexible and fair system and the benefits are now quite obviously flowing through in the Australian economy. Why would we want to put at risk the economic prosperity of the nation? That's what Kevin Rudd wants to do by tearing up these laws. We will not do it. We want a strong economy, better paid jobs, we want more jobs for people and we want to focus on keeping unlawful strike action at very low levels.'


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