Howard attacks as Labor woos small business

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Howard attacks as Labor woos small business

Prime Minister, John Howard, has derided the claim that Labor is offering the electorate a 'kinder, gentler form of workplace flexibility'.

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Prime Minister, John Howard, has derided the claim that Labor is offering the electorate a 'kinder, gentler form of workplace flexibility'.

In a speech to the Menzies Research Centre in Canberra last night Howard said the ALP's IR policy would see a return to industry-wide pattern agreements right across the country.

'This is a dagger at the heart if Australia's prosperity,' he said. 'Australia cannot afford a return to a union-dominated, centralised industrial relations system that would put upward pressure on interest rates.'

Unfair dismissal laws 'didn't work'

Meanwhile Labor's spokesman on small business, Craig Emerson, admitted that the last Labor Government's laws on unfair dismissals, while well intentioned, 'did not work well in practice'.

He told a small business meeting that if unfair dismissal laws were seen as a problem 'it would be rational for a small business owner, confronted with heavy-handed unfair dismissal laws and procedures, to be cautious about taking on permanent staff'.

'Unfair dismissal laws that are open for abuse through demands for go-away money under threat of time-consuming legal action could create disincentives for small businesses to hire permanent staff and incentives to prefer casual and labour-hire staff,' Emerson said. 'That's why, in formulating unfair dismissal policies, Labor will be going forward not backwards.  Labor will be mindful of the needs of small business.

'If you see a problem, there is a problem'

'Labor's policies will not see a return to the technical and time-consuming process that dragged small business employers away from what they needed to do — run their businesses.'

Emerson said Labor accepted that, if small businesses are 'convinced there was a problem with the old unfair dismissal laws, then there was a problem', since it is small businesses not political parties that make the hiring decisions.

'My colleague, the Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, Julia Gillard, and I, are working on the issue of unfair dismissals and small businesses,' he said. 'We are seeking the views of relevant parties and are gathering evidence as a basis for a rational policy.

'While we are engaged in that process I give you this assurance: Labor will recognise the special circumstances of small business in formulating its policies on unfair dismissal.'

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