IR law changes - federal delay and Qld action

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IR law changes - federal delay and Qld action

The Federal Government’s complex IR legislation might not meet its deadline, while Andrews and Howard are in dispute over whether there will be a Senate inquiry into it.

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The Federal Government’s complex IR legislation might not meet its deadline, while Andrews and Howard are in dispute over whether there will be a Senate inquiry into it. Meanwhile in Queensland, legislation to protect worker entitlements has passed State Parliament.

IR laws might miss October deadline, confusion over Senate inquiry 

The Federal Government’s complex IR legislation might not meet its October deadline, and the Workplace Relations Minister and Prime Minister are in dispute over whether there will be a Senate inquiry into it. 

For weeks the Government has been saying the legislation would be introduced to Parliament in October, but yesterday Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said it would be tabled in ‘about October’.

Complex legislation

Andrews admitted the legislation would be very complex – he has previously stated the entire Workplace Relations Act is being rewritten.

‘We’re working on a very complex piece of legislation,’ he said at a Canberra press conference.

‘This is one of the most complex drafting exercises that has been undertaken at the Commonwealth level. We are still on track for the introduction of this legislation in about October of this year, and we will continue to work towards that.’

Grandfathering existing conditions?

Asked if he was in favour of ‘grandfathering’ conditions for current employees, Andrews said this was part of the detail the Government was working through.

‘There is a whole range of issues that need to be worked through,’ he said.

‘If I can give you one example: If employers who are currently on a State award come into the Federal system, then the question is, what sort of employment instrument do they come on to? 

‘Obviously they can’t stay on a State award.  So do we deem it to be a Federal award?  Do we deem it to be a Federal agreement?   

‘If we do, what length of time should it run, when should it be reviewed, can it be varied?  That’s just one of a myriad of issues that we’ve been working through. 

‘We want to get this right because it is important that people have certainty under these changes.  And when we work through all of that detail it will all be available for everyone to see.’ 

Asked whether a grandfathering clause would result in some employees working on one set of conditions ‘while other employees in exactly the same industry and in exactly the same workplace are on another set of conditions’, Andrews said: ‘Look, these are issues that we’re working through’.   

‘That will all be revealed,’ he said.   

‘The detail will be there for everybody to see.  It will be debated, no doubt, at some length in the parliament.’

Senate inquiry

Andrews said he was sure there will be a Senate inquiry ‘as one would expect, to look into this’.   

Andrews said the Government ‘believes that it’s important that we have an inquiry into this’.   

‘It’s a complex piece of legislation, and Senate inquiries can be useful in terms of detail of things that may have been overlooked,’ he said.   

‘Any piece of complex legislation, there can be things that you can overlook.  A Senate inquiry is a way in which we can try to ensure that we get this perfectly right.’   

Asked if a Senate inquiry has been requested by anyone in particular, Andrews said: ‘No, it hasn’t’.   

‘In fact, I’m the one who is making the suggestion we have a Senate inquiry,’ he said.  ‘So, we’ll have one and it will be something of the Government’s doing.’ 

However Prime Minister John Howard later threw doubt on the holding of a Senate inquiry. 

‘We’re running a bit ahead of ourselves,’ Howard told reporters.  

‘We haven’t introduced the legislation yet, but I’m sure that people will have plenty of opportunity to analyse what the Government has in mind.

‘But this is a Government that is very happy to have its proposals looked at carefully - but not, of course, made the subject of deliberate obstruction.’

Whether or not there is a Senate inquiry, the Government still plans to have its IR legislation passed before the end of the year. 

If it misses the October deadline, there will not be much time for debate anywhere.  

ALP on the attack

Shadow Industrial Relations Minister Stephen Smith said the Senate inquiry confusion showed the Government was ‘adding incompetence to extremism’.   

‘The Government is making it up as it goes along and that goes not just to policy, it goes to process,’ he said. 

‘This legislation should be the subject of a Senate inquiry and that should be a substantive Senate inquiry, not a quick and dirty Senate inquiry, where the Government just simply shoves it through.’ 

Smith said the inquiry should take ‘weeks if not months’. 

 

Related

Federal IR legislation for coming parliamentary session 

Law to protect worker entitlements passes Qld Parliament 

Legislation to enshrine basic employment conditions and entitlements of Queensland workers, including long-service leave, redundancy pay and holiday loading, has passed State Parliament. 

After it passed, Premier Peter Beattie attacked Queensland Liberal MPs for voting against it. 

He said the Industrial relations Amendment Bill is designed to protect the paypackets of Queensland families from federal industrial relations reforms which threaten entitlements such as leave loadings and overtime rates. 

‘Employees caught in the federal system under the Federal reforms could see their current rights and entitlements significantly reduced or simply taken away,’ Beattie said. 

He accused the Liberals of voting against the interests of Queensland workers and their families.

 

Related

Beattie rushes through laws to protect workers’ conditions

 

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