IR referrals law passes — welcomed by employers


IR referrals law passes — welcomed by employers

Legislation allowing the states to refer their industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth has passed the Senate after the Opposition abandoned its attempts to block it.


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Legislation allowing the states to refer their industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth has passed the Senate, after the Opposition abandoned its attempts to block it.
IR Minister Julia Gillard said the legislation will end the overlap and duplication of state and federal workplace relations systems that has caused inefficiency and uncertainty throughout the Australian economy for decades.
The legislation was, in the end, supported by all business and employer groups, the ACTU, the Liberal and National Parties in New South Wales and all state governments except Western Australia.
No support, says Abbott
The only opponents were the Coalition parties in Canberra; but, under pressure, new Liberal leader Tony Abbott withdrew the threat to block the Bill, saying he could not get cross bench support.
Gillard said that at the next Workplace Relations Ministers' Council meeting all Australian governments, except Western Australia, will sign the final Inter-governmental Agreement (IGA) to seal this historic deal.
‘The IGA will outline the roles and responsibilities of participants in the new national Fair Work system,’ she said.
‘This historic move to a national workplace relations system for the private sector is an important step in achieving a productive, streamlined national economy,’ she said.
Eliminate uncertainty
The passing of the legislation was welcomed by Peter Anderson, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).
‘Whatever one’s views about the content of industrial relations laws, achieving a single national source of law in the private sector will ease the doing of business across State borders, and eliminate uncertainty over whose law applies and to which business,’ Anderson said.
‘The referrals of power by State ALP governments, whilst not unconditional, holds the prospect of saving the taxpayer over $100 million by eliminating duplicate industrial relations courts, tribunals, registries and bureaucracies.’
‘The Australian Government has done well to persist with this reform, which is difficult in a federation where longstanding State industrial relations systems have existed.’
‘While a Senate committee rightly questioned aspects of the intergovernmental agreement that accompanied these referrals, the right decision has today been made to accept these referrals and allow the national IR system to apply in these States from 1 January 2010.’
Issues will emerge
Anderson said ACCI will continue to press the government and parliament for changes to national industrial relations laws and frameworks to ease compliance and cost pressures on the private sector as issues with the government's Fair Work system emerge.
In New South Wales, the Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations Greg Pearce said the passage of the legislation was ‘welcome news’.
He said the need for the referral of IR laws had been ‘evident for some time’.
‘We support the safeguard provided in a two-thirds majority for changes to the Federal laws and the States’ right to opt out,’ Pearce said.
‘As the NSW Liberals and Nationals have long advocated, the benefits of a single system, with less complexity, a sensible unfair dismissal regime and access to enterprise agreements, will improve NSW competitiveness, productivity, cut costs.’
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