Labor’s IR policy hangs on High Court challenge to WorkChoices

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Labor’s IR policy hangs on High Court challenge to WorkChoices

Labor is planning to open its IR strategy for the next federal election with a ‘Blueprint’ speech by Opposition Leader Kim Beazley – but it will not be the ‘final cut’ of the policy because the High Court challenges to the WorkChoices laws have still to be resolved.

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Labor is planning to open its IR strategy for the next federal election with a ‘Blueprint’ speech by Opposition Leader Kim Beazley – but it will not be the ‘final cut’ of the policy because the High Court challenges to the WorkChoices laws have still to be resolved.

Beazley told a question and answer session with journalists at the National Press Club yesterday that he would not have a full understanding of ‘where the High Court is going to send their industrial relations legislation’ by the time he delivers the speech later this year.

He also said WorkChoices would not ‘really start to kick in, in terms of its effect on the Australian workforce, probably until next year’.

WorkChoices will go under ALP

However Beazley has already promised unequivocally to scrap the WorkChoices laws and, at the least, stop AWAs being used to undercut awards.

‘As far as the individual contracts are concerned, my policy, when I announced it, the further iteration of it with a Blueprint, will have within it detail as to how we intend to make absolutely certain that individual contracts can never undermine a collective agreement or an award or be compelled upon you,’ Beazley said.

‘My Blueprint speech will be consistent with our statement that we’re going to rip this legislation.

‘And it will expand on all those points to make sure the people have a clear understanding of the direction in which we’re going,’ he said.

Productivity

Beazley said productivity is skills based and innovations based.

‘This is the modern economy, it’s the modern world,’ he said. ‘Australians already are the hardest working people in the western world - this is objectively so. Fulltime workers in Australia work more hours per year than fulltime workers in the United States, Japan, Holland, any European country you care to nominate. We work more.

‘We have squeezed and do squeeze an awful lot out of the Australian worker, and they’re not terribly well-paid.

‘And the Government’s solution to that is to cut workers’ wages. That’s not the direction of productivity.’

Beazley said that what employers in this country are ‘screaming out for now’ is skilled workers.

‘The skilled workers aren’t even available overseas anymore, particularly in areas like the mining industry,’ he said.

‘We absolutely have to skill the workforce urgently and massively. I think one of the reasons why we’re performing so poorly on manufactured exports at the moment is all those best practice schemes that we used to have in place when we’ve been in office have been scrapped and we need to look at them again.’

TAFE plans

Beazley was asked whether his plan to establish an $800 ‘bank’ for apprentices to cover their TAFE fees was ‘the Coalition’s $800 toolbox, without the spanners, or is it going to be instead of the toolbox or will they be getting the toolbox as well?’

‘Well, if it’s ever delivered,’ Beazley said. ‘Go and find an apprentice who has got the $800 for their toolbox. But it’s $800 a year - the tool box is a one-off.’

Beazley said a lot of apprentices have award entitlements to get their fees paid now.

‘But what they’re allowed to do in those circumstances is you had those resources paid into that account and that enables them to go on to do level five and level six,’ he said.’

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