National IR system would end confusion over coverage: Gillard

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National IR system would end confusion over coverage: Gillard

The establishment of a national workplace relations system would end confusion for many employers as to whether they are covered by the federal or state systems — and also stop them from slipping from one to the other, IR Minister Julia Gillard has told Parliament.

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The establishment of a national workplace relations system would end confusion for many employers as to whether they are covered by the federal or state systems — and also stop them from slipping from one to the other, IR Minister Julia Gillard has told Parliament.
 
Without such a change, 70% of farm businesses would find themselves out of the federal system and back into state systems from March 2011, she said.
 
In her second reading speech on legislation to facilitate states referring their IR powers to the Commonwealth, Gillard said the Bill ‘answers the many calls made by business over many years to end the overlap and duplication of state and federal workplace relations systems; to end the inefficiency, uncertainty and legal complexity for Australian businesses and employees’.
 
Gillard said that in the absence of referrals of power from the states, the question of which system applies depends upon whether a business is a ‘constitutional corporation’ or not.
 
Coverage can change
 
‘This means that corporations that derive revenue through donations (such as charities) or through government grants may not fall within the corporations power,’ she said.
 
‘The jurisdictional coverage of an employer can change at any particular point in time if its activities change.'
 
‘For example, a charity raising money for medical research could open a second-hand goods shop to raise funds only to find it is now seen as “trading” and that this leads to a change in its jurisdictional coverage.’
 
Gillard said the question of coverage also depends on the nature of the entity running the business.
 
‘For example, a professional services firm (say an accounting or medical practice) might run as a partnership or sole trader and be in a state system.'
 
‘A very similar business down the street might be incorporated and therefore in the federal system and on a different award.'
 
Perverse outcomes
 
‘And there are many more examples of perverse outcomes, confusion and complexity.’
 
Gillard said there are thousands of employers and employees who are not trading corporations but who have been in the federal system for a long time, as a result of long-standing awards made in settlement of an inter-state industrial dispute.
 
‘These awards were preserved on a transitional basis under WorkChoices,’ she said.
 
‘In the absence of state referrals of power, employers and employees on these transitional awards would have fallen back to the state systems from March 2011.'
 
‘For example, approximately 70% of the farm businesses covered by the Transitional Pastoral Award are unincorporated and without this Bill, these farmers and their employees would fall back into State systems.'
 
‘And the uncertainty they were facing under WorkChoices was exacerbated by the fact that many farmers operate across state borders and would have had to commence to apply different state and federal workplace relations laws.’
 
‘Totally unacceptable’
 
Gillard said that in support of farmers, the National Farmers Federation has been a vocal proponent of a uniform national workplace relations system, stating that 'the overwhelming majority of farmers will be stranded [in the event that states do not refer their powers to the Commonwealth]' and that this would be 'totally unacceptable'.
 
‘The uniform national workplace relations system for the private sector will resolve once and for all the confusion and complexity I have described,’ she said.
 
‘Employers and employees will for the first time have the same laws, tribunals, minimum conditions, rights and entitlements as their counterparts doing the same work, regardless of whether they are within the same state or across a border; regardless of whether they are trading as a corporation, a sole trader or a partnership.'
 
‘The new national system will make it far easier for businesses and employees to find the information they need. This will result in a permanent, intrinsic efficiency for businesses, especially for small businesses that do not have the benefit of specialised human resources staff.'
 
Single point of access
 
‘With this Bill and associated state referrals, the Fair Work system will provide a single point of access for all private sector workplace relations services for Australia. There will be one website, one phone number, one tribunal and one inspectorate.'
 
‘This means that governments and tax-payers will benefit too. Nationally, state governments spend upwards of $60 million of tax-payers’ money each year maintaining duplicate administrative functions and regulation. The new system will be far more efficient into the future.’
 
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