NFF backs Labor IR plan but Coalition ‘not getting real on IR’

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NFF backs Labor IR plan but Coalition ‘not getting real on IR’

The hard-line National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has come out in support of the first phase of Labor’s IR laws. Meanwhile the Liberal and National Opposition Parties will have to ‘get real’ on IR because they know their WorkChoices laws are 'on the nose' with Australians, the Sydney Workforce Conference was told this week.

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The hard-line National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has come out in support of the first phase of Labor’s IR laws. Meanwhile the Liberal and National Opposition Parties will have to ‘get real’ on IR because they know their WorkChoices laws are 'on the nose' with Australians, the Sydney Workforce Conference was told this week.

NFF backs Labor IR plan - including unfair dismissals

The hard-line National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has come out in support of the first phase of Labor’s IR laws, further isolating those Coalition Opposition leaders who are denying Labor has a mandate to scrap WorkChoices.

In fact it is even backing Labor’s changes to the unfair dismissal laws.

Evolution, not revolution’

In a statement the NFF described the Rudd Labor Government’s process for implementing its industrial relations agenda as an ‘evolution, rather than a revolution’.

The NFF has a long history of anti-union and anti-Labor activity. It backed the attack on the MUA on the Sydney and Melbourne docks and the training of scab labour in Dubai, and during the recent election campaign ran pro-WorkChoices ads.

However in view of Labor’s election win, the NFF has softened its position.

‘It may be little understood, but the policy Labor took to the federal election will not see any extensive changes to workplace relations laws in Australia for some time - two years, in fact,’ said NFF President David Crombie.

Minimise disruption

‘While the NFF is extremely disappointed with Labor’s policy to abolish AWAs, we believe the transitional arrangements will minimise disruption in workplaces using AWAs.

‘We now need similar assurances from the Rudd Government that an equally orderly transition is in place for the abolition of the small business exemptions to unfair dismissal laws and that employers and employees are fully informed of any changes well before they occur.’

Crombie said a key workplace relations issue the NFF will take up with the incoming Government, as part of discussions with business during the transitional phase, include the need for one unitary national system - as opposed to the current three industrial systems (federal, federal transitional and state).

Flexibility for farmers

It will also seek the capacity for farming businesses to have flexibility within the workplace to remain competitive in the global market, whether farmers rely on industrial awards or workplace agreements.

‘Despite the howls from some obvious quarters trying to fast-track the change process, the new Government is taking a sensible approach,’ Crombie said.

‘What Labor proposed at the election was a transitional timetable - with reform being necessarily incremental to enable discussion at all levels to ensure the detail is right, minimising problems upon implementation.’

Unrealistic expectations

Crombie noted unrealistic expectations that the new Rudd Government would, or could, simply dismantle Australia’s industrial relations system overnight.

‘That isn’t Labor’s stated policy and those expectations need to be quashed,’ he said.

‘It’s interesting some have been trying to twist the new Government’s arm even before it was sworn in, but as Labor’s policy clearly takes into account, any wholesale overthrow of the system would result in industrial chaos.

‘The new Australian Government needs to stick to its guns and weather the tirade from those expecting an IR revolution.’

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Hard-line farmers body backs WorkChoices


Coalition ‘not getting real on IR’, conference told

The Liberal and National Opposition Parties will have to ‘get real’ on IR because they know their WorkChoices laws are on the nose with Australians, the Sydney Workforce Conference was told this week.

‘The new leadership of the Liberals and Nationals are not blind to the failings of WorkChoices,’ said Democrats IR spokesman Andrew Murrary. ’They do know it is on the nose with Australians at large'.

Complex and over-regulated

‘They must know it is not efficient, simple or equitable. They do know it is still not a unitary system. They must know it is complex, over-regulated, and far too prescriptive.

‘They surely know that on both economic and social grounds, it needs drastic revision. They must know an efficient, flexible, accessible and just system is needed, with built-in enforceable checks and balances.’

Labor needs Senate votes

Senator Murray said the 28 Labor Senators will need 11 more votes to make their new IR bill law.

‘If the Coalition oppose Labor’s legislation, Labor’s has to corral the supporting votes of 4 Democrat Senators, 4 Greens, 1 Family First and two Coalition floor-crossers,’ he said.

‘That’s not likely.  From July next year, Labor’s 32 Senators will need the votes of 5 Green Senators, 1 Family First, and 1 Senator Xenophon, unless the Nationals start to act independently, in which case it is 5 Nationals, 1 Family First, and 1 Senator X. Not easy.’

Senator Murray said Labor’s best hope will be for the Coalition to support their IR legislation.

Modest amendments

‘WorkChoices is an albatross around the Coalition’s neck,’ he said. ‘They should get rid of it - quickly.  Their pride may get in the way, but there might be a salve if they propose modest amendments. The question is whether Labor will want to give them an inch, although Labor will have one eye on business, and economic credibility.’

Senator Murray outlined three strategies Labor could adopt: the crash-or-crash-through strategy; the accept-reasonable-amendments strategy; and the broad-consensus strategy.

‘No one should assume Labor will risk a double-dissolution election,’ he said. ‘A Double Dissolution suits everyone except Labor.  Probably, Labor would win Government again, but they would certainly risk a reduced majority.’


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