One workplace relations system ‘in national interest’ – ACCI

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One workplace relations system ‘in national interest’ – ACCI

Prime Minister John Howard’s statement that further workplace relations reform and consideration of a national workplace relations system is back on the agenda has been welcomed by a leading national employer and business organisation.

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Prime Minister John Howard’s statement that further workplace relations reform and consideration of a national workplace relations system is back on the agenda has been welcomed by a leading national employer and business organisation.  

Peter Hendy, Chief Executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), said a national workplace relations system using the constitutional corporations power would be ‘a significant micro-economic reform in the national interest, on both economic and equity grounds’.  

More than a debate about national dismissal laws

‘It needs to be focussed on harmonising employment regulation as a whole, not simply a debate about national dismissal laws,’ he said.  

‘The message from ACCI’s own analysis and last week’s OECD Economic Survey of Australia is the same - a renewed reform effort is needed to strengthen our economy and help the private sector increase labour market participation.’  

Hendy said the idea of a national system is not new. 

‘There is plenty of on the record support from all sides of politics, from unions, from industry, from the head of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, from federal and some state Governments, and from the OECD, that that this is an objective worth pursuing,’ he said.  

‘It was last seriously discussed by the Federal Government in 2000. That followed the use of the corporations power by the Keating government in 1993 (its national enterprise bargaining laws) and the agreement of the Commonwealth and Victorian governments in 1996 that created one system in that State (an arrangement retained to this day).’ 

History - moves towards national system

Hendy issued a statement detailing the history of moves towards a national workplace relations system: 

1985 Australian Government review of industrial relations laws (Hancock Committee) recommends gradual moves towards harmonisation within a framework of dual federal/State systems.  

1993 Keating Government creates national unfair dismissal law for federal award governed workplaces.  

1993 Keating Government creates national enterprise bargaining system using Commonwealth corporations power.  

1993-1996 Through the Labour Relations Ministers Council the Keating government pursues dual appointments of members of federal/State Industrial Relations tribunals, co-location of industrial relations tribunals and other dual administrative arrangements.  

1993-1996 The trade union movement pursues a policy to move large numbers of employees from state industrial systems to federal industrial laws, including large numbers of State Government employees. A constitutional challenge by the conservative State Governments fails in the High Court.  

1996 Howard government reaches agreement with Victorian (Kennett) government for a single workplace relations system in Victoria (through transfer of relevant constitutional power).  

1997 The single workplace relations system in Victoria commences.  

2000 The Commonwealth government releases a series of discussion papers outlining the case for using the constitutional corporations power to create a national system of workplace relations covering the 85% of workplaces in Australia.  

2002 Australia’s leading employer and business organisations, through the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, release a policy Blueprint (Modern Workplace: Modern Future) that supports a staged process for achieving a national workplace relations system.  

2003/04 The Commonwealth Government seeks to amend federal laws to create a national unfair dismissal system using the corporations power. The Bill is referred to a Senate committee but does not pass the Senate.

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