Reith demands Abbott get tough on IR

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Reith demands Abbott get tough on IR

Former IR Minister Peter Reith believes labour market reform is a ‘big issue’ and workplace relations must be at the forefront of Coalition policy at the next election.

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Former IR Minister Peter Reith believes labour market reform is a ‘big issue’ and workplace relations must be at the forefront of Coalition policy at the next election.

Reith’s views, published in the Financial Review, have prompted the Federal Government to say that the worst aspects of WorkChoices will soon be ‘back on the table’ for the Coalition.

Reith, an industrial relations hardliner, is the latest of a series of Coalition MPs and former MPs to urge Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to announce a tough IR policy.

He said the carbon tax and boat people are important issues but ‘not more important than labour market reform’.

Not good enough

And he said that a policy that ‘does not reinstate individual agreements will not be good enough’.

However, he warned that the Coalition should not repeat the WorkChoices ‘mistake’ in removing the no-disadvantage test, which ensured workers could not be worse off.
Reith said Abbott could not rely on the excuse that he was waiting for business to outline the problems with the Fair Work Act because former Prime Minister John Howard had said they were ‘blindingly obvious’.

He said Abbott was trying to avoid a Labor scare campaign on a tougher IR policy, ‘but when Labor raises the ogre of a return to WorkChoices surely the Coalition could devise a policy in response’.

Internal dissent

Reith warned that if Abbott unilaterally announces an IR policy just before the next election, without consulting his party, he could face internal dissent.

‘So whichever way he looks at this issue, Abbott needs to understand that the IR debate must get underway sooner, not later.’

Reith said business frustration with the Coalition is building and there might be difficulty in raising funds before the next election.

Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans said it ‘is only a matter of time before Tony Abbott announces that individual contracts ― one of the worst aspects of WorkChoices ― are back on the table for Australian workers’.

‘Individual contracts were the vehicle used to strip away pay and conditions,’ Senator Evans said.

Hardline pressure

Evans said pressure from the hardline, right-wing ideologues in the Liberal Party for a return to the extreme industrial relations regime of the Howard era was mounting.

‘Tony Abbott and his colleagues have only one agenda in mind when it comes to industrial relations ― a return to the WorkChoices era,’ Senator Evans said.

‘It is not a question of if, but when, Abbott will announce this policy.’

Evans said the WorkChoices choir was growing daily.

‘Former Senator Nick Minchin, Julie Bishop, Steve Ciobo, Andrew Robb and Jamie Briggs, Eric Abetz and former leader Malcolm Turnbull all want WorkChoices reinstated, laws that will strip unfair dismissal rights from 4.5 million working Australians,’ he said.
 
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