States preparing legal challenge to fight national IR system

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States preparing legal challenge to fight national IR system

The NSW Government has lawyers looking at a legal challenge to the Howard Government’s plans for a national industrial relations system, and the state’s Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca believes all state Attorneys General are doing the same thing.

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The NSW Government has lawyers looking at a legal challenge to the Howard Government’s plans for a national industrial relations system, and the state’s Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca believes all state Attorneys General are doing the same thing. 

Queensland fights too

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie yesterday told the Australian Workers’ Union national conference on the Gold Coast that the Queensland Government would fight to protect the rights of workers, as opposition to the Federal Government’s plan heats up. 

Beattie said comments on Sunday by the Prime Minister about favouring a single industrial relations system across Australia amounted to a threat to workers who deserved to retain the rights and privileges they had earned through Queensland’s industrial system. 

‘What John Howard is proposing would erode existing State Government legislation, which provides protection for employees in relation to unfair dismissals and minimum award wages,’ Beattie said. 

‘The Prime Minister’s plans for industrial relations reform have the potential to be the most significant attack on workers’ rights and conditions in our generation.’ 

Beattie said Queensland had an excellent industrial relations record - for example, the quarterly strike rate for the September 2004 quarter in Queensland was 5.1 days lost per 1000 employees compared with the national strike rate of 11.3 days. 

Employment figures released last month showed Queensland accounted for more than 50% of all new full time jobs in Australia for the 12 months to December 2004, and currently, about 60% of the State’s employees are covered by the State industrial system. 

‘We are the engine room of Australia when it comes to jobs and we have only half of the strikes of the rest of Australia. Why does the Prime Minister want to wreck our system?’ Beattie said. 

‘This is an attack on the living standards of ordinary Australians and Queensland workers and we will fight it.’ 

NSW minister comments

Della Bosca said the proposed national industrial relations system was about a campaign to lower the living standards of Australian families. 

‘This is the final attempt to destroy the Commonwealth industrial relations system as a fair and neutral system, to turn it into a system which delivers for some abstract market,’ he said.

Della Bosca said the proposal would put small business under more pressure because the Commonwealth system, in any of its manifestations over the last century, has been much more complex, and tended towards a greater degree of black letter intervention, than the State systems.  

‘The State systems are generally informal, pragmatic systems, they suit small business,’ he said. 

‘So you’ve always got this dilemma that a centralised, large-scale national system will be more expensive, will be a one size fits all model - it’ll hurt small business.’ 

Della Bosca said it was not his experience, or that of any of his colleagues, that small business wanted to move away from a common rule award system. 

‘And most people who have actually gone through an unfair dismissal case, accept that the New South Wales system is vastly superior,’ he said. 

Della Bosca said that while he would leave to the lawyers the question of whether their was scope for a constitutional challenge to the Howard Government’s industrial relations plans, ‘certainly advice is being sought about those matters’. 

‘There’s been a lot of sabre rattling by the Commonwealth and by senior Commonwealth ministers so the State Government, and I assume all of my state colleagues and Attorneys-General, has been looking at the legal underpinnings for some of the suggested changes,’ he said. 

Related

States won't cop 'unfair' national workplace system - Labor

One workplace relations system ‘in national interest’ – ACCI

 

 

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