Vic Act a lesson in not counting chickens: McCallum

Analysis

Vic Act a lesson in not counting chickens: McCallum

A Melbourne conference has been told the Kennett Government’s 1992 Employee Relations Act was ‘a lesson in how not to make laws in this state’ and still had reverberations today, according to the head of the Taskforce which investigated the state’s IR system.

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A Melbourne conference has been told the Kennett Government’s 1992 Employee Relations Act was ‘a lesson in how not to make laws in this state’ and still had reverberations today, according to the head of the Taskforce which investigated the state’s IR system.

 

Professor Ron McCallum told the Victorian IR Society on the weekend that the Act, which abolished all state awards in Victoria, was passed on the premise that John Hewson would win the 1993 federal election in which Paul Keating retained power.

‘It was a lesson to all state governments, the Bracks Government included, that to pass laws with a view to someone of your political hue being in power in Canberra before too long is dangerous,’ he said.

Speaking publicly for the first time about his experiences as Victorian IR Taskforce chairman, Professor McCallum reiterated much of what he told WorkplaceInfo in an exclusive interview the day after the report was handed down (see previous story).

He said unitarianism had reached its zenith in Victoria in 1996 when the Kennett Government, supported by the ALP, handed industrial powers for award and agreement-covered workers to the Commonwealth.

Professor McCallum said the referral power was ‘a dud’ – while it meant only one set of agreement-making and unfair dismissal laws, the Kennett Government had effectively contracted out its administration.

This meant there was no provision for compliance, the public (especially in rural areas) had no access to help or advice, and a ‘rich person’s/poor person’s dual industrial system was created’.

He said a total handover of powers, covering all workers, would have made more sense, and that because the handover had been done hurriedly and with little thought it was ‘bad public policy’.

‘Never lose your courage, never be afraid to oppose bad public policy,’ he said. ‘It’s been a sorry saga, a saga of how not to make laws.’

Paraphrasing Robert McNamara in his book on the Vietnam war, Professor McCallum said the move made sense only in the microcosm: ‘Every decision seemed right at the time, but no-one stood back to look at the chain of decisions.’

 

 

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