Napthine vows to vote Vic Bill down

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Napthine vows to vote Vic Bill down

The Victorian Opposition, which has the numbers in the Upper House, has confirmed that it will defeat the Bracks Government’s Fair Employment Bill later this week, in the face of new legislation to be introduced by Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott.

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The Victorian Opposition, which has the numbers in the Upper House, has confirmed that it will defeat the Bracks Government’s Fair Employment Bill later this week, in the face of new legislation to be introduced by Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott.

Opposition Leader Denis Napthine said today there was now ‘no need’ for the Victorian Bill in the face of planned changes by Mr Abbott to the Federal Workplace Relations Act (see previous story) which he said would:

  • introduce bereavement leave;
  • introduce carers’ leave;
  • protect textiles outworkers; and 
  • increase the employment conditions of all state employees.

Napthine said IR Minister Monica Gould’s ‘extraordinary behaviour’ made it clear her real agenda was to boost union power.

But Gould has vowed to push on, telling WorkplaceInfo the Opposition’s ‘hysterical’ reaction had not pushed her or the Government from their election promise to Victoria’s low-paid workers.

‘It’s very disappointing—once again you have the conservative Liberals turning their backs on 15% of the Victorian workforce’, she said. ‘And here you have a Victorian Opposition leader with one of the lowest approval ratings—10% according to this morning’s paper—who feels he has the support of the Victorian people!’

She said the Abbott package was only throwing crumbs to Victorian workers, not even guaranteeing them the 20 minimum conditions other Australians have (Victorian workers presently have five minimum employment conditions).

Gould added that Abbott’s letter informing the Government of his plans had not reached her office until 11.15pm on Friday (‘so effectively Monday morning’), despite him having released the news to the press on Wednesday. He had also not given the Victorian six months’ notice of the changes, as per an inter-governmental agreement between the two parties.

Gould said the Government would debate the Bill through the Upper House this week, then resubmit it when it was knocked back, although the timing of that would wait until after consideration of what happened this week.

She holds out hopes of meeting with Democrats Senator Andrew Murray, who has said he supports the Abbott reforms, although he thinks they don’t go far enough.

Shadow Industry Minister Mark Birrell, who last week said Labor’s reforms would hurt small businesses and cost jobs, said today the Opposition would be letting the public down if it supported the Gould Bill. He said a new Fair Employment Tribunal would force small business costs to ‘soar’ and give union organisers ‘unwelcome rights to forcibly enter a shop, farm or home-based business’.

Birrell said the Federal legislation was also preferable because it had greater scope, including Victoria having the right to intervene before the Federal Industrial Relations Commission in major industrial relations disputes.

‘Given that all the major disputes over the last year have been caused by federally-registered unions, this new power will be of real assistance to Monica Gould if she has the nerve to use it’, he said.

Meanwhile, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry argued before a full bench of the AIRC in Melbourne today that any increases to the Living Wage should be restricted to those earning less than $410 a week.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is asking for a $28 a week increase to the minimum wage for Australia’s 1.7 million lowest-paid workers. But the ACCI submitted today that any increase for workers on the federal minimum wage of $400.40 should be restricted to $10 a week.

ACTU secretary Greg Combet responded by saying ACCI lacked credibility and compassion.

 
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