Patmore reintroduces doomed Tas IR legislation

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Patmore reintroduces doomed Tas IR legislation

Despite a seemingly insurmountable barrier ahead in the Upper House, Tasmania’s IR Minister Peter Patmore has reintroduced his IR Amendment Bill, nine months after he first brought it to the House of Assembly.

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Despite a seemingly insurmountable barrier ahead in the Upper House, Tasmania’s IR Minister Peter Patmore has reintroduced his IR Amendment Bill, nine months after he first brought it to the House of Assembly.

And the Government, while not prepared to cop too many amendments, is already preparing to go back to the drawing board with the Bill in face of the hostile reception it is likely to receive.

Patmore first introduced the Industrial Relations Amendment Bill 1999 on December 1, 1999, and wanted it debated by December 7 that year. But after Tasmania’s business community raised concerns about a lack of consultation, a Legislative Council Select Committee was appointed to look into the bill.

Its report, released five months ago, recommended:

  • keeping the Office of the Enterprise Commissioner;
  • not allowing deduction of union fees as an industrial matter, saying an industrial matter should be between employee and employer;
  • not having a ‘no net detriment’ test; and
  • restrictions upon a union’s right to enter workplace written into the Act.

Late last week, Patmore reintroduced the Bill after what he said was ‘perhaps the longest and most extensive period of consultation undertaken in respect of the Industrial Relations Act since the principal act came into force’.

The changes were a major policy commitment of the Jim Bacon Labor Government before it was elected two years ago.

In his second reading speech, Patmore said although the Government gave the Senate Committee’s report ‘every proper consideration’, it disagreed with its findings and recommendations ‘in several key aspects’.

The Bill thus retains its key features:

  • abolishing the Office of the Enterprise Commissioner, with all members of the Tasmanian Industrial Commission taking on those functions and powers;
  • introducing a no-disadvantage test;
  • boosting union rights of entry, after reasonable notice, to enable them to talk with employees who are eligible to be members;
  • empowering the Commission to make agreements or awards providing for deduction of union dues;
  • provision for federal-award covered employees to access the Tasmanian Commission if they are excluded from the federal Act’s remedies;
  • ‘clear and fair’ criteria relating to unfair dismissal;
  • defining trainees and outworkers as employees; and
  • enabling employees and unions to take long service disputes to the Commission.

Patmore said the Bill was ‘neither radical nor irrational’, and noted that whilst the Tasmanian IR system was ‘second to none… this does not mean the system cannot be improved’.

While the Bill is expected to reach the committee stage in the House of Assembly later today, it is expected to be knocked back after that when it passes to the Upper House. If that happens, the Government will have to choose between negotiating on amendments – something a spokesperson for Patmore says it is not keen to do – and redesigning the Bill.

 

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