Qld set to join national IR system, pressure on NSW and WA

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Qld set to join national IR system, pressure on NSW and WA

Queensland has joined South Australia and Tasmania in agreeing to join a national IR system, increasing the pressure on NSW and WA to follow them.

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Queensland has joined South Australia and Tasmania in agreeing to join a national IR system, increasing the pressure on NSW and WA to follow them.
 
At yesterday’s Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council meeting, the Qld Minister for Industrial Relations, Cameron Dick, indicated his Government's in-principle support for joining a national workplace relations system for the private sector, subject to a number of key issues being resolved.
 
Earlier this week Tasmania and SA also agreed to join the system, and at yesterday’s meeting the NT and the ACT also indicated their support.
 
Delaying tactic by NSW
 
NSW has said it will not look at the issue until all the Fair Work legislation is passed through Federal parliament, though this is seen as a delaying tactic as only the transitional legislation remains to be finalised.
 
WA review
 
WA has ordered a review of its State IR system, including harmonisation with the federal system, and is unlikely to move before this is completed.
 
Both WA and NSW will come under sustained pressure from business leaders if they don’t join the national system. Large enterprises have long complained of the complexity of having to deal with one national and five State systems (Victoria referred its IR powers to the Commonwealth in 1996).
 
Agreement by August
 
However the matter is now coming to a head, with the Council agreeing to finalise a multilateral inter-governmental agreement regarding a national system for the private sector by August 2009.
 
The agreement will set out the key principles which will underpin the new system into the future, building on principles endorsed by the Council on 23 May 2008.
 
Federal IR Minister, Julia Gillard, welcomed ‘the significant progress to date’ on the national IR system, saying that a national workplace relations system for the private sector was a crucial part of creating a seamless national economy.
 
Gillard told a press conference the meeting was ‘very productive’.
 
‘Real progress’ says Gillard
 
‘I’m pleased to report that we continue to make real progress in bringing to this country an important reform.
 
‘So progress is being made. This is an important reform for business, to get rid of the complexity and the red tape that comes from duplication of systems. And it is an important reform for working Australians as we get rid of WorkChoices, delivering fairness and decency in Australian workplaces.’
 
Asked about WA and NSW, Gillard said:
‘Well we are continuing productive discussions with NSW and I do thank them for that. Those discussions will continue.
Better for business and working people’
‘What I would say to the state of Western Australia is, as we work to achieve this national reform, it’s important that Western Australia is in a system which will be better for business in that state and also better for working people.’
Queensland unions, however, expressed concerns about the State’s private sector moving into a national system.
 
‘Workers in retail, hospitality, manufacturing, and the farm sector will see their unfair dismissal and access to arbitration rights diminished when they are transferred to federal workplace laws,’ said Queensland Council of Unions general secretary Ron Monaghan.
 
Unions urge caution
 
He said unions were urging the State Government to move cautiously.
 
Deputy State Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg accused the Government of a ‘gutless cave-in’.
 
‘We've now got all our industrial relations eggs in one basket, and in the hands of a centralised Labor Government in Canberra,’ he said.
 
He said a uniform industrial relations system would ‘promote mediocrity and the sameness across Australia’, and it would ‘be a lot worse for small businesses in Queensland’.
 
Concerns about ABCC
 
At the Council meeting, all the States and Territories other than WA (which is the only administration with a Liberal Government) expressed concerns about the retention of coercive powers in the body which replaces the ABCC.
 
Gillard confirmed she would be introducing legislation to replace the ABCC, but would not indicate when.
 
There has been speculation that the legislation could be introduced at the next sittings of Federal Parliament, which begin next week, so it would have at least passed the Lower House before the ALP National Conference at the end of July.
 
Union delegates will raise the issue at the Conference in hope of getting opposition to the coercive powers, and to the ABCC, made Party policy.
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