States 'won't hand over IR powers', says Parlt research paper

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States 'won't hand over IR powers', says Parlt research paper

State Governments are unlikely to refer their IR powers to the Federal Government despite the recent High Court decision giving it wide corporation powers, a NSW Parliamentary Library research paper has suggested. However employers think such powers may be gone by 2010.

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State Governments are unlikely to refer their IR powers to the Federal Government despite the recent High Court decision giving it wide corporation powers, a NSW Parliamentary Library research paper has suggested. However employers think such powers may be gone by 2010.

The research paper also forecasts the Federal Government will use its extended corporations powers to eventually overrule the States and set up a national occupational health and safety system.

State IR systems will 'disappear by end of decade'

On the question of whether the States will continue to operate their own industrial relations systems, the research paper says:

'Following the High Court's decision, State industrial relations Ministers indicated that they would continue to operate their own industrial relations systems and that they were considering 'new legal options to circumvent the WorkChoices legislation and bring more workers into their jurisdiction.

'On the other hand, business groups have predicted that the State industrial relations systems "could disappear by the end of the decade".

'Peter Anderson, from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, stated:

“NSW will not be able to justify continuing to spend $60m or $70m of taxpayers money on an industrial relations system, with all of its infrastructure, all of its judges, all of its courts and all of its processes, where that system is simply applying to 10% or 20% of the workforce."

Over-rule unfair contract provisions

'Given their views about the unfairness of the new Federal laws, it is extremely unlikely that the NSW Government or any of the other State Governments will refer their powers over industrial relations to the Federal Government,' the research paper says.

The paper, published this week, points out that the Government has already moved to control independent contractors and overrule the States' unfair contract provisions.

Andrews denies OHS plans

Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews has denied on a number of occasions that the Government plans to introduce a national OHS system.

There has been conjecture that this is partly because of a reluctance to take over the vastly expensive State workers compensation systems, some of which have enormous liabilities.

However, with more and more large corporations self-insuring through Comcare, there will be reductions in income for the State systems and an increasing burden of covering small to medium employers.

'Something has to give'

The States are unlikely to be happy with a system of declining revenue but (relatively) increased expenditure, so in the end 'something has to give'.

The research paper points out that Andrews is becoming 'increasingly impatient' with the States' delays in achieving a single set of safety standards.

'There is no Australian Government agenda to set up a national workers compensation scheme', the research paper quotes Andrews as saying.

'However, as I have stated publicly on a number of occasions, the demand for national consistency in workers compensation and OHS is gathering ever more impetus because, in a country with a work force of 10 million, it does not make sense for multi-State employers to have to deal with up to eight quite distinct and disparate jurisdictions'.

Can't resist

Since the High Court decision on 14 November a number of constitutional experts have pointed out that no Federal Government will be able to resist using its corporations powers to rapidly resolve issues through Federal legislation, rather than have extended negotiations with the States.

Indeed, Attorney General Philip Ruddock has already threatened this in dealing with the national registration of solicitors and barristers.

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