WA Govt abandons ‘return to WorkChoices’


WA Govt abandons ‘return to WorkChoices’

The WA Government has backed off from introducing new WorkChoices-style IR laws and, instead will ‘harmonise’ its workplace relations system with federal laws.


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The WA Government has backed off from introducing new WorkChoices-style IR laws and, instead, will ‘harmonise’ its workplace relations system with federal laws.

However, Premier Colin Barnett said this week he would not hand over the state’s IR powers to the Commonwealth despite being urged to do so by the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (WA CCI).

The decision signals the end of consideration of a $850,000m, 396-page report by IR expert Steve Amendola — who once advised former IR Ministers Peter Reith and Tony Abbott — which was handed to the government last October.

Mandatory individual contracts
That report called for sweeping changes, including mandatory individual contracts, restrictions on unions right of entry to workplaces and the stripping back of unfair dismissal provisions.

Barnett described some of the Amendola recommendations as being like WorkChoices ‘and we are not going down that path’.

‘The Government is not going to introduce Work Choices-like legislation in Western Australia’, he said.

‘I think we have seen so much change in Australian industrial relations over the last ten years that the one thing that probably employees and employers would agree on is let’s just leave the system stable.’

‘We are not heading off on the path of industrial change.’

However Barnett said Barnett said that, the Amendola report contained suggested technical improvements and ‘some of those will be looked at’.

He refused to say why the report had been abandoned, or to justify the amount of money spent on it. Barnett also refused to say whether there had been pressure on him to drop the proposed IR changes.

Major union TV campaign
His rejection of the Amendola report follows a major television campaign by WA unions that warned of a return to WorkChoices.
‘Thankfully, he’s been scared off and that’s a testament to our campaign — but it’s also a testament to the fact that Work Choices is electoral poison,’ said UnionsWA secretary Simone McGurk.
‘It’s particularly interesting considering the call to arms recently by (former Howard Government industrial relations minister) Peter Reith, with his references to Barnett and Tony Abbott and the need to pursue change.’

However employers are not so happy.

Crucial opportunity
WA CCI industrial relations manager Marcia Kuhne said the government had missed a crucial opportunity for reform and said it should surrender its IR powers to the Commonwealth if it was unable to act.

‘In the absence of reform of the state system, this is the only course of action that will save employers in WA from the burden of industrial laws that are bad for business,’ she said.
The proposed Amendola changes would have affected hundreds of thousands of WA workers.
Almost one-third of West Australian employees are subject to the state system, which mainly covers unincorporated small businesses and the public sector.
The WA Government’s responded to the Amendola report in December last year with a brief summary of some procedural changes it intended to make.
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