Australia’s Workplace Relations Framework: the Case for Reform

Off to the Sydney Institute in their new premises, high in the air in the Governor Phillip Tower in the city to hear Martin Ferguson launch a new round of reform in industrial relations. Perhaps.

Tomorrow his talk will be on the list of podcasts with commentary by Jennifer Hewitt followed by Q and A. On the weekend it will be on TV, details to be provided.

Martin Ferguson has a long history in the trade union movement followed by a spell as Minister for Minerals and Energy and also Tourism in the Rudd administration. He goes back to the time of more or less open warfare between unions and management before the Hawke/Keating government reforms.

The two rogue unions (CFMEU and Wharfies) and the Shadow for Industrial Relations are threatening to have a repeat under an incoming Labor Government.

He has been working with the Minerals Council of Australia to prepare a blueprint for essential reform of the system. His message is very clear – we are living beyond our means in a competitive world with rapid changes in the workplace and we will reform or perish. Not quite his words but there it is.

Everything depends on productivity. It is like real estate except the three most important things are productivity instead of location.

This is the document that he launched. Australia’s workplace relations framework: The case for reform.

The priority reforms are:

Removing the availability of protected industrial action over business decisions and ensuring enterprise agreements deal with direct employment matters.

Refocusing the Act’s ‘adverse action’ provisions so they do not act as unreasonable barriers to business decision-making and performance management processes.

Introducing more balanced workplace right of entry rules.

Reforming greenfields agreements, including introducing ‘life of project’ agreements, so the workplace relations system helps get major new projects off the ground.

Letting employees above a high-income threshold choose between being covered by enterprise agreements or individual employment agreements.

He is looking for political leadership to make the case for reforms to deliver productivity, flexibility, employment and improved wages, while maintaining a safety net for the most vulnerable workers.

You would have to think that the current administration is the least likely in living memory to do what needs to be done. Truly interesting times.

On the topic of podcasts, you could do worse than have a look at the talk last week about “Red Ted” Theodore and Joe Lyons the PM from Tasmania in the 1930s.

This entry was posted in Economics and economy, Rafe, Unions. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Australia’s Workplace Relations Framework: the Case for Reform

  1. EvilElvis

    Not much hard hitting reform there, Martin.

  2. a reader

    Is this the first stage of a Road to Damascus conversion?

  3. struth

    Can we get back to important issues like SSM?
    Fancy attempting to get the liberal party to look at this.
    After the Marxist pillow biters the next big issue will be ensuring land rights for gay whales.
    Industrial relations is way down the list.

  4. Waz

    Thanks Rafe for posting this. I spite of the first few comments above, I rate Ferguson. He was a union man who new what was truly good for workers. The initial reforms outlined above are very practical and completely workable in the Australian idiom. He still carries some weight on the Centre Left and good luck to him in promoting some change. Let’s face it, he’s doing more than the Centre Right or coalition Gov.

  5. a reader

    Don’t take it as a criticism from me Waz. I’m genuinely pleased. At least somebody in AUS is talking about industrial reform

  6. Empire GTHO Phase III

    Mar’n is and has always been a solid traditional left winger. His policy prescription is hardly radical. What it demonstrates is just how radically retarded the policy status quo of the uniparty kleptocracy actually is.

    There will be blood.

  7. Rafe Champion

    He was very impressive and I will remind people about the podcast tomorrow. I will not try to reproduce more of his talk right now. I have a suspicion that he voiced some sensible thoughts about climate change after he was in the House. There was even talk about expelling him from the party for his position on privatisation of the power system in NSW.

  8. RobK

    ….and if I recall correctly, he has a pro economy/worker view on the nuclear power issue. More power to him.

  9. Herodotus

    Whatever is done, and this government doesn’t appear to have much will to do it, might be undone as it was in 2007. The combined efforts of massive union expenditure on misleading ads, complicit media amplifying the supposed negatives, a constantly whingeing opposition and a bunch of panicky government ministers admitting there might be some problems rather than defending the IR scheme, will do it. Gillard had no trouble rewriting IR back into the bad old days.

  10. Ƶĩppʯ (ȊꞪꞨV)

    Vulnerable workers is code for the unproductive pawns of cultural & economic marxism.

    Leftism is a mental illness.

  11. John Constantine

    We can ignore per person productivity and per capita economic growth, as long as we can mass import gross enough extra millions of clients for government services and debtfund this gross national growth.

  12. H B Bear

    No-one in the Lieborals is prepared to talk about IR. They have simply vacated the field which has joyfully been filled by the unions and their Liar puppet regime. For a while there this was the last difference between the Lieborals and the Liars but not anymore.

    Once again this can be sheeted home to the Father of Middle Class Welfare and his massive overreach with Workchoices, so damaging it still has the Lieborals in a state of paralysis over a decade after Howard was turfed.

    With real wages in retreat for years this should be fertile ground for the Lieborals but they can’t even begin to make they argument.

  13. alexnoaholdmate

    Look, industrial relations, the state of the economy, the ballooning deficit, the incredible increase in cost-of-living in Australia – these are all niche issues. Completely unimportant.

    We need to get back to focusing on the most important issue of our time – the right of gay people, less than 1% of the population, to marry.

    Everything else is just irrelevant, inconsequential noise.

  14. Herodotus

    Any sensible IR reforms can be reversed after a change of government, as was demonstrated last time. Following the Howard government’s introduction of Work Choices we saw an unparalleled big spend advertising campaign by the unions, we saw complicit media boost the same messages, we saw Labor and Greens whinge ceaselessly, and we saw pollies like Hockey fail to hold the line and appear weak.

    It seemed so easy for Gillard to rewrite the whole thing and give us Fair Work.
    So expecting the current lot to do anything either useful or lasting is a triumph of hope over experience.

  15. Rafe Champion

    Bear was Abbott the min for IR when Workchoices came in?
    He was in IR at some stage and I hear that at a HR Nicholls Society meeting he did not appear to be interested.

    Abbott was first appointed to Cabinet following the 1998 election, as part of the Second Howard Ministry, becoming Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business.

    In 2003, Abbott became Minister for Health and Ageing

  16. EvilElvis

    Thanks Rafe for posting this. I spite of the first few comments above, I rate Ferguson. He was a union man who new what was truly good for workers. The initial reforms outlined above are very practical and completely workable in the Australian idiom. He still carries some weight on the Centre Left and good luck to him in promoting some change. Let’s face it, he’s doing more than the Centre Right or coalition Gov.

    Waz, I actually agree with you. But, I’m at the point now where I’m tired of fluffing around the edges, praising slight and practical solutions, then conceding these small practical policies in the name of equality or bipartisanship or whatever. The pendulum needs to swing back, and hard.
    And the current government, fuck me. If they ran a car yard with a Bentley on lot, they’d put a $20,000 sticker on it and offer it to the first progressive through the gate for $5000, ‘thats the best we can do’, then pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

  17. serene tiger

    “He is looking for political leadership” – so are we …
    Shorten and Turnbull – a nightmare …

  18. Village Prefect

    If he doesn’t touch on reform/ dismantling of the Ross Commission he is missing an important need. Mind you the Abbott/Turnbull appointments ( especially the Cash ones) have played right into Ross’s hands. The Coaltion has expended all its appointment capital but for no benefit. The appointments are all the easily persuaded and duchessable into the Ross castle of control.

    Ferguson should promote minimum standards being taken out of FWC/Ross control. Now that Shorten has vowed to legislate if necesssary to overturn FWC penalty rates decision golden opportunity has been presented to Turnbull/Cash to take that thought and implement more parliamentary oversight/control of FWC decisions. But alas Government is flat-footed as usual and said and done nothing.

  19. Herodotus

    Apologies for duplicate comment – I missed that earlier one and thought I must have put it in another thread!

  20. Herodotus

    Uh-oh! I’m really having scroll wheel issues, and still don’t know where my earlier comment ended up!

  21. Dr Fred Lenin

    There will be no need for the industrial law industry when the u.n.communist globalists and their national gangreen laboral Allie gain their . goal of ,no industry for the western world to protect the soros /gore/goldman sachs investments in the compliant third world dictatorships. What will the lawyer comrades dream up to keep sucking on Taxpayers money? ‘I mean why would we need industrial relations courts op,when there is no power for industry ? Our coal is creating the electricity give foreigners lobs .

  22. Ainsley Hayes

    Why don’t we eliminate collective bargaining.

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