Labor IR wide open to scrutiny



Australian Financial Review

26th September 2007


Although Lenore Taylor acknowledges there are significant differences between the workplace relations policies of the major parties, she suggests they have been "edging towards the centre" and even a Labor victory will face legislative constraints in the Senate ("IR policy divide may not be so wide", Opinion, September 22-23).


This, she claims, mean the real election campaign will "finally shift focus to the other policies the parties will at last unveil".


It would be surprising if this turns out to be the case. While it is certainly true that both major parties have regulatory workplace relations policies, there is no doubt that Labor's enunciated policy is in extremis, requiring major changes to existing arrangements and exposing employers to virtual compulsory union bargaining. As such, it is wide open to questioning as to its potential adverse economic and social effects.


Moreover, it is far from clear how Labor's policy would operate in the long transition period before the new body, Fair Work Australia, starts to operate in January 2010.


Is it proposed to make the Australian Industrial Relations Commission responsible for operating the award system in that period and, if so, which interim powers would it be given to apply from the many faceted policies outlined in Labor's two policy documents?


These and other major uncertainties in Labor's policysurely  make workplace relations a major election issue.