Letter from PM

14th December 2004

Dear Mr Moore and co-signatories

Thank you for your letter of 9 November 2004 about the need for further workplace relations reform and proposing a Commission of Inquiry to facilitate this reform.

Let me assure you that further workplace relations reform is a key priority for the government. The reform that the government has instigated since 1996 has created a workplace relations environment that has underpinned Australia's strong economic performance. As you correctly argue, further reform is necessary if we are to improve workforce participation and sustain high rates of productivity with a view to maintaining strong economic growth. The government will build on its reforms to date and has already introduced into Parliament its Right of Entry, Fair Dismissal Reform and Small Business Employment Protection Bills.

The appointment of a Minister for Workforce Participation, Mr Peter Dutton MP, within the employment and workplace relations portfolio is also testimony to the importance the government places on improving workforce participation. Mr Dutton will be focussing on the need to promote the movement from welfare dependence to employment.

We committed during the election to, amongst other things, introduce independent contractors' legislation to enhance the freedom to contract; to further simplify agreement making; to trial a new mediation service for small business to provide a less formal alternative to quasi-legal Australian Industrial Relation Commission processes; and to assist small and medium sized businesses to avail themselves of the flexibilities offered by Australian Workplace Agreements.

The government has also committed to examining ways to achieve greater harmony among the six overlapping workplace relations systems. This will include considering the use of the Commonwealth's constitutional powers, including the corporations power.

Beyond these reforms, the government is currently considering its broad strategic approach to workplace relations reform, including how and in what form to take forward reforms that had previously stalled in the Parliament and what more needs to be done. This forward agenda will reflect our commitment to building a simpler and fairer system to enhance productivity and increase participation in the workforce.

As an ambitious forward agenda is already being formulated, I do not wish to initiate a Commission of Inquiry to produce a Green Paper on further labour market reforms. The government will, nevertheless, continue to consult key stakeholders as appropriate. In particular, I welcome your efforts to promote debate about Australia's labour market laws and value your input into the policy debate. I shall ask the Minsiter for Employment and Workplace Relations, the Hon Kevin Andrews MP, to take into account the issues you have raised.

This letter has been copied to Mr Andrews.

Yours sincerely

John Howard