Labor moves backwards in IR



Australian Financial Review,

18th June 2008


David Crowe seems right in describing Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's eagerness to suddenly publicise final employment standards, even though not applying until 2010, as being designed to turn attention away from various matters running against him and the Government ("Creating a diversion won't make it go away", June 17).


But your editorial's assessment ("Balancing act must succeed", June 17) that the rushed 10 minimum conditions "won't unduly frighten the horses" and business "might have got worse" surely fails to take account of the apparent determination of Rudd to fulfill every election undertaking almost regardless of likely adverse effects.


The failure of business to criticise the standards in a substantive way may indeed reflect some frightened view: "If you say that we'll be on the outer". An assessment of these "minimum conditions that can't be stripped away" should not focus only the conditions themselves.


What's to come will include a new award regime that may include additional legislated standards and that will be applied under a quasi-judicial system that has a record of decision-making favouring unions and neglecting the interests of non-unionists and employers.


Labor shows every sign of fulfilling its undertaking to regulate workplace relations to the letter and of doing so in ways that can only lower employment and productivity levels.


In short, a move backwards in time and running contrary to recommendations by the international institutions so admired by Rudd.


Nor are Rudd and Employment Minister Julia Gillard correct in asserting the announced conditions are new, fair and simple. They are not all new ( a number existed under WorkChoices), they  will not be fair ( the employment prospects of the around 1.7 million Australians who want work or more of it are reduced by the additional regulations employers will face) and they are not simple (even a quick assessment of the 50 pages confirms they will be a lawyers paradise).


Among the many assessments to be made not by Gillard but by Fair Work

Australia, for example, will be whether it is "reasonable" for the 4.5 million people who now work over the maximum 38 hours a week to continue to do so.


Rudd himself will presumably seek exemption.