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Policy advice on IR
letter published in The Australian, 21 September 2011

IT is not surprising that, while drawing attention to "the success of the deregulatory and liberalisation agenda of the last quarter century", Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson appears to claim in his speech to the Australian Industry Group on Monday that public support for industrial relations reform "completely misjudge(s) the magnitude of the transformation underway" in structural change in the economy and the main sources for improved productivity.

When I resigned from Treasury in 1987, the predominant view was that the department needed to tailor its policy advice on industrial relations reforms to improve productivity to take account of the government's support for a centralised wage system.

Fortunately, partly driven by pressure from the Business Council and initiatives by companies such as Robe River, the government moved away from that policy and many examples emerged of improved productivity.

While industrial relations reform is only one way of lifting productivity, it is an important one and it would be a shame if Treasury under Parkinson were to return to the hands-off approach previously adopted.

Des Moore, South Yarra, Vic

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