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IR Ripe for Bipartisanship
letter published in The Australian Financial Review, 20 September 2011

The Australian Financial Review must be congratulated for commissioning and publishing the devastating analysis of the Fair Work Australia (FWA) legislation by former Minister for Workplace Relations, Peter Reith (“Abbott’s Fault Line”, Review, September 16). But the reaction by your political editor, Laura Tingle, has missed the key point (“Reith puts IR heat on Abbott”, September 17-18).

While Tingle correctly suggests that the Reith analysis has put pressure on Coalition Leader Abbott to state a definitive industrial relations policy, the key issue is that policy reform in this area has been identified by Reith as ranking with prevention of a loss of international competiveness under the carbon tax and protection of our borders from refugees who are jumping the UN queue.

With businesses now having had a couple of years experience with the FWA, there can be no doubt that the underlying rationale of that legislation is completely unsuited to a modern economy where Australia’s over 800,000 employers have to compete for labour and have little or no opportunity to exploit our over 11,000,000 employees.

Further, in such an economy how can a quasi-judicial body, with little or no business experience, set wages and conditions that are appropriate to a market that needs to adjust frequently to changes in supply and demand? Equally, how can it make judgements about the appropriate wage level for those many low skilled workers who live in households with incomes in the upper reaches?

This arrangement harks back to mediaeval times and it is little wonder that Australia’s productivity and per head economic growth have fallen in the last twelve months.

Julia Gillard seeks bipartisanship on immigration. If she were to seek the basic bipartisanship that developed on IR reform when the Hawke-Keating governments were in office, that would likely be readily obtainable.

Des Moore
Director, Institute for Private Enterprise,
South Yarra Vic

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