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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

IR: informed debate? « Previous | |Next »
November 3, 2005

The Howard Government's Industrial Relations legislation is currently being debated in the House of Representatives:--the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Bill 2005 — and this will continue for most of the day. The bill is not even up on the Parliamentary website. Well, if it was I could not find it.

What we do know about the broad changes is that they include new rules for workplace agreements, a downgrading of the award system and the role of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, the transfer of minimum wage-setting to a new Fair Pay Commission and the removal of unfair dismissal protections from workers in businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

Hinze, IR Reform

And the detail? We do know that the legislation hands employers unprecedented powers to sack people for "operational reasons" and cracks down on unions by severely limiting their operations. The laws will allow Australian workers to be sacked at any time - without the right to claim unfair dismissal - because of economic or technological reasons, or if a business wants to restructure operations. So it shifts power to employers whilst imposing strict new laws on strikes and other industrial action.

Yet, with the parliamentary process of scrutiny sidelined by the government's control of both houses, the politics shifts to public opinion and to citizen's understanding of the fairness and equity of the new legislation. That legislation makes it as easy as possible for employers to set the terms and conditions of employment.

Most of the debate in the House so far this morning has been heavy in partisan rhetoric and light on the detail of the bill. On the one hand the legislation is heralded as the best guarantee of good jobs and wages was a productive economy. On the other hand it is seen as the biggest attack on living standards of working people in Australia's history. There is little middle ground--eg., flexiblity plus safety net--as each side accuses the other of lies, deceits, abuse, thuggery, etc etc. We go round and round on the same merry go round.

So I've switched to watching the budget estimates by the Senate Committee on Community Affairs on indigenous health and housing, mutual obligation and shared responsibility. At least we get the details from the questioning by Chris Evans and Kim Carr

Update: 3.0 pm.
Simon Crean gave the best and most informed speech by far. It put the others to shame.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:17 AM | | Comments (2)


There's a simple way to evaluate the new dismissal proposals: simply put yourself in the position of employer.

Imagine you are paying someone who's not working out in the way you'd hoped. Imagine you don't have an endless stream of free money coming out of that mystical land called Capitalism.

I repeat that again: imagine it's your money. Because for those upon whom we rely to find us useful, that's the reality.


There ought to be easy mechanisms for small busisness employers to get rig of troublesome or slack employees.

Ther ought to be easy mechanisms to protect hardworking employees from predatory employers.