December 3, 2005


Reformers required (The Australian, December 03, 2005)

IT has been a good week for the Government, excepting Peter Costello. Yesterday, John Howard won his third reform race when the Senate approved the workplace reform legislation. With the GST in place, the sale of Telstra legislated – if and when its share price improves – and now the august industrial relations club sacked, the Prime Minister has seen three policy winners roar home. As with the first two, a great deal of guff has been written about the workplace changes. The weak will be exploited. Nobody will ever see their families. We will all be compelled to work on Christmas Day, critics complain. We have heard this sort of hysteria before, when Kim Beazley and his pals warned that the introduction of the GST was an accounting armageddon. But, as with that tax, the Australian way of life as we know it will not end with the workplace changes. The package that passed the Senate yesterday will lead to neither nightmare nor nirvana. Supporters and opponents have both oversold the outcome of the reforms. It is simply another stage in the deregulation of the labour market – begun by the last Labor government.

The new laws allow employers and their staff to work out arrangements that suit the circumstances of the enterprises where they work. The impact of the old system of awards, awash with arcane rules intended to enforce uniformity in working conditions across industries, with no regard to the circumstances in different parts of the country, or the needs of individual businesses, is reduced. Certainly, some employers will use the new opportunity to exploit their staff. But not the ones who want to hold onto productive workers whose presence adds value to a business.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 3, 2005 11:19 AM
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