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Wednesday, 13 November 2002
Page: 8855

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) (9:43 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Australia's workplace relations system needs progressive, evolutionary change.

Despite falls in unemployment, it remains the duty of this government through this parliament to do whatever it reasonably can to create jobs.

Reforms since 1996 have resulted in fewer strikes, lower inflation, higher productivity and lower interest rates. This government has helped Australian families improve their living standards with more choice and more disposable income.

The reforms to awards in this bill will continue to maintain a safety net of minimum wages and conditions to protect the low paid and disadvantaged in the work force.

The government is now in a position to introduce a further single issue bill drawn from the More Jobs, Better Pay Bill 1999.

The award simplification process under the 1996 act has been beneficial to employers and employees. Since July 1998 over 1,400 obsolete awards have been set aside, and over 1,000 have been simplified.

Award simplification has established a fairer and more streamlined safety net of minimum wages and conditions of employment. It has also facilitated agreement making and more productive workplaces.

It is now appropriate for the parliament to enact measures for further targeted simplification. Overly complex and restrictive awards hinder agreement making at individual workplaces and act as a barrier to continued employment growth.

This bill amends the Workplace Relations Act to tighten and to clarify allowable award matters. Provisions will be removed which duplicate other legislative entitlements, or which are more appropriately dealt with at the workplace.

This bill will more clearly define and specify allowable award matters. For example, redundancy pay will only relate to genuine redundancy, and not to resignation by an employee. The range of matters currently referred to as `other like forms of leave' will be more closely specified and the bill clarifies matters that are isolated from an award.

The current provisions of section 89A which allow matters that are incidental to the specified allowable award matters and necessary for the effective operation of the award are amended to include only matters which are essential for the purpose of making a particular provision operate in a practical way. This bill will ensure that awards maintain a safety net system but one that is appropriately streamlined.

I commend the bill to the House and table the explanatory memorandum along with the regulatory impact statement.

Debate (on motion by Mr Melham) adjourned.