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Thursday, 3 November 2005
Page: 105

Mr BARRESI (4:25 PM) —As I was saying prior to question time, after winning office the New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, partially re-regulated the labour market. Even so, only a small list of minimum entitlements were included: a minimum adult wage, three weeks annual leave, 11 paid annual holidays, five days sick leave, three days bereavement leave and up to 13 weeks paid maternity leave. With this slight re-regulation, New Zealand still has a far less regulated system than the Australian system will be after our reforms come into place.

If we go across to the other side of the world, to the United Kingdom, where the Labour Prime Minister inherited a system from a Conservative Prime Minister, we hear a similar story being told. The United Kingdom industrial relations system is also far more deregulated than ours will be, and they are reaping the benefits of those reforms, which the Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, accepted upon winning office. In 1997 Tony Blair said in his first speech to the United Kingdom Trade Union Congress:

We are not going back to the days of industrial warfare, strikes without ballots, mass and flying pickets and secondary action ...

…            …            …

... fairness at work starts with the chance of a job in the first place, because if we ... do not make Britain a country of successful businesses, a country where people want to set up and expand and a country that has the edge over our competitors, then we are betraying those we represent ...

The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, recognises that a job is a great start in life and, through a job, people can work their way out of any potential welfare dependency. By getting that first step into the labour market, various other career options can emerge for the person who was originally unemployed.

In the United Kingdom the state has largely kept out of industrial relations, under the principle of ‘voluntarism’. Relatively recent changes have made a range of workplace relations matters subject to statutory regulation. Unlike Australia, the United Kingdom has never had awards. Since 1997, the Low Pay Commission has set the minimum wage in the UK. In many ways this body is a forerunner to the proposed Australian Fair Pay Commission included in this bill. There is, however, one major difference: the British government reserves the right to reject decisions made by the Low Pay Commission. This government through our reforms will not be able to reject the decisions of the new Fair Pay Commission. It is obvious that throughout this debate a lot of huff and puff has taken place—(Time expired)