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Rudd launches Labor's IR policy -

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Rudd launches Labor's IR policy

Reporter: Narda Gilmore

Kevin Rudd is denying his latest industrial relations proposal will give more power to unions as
business groups question the legality of the idea.

Transcript

TONY JONES: On the eve of the ALP's national conference, Kevin Rudd is fending off accusations that
he's cooking up policies to curry favour with the unions.

In the latest plank of his proposed workplace shake-up, Mr Rudd has vowed to abolish the Industrial
Relations Commission, replacing it with a new, more powerful body. The Government says it's part of
a secret deal to take Australia back to the days of union power. Business groups are angry they
weren't consulted about the policy and they've questioned its legality.

From Canberra, Narda Gilmore reports.

NARDA GILMORE: The scene is set for Kevin Rudd's first national conference as Labor Leader and
while it won't be without controversy, delegates are talking up a fresh start.

JOURNALIST: Is Kevin Rudd Labor's new sensation?

PETER BEATTIE, QUEENSLAND PREMIER: Well, I don't know about those sort of terminologies. But he's
new and he's fresh and he's got good ideas and I'll let you say that he's a sensation.

NARDA GILMORE: Some praise during a day of criticism levelled at the Labor Leader over his plan to
abolish the century-old Industrial Relations Commission.

KEVIN RUDD, OPPOSITION LEADER: Labor has long been committed to the establishing of a proper
independent umpire.

NARDA GILMORE: The role of the IRC changed dramatically under the Government's WorkChoices system,
many of its powers handed to new agencies. Labor would establish a single body called Fair Work
Australia, taking in the IRC, the Fair Pay Commission, the Office of Workplace Services and the
Office of the Employment Advocate.

KEVIN RUDD: We believe establishing this one-stop shop, this new, modern Fair Work Australia, is
the right way to go to get the balance right.

JULIA GILLARD, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Mr Howard has neutered the Australian Industrial Relations
Commission. We don't have a real independent umpire now.

NARDA GILMORE: Business isn't happy.

HEATHER RIDOUT, AUSTRALIAN INDUSTRY GROUP: They haven't consulted with us. It's very union-friendly
and it comes on top of union-friendly legislation which the ALP's proposing.

NARDA GILMORE: Current IRC commissioners would be replaced under Labor's plan and while Kevin
Rudd's reluctant to say it, unions may be represented.

KEVIN RUDD: You might be looking at the former heads of employer organisations, you might be
looking at independent economists, you might be looking at any range of people. The key question -

JOURNALIST: Why can't you say unionists?

KEVIN RUDD: No, any person who meets the criteria which be laid own for individuals positions.

JOE HOCKEY, WORKPLACE RELATIONS MINISTER: It smacks of a secret deal with the union movement, the
same union movement that's going to have more than half the delegates to the national conference
over the weekend.

NARDA GILMORE: The Government calls it policy on the run. Labor's plan didn't go to Shadow Cabinet,
unions were expecting the announcement.

GREG COMBET, ACTU SECRETARY: We've lobbied, Labor has consulted with us about it, but it is their
policy.

NARDA GILMORE: And Greg Combet insists the new body must be made up of independent members.

GREG COMBET: It's important that you don't just have biased political appointments.

NARDA GILMORE: Fair Work Australia would be responsible for setting the minimum wage, monitoring
awards and agreements and ruling on industrial disputes. The Government's sought legal advice to
check whether such arrangements are constitutional.

JOE HOCKEY: This deal of creating a single entity that is going to be the policeman, the judge, the
jury and the executioner for every workplace and every worker.

PETER HENDY, CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & INDUSTRY: We actually think it's on legally shaky grounds. If
you look at it, they're going to take three agencies that do completely different things and their
going to give it to one agency.

NARDA GILMORE: The unions may be happy about this latest plank in Kevin Rudd's workplace vision,
but he's well aware he'll be facing plenty of resistance on other fronts at this week's conference,
including his policy requiring secret ballots for industrial action. He's confident he will get his
way.

KEVIN RUDD: Will all unions welcome this? No. Are some okay with it? Yes. I think it's the right
way to go. It's getting the balance right.

NARDA GILMORE: With positive opinion poll, Labor delegates have good reason to be optimistic
heading into the election year conference. Kevin Rudd will kick off proceedings tomorrow with a
major speech on Labor values. But heated debate is guaranteed not just on IR, but other sensitive
policies like forestry and uranium.

No doubt the jostling got under way tonight at a dinner in Sydney for some of the 400 Labor
delegates. Narda Gilmore, Lateline.

(c) 2007 ABC