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National Press Club -

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(generated from captions) This program is captioned live.

live. At the National Press Club This program is captioned

today, the Minister for employment

and workplace relations, Kevin

Andrews. With the release of the

Government ease proposed workplace

reforms late last week and now the

centre of national debate, the

Minister will talk on building

better workplace relations. Kevin

Andrews with today's National Press

Club Address. (Bell rings) Ladies

and gentlemen, good afternoon.

Welcome to today's National

Australia Bank Press Club Address

and he welcome to the Minister for

employment and workplace relations,

Kevin Andrews. There wouldn't be

many people in the country these

days who wouldn't have heard that

the Government announced its

long-awaited industrial reform

legislation package.

legislation package last week.

There are still all sorts of

to be worked out and they won't all There are still all sorts of details

be resolved today, I'm sure. I

I'm proved wrong, but from what be resolved today, I'm sure. I hope

heard in conversation with the I'm proved wrong, but from what I've

minister today, there is a lot of

drafting to do before we see the

final legislation. But with the

first real exposition of last

announcement for an audience like first real exposition of last week's

this, we have him here today.

Please welcome, the minister, Kevin

Andrews. APPLAUSE. Thank you very

much, Ken. Members of the Press

Club, ladies and gentlemen. It is

great pleasure to be here today to Club, ladies and gentlemen. It is a

talk about our proposals for

building better workplaces in

Australia. We have a dual federal

and State system of arbitration

is unnecessarily - with unnecessary and State system of arbitration that

complexity and technicality. There

is no justification for them in the

world of industrial relations where

speed and simplicity should be of

the essence. These are not the

late-night musings of a coalition

minister, but the words of a former

Chief Justice of the High Court of

Australia, Sir Anthony Mason.

Ladies and gentlemen, as you know,

I've been principally concerned in

the past with the social outcomes

government policy. As a result, I the past with the social outcomes of

didn't come to this portfolio with

pre-conceived ideas about what

Australia's workplace relations

system should look like. Instead,

asked myself a simple question: system should look like. Instead, I

changes were necessary so that asked myself a simple question: What

Australia is able to sustain its

prosperity, remain competitive in a

global economy, and meet our future

challenges such as the ageing of

population. Two matters are at the challenges such as the ageing of the

core of the Government's response

the challenges facing us as a core of the Government's response to

nation. First, we need to ensure

that more people participate in the

economic life of this nation. This

is just - this is not just an

ethical responsibility, it is an

economic imperative. As our nation

ages and the workforce growth

contracts over the next two decades,

our push to increase participation

in the workforce will be a critical

ingredient to ensuring Australia's

ongoing economic growth. The move

of the workforce participation into

my portfolio after the last

reflects this strategy, and it's my portfolio after the last election

also behind the Government's

work-first approach to welfare

reform, an approach that has

numerous benefits both for the

individual and more broadly for the

nation. And secondly, ladies and

gentlemen, we must continue to grow

our productivity. As the Business

Council of Australia, the

representatives of employers who

employ more than a million workers

in this country said again just

last Saturday, Australia's

productivity performance has

and remains below that of our productivity performance has slowed

competitors, making further

workplace relations reform a

necessity if growth and rising

living standards are to continue.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's clear

that those industries with the most

workplace flexibility also enjoy

highest productivity growth. These workplace flexibility also enjoy the

industries also provide the best

outcomes for their workers, and

conversely, those industries and

sectors which have the least

flexibility have the lowest

productivity growth. It seemed to

me that our century-old system that

had been built on a premise that it

was there to serve employers and

employees and to replace the rude

and barbarous of strike and lockout

was falling down on the job and

failing us all. The system at both

federal and state level is failing us all. The system at both a

process-driven rather than outcome

based. It has become a domain of

third parties and so-called experts

rather than actual employers and

employees. It seemed to me that

current Industrial Relations employees. It seemed to me that the

is beyond the everyday experience current industrial relations system

and understanding of most

and employees. The system an its and understanding of most employers

rules and regulations and

requirements are costly for

everyone. These complex procedures

which have developed over the past

century, the logs of claims, the

need for ambit in these claims, the

roping in of employers to federal

awards, are a product of disputes

and compromises. The system

operates in such a way that only

those on the inside can really

understand and readily use it, and

this leaves employers and employees,

especially those in small business,

out in the cold, and this is wrong.

The Government trusts employers and

employees to make the right

Government trust decisions in the workplace. The

Government trusts employers and

employees in small business, in big

business, in industries as varied -

as varied as hospitality and mining

and resources sector to make the

right decisions in the workplace

yet I wonder how many work heers right decisions in the workplace and

know how and why they're in the

federal system. How many employees

know which agreements they can

access and what is required under

each award they are covered by.

many ploughers and employees each award they are covered by. How

understand the current system. How

do I calculate my annual leave? Is

so complex that employers and

employees can't answer what should

the - what should be a very simple

question. Let me illustrate the

problem. Determining an en

problem. Determining an

to annual leave should be a problem. Determining an entitlement

straightforward exercise, but in

reality it isn't. Currently to do

so one must ask the following

questions: Is the employment

regulated by an AWA with reference

to annual leave? Is the employment

regulated by certified agreement?

is it regulated by a federal award regulated by certified agreement? Or

or by State agreement or by State

award or by common law contract? Or

is the employee entitled to annual

leave under State annual holidays

annual leave legislation ? If our leave under State annual holidays or

current system requires an employer

or an employee to go through this

sort of process to answer a simple

question such as, "How do I

calculate my annual leave?", then

Australia needs a new workplace

relations system, a workplace

relations system geared to the

present and the future and not to

the past. A new workplace

the past. A new workplace relations system with a single set of rules

for minimum wages, conditions,

awards and agreements will provide

the long overdue changes necessary

so that the system can truly meet

the needs of those that its meant

the needs of those that its meant to serve - employers and employees.

Australia's institutions must be

flexible and robust enough to

constantly adapt to and meet the

needs and desire

needs and desires of the Australian

people and the challenges of an

ever-increasing global economic

competition. Ladies and gentlemen,

the Government's workplace

the Government's workplace relations reform since 1996 have helped

deliver real wage growth of over

14%, compared to only 1.2% under

14%, compared to only 1.2% under the previous 13 years of the Labor

Government. They've also delivered

the lowest level of industrial

disputation on record, and the

lowest rates of unemployment for

almost 30 years. As the Australian

Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said, the object of reform in

workplace relations is about all of

us, a stronger Australia for our

businesses, our employees and our

families. It is about and for

people - business people and

people - business people and working people. Our current workplace

relations system was developed at a

time of social and political

upheaval over a century ago. It was

a system that was designed in the

1900s to solve the industrial

problems of the 1890s. That is why,

as the Prime Minister has said, the

Government's plans for a new

workplace relations system is one

workplace relations system is one of the great pieces of unfinished

business in the structural

transformation of the Australian

economy. In the 21st century,

ongoing productivity growth is

central to Australia's future

wellbeing. When productivity is

higher, than the economic pie is

bigger, and therefore more people

benefit from higher wages, rising

living standards and more jobs. A

new workplace relations system is

necessary to sustain Australia's

economic expansion, and to build on

our recent improvements in

productivity performance. This is

why last week the Prime Minister

why last week the Prime Minister and I announced the details of the

Howard government's plan for a new

workplace relations system. In

summary, the Government will

establish an Australian fair pay

commission to protect minimum and

award classification wages. Pen

shrine minimum conditions in

legislation for the first time

federally, to introduce the

Australian fair pay and condition

standard to protect workers in the

bargaining process, to simplify

agreement-making in the workplace,

provide modern award protection for

those who are not covered by

agreements, to ensure an ongoing

role for the Industrial Relations

Commission, to fix Labor's un

Commission, to fix Labor's unfair

dismissal laws and to introduce a

national system of workplace

relations. The essence of these

reforms and our plan for a new

workplace relations system is to

further promote and facilitate the

making of agreements at the

workplace level. The Howard

government wants to give employers

and employees in hospitality and

retail, in mining and agriculture,

in manufacturing, in all industries,

the choice, the freedom and

flexibility and the opportunity to

negotiate at the workplace level.

Employees deserve the freedom , the

flexibility to choose whether to

belong to a union or negotiate

directly. Either as an individual

or as a group, with their employer

about agreements best suited to

their workplaces, not a

one-size-fits-all award or pattern

agreement. Only through this will

the full potential for productivity

gains in the Australian economy be

realised. Ladies and gentlemen, an

essential building block of the

Government's plan for a new

workplace relations system is the

introduction of a national system.

The creation of a national system

is, despite the rhetoric to the

contrary, a recognition of what the

current Chief Justice of the High

Court has said, that the pressure

Court has said, that the pressure of changing circumstances has altered

the federal-state balance in many

ways during the 20th Century and it

will continue to do so. If we can

have in Australia a single national

system for taxation and

system for taxation and Corporations Law, why shouldn't we have a single

national system regulating how

national system regulating how those corporations employ their staff? As

the Prime Minister said last week,

the Prime Minister said last week, a single set of national laws on

industrial relations is an idea

whose time has come. Now, the

Government would prefer to proceed

by agreement and by referral of

powers by the States, other than

Victoria, that has already done so.

But in the absence of Reeval of

powers from the States, the Howard

government will be relying on the

corporations power in the

constitution as the foundation for

constitution as the foundation for a new system. There will be hurdles

to overcome, particularsly for

to overcome, particularsly for those businesses that aren't incorporated,

but I consider if we do rely on the

corporations power, it is not

corporations power, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that in

the realm of possibility that in the years ahead an increasing number of

States would decide to refer their

remaining powers to the

Commonwealth. In this regard, I

read with particular interest

comments attributed to the New

comments attributed to the New South Wales Premier, Bob Carr, in

yesterday's 'Australian' newspaper

that he was not interested in

keeping a boutique state industrial

relations commission. Mr Carr, I

understand has since denied these

comment comments. Now, this is

surprising to me because, given as

far back as 1990, Mr Carr has been

on the record as supporting a

national industrial relations

system. In 1990 Mr Carr's policy

said," in a nags of 17 million

people struggling to modernise its

economy, seven separate systems of

industrial relations are an absurd

luxury." An absurd luxury. Indeed,

Mr Carr is not the only State Labor

Premier to support a national

system. In 1996 Mr Bracks said the

Victorian ALP sported the, "Concept

of a single national system of industrial relations and it always

has." He went on to say, "It can

deliver benefits to both employees

and employers by creating a uniform

national framework for dispute

resolution and the application of

minimum employment standards that

can be more easily complied with

can be more easily complied with and enforced." And even the ACTU's

Richard Miles has acknowledged the

absurd situation that the current

complex and competing systems put

Australia's employers and employees

in. Recently Mr Miles said, "How

in. Recently Mr Miles said, "How on earth does a small employer work

their way through the myriad of

their way through the myriad of laws and find out whether or not they're

covered by a State or federal law?

covered by a State or federal law?" It is perhaps impossible to

imagination putting employers and

employees in a more Cox pleks legal

situation." A national workplace

relation system is the next logical

step towards a workplace relations

system that supports greater

freedom, flexibility and individual

choice. It is not about empowering

Canberra at the expense of the

States, but liberating workplaces

right across this country. Ladies

and gentlemen, the objective of

workplace relations reform is to

achieve the most flexible and

dynamic labour market that we can

while ensuring a fair and decent

safety net for Australian workers.

The workplace relations system is

inextricably linked to the social

good of job creation which in turn

is a foundation and expression of

human dignity. As the Australian

Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said, changes to the laws which

regulate rights and

regulate rights and responsibilities between private employers and

employees also affects jobs,

investment, productivity,

competitiveness and economic

activity and these all affect

activity and these all affect living standardses. This recognition that

Australia's continued prosperity

hingeses squarely on a new,

hingeses squarely on a new, flexible and dynamic workplace system, is

and dynamic workplace system, is the single most important determinant

single most important determinant of improved technology gains, higher

skills, new competition. Now, the

recognition is not confined to our

side of politics, albeit in modern

Labour governments overseas. In

1997, Prime Minister Tony Blair in

his first speech to the UK trades

unions Congress said, "Fairness at

work starts with a chance at 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 been

an edge over our competitors, then

we are betraying those we represent.

we are betraying those we represent." Regrettably, given the

comments to date by representatives

of the ACTU and the Australian

of the ACTU and the Australian Labor Party they appear incapable of

recognising the sense of this and

are only interested in running a

typically dishonest and misleading

campaign in support of their own

vested interests. These comments

stand in stark contrast to Tony

Blair's comments when he said, "We

are not going back to the days of

industrial warfare, strikes without

ballots, we will keep the flexibility of the present labour

market." And it may make some

shiver, but in the end it is warmer

in the real world. No wonder then

that has already been recognised by

the Australian Labor Party, as it

has already been recognised. It is

now confronted with an historic

political choice, whether to sink

with the old industrial system and

with the trade union movement, or

with the trade union movement, or to acknowledge, like the modern Labour

Party in Brit tin that it to must

move with the real world. Perhaps

the choice will be too great. If

the choice will be too great. If so then, they may remain in a time

then, they may remain in a time warp still trying to wish away an

still trying to wish away an economy that is globalised and flexible.

Ladies and gentlemen, the historic

formulation of the basic wage by

justice Higgins in pt harvester

decision that the minimum wage

should provide for the basic

commodities for life necessary for

the working man as he then was, to

support his family, Tasmania it

support his family, Tasmania it then was, has been substantially

was, has been substantially modified over the following decades. It has

adapted to Australia's changing

economic circumstances and

economic circumstances and responded to the reality that centralised

to the reality that centralised wage fixation was no longer sustainable

in a modern economy in which the

other pillar of the Australian

settlement, namely tariff

protection, has been dismantled.

protection, has been dismantled. In 1904, the basic of Australia's

welfare system did not exist.

welfare system did not exist. Child endowment, for example, was

introduced in 19 41, later to be

replaced by the family allowance,

the parenting payment and family

the parenting payment and family tax benefits. The widow's pension, the

funeral benefit, the unemployment

and special benefit were also

introduced during and at the end of

the second World War and even then

the vision was for a limited role

the vision was for a limited role of the welfare state. As Ben Chifley

said at the time, "Our objective is

not praimly social security, but

rather the full employment of man

power and resources in raising

living standards." The march of

history over the last century has

seen the tax benefit system come to

replace industrial relations as the

primary lever of social protection.

The Howard government remains

committed to protecting workers

committed to protecting workers with a fair and sustainable safety net

a fair and sustainable safety net of wages and conditions. The

Government has deliberately chosen

to retain a genuine safety net for

Australian workers. Contrary to

Australian workers. Contrary to the claims of the ACTU and the Labor

Party, the Government supports not

only the maintenance of a minimum

wage, but also responsible

wage, but also responsible increases in the rate at which the wage is

set. However, unlike the ACTU, the

Government has a responsibility to

the unemployed, and to those at the

margins of the workforce, to give

them every opportunity to obtain

them every opportunity to obtain and to keep a job. We should never

forget that the primary cause of

forget that the primary cause of low income is not a low job - not a

low-wage job, but indeed

joblessness, over half of poor

individuals are without a job and

individuals are without a job and do not actually get the benefit of an

increase in the minimum wage.

increase in the minimum wage. Since its establishment by the Blair

Government in 1998, the UK low pay

commission would appear to have

commission would appear to have been striking the right balance between

the needs of the low paid and the

unemployed. Since 1999, the

unemployed. Since 1999, the minimum wage in the UK has increased by

wage in the UK has increased by over 30%. The Howard government will

therefore establish a new body, the

Australian fair pay commission to

set minimum wages, guided by

parameters set in the legislation.

It will also adjust the minimum

junior, training and disability

wages, the award classifications

wages, the award classifications and casual loadings. Award-based

classification wages will not fall

below the levels set after the

inclusion of any increase

inclusion of any increase determined by this year's safety net review,

although they will be capable of

upward adjustment by the fair pay

commission. Importantly, the fair

pay commission will also apply

greater economic rig gore to its

determinations and take into

determinations and take into account the impact of any decisions on the

low paid and the unemployed. In

addition, keeping awards will mean

that Australia's new workplace

relations system still includes an

additional level of regulation not

found in either Britain or New

Zealand. Seen in this light, the

Government's proposed reforms are

not an attack on Australian workers,

but the next logical steps in the

evolution of the Australian

workplace relations system. Ladies

and gentlemen, despite the

introduction of the workplace

relations Act in 1996, awards

continue to be complex and

continue to be complex and difficult for workers and their employers to

understand. Therefore, awards will

be further simplified, so to ensure

that they provide a modern and

simple safety net. Matters that

simple safety net. Matters that are already covered in legislation,

things like jury service, notice of

termination, long service leave and

superannuation will be removed from

awards, and to further reduce

complex tis and ensure greater

complex tis and ensure greater focus on the workplace level, a review

will be conducted of the existing

awards and award classification

structures. The purpose of this

review will be to ensure that these

structures are relevant to the

modern economy. The role of the

Industrial Relations Commission has

and needs to change to keep pace

with the needs of the Australian

economy. As a former Labor prime

minister said, "We have laws which

give the IRC a role and powers that

are not wet suited to the system

are not wet suited to the system bee are trying to create. It is our

responsibility to work out a way in

which the IRC has suitable powers

which the IRC has suitable powers to run the kind of system we need, not

the adversarial system we have had.

the adversarial system we have had." The current system is based on an

adversarial and outdated view of

workplace relations. It is a

product of a by gone era, a small,

inward looking economy.

inward looking economy. Australia's history shows us that as an

important institution, the

Industrial Relations Commission can

adapt to the challenges that change

brings, irrespective of the context

in which it is operating. The

Industrial Relations Commission

focus will be on its key historical

responsibilities of resolving

legitimate disputes and further

simplified awards. The again, the

dispute-settling pouers of the

Industrial Relations Commission

represent a significantly higher

level of regulation of collective

disputes than in either Britain or

New Zealand. On this basis, the

claims of the ACTU and the ALP that

the Government's plans amount to an

attack on the independent umpire

attack on the independent umpire are yet again wrong. I'm confident yet again wrong. I'm confident that the Industrial Relations Commission

will meet the new challenges and

responsibilities that it faces as

responsibilities that it faces as we move into the 21st century. Ladies

and gentlemen, as the Prime

and gentlemen, as the Prime Minister and I predicted last week, there

and I predicted last week, there has been a campaign of misinformation

and untruths by the ACTU and the

Labor Party since the announcement

of the Howard government's plans

of the Howard government's plans for a new workplace relations system.

So that you are under no

misapprehension, let me address the

claim

claims made thus far. Despite

claims made thus far. Despite what you may have heard, minimum and

award classification wages will be

retained. Awards will remain and

retained. Awards will remain and be protected. Workers will still have

the right to join and to be

represented by a union. The right

represented by a union. The right to take lawful industrial action will

be in the legislation. Union and

non-union agreements will still be

allowed. Federal minimum wages and

conditions will be retained and

indeed protected by the law. The Industrial Relations Commission

Industrial Relations Commission will continue to play a key role, and

there will be a strong inspection

service and protection from pun

lawful determination. Unfortunately, I suspect

Unfortunately, I suspect Australians are likely to see more dishonest

scare tactics from the Labor Party

and the ACTU in the days and weeks

to come. In fact, the secretary of

the ACTU Mr Greg Combet conceded on

the weekend that this was a

political campaign, arguing that we

need a change of government. The

Government, like the Labor Party

believes that employees should have

the right to be a member of and

represented by a union. However,

the Australian Labor Party cannot

guarantee Australians the right to

choose to not belong to a union and

to choose the benefits of an

Australian workplace agreement with

their employer. The Howard

government can. The Australian

Labor Party cannot guarantee that

Labor Party cannot guarantee that no Australian worker will be worse off

because its current labour policy

because its current labour policy to abolish Australian workplace

agreements. Workers on AWAs earn

13% more than workers on certified

agreements; and 100% more than

workers on awards. No wonder the

Labor Party can't be worse off

Labor Party can't be worse off under their policy which John Edwards

acknowledges would take Australia

back to the 1970s. Ladies and

gentlemen, let me conclude. The

history of workplace relations

reform over the last 10 years has

been one of the coalition side of

politics pursuing the necessary

reforms to ensure that our

workplaces remain as productive and

as efficient as possible. These

reforms have been pursued in the

face of con stabt opposition and

attempts to roll back by the Labor

Party, both at a State and at a

federal level. We've always sought

to put the vested interests before

the interests of employers and

employees, those who ultimately

employees, those who ultimately this system is meant to serve. The

guiding principal of the Howard

government's approach to workplace

relations is that there must be a

system which retains a genuine

safety net, while encouraging

conditions of employment to be

negotiated at the workplace level

through agreements. The

Government's plan for a new

workplace relations system removes

the Cox pleks and bureaucratic

the Cox pleks and bureaucratic rules and regulations of the old system.

It will remove barriers to

It will remove barriers to workplace bargaining in the new system,

maintain a true safety net and

create a more dynamic and modern

workplace relations system for the

new century. The new workplace

relations system, with a single set

of rules for minimum wages,

conditions and awards and

conditions and awards and agreements will provide the long overdue

framework to drive forward future

productivity growth to create jobs

and to increase the standard of

living for working Australians this

century. Since 1996, the

Government's workplace relations

reforms have contributed to a

stable and low inflationary

climate. Combined with higher

productivity, this has ensured

increasing real wages, the lowest

levels of employment for almost 30

years and low interest rates for

Australian workers and their

families. The Howard government

families. The Howard government is committed to continuing Australia's

strong economic performance,

improving business productivity, provide

improving business productivity, and providing a entrepreneur

entrepreneur culture, the keys to

providing ongoing security. It

providing ongoing security. It will help to maximise growth and

employment opportunities and

maintain and prove our standard of

living in an increasingly

living in an increasingly globalised world, building better workplaces

and better workplace relations will

lead to more jobs, higher wages and

a stronger economy. APPLAUSE

Thank you, moinl. As usual, we

have a period of questions. In

about 20 minutes, the minister

about 20 minutes, the minister will have his period of questions at the

House of Representatives, so he has

to leave at about 10 to 2, so

brevity will be valued today. The

first question is from Chris

Johnson. Chris Johnson, the West

Australian. Minister, on the

weekend you flew to Perth and held

discussions with the State leader

there, Matt Burnie, trying to

persuade him to embrace your

reforms, what did you say, because

clearly it didn't seem to work?

Well, Chris, can I say this: That

there is overwhelming support

there is overwhelming support from the Liberal Party in Western

Australia for the substance of

Australia for the substance of these reforms, and the reason there is

support for that is because we will

be undoing the changes which were

made by the gallop Government,

undoing a much more flexible system

that had been put in place by the

Court Government. In addition to

that, the strongest support perhaps

of anywhere in the country for

of anywhere in the country for these changes, including a national

system, come from the business

community in Western Australia. I

met on the Friday night with

representatives of the business

community from the West Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry,

from the chamber of minerals and

energy and other business people m

Western Australia, and there is

Western Australia, and there is very strong support. Indeed, the mining

and resources sector in Western

Australia, which is the core, if

Australia, which is the core, if you like, of Australia's growth both

like, of Australia's growth both now and into the future, is a very

strong supporter of the changes

we're going to make. I told that

we're going to make. I told that to the West Australian Liberal Party.

I will continue to say that both

there and elsewhere throughout the

country, and I believe in the end

that the achievements that can be

made and the benefits to be gained

will be universally applauded.

The next question is from mish sha

Schubert. From 'The Age', minister.

Just on that point about - two

questions, if I may. Just on the

point about the revolt in the

coalition in some parts of the

country about these reforms, it's

not just Matt Burnie, it's also

Lawrence Springborg, the

Lawrence Springborg, the Queensland Nationals leader and now Barnaby

Joyce, who have raised concerns.

Why do you think there has been

Why do you think there has been such criticism from within coalition

ranks, and secondly you mentioned

that one of the staples of your

approach on this is that employees

should be given choice about

should be given choice about whether to be hired under and individual

workplace agreement or a

company-wide agreement, or indeed

company-wide agreement, or indeed to revert to the old award system.

revert to the old award system. Why is it then that your own department

from April this year has made it a

condition of employment that people

have to sign up to an individual

contract and not given those

employees the choice? Well, on the

second issue, it's true that we've

said that an AWA would be offered

said that an AWA would be offered to new employees. We can do that

new employees. We can do that unthe workplace relations Act at the

moment because that's to the

moment because that's to the benefit of both the employers and the

employees. As I've said in the

speech, the data quite clearly

indicates that people on AWAs are

indicates that people on AWAs are in receipt on average of higher pan

than those who are under certified

agreements and certainly much

agreements and certainly much higher than those under awards, and I

than those under awards, and I think that's why so many people have seen

the advantage of AWAs. As to

the advantage of AWAs. As to others who are expressing different views,

look, I think in relation to Mr

Joyce that when he has the

opportunity to see all the detail

opportunity to see all the detail of the lj lags, and we've only

announced the pillars so far, and

when he takes into account that the

business community in Queensland

business community in Queensland and elsewhere around Australia,

including particularly small

business and the farming community,

are great supporters of these

change. For example, commerce

Queensland has been a great

supporter of the changes, then I

believe that after some reflection

I'm confident that we will have the

necessary support. The next

question is from Andrew Fraser

From the 'Canberra Times'. You

From the 'Canberra Times'. You and the Prime Minister have both spoken

often of the droves of working

Australians attracted to vote for

the coalition because of its

industrial relations policies. In

your speech today you've noted your

previous principal concern with the

outcomes of government policy. How

many of the people that you and Mr

Howard are attracting to the

commission are repelled by Brendan

Nelson that only government

representatives officiate at school

flag-raising ceremonies. Well,

Andrew, Brendan Nelson was asked

questions about that in the

Parliament which he has replied to

and I think his answer toss that

and I think his answer toss that are quite sufficient. Dennis Peters

from AAP. Minister, you've talked

about the projected productivity

growth that you hope will occur

under a single unitary national

system. What modelling have you

done on the difference between the

productivity growth in a - in

productivity growth in a - in single and multiple systems of coverage,

and what is the difference? Well,

can I go back a step, Dennis? It's

quite clear when you look at

different sectors of the Australian

economy, that those sectors which

have the most flexible workplace

relations practices and mechanisms

in place are. A good example of

that is the mining and resource

sector, quite clearly has the

highest productivity growth, and

that has been clear over the last 9

or 10 years. Conversely, those

sectors that have the least

flexibility in their workplace

relations also have the lowest

productivity growth, and you can

graph the changes in different

sectors of the economy. So, based

on the evidence that's available,

it's clear to me, it's clear to us,

that productivity growth is partly

that productivity growth is partly a product of flexibility within the

workforce. Beyond that, it's quite

clear also that having confuse

clear also that having confusing

clear also that having confusing and complicated overlapping systems is

not going to help anybody in terms

of productivity growth. If you

of productivity growth. If you have to work out whether you're under a

State award or federal award, even

if you're under a federal system,

then there the is built, for example, an industrial tribunal to

make orders around right of entry

and things like that, which nobody

expected they would. All of that

expected they would. All of that as a matter of commonsense means you

have less productivity growth than

you would otherwise have. To me,

it's quite clear that the more

simple you can put the system

simple you can put the system that's in place rather than these

duplicated systems we've got at the

present time, then obviously

productivity growth, as it has

historically, will flow from that.

Minister, John Garnot from the

Sydney Morning Herald. You said

you had disclosed the pillars of

your IR package, but not the

detail. When can we see some of

the detail, particularly for the

fair pay commission and award

simplification tats being force,

and is it possible that what

and is it possible that what you've - that what we will see is the

- that what we will see is the slow at trophy of the award system and

the IRC so that they may become

irrelevant in 10 or 20 years' time?

John, the Industrial Relations

Commission remains within our

model. In a sense, we are return

tog the Industrial Relations

Commission, that role which it

Commission, that role which it was originally given in the 1904

legislation, namely as a body to

arbitrate and settle disputes, so

that central role, the historic

that central role, the historic role of the Industrial Relations

Commission will stay. In terms of

the detail, we are working through

that. We will be re-writing the

workplace relations Act which is a

large task. There are further

probably 50 or 60 policy matters

that we will need to decide in the

process of putting that detail

together. Our expectation is that

we will have a bill available for

introduction in the spring session

of Parliament, and our hope is that

the legislation will have passed

the legislation will have passed the Parliament, both houses, bit by the

end of this year. In terms of some

of the detail, we may be able to

give some indication along the way

prior to the bill being introduced.

For example, the fair pay

commission, I've said that this is

commission, I've said that this is a body which will have on it somebody

who comes from a union back grond,

somebody who comes from a business

or employer background, but we also

want to have people that bring some

economic rig gore to the process,

and so we would expect we might

and so we would expect we might have one or two labour market economists

as part of that body as well, so

some of this small detail will

emerge over the coming weeks and

months. Mark Davies Minister,

months. Mark Davies Minister, Mark Davies from the 'Financial Review'.

I have a question about minimum

I have a question about minimum wage regulation and the fair pay

commission and you've said in your

speech that the fair pay commission

will have greater economic rig gore,

less adversarial process and will

take into account the goal of more

jobs for the unemployed. I'm

wondering how you envisage the

outcomes of that changed process

comparing to the current outcomes?

Do you expect higher, lower or

roughly the same increases in

minimum wages? Well, Mark, that's

the very reason we are establishing

an expert body did- expert body to

determine these issues. I'm not

determine these issues. I'm not in a position to determine or indeed

speculate on what the outcomes

speculate on what the outcomes might be, but the important change, can I

say, that we are putting in place

say, that we are putting in place is that currently the minimum wainls

that currently the minimum wainls in Australia are set as a result of an

ambit claim which is launched each

year by the ACTU. The reason for

the ambit claim is to create a

dispute in order to have it settled

which is an absurd way, I would

thought.

which is an absurd way, I would have thought of of making public policy,

and then we have an adversarial

process in which the unions claim

$26 is an ambit claim, the unions

claim $1 in the middle and then

somewhere the Industrial Relations

Commission has determined the

outcome. Now, what we're concerned

about is that we should have an

investigative manner of determining

what are the minute maximum wages-

minimum wages in Australia, and I

repeat it is not just the baseline

minimum as it is in the UK, it will

be the inmuj wages through the

classifications which we have

maintained. If your oh on $600 a

week, or on 1100 a week depending

week, or on 1100 a week depending on your classification within the

award, then there will be a minimum

wage determined for you. So that's

a guarantee that the classification

approach will be used. But as a

result of that what we want to look

at is what's the impact of the

setting of the minimum wage on

setting of the minimum wage on those who haven't got a job in Australia?

Or what's the impact

Or what's the impact on those who

are on the margins of employment in

Australia? What's the impact on

small business who often have to

make a decision whether or not they

employ someone or the propriety

tores of that small business work

extra hours of overtime and all

extra hours of overtime and all over the weekend and make the decision

whether to employ someone or not?

whether to employ someone or not? So it's that degree of economic rig

gore we want to bring to the

gore we want to bring to the process which frankly we think the current

system can be improved upon, and

that's why we're making the change.

Minister, Steve Lewis from 'The

Australian'. A lot of your

package, most of your package last

week was well and truly flagged,

week was well and truly flagged, but one of the big surprises was the

unfair dismissal, the exemption of

unfair dismissals, increasing that

from 100 to 20. And increasing the

probationary period from three to

six months. I would imagine that a

lot of workerses particularly those

feeling vulnerable at present,

feeling vulnerable at present, would be feeling particularly vulnerable

about their future. Can you

about their future. Can you explain the justification for those changes?

And scnt that one part of your

reform that does skew the process

too far to the employer? If

somebody is dismissed on some

grounds of discrimination, whether

they're race or colour of skin or

their religious practice or

political opinion or because

political opinion or because they're pregnant, that will still remain

unlawful to dismiss a person like

that, and nor are we taking away

people's rights that they might

people's rights that they might have under common law or contract law to

sue somebody in the courts if they

believe that's appropriate. What

believe that's appropriate. What we are changing is a system which was

introduced just 12 years ago by the

then Labor Government for unfair

dismissals which has been subject

dismissals which has been subject to widespread abuse. I mean, even the

ACTU, even Mr Combet conceded in

ACTU, even Mr Combet conceded in the last few days that this is a system

which has been abused. The reality

these days is if somebody has been

dismissed even on meritorious basis

for that dismissal, they can go to

the Industrial Relations Commission,

bring a claim, an the reality for

most employers, particularly small

business, is you pay out thousands

of dollars to get rid of the

of dollars to get rid of the problem rather than fight it because I'm

told week after week by employers

who have fought it, you can spend,

$15, 20, $25,000, win the claim and

still be out of pocket for the $25,

still be out of pocket for the $25,000 as well. Now, that's bad

policy. That's a bad law. That's

why we want to change it. As for

the level of 100, we believe that

many small-medium-sized businesses

these days have up to 100 employees.

If you take the typical fast food

outlet, the motel chain in a

country town, it is not uncommon

these days what we regard as not a

big business, 50 or 60 employees,

definitions of small business vary

greatly. The small business

definition for manufacturing under

the ABS in Australia is 100 and

there are various definitions used

both here and overseas, so that's

the basis of it. Snoo Mr Andrews,

Jason from 'The Age', just firstly,

for an employee in a firm of 100

employees if they're offered an

individual contract, must they sign

that contract, or could they face

the sack if they didn't sign the

contract? Secondly, are you, as my

colleague, Tim kol batch suggested

this morning, creating two classes

of employees here, those in firms

under 100 employees and those in

larger firms, are you in fact

putting a limit on growth there by

discouraging firms from growing

larger than 100 employees. No, I

don't believe so, Jason. Given the

regulatory complexities of

incorporating a business, all the

returns one has to do about company

matters and corporate matters and

taxation matters and the like, the

suggestion that a business is not -

is going to take account of whether

they're got 99 or 101 employees I

think is largely fanciful. The

reality these days is fwaus of the shrinkage or

shrinkage or contribution in the

growth of the workforce, the

growth of the workforce, the reality is that businesses are working for

every worker they can find. We

commonly read in the media about

skills shortages in different parts

of the countries. If businesses

have spent in some cases thousands

of dollars to train, to do all the

things to get a person which they

need to do to be an employee of

theirs, well, it is, I think,

largely fanciful to suggest that

they are going to dismiss people

they are going to dismiss people who are good workers within their

employment. I think the reality of

the environment in which we are

operating in this country has

changed greatly from days in which

there was high unemployment, which,

you know, occurred 10, 15, 20 years

ago, but that has been a major

change. Back to Mark Davis.

Minister, religious faith and

Catholic teachings have obviously

been important to you both

personally and in your public life.

There is a long tradition in

Catholic social teaching which

emphasises the role of the State

and trade unions and collective

arrangements in redressing

inequality in bargaining power in

the workplace. I'm just wondering

how you respond from cit ims from

some elements of the koth lick

chur, and whether the emphasis

(inaudible. Well, two things, Mark,

one is we are retaining the

protection and the role and the

rights of trade unions in this

legislation. It is not as if we're

saying you can't be represented by

saying you can't be represented by a trade union. We are retaining

protected industrial action, for

example, but on the question pf

ethical core of this, it's quite

clear to me that the ethical core

clear to me that the ethical core of Christian thought about employment

is the principle that every person

who is capable and wants a job

should have the ability to get a

job, and that's really the

underlying principle, if I can say

so, of both our changes in terms of

workplace relations, and in terms

workplace relations, and in terms of workforce participation. Because

it's saying that we do not want in

this country anybody who is capable

and wants a job to be locked out of

the economic life of this country.

Because whilst the economics of the

country and for individuals is not

everything, we nonetheless know

everything, we nonetheless know that the economic life for an individual

and their families is one of the

core components of the quality and

the wellbeing of their life. So, I

believe that what we are doing is

firmly in line with Christian

principles in this regard. Mischa

Schubert? Minister, there has

Schubert? Minister, there has been talk from the unions and the high

court about them raising a

court about them raising a challenge for some of these plans. Have you

south backpack advice about that

action succeeding and what do you

think about them launching and

action? You must be fairly

action? You must be fairly confident that this will stand. We have

sought legal advice about the

constitutional situation and that

advice, I'm confident of to the

extent that one can ever be

confident of what a High Court does

as an independent body. To the

extent that one can be confident, I

am confident of that advice. Can I

remind you that advice was also

sought in 1996 when the workplace

relations Act was introduced and

relations Act was introduced and the advice today is consistent with

advice today is consistent with that which was received eight years ago,

and whilst I'm not privy to it, I

would be very surprised if the then

Keating Government didn't seek

advice in 1993 when this first used

the corporations power for

the corporations power for workplace relations in Australia, and I'm

relations in Australia, and I'm sure that they were confident of the

advice they got then. I just add

one other thing. You spoke of the

unions. It has been suggested in

the media that the former New South

Wales Attorney-General and judge,

Wales Attorney-General and judge, Mr Jeff Shaw, might be involved in

bringing a challenge on behalf of

the unions in the High Court. Can

the unions in the High Court. Can I remind you that in the year 2000,

the same Mr Shaw spoke at a seminar

organised by the Business Council

organised by the Business Council of Australia, in which he said words

tot effect that it was quite clear

that the Commonwealth had the

constitutional ability to do this.

Question from Andrew Fraser.

Minister, what confidence can the

states and territories have at

states and territories have at this time of change, given that four meetings of

meetings of the ministerial

meetings of the ministerial councils have been cancelled and the council

hasn't met since May last year?

Well, there was reason for that.

One we ran into an election.

Second it was postponed while we

were formulating the policy. There

was not much point me going along

saying, "We are thinking about

changes, but we haven't worked them

out yet." Thirdly, more important,

the item was on at general da of

the item was on at general da of not just the workplace relations but

indeed the Prime Minister, Adler

indeed the Prime Minister, Adler and the Premiers this Friday when Coag

meets. The Prime Minister will be

asks the other states to follow in

1996, and that is to refer their

powers to the Commonwealth so we

powers to the Commonwealth so we can have a national system of workplace

relations which covers every worker

in Australia. Thank you very much.

in Australia. Thank you very much. APPLAUSE Minister, thank you very

much for today's National

much for today's National Australia Bank Press Club Address. This

little memento is a time piece.

It's not symbolic, just decorative.

Thank you very much. APPLAUSE

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