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Democrats' assertions wrong.

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Media Release


Democrats' assertions wrong

This week the Senate will be considering a number of workplace relations Bills that will test the veracity of Meg Lees’ assertion that workplace relations reform is ''not a dead duck'' with the Australian Democrats.

The attached excerpt from her interview on Meet the Press yesterday indicates that there are significant errors and inconsistencies in the Democrats’ understanding of the operation of the Workplace Relations Act.

This week will be a test of the Democrats’ credibility when it comes to ''keeping the bastards honest'' by passing these Bills which the Government won a mandate for in the 1998 election.


For further information contact:

Ian Hanke 0419 484 095





…..Senator, obviously the government’s going to be going big on industrial relations. Is that a dead duck as far as you’re concerned, or do you think that there is an ability to compromise between the Democrats and the governments on this issue?

LEES: Of course it’s not a dead duck. (1) But if we have a minister who continually puts up ambit claims that skew the relationship in the workplace over, he believes, in favour of the employer, we would argue he’s actually undermining the cooperative … basically, workplace that we need if we really are going to see this country progress.

We’re not going to be in it. What the Democrats believe we should be doing is actually encouraging employers and employees to work cooperatively together, and bill after bill we see coming through from the minister certainly doesn’t do that. (2)

HEWETT: And does that include, do you think, the idea of the Industrial Relations Commission having a greater say?

LEES: Well, the Industrial Relations Commissioner is a very important umpire. We would be happy in a number of instances to give them more powers if employers and employees cannot work out the disputes for themselves. (3)

PRESENTER: Conversely, do you have as many problems with Labor’s new industrial relations agenda, as unveiled the other week, as you do with Peter Reith’s?

LEES: Well, yes. We do have some major concerns with where they’re heading as well. Obviously, we will need to look at the detail of what they’re planning. However, I go back to Democrats’ core principles: that we should be aiming for industrial democracy; (4) we should be aiming for a workplace where there are not constant disputes with an umpire overseeing if things get to the point where someone needs to step in and put some fresh ideas.

But both of the two parties seem to be trying to pull the system backwards and forwards between themselves and that does nothing for employees and employers across this country who want some sort of consistency.

1) The reality belies Meg Lees’ words. The Democrats voting record reveals that they have not voted in the Senate for one Federal Government workplace relations reform since 1997.

2) The whole basis of the Workplace Relations Act is to encourage employees and employers to work cooperatively. This is reflected in the reduced level of industrial action compared to Labor’s confrontationalist IR policies, both past and present.

3) Government legislation which the Democrats are blocking, such as the Bills on pattern bargaining, unfair dismissals, termination of employment and secret ballots would give the AIRC new and additional powers in specified areas.

4) The Democrats have opposed secret ballots - so much for core principles and industrial democracy. The Democrats have also opposed proposed laws that make it easier for democratically made workplace agreements to be approved and implemented.