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Enough is enough - states should fund police not propaganda.



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Hon Joe Hockey MP

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service

13 August, 2007

Media Release

Enough is enough - states should fund police not propaganda

The debt-laden state Labor premiers have demonstrated how desperate they are to get Kevin Rudd elected by paying for yet another deeply-flawed and politically-motivated report about the federal workplace relations system.

At a time when the new Victorian Premier is refusing to honour a pay deal for the state’s police force, the states have splurged on repackaging a series of biased and unbalanced reports into the Women and WorkChoices report.

The report, which is due to be released on Monday, is a rebranding of previous research done by left-wing academics - most with links to the unions - and is designed to create a climate of fear and victimisation.

Labor premiers have commissioned this research with the sole intention of contributing to the $100 million scare campaign presently being run against the federal workplace relations laws.

The states should have put the millions of dollars spent trying to confuse and scare working Australians to better use - giving valuable state public servants such as the police a pay rise.

Many of this latest report’s recommendations are already part of Government policy while many of the women in the report appear to be the subject of unlawful behaviour and, therefore, would be able have the new Workplace Ombudsman investigate their cases.

The report’s authors admit that they draw from a small sample of women and in the fine print say that their report “cannot purport to be representative” (page 6).

The report’s methodology and findings are deeply flawed. For example, the report ignores the introduction of the fairness test. Nor does it mention that Labor will abolish the Workplace Ombudsman.

The facts are that by many significant ABS measures - unemployment, wages, participation rate, family assistance, job security, household income - women today are in a better position than they were 11 years ago.

State Labor, just like the authors of their report, are wedded to the idea of the old-fashioned, centralised, union-dominated workplace relations system.

Turning back the clock on workplace relations won’t help working women. A modern, flexible system will.

A thorough critique of the report and its recommendations is attached. A fact sheet on women is also attached.

Critique of Women and WorkChoices report findings and recommendations

• The report has used a very small sample. These women were recruited on the basis that they had "been affected by recent changes in Australia's workplace laws". That is, disgruntled employees. Some of the women were referred by the unions. Page 6 of the summary notes the report “cannot purport to be representative”.

• Some of the behaviour described in the report is unlawful but is presented in the report as if it is lawful. This is either because the researchers are being deliberately misleading or are uncertain as to how the law works.

• The interviews of the 121 women took place in late 2006/early 2007. This was before the Fairness Test. • Of the 121 only 10 were on AWAs (50 on awards, 20 on Collective Agreements and not clear for 22. • 36 women were casuals which means some were unlikely to have had unfair

dismissal rights pre-WorkChoices. • All women retain the protection against unlawful termination (regardless of the size of the business). This means they cannot be sacked on account of their

gender, family responsibilities, pregnancy or absence from work during maternity leave. The Government provides $4000 worth of legal assistance for unlawful termination cases. • Under the law, ordinary hours of work for full-time employees are 38 per week. You can refuse to work more on the basis of family responsibilities. • To claim (as the report does on p11) that WorkChoices has resulted in the loss of annual leave and sick leave entitlements is untrue. WorkChoices introduced for the first time in law to all permanent workers the right to 4 weeks annual leave and 10 days personal/carers leave (pro rata for part time). In the case of personal/carers leave this was in fact an increase from many awards (up from 8 to 10 days). In the case of casuals, they receive a minimum of 20% loading on their base rate of pay to cover annual and sick leave absences. • All employers are required to keep time and wages records for employees. • Many of the recommendations contained in the report suggest initiatives that are already in place. So on one hand it's great the researchers support the reforms but on the other hand it would be helpful if they acknowledged they were already in place instead of promulgating the misinformation from the unions and Labor.

o Recommendations 1, 2, 4 and 5: Surveys and indicators may only be useful if the State governments buy into a national approach (rather than conducting State critiques). Considerable attention would need to be placed on the survey methodology to ensure non-biased coverage of the choice and flexibility that is inherent in the modern Australian workplace - ie to capture the positive (as well as any negative) impacts of variable working patterns, variable remuneration arrangements, individual agreements etc. • Recommendation 3: The Workplace Ombudsman already conducts audits and

pays particular attention to the 'more vulnerable' lower paid sectors. The Workplace Authority is specifically charged with looking after the information needs of women, young people etc.

• Recommendation 6: Workplace Authority has produced policy guidelines and will develop other tools to give guidance to the parties when removing or modifying protected award conditions. Disaggregated information on the provisions in workplace agreements can be misleading. This information does not show the trade offs or benefits that are provided in exchange for any benefits forfeited.

• Recommendation 7: The Workplace Authority already provides a central lodgement point for all workplace agreements.

Australian Bureau of Statistics

Women, Families, Job Growth, Job Security, Long Term Unemployed, Children in Jobless Families, and Household Income

Women

• The female unemployment rate has fallen from 7.6 per cent in March 1996 when the Government came to office to 4.7 per cent, its equal lowest level since August 1974.

• Furthermore, the female participation rate is 57.8 per cent - an equal record high, and well above the 53.7 per cent recorded in March 1996. • Since the Government came to office, female hourly earnings as a percentage of male hourly earnings have increased from 87.1 per cent in February 1996 to 89.4

per cent in February 2007. • Australia has been described as a ‘leader in closing the gender gap’. Its gender wage gap is significantly below the OECD average and other similar countries such as the UK and USA. • Real wages for women have increased by 24.6 per cent since 1996 compared with

only 8.8 per cent under 13 years of Labor. • Real wages (women and men) have increased by 20.8% under the Coalition compared with a 1.8% decrease under Labor.

Families

• The ABS reports that after families receive government benefits, principally family tax benefit, only 40 per cent of households pay net tax - that is, 60 per cent of households get more back in family tax benefits than they actually pay.

• In 2007-08, the government will spend around $30 billion in assistance to families through programs such as Family Tax Benefit, Child Care Benefit, Parenting Payment and the Baby Bonus.

• Many workplace agreements contain family friendly provisions, such as: parental and maternity leave, part-time and home-based work, and job sharing. • ABS reports record highs in paid parental leave - 47 per cent for women and 40 per cent for men. • The ABS has reported a decrease in the average hours worked per week - 42.1

hours per week in 1996 compared with 41.1 hours per week in March 2007.

Job Growth

• Since March 1996, more than 2.1 million jobs have been created. • Over 1.2 million jobs created are full-time and almost 900,000 part-time. • Since WorkChoices 387,500 additional jobs have been created. • Since WorkChoices 325,300 full-time jobs have been created - accounting for

84.0% of all jobs created.

• There are currently well over 10.4 million Australians in work, a record high. • Almost 7.5 million in full-time employment and 2.9 million in part-time work. • The OECD has reported that less punitive and prescriptive industrial relations legislation favours the most vulnerable - including women and youth workers.

Job Security

• In the year to February 1991 the retrenchment rate was 6.5 per cent falling to 4.6 per cent in the year to February 1996 under the Labor Government. Since this time the retrenchment rate has continued to decline to stand at 2.2 per cent in the year to February 2006. • Consequently, retrenchments are 59% lower than they were in February 1991

when Labor was in government.

Long Term Unemployment

• Long-term unemployment is now 65,900, its lowest level in more than 20 years. It has more than halved under the Howard Government and is 80.0% lower than the peak of 329,800 set in May 1993 under Labor. (Seasonally adjusted)

• Very long-term unemployment stood at 36,200 in June 2007 and has fallen sharply, by 135,200 (or 78.9%) since its peak of 171,700 in November 1993. • Long-term unemployment has fallen by 32.6% since March 2006.

Children in Jobless Families

• The number of dependent children in jobless families has also fallen substantially over the year, down by 33 400 (or 5.7 per cent). • The number of children in jobless families is now 117 200 (or 17.5 per cent) less than in June 1996. • The proportion of couple families with children where at least one parent is

working increased to 95.2 per cent in June 2007. Moreover, the unemployment rate for parents in couple families with children has now fallen to just 3.0 per cent, half what it was in June 1996. • The number of lone parents (with dependent children) who are now gainfully employed is up by 23 000 (or 9.4 per cent) over the last year. • The unemployment rate for this group fell to 12.5 per cent in June 2007, well below the 17.0 per cent recorded in June 1996. • The proportion of lone parents (with dependent children) who are participating in the labour force has increased strongly over the year to June 2007, up by 1.6 percentage points to 63.0 per cent, its highest level on record. • This is now well above the 51.5 per cent recorded in June 1996, around the time the government came to office.

Household Income

• In real terms, the average equivalised disposable household income in 2005-06 ($644 per week) was 10 per cent higher than in 2003-04 ($585 per week). • The incomes of those households the ABS considers to have the lowest levels of economic wellbeing (those between the bottom 10 per cent and bottom 30 per

cent of incomes) grew by 8 per cent from 2003-04 to 2005-06. This compares with 8 per cent also for middle income people and 13 per cent for high income people. • Ignoring the methodological changes in the 2003-04 survey, between 1994-95 and 2005-06 there was a 31 per cent increase in the real mean income of low income

people, compared with 32 per cent for middle income people and 36 per cent for high income people. • The proportion of households reliant on government pensions and allowances was 26.1 per cent in 2005-06, down from 27.7 per cent in 2003-04 and 28.5 per cent in

1994-95. • The proportion of households occupied by an owner with a mortgage increased from 29.6 per cent in 1994-95 to 35.0 per cent in 2005-06. However, this proportion is largely unchanged from 2003-04 (35.1 per cent of households were

occupied by an owner with a mortgage).

For further information contact: Emma Needham 0400 334 091