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Agreement-making: Kim Beazley's policy challenge.



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THE HON PETER REITH MP

MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, WORKPLACE RELATIONS AND SMALL BUSINESS

LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

6 January 2000

04/00

 

AGREEMENT-MAKING - KIM BEAZLEY’S POLICY CHALLENGE

 

According to the OECD’s 1999-2000 Survey (released on 20 December 1999), a key to Australia’s recent strong economic performance is the surge in productivity. The OECD argues that labour market reform has had a positive impact on productivity.

 

A key aspect of the reform process has been the encouragement of enterprise-level bargaining in Australia.

 

One of the key on-going policy debates will centre on the future of enterprise bargaining. Clearly, the Government is committed to continuing the reform process. On the other hand, the ALP and the union movement are committed to turning back the clock. Labor’s policy, based on legislated developments in States such as Queensland, is to re-regulate the labour market. Labor is also implicitly supporting industrial campaigns (e.g. in Victoria) that are aimed at destroying enterprise bargaining.

 

The attached paper, entitled “Developments with Agreement Making “, demonstrates the progress being made to widen and deepen the use of agreement-making.

 

Agreements now cover about 75% of federal award employees.

 

Almost 250,000 employees now have either AWAs (86,099) or collective agreements directly with their employer (160,000). In the December quarter of 1999, there was a surge in the number of AWAs approved — a record 12,848. In all, 1,942 employers have adopted AWAs since they were introduced.

 

And many unions have accepted agreements in the knowledge that employers now have the option of dealing directly with employees.

 

Labor’s policy approach is out of touch with employment practices in large and small firms. A big challenge for Kim Beazley in 2000 is to do a Tony Blair and adopt a policy on the labour market that will underpin Australia’s strong economy and be relevant to the 2lst century.

For further information contact Ian Hanke: 0419 484 095.