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I.R. reforms no cure-all for jobless

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Senator Andrew Murray Australian Democrats Industrial Relations Spokesperson

19 September, 1996______ MEDIA RELEASE 96/598


The Australian Democrats have endorsed the findings of prominent economist and Reserve Bank director Professor Bob Gregory that the Government's Workplace Relations Bill does not provide the solution to unemployment. .

Professor Gregory argues that the focus should be on productivity related reforms rather than on weakening institutions that have protected the low-paid.

Democrats' Industrial Relations spokesperson Senator Andrew Murray said he agreed with Professor Gregory that industrial relations changes which reduced the income of low-paid workers were unacceptable and not in the spirit of the Government's promises.

Senator Murray said: "Evidence shows that labour market deregulation is not always a preĀ­ condition of low unemployment - countries such as Austria, Norway, Switzerland and Japan have lower unemployment rates than Australia but more centralised wage systems.

"Professor Gregory also highlights the important role that unions, awards and industrial tribunals play in preserving the 'safety net' for low income workers.

"In our discussions with the Government, the Democrats have continually pushed the need for a strong Industrial Relations Commission, a strong award system and the right of unions to responsibly represent workers as key protections for low income workers."

Senator Murray agreed with the Democrats' Leader Senator Cheryl Kernot that there was no overt link between the Government's Bill and a reduction in unemployment.

"What small benefit there might be from reforming unfair dismissal rules, for example, has been more than outweighed by the negative impact on the economy of the Federal Budget," Senator Murray said.

"Businesses cannot put on new workers when sales are soft and their expectations are low. The Budget has cut a wide range of job-creation programs and will make it harder for business to put on new workers." *

Senator Murray said the primary economic benefit of Government reforms could come in the form of productivity improvements from freeing up high-skilled, high-value workers.

"The employment benefits of the Workplace Relations Bill have been massively overstated, as highlighted by Professor Gregory," he said. .

For comment, contact: Senator Andrew Murray (06) 277 3709 COMMONWEALTH


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