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Deputy Prime Minister says government is drafting new unfair dismissal laws.



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This transcript has been prepared by a source external to the Parliamentary Library.

 

It may not have been checked against the broadcast or in an y other way. Freedom from error, omissions or misunderstandings cannot be guaranteed.

 

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AM

 

Wednes day 19 December 2007

Deputy Prime Minister says government is drafting new unfair dismissal laws

 

TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Government is under pressure to quickly restore protections against unfair dismissal after the Industrial Relations Commission upheld a company's right under WorkChoices to sack a worker in order to save money. 

 

Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard says the Government is drafting the legislation as fast as it can. 

 

Just how soon it becomes law will depend on the Opposition, and Liberal IR spokeswoman Julie Bishop wants to see an independent inquiry examine the effects of any changes before anything else is done. 

 

Samantha Donovan reports. 

 

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Andrew Cruickshank's claim against his former employer, Priceline, was seen as a test case for employers' power under WorkChoices to dismiss employees for "operational reasons". 

 

He claimed he'd been sacked and his job advertised paying $25,000 less. 

 

The Industrial Relations Commission has held that the dismissal was valid and dismissed his claim.  

 

Mr Cruickshanks' lawyers are now calling on the Federal Government to act quickly to protect workers from being sacked on the "operational reasons" ground, and they're concerned that in a radio interview yesterday, Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard appeared to suggest that the unfair dismissal laws wouldn't be changed until January 2010. 

 

But Ms Gillard says the bill is being drafted as quickly as possible. 

 

JULIA GILLARD: Certainly, a substantive bill will be in the Parliament next year, and it can be dealt with by the Parliament next year, and things like the unfair dismissal provisions can come into operation next year, unless the Liberal Party decides that it wants to continue to support industrial relations extremism and it stops our bill going through the Parliament. 

 

We are drafting that bill as quickly as it can be done, bearing in mind it is a complex job and one about which we want to consult. 

 

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Judging by the comments of Opposition Industrial Relations spokeswoman Julie Bishop, getting the legislation through isn't going to be easy for the Government. 

 

JULIE BISHOP: Julia Gillard must now commission a proper independent inquiry of the impact of removing the current exemptions. What would be the impact on jobs growth if small businesses are again subjected to unfair dismissal laws, or we see the return of the old system, the 1993 system that gave rise to such huge problems for small business.  

 

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Professor Andrew Stewart from Flinders University Law School says many Labor voters who didn't read the policy fine print will be disappointed that unfair dismissal rights aren't be reinstated immediately.  

 

ANDREW STEWART: Now, that's obviously very frustrating for a lot of their supporters, for a lot of people in the union movement, who are really hanging out to see WorkChoices done away with in its entirety. 

 

One of the sensible reasons for taking time is that the current legislation is so complex, and we saw that the Howard Government ran into a lot of difficulty by adopting a bull-at-a-gate mentality with its reforms. It rushed legislation through in a tearing hurry, with not very much consultation, and as a result it had to keep tinkering, it had to keep making changes. 

 

Labor's clearly intent on avoiding that sort of mistake. They're going to want to take the time to get it right. 

 

TONY EASTLEY: Professor Andrew Stewart from Flinders University ending Samantha Donovan's report.