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Minister rejects criticism of industrial relations changes.

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Thursday 17 November 2005

Minister rejects criticism of industrial relations changes


TONY EASTLEY: The Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews has rejected the latest c riticisms of his industrial relations changes. 


He says they'll help Australians balance work and family and has brushed off the submission from the 150 academics, saying their arguments are no substitute for common sense. 


Mr Andrews is speaking here with Peta Donald in Canberra. 


PETA DONALD: Kevin Andrews, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward, in her submission to your inquiry today, says that your workplace changes could undermine people's ability to balance work and family.  


Isn't that supposed to be a cornerstone of the Howard Government? 


KEVIN ANDREWS: Well, the provisions in the new legislation aid the balance of work and family. 


What we've seen is that over 70 per cent of individual agreements to date contain two or more family friendly provisions; over 80 per cent of collective agreements have at least one family friendly provision. We've seen 900,000 new jobs created for women since 1996, and the ratio of male-to-male earnings has risen over that period. 


PETA DONALD: So why do you think Pru Goward would say this could undermine the ability to balance work and family? 


KEVIN ANDREWS: Well, I think that if you look at the provisions in the current legislation and the bill, they are certainly aimed at trying to support work and family balance within society. 


If you see the bill, for example, says that the Fair Pay Commission has to apply the principle that men and women should receive equal remuneration for work of equal value. These provisions are retained in the new legislation. 


PETA DONALD: Well, will you take onboard any of the things that she's calling for, such as better parental leave standards, giving women the right to ask for part-time work after having a baby, and also she's calling for the Fair Pay Commission to be able to adjust minimum wages regularly or to be forced to adjust them regularly? 


KEVIN ANDREWS: Well, the Fair Pay Commission is an independent body. It will carry out an ongoing review in monitoring of minimum wages … 


PETA DONALD: But should it have to do that every year, for example? 


KEVIN ANDREWS: Well, one would expect that that will happen on an annual basis, but that'll be a matter for the Fair Pay Commission, just as it's a matter currently for the Industrial Relations Commission. 


I'd expect that it will do it on a periodic and regular basis. 


One thing it will do that doesn't occur at the present time is that it has a role to monitor the impact of changes in the minimum wage on different sectors of society. That's something which doesn't happen at the present time, and this is a great advance. 


PETA DONALD: Now, what about this other submission from 150 academics from across the country, professors and associate professors who are specialists in business and industrial relations? This submission says that your laws are too complicated and there's no evidence that they'll boost productivity. 


KEVIN ANDREWS: Well, there are, they are factually incorrect when they say that income inequality has been growing in Australia. I mean, the reality is that the opposite has been occurring.  


But, you know, a group of academics is no substitute for commonsense proposals. These are careful, balanced, evolutionary proposals taking us forward to meet the challenges that we have in the future, the reality of continued international competition.  


Bodies as diverse as the OECD, the IMF, the Reserve Bank in Australia have all said that productivity is an important factor for the increase in the future. And we know that those businesses and industry sectors that have most embraced workplace flexibility have the highest productivity growth. 


TONY EASTLEY: Federal Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews speaking there with AM 's Peta Donald in Canberra.