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Shadow Ministers from Queensland and South Australia oppose plans for national industrial relations system.

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Friday 22 April 2005

Shadow Ministers from Queensland and South Australia oppose plans for national industrial relations system


PAUL LOCKYER: Federal Government plans to t ake greater control of industrial relations has met opposition from its political allies in three States. 


Conservative parliamentary oppositions in Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland all oppose the Government's plan to takeover State industrial relations systems. 


But their opposition is having little impact. 


The Federal Minister for Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, is pressing ahead with the planned changes, saying he'll do what it takes, in the "national interest". 


From Canberra, Kim Landers reports. 


KIM LANDERS: The backlash to the Federal Government's planned industrial relations shake up is growing and it's coming from some of its own political allies. 


In Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland, the conservative State oppositions are going public with their concerns. 


Queensland Opposition and National Party leader, Lawrence Springborg, says he's far from convinced about the need for a single, national industrial relations system. 


LAWRENCE SPRINGBORG: Our concern is that if this model goes too far, it could completely derail the state industrial relations system, which could have very, very negative impact on the capacity of State Governments to be able to run their affairs, particularly on IR matters, of which they have a very significant and direct responsibility. 


KIM LANDERS: So, with three conservative oppositions around Australia expressing concerns about this, why do you think it is that the Federal Government seems so intent on pushing ahead? 


LAWRENCE SPRINGBORG: Well, the Federal Government obviously are concerned about trying to, from what I can gather, ensure a better industrial relations environment for business to do business in our country. 


And whilst I can understand some of that, it sounds alright to me whilst the current Federal Government's in place, but there's another issue here. 


From our perspective, imagine if the boot was on the other foot and if you've transferred all IR power to the Commonwealth Government and the likes of Martin Fergusson took over as Industrial Relations minister. 


I mean, you can't then put the feathers back on the chook, virtually. 


KIM LANDERS: And this fear that Labor will one day take power in Canberra, is what motivated West Australian Liberal leader, Matt Birney, to speak out against the plan too. 


His concerns are echoed in South Australia, where Opposition Industrial Relations Spokesman Iain Evans also says a single, Federal system is not in the best interests of the smaller States. 


IAIN EVANS: One day the Howard Government will lose and there are, there's always changes of government. 


When there's a Federal Labor government, and only a Federal system, then business will have nowhere to go and seek shelter from that system. 


In the future of course, that option will be taken away from them. 


KIM LANDERS: The Federal Government, though, at the moment is pushing ahead with its plans for a single IR system. 


What do you now do? 


IAIN EVANS: Well, look, we've written to the Federal Minister and expressed our view. The Minister's responded outlining the Federal Government policy. 


I have no doubt the Federal Government are going to go full-steam ahead and deliver a single industrial relations system to Australia, I have no doubt about that. 


KIM LANDERS: But you're arguing that that's folly? 


IAIN EVANS: Well, I'm arguing that it's not necessarily in the smaller States' best interests. I can understand why New South Wales and Victoria might want that. 


Look, the majority of people are in New South Wales and Victoria, by definition they have the bigger businesses, by definition they have the bigger, more militant unions, by definition therefore they have more industrial disputes. 


There are more politicians out of Sydney and Victoria, out of New South Wales and Victoria, therefore the system that will be delivered long term over a 10 or 15 year period will be a New South Wales and Victoria driven system. 


We've made our view clear, the Federal Government have made their view clear. They're going to proceed. 


They reality is I think, that Australia is going to get a single, national industrial relations system and it's up to the Federal Government to make sure it works. 


KIM LANDERS: Despite the State oppositions ganging up on him, the Federal Minister for Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, has shrugged off their concerns. 


KEVIN ANDREWS: There is a lot of support for it. 


I think it's in the national interest that we move towards a national system, but from time to time there will be people that have different ideas. 


I will be travelling around the country as I do, and I'm happy to continue to discuss with them the proposals when the Cabinet finally determines them and to discuss some of the finer constitutional issues as well. 


KIM LANDERS: But as his State conservative colleagues know, when the Government gains control of the Senate in July, it'll have the power to do what it likes. 


PAUL LOCKYER: Kim Landers reporting from Canberra.