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Thursday, 1 June 2000
Page: 16829


Mr BEVIS (12:16 PM) —by leave—I move:

(1) Schedule 1, before item 1, page 3 (before line 6) insert:

1A Section 3

Repeal the section, substitute:

3 Principal object of this Act

The principal object of this Act is to provide a framework for cooperative industrial relations which promotes the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia by:

(a) encouraging the pursuit of high employment, improved living standards, better pay, low inflation and international competitiveness through higher productivity and a flexible and fair labour market; and

(b) within the framework provided by this Act and with the protections provided by the Commission, ensuring that the primary responsibility for determining matters affecting the relationship between employers and employees rests with the employers, employees and their organisations particularly at the workplace or enterprise level; and

(c) enabling employers and employees to choose the most appropriate form of agreement for their particular circumstances; and

(d) providing the means:

(i) for wages and conditions of employment to be determined as far as possible by the agreement of employers, employees and their organisations upon a foundation of minimum standards; and

(ii) to ensure that there is an effective award system providing secure and relevant wages and conditions of employment; and

(e) providing a framework of rights and responsibilities for employers and employees, and their organisations, which supports fair and effective bargaining and ensures that they abide by awards and agreements applying to them; and

(f) ensuring freedom of association, including the rights of employers and employees to join an organisation or association of their choice, or not to join an organisation or association, while maintaining the rights of employers and employees to organise and bargain collectively; and

(g) encouraging and facilitating the development and registration of organisations of employers and employees, and ensuring these organisations are representative of and accountable to their members; and

(h) enabling the Commission to prevent and settle industrial disputes

(i) so far as possible, by conciliation; and

(ii) where necessary, by arbitration.

(i) assisting employees to balance their work and family responsibilities effectively through the development of mutually beneficial work practices; and

(j) respecting and valuing the diversity of the work force by helping to prevent and eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin; and

(k) ensuring that labour standards meet Australia's international obligations.

(2) Schedule 1, item 1, page 3 (lines 6 to 17), omit the item.

(3) Schedule 1, after item 1, page 3 (after line 17), insert:

1B Section 88A

Repeal the section, substitute:

88A Objects of Part

The objects of this Part are to ensure that:

(a) minimum wages and conditions of employment are protected and maintained at relevant and fair levels by a system of enforceable awards; and

(b) awards provide relevant and secure wages and conditions of employment as compared to market rates; and

(c) awards are suited to the efficient performance of work according to the needs of particular workplaces or enterprises while the interests of employees are properly taken into account; and

(d) awards are continually maintained to reflect changes in the relevant workplaces; and

(e) the Commission's functions and powers in relation to making and varying awards are performed and exercised in a way that encourages:

(i) the making of agreements between employers and employees and their organisations at the workplace or enterprise level; and

(ii) the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes.

(4) Schedule 1, after item 1, page 3 (after line 17), insert:

1C After paragraph 88B(3)(a)

Insert:

(aa) the need to ensure, so far as it can, that the system of awards provides for secure and relevant wages and conditions of employment;

(5) Schedule 1, after item 1, page 1 (after line 17), insert:

1D Section 89

Repeal the section, substitute:

89 General functions of Commission

The functions of the Commission are:

(a) to prevent and settle industrial disputes:

(i) in so far as possible, by conciliation; and

(ii) where necessary, by arbitration; and

(b) such other functions as are conferred on the Commission by this or any other Act.

(6) Schedule 1, after item 1, page 3, (after line 17) insert:

1E Section 89A

Repeal the section.

(7) Schedule 1, after item 1, page 3 (after line 17)

Insert:

1F Section 106

Repeal the section.

(8) Schedule 1, after item 1, page 3 (after line 17) insert:

1G After Section 113

Insert

113AA Commission may vary or set aside award because of effect of former section 89A

(1) An application may be made to the Commission to make an order to vary or set aside a relevant award or any of the terms of a relevant award because of the effect of former section 89A.

(2) In considering whether to make an order under this section the Commission must have regard to:

(a) the findings as to the industrial dispute giving rise to the award

(b) the matters that were at issue when the award was made;

(c) the circumstances in which the award was made;

(d) the extent to which a matter was not included in the award because of the operation of former section 89A.

(f) such principles as may be established by the Full Bench for varying or revoking awards under this section.

(3) An order under this section may be subject to conditions or limitations.

(4) An organisation to which an order applies must comply with the order.

(5) The Court may, on application by the Minister or a person or organisation affected by an order made under this section, make such orders as it thinks fit to ensure compliance with that order.

(6) For the purposes of this section a relevant award is an award made during the processes of award simplification following the enactment of the Workplace Relations and other Legislation Amendment Act 1996.

(9) Schedule 1, item 2, page 3 (lines 18 to 20), omit the item.

(10) Schedule 1, item 3, page 3 (lines 21 to 23), omit the item.

(11) Schedule 1, item 4, page 3 (lines 24 to 25), omit the item.

(12) Schedule 1, item 5, page 3 (line 26) to page 4 (line 14), omit the item.

(13) Schedule 1, after item 5, page 4 (after line 14), insert

5A Section 170L

Repeal the section, substitute

170L Object

The object of this Part is to facilitate and encourage the making, and certifying by the Commission, of agreements.

(14) Schedule 1, after item 5, page 4 (after line 14) insert:

5B Subsection 170LA(2) and (3)

Repeal the subsections.

(15) Schedule 1, item 6, page 4 (line 15) to page 6 (line 6), omit the item.

(16) Schedule 1, item 7, page 6 (lines 7 and 8), omit the item.

(17) Schedule 1, after item 7, page 6 (after line 8), insert:

7A After section 170MK

Insert:

170MKA Parties must genuinely try to reach agreement

(1) A negotiating party to a proposed agreement must take part in negotiations in good faith and genuinely try to reach agreement with the other negotiating party or parties.

(2) This section is not to be taken to require a negotiating party to:

(a) agree on any matter for inclusion in an agreement; or

(b) enter into an agreement.

(18) Schedule 1, after item 7, page 6, (after line 8) insert:

7B After section 170MK

Insert:

170MKB Powers of Commission in respect to negotiations

The Commission has the power to make orders to:

(a) ensure that negotiating parties to a proposed agreement negotiate in good faith and genuinely try to reach agreement; and

(b) promote the efficient conduct of negotiations in respect of a proposed agreement; and

(c) otherwise facilitate the making of a proposed agreement.

(19) Schedule 1, after item 7, page 6, (after line 8), insert:

7C After section 170MK

Insert:

170MKC Orders that may be made by Commission

(1) A negotiating party may apply to the Commission for an order under this section.

(2) If deciding what orders (if any) to make, the Commission:

(a) must consider the conduct of each of the parties to the negotiations, in particular, whether the party concerned has:

(i) agreed to meet at reasonable times proposed by another party; or

(ii) attended meetings that the party had agreed to attend; or

(iii) complied with negotiating procedures agreed to by the parties; or

(iv) capriciously added or withdrawn items for negotiation; or

(v) disclosed relevant information as appropriate for the purposes of the negotiations; or

(vi) refused or failed to negotiate with one or more of the parties; or

(vii) in or in connection with the negotiations refused or failed to negotiate with a person who is entitled under this Part to represent an employee; and

(b) may consider:

(i) proposed conduct or any of the parties (including proposed conduct of a kind referred to in paragraph (a)); and

(ii) any other relevant matter.

(3) The Commission may make an order that a negotiating party take, or refrain from taking, specified action and, without limiting the power of the Commission to make an order under this section, the Commission may make an order to:

(a) require a negotiating party to consider and respond to proposals made by another negotiating party; or

(b) require a negotiating party to adhere to commitments given to another negotiating party or parties in respect of meetings and responses to matters raised during negotiations; or

(c) set time limits for the completion of negotiations in respect of a proposed agreement.

(4) The Commission may not make an order which will

(a) prevent a negotiating party from trying to reach an agreement with another negotiating party;

(b) require a negotiating party to:

(i) agree on any matter for inclusion in an agreement; or

(ii) enter into an agreement.

(20) Schedule 1, item 8, page 6 (lines 9 to 11), omit the item.

(21) Schedule 1, item 9, page 6 (line 12) to page 7 (1ine 9), omit the item.

(22) Schedule 1, item 10, page 7 (lines 10 to 15), omit the item.

(23) Schedule 1, item 11, page 7 (line 16) to page 8 (line 7), omit the item.

(24) Schedule 1, item 12, page 8 (line 8) to page 9 (line 3), omit the item.

(25) Schedule 1, item 13, page 9 (lines 4 to 26), omit the item.

(26) Schedule 1, item 14, page 10 (lines 3 to 15), omit the item.

(27) Schedule 1, item 15, page 10 (lines 16 to 29), omit the item.

These amendments to the Workplace Relations Amendment Bill 2000 are indicative of the sorts of changes that are needed to Minister Reith's laws in order to put some balance and fairness back into our system. They promote a stronger and more independent commission and an umpire who has the authority to deal with the wide range of industrial matters involved in our workplaces and in our industrial relations system. They introduce an obligation on all parties to negotiate and bargain in good faith—that is, for parties to genuinely try to seek out agreement.

To fix the deep-seated bias and imbalance that is embedded in Minister Reith's laws would require far more dramatic and extensive amendments than those which I have moved today. Indeed, these amendments are not exhaustive not even in relation to the specific areas I have mentioned. As some members in the Liberal and National ranks will remember, and those who are left after the next election will discover, the meagre resources available to an opposition do not enable comprehensive legislative programs to be easily pursued by an opposition. These amendments do go to the heart of what makes for a fair system.

A few moments ago in his second reading debate reply, the minister made reference to AWAs, Australian workplace agreements. There are only a couple of things I want to say in relation to that at this stage. That would be an entertaining debate to be had at another time. The minister has crowed about the level of uptake of AWAs. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned that the government claimed that 10 per cent of the work force would be on AWAs, when, in fact, the figure is less than one per cent. That needs to be put in clear context. The government claimed that by now there would be one million workers on AWAs. That is what they projected when the system was put in place. As we speak in the parliament today, they need only about another 920,000 to catch up to that target. They said there would be a million and they are about 920,000 short of it. The simple fact is that it is a dog of a scheme. The minister is pretty conversant with the application of dogs in industrial relations matters. This scheme is a dog and Labor will have none of it.

Many people in the community involved in industrial relations and those generally in workplaces I come across ask why it is that this government—and this minister in particular—is so hell-bent on pursuing bill after bill that tries to reduce workers' rights. Last August he promised that he would have a piece of legislation in parliament before the end of last year to provide workers with entitlements when companies became insolvent. It is now June of the following year and we still do not have a bill here. The minister is not able to get around to keeping his word on those things, but he has been able to trot out two or three more pieces of legislation to strip rights away from workers. People say, `Why is that so? Why does he holds those views?'

We get an insight into the minister's views not so much from what he says in this parliament or what he says in public interviews but from what he says when he is with his mates, when he is at business luncheons and when he is with extreme right-wing groups like the H.R. Nicholls Society. I will quote what the minister said at a business lunch in Perth on 9 July 1998. He told that business group:

Never forget the history of politics and never forget which side we're on. We're on the side of making profits. We're on the side of people owning private capital

That is what the minister said when he was with his business mates. He told them that there should be no misunderstanding when it comes to industrial relations—he is out there to look after them at the expense of ordinary Australian workers and their families. You can see it embedded in every bit of legislation that this minister's hands have touched.

There is another illuminating insight into the minister's approach to industrial relations when you look at what he has had to say arising from some of the major disputes we have seen, in particular, the major dispute at Hunter Valley No. 1 coalmine, which has now gone on for about three years. That dispute is between the union and the work force and Rio Tinto, a very large multinational company that has had quite well-known policies towards unionism in a number of its operations around the world. (Time expired)