Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Union hypocrisy on national system.

Download PDFDownload PDF



Media Release


Union Hypocrisy On National System

The opposition to the Howard Government’s proposed use of the corporations power in a national workplace relations system is opportunistic and hypocritical.

New South Wales unions have reportedly engaged former Supreme Court judge and Labor IR Minister Jeff Shaw to organise a possible High Court challenge against the Commonwealth’s proposed legislation. Three weeks ago Workers Online reported Mr Shaw as arguing that "unions will have a strong case if the federal government attempts to over ride its existing industrial relations powers" and casting doubts on the Commonwealth’s use of the corporations power.

In 2000, Jeff Shaw told a Business Council of Australia Forum that:

"…the Corporations power has been liberally interpreted by the High Court and can sustain legislation designed to regulate the employment relationships between a corporation and its workforce.

Industry and commerce increasingly crosses historically determined state boundaries. The wages and conditions of employees are relevant to national economic considerations and it will often be convenient for both employers and unions to have uniform national conditions." (Business Council of Australia Industrial Relations Forum - "A Unitary Industrial Relations System: Unfinished Business of the 20th Century?" 17 November 2000)

Mr Shaw is now being retained by NSW unions to produce advice that the corporations power cannot be used in this way - advice that he himself knows not to be correct.

The Corporations Power has been used as a basis for workplace relations legislation for over a decade. It was first utilised by the Keating Government in its 1993 industrial relations legislation, when then-industrial relations Minister Laurie Brereton boasted that:

"For the very first time the bill provides for the use of the corporations power of the Commonwealth to facilitate agreement making, to provide for agreement making in every individual enterprise covered by a federal award in this country." (Hansard, 15 December 1993)

The legal campaign being run from New South Wales is nothing more than a political campaign by unions desperate to defend a state system which gives a privileged position to the unions on which NSW Labor MPs rely for patronage and preferment.

Instead of wasting money on futile legal challenges, NSW unions should instead heed the words of advice of their own leader, John Robertson, who last week warned that:

"We need to be honest with ourselves. These laws (IR reform) are not the biggest threat to the future of the labour movement. We are.

"Many of our unions are in a sad state - some have given up on recruiting on the basis it will upset internal power balances.

"Our political wing (the ALP) is in even worse shape - control of local branches is now being fought out by operatives on the public payroll."

(Daily Telegraph, 30 April 2005)

For further information contact:

Ben Davies 0412 519 888