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Labor and Democrats this week can vote to reduce unemployment further.



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THE HON PETER REITH MP

MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT, WORKPLACE RELATIONS AND SMALL BUSINESS LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

Media Release

0138

Labor and Democrats this week can vote to reduce unemployment further Embargoed until 1:00am Sunday

The Labor Party and the Democrats will this week be given four chances to vote in the federal parliament for more jobs and a further reduction in Australia’s rate of unemployment.

They face four legislative tests.

Firstly, on Monday, the Coalition’s legislation to give relief to small business from unfair dismissal laws when employing new employees will be debated in the Senate.

This measure would create 50,000 new jobs in the small business sector, according to small businesses employers.

Yet, on at least three prior occasions the Labor Party and the Democrats have combined to block this initiative that better balances the rights of employers, employees and the unemployed.

The Bill in the Senate on Monday was introduced into the parlaiment after the October 1998 federal election when the Coalition obtained a mandate for this specific policy to again be pursued.

Secondly, on Wednesday, the Senate will also debate the Coalition’s legislation to prevent industrial action being taken in support of industry wide pattern bargaining. This Bill is essential to protect the system of enterprise bargaining, and to ensure that the legal right to strike is only used for the purposes intended by Labor and Coalition governments, and by Democrat senators when introduced in 1993.

Already unions in the manufacturing sector in Victoria are threatening, and taking, industrial action in support of pattern demands.

Even today, potential investment in Victoria is at risk by unions who have for months made threats of, and planned industrial action.

Union literature itself discloses a plan to manipulate the system to take the ''fastest route'' to industrial action.

And unions plan to take these strategies into other States and industries in new bargaining rounds.

Investment, and the jobs that go with investment, will be lost if this law is not passed by the Parliament.

Thirdly, on Thursday, the House of Representatives will debate the Coalition’s proposals to give employees a right to a secret ballot in their workplace before industrial action is taken.

This is a basic democratic principle. If the Labor Party’s rhetoric about employee rights is to mean anything, then they should be voting to put employee rights above union rights.

And if the Democrats are a party based on inclusive democracy they should do likewise.

Greater employee participation leads to more productivity, less strikes and a better climate for investment and jobs.

Fourthly, the Labor Party and the Democrats face a test on youth wages and youth employment They have both threatened to disallow Coalition regulations confirming the legal status of youth wages being allowed in Australian Workplace Agreements.

If Labor and the Democrats disallow this regulation they will be voting against more youth jobs and lower youth unemployment.

And the Labor Party would confirm what they have tried to hide - that a Beazley government would abolish youth wages not just in awards - but also in agreements.

Labor would roll-back the Coalition legislation passed last year - which they were forced to support - which protected youth wages in the system.

In fact, the Labor platform adopted this month - and public statements made by Simon Crean - foreshadow that very plan to abolish youth wages.

No wonder the BRW this week reports that ''some senior Labor figures are unhappy with the industrial relations platform''. Privately, they know that abolishing youth wages is bad for jobs - and will not be accepted by the electorate.

This week has seen some further promising news on the employment and unemployment font.

Those gains have been made by the Coalition despite the obstructionism of the Labor Party and the Democrats in the Senate.

Mr Beazley says that Labor wants to focus on social policy.

With unemployment the greatest cause of social dislocation and poverty in the country then he should match his rhetoric by abandoning his opposition to policies that will create more jobs.

The Democrats say that they do not have a freeze on labour market reform - but they have not passed any Coalition workplace relations legislation since 1997.

This week their three year freeze will be put to the test.

For Labor and the Democrats, Senate obstructionism to the Coalition’s workplace relations mandate may be a political game.

But the stakes are much higher than that.

Jobs for our young people, for the unemployed - and an even lower unemployment rate - are at stake.

 

For further information contact:

Ian Hanke  0419 484 095

 

 

13/08/2000