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National ACCI BCA Awards 2005: speech at the ACCI/BCA National Work And Family Awards 2005, Wentworth Hotel, Sydney.

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Hon Kevin Andrews MP

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service 25 November, 2005


National ACCI BCA Awards 2005

ACCI/BCA National Work And Family Awards 2005, Wentworth Hotel, Sydney

Thank you very much, Deborah, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a great pleasure to be here tonight and I can I say,

Chris, to be particularly inspired by your story of balance of work and family and what that’s meant for you and

your wife and your family. I suspect anything I say tonight or any other of us who speak here tonight pales into

insignificance to the very real testimony of what you’ve said in terms of your work and your family balance in that


Can I nonetheless thank the judges, the partners in this enterprise, particularly the Business Council of Australia

and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and all the others who have been involved in organising

not just tonight but over the past weeks and months this 13th Annual Work and Family Awards. And can I also

acknowledge the presence tonight of the Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, whose organisation has not

only won a Gold award last year but is also an inspiration, not just in the public sector in Australia but more

broadly to the goal of trying to achieve a better work and family balance and particularly, if I can say,

Commissioner, in an organisation where from day to day and almost hour to hour the requirements that are upon

members of the AFP can vary so greatly.

The applicants and indeed the recipients of the awards this year, ladies and gentlemen, represent a very diverse

group of organisations from both the public and the private sectors, ranging from multi-national corporations on

one hand through small and medium sized businesses to those that are representative of businesses in rural and

regional areas of Australia. The common element that binds together these organisations, these finalists, is that

they value their employees and that they’re perhaps more importantly willing to listen to those employees and to

accommodate their very real needs about the work and the family balance, about the personal needs that those

employees have.

This is something which the Australian Government very much supports and encourages, particularly encourages

employees to listen to the needs of their employees in terms of that balance between work and family

commitments. It’s our strong view that there should be, that we encourage an ability at the workplace level for

people to be able to meet the needs of both the work for the business and for that to be able to thrive, but

importantly for that to occur for the needs and desires of the employees to be taken into account within their own


A nd we see this already occurring. I think over the last ten years or so in Australia, there has been quite a

considerable uptake of work friendly, family friendly policies in a range of agreements that have been taken up.

Whether collective agreements or individual Australian workplace agreements and in fact more than eight out of

ten agreements at the present time contain family friendly provisions, and these cover something like nine out of

ten of the employees covered under those agreements. And it’s something which our changes to industrial

relations which we have before the Parliament at the present time are very much about, and that is the ability to

have the flexibility at the workplace level between employers and employees to meet the respective desires and

needs of each other in this regard.

I’m delighted also tonight to be able to release a new document entitled "Work and Family: The Importance of

Workplace Flexibility in Promoting a Balance Between Work and Family" which contains an up-to-date list of

statistics and data in relation to work and family issues in Australia which details current policies of the

government to assist families, but as well as that, legal protections and opportunities for people in terms of

workplace relations legislation because we recognise ultimately that flexible family friendly working arrangements

are critical in assisting both women and men in finding the appropriate balance between their work and their

family responsibilities.

And indeed, as we’ve heard, as we heard earlier from Chris tonight, flexible arrangements negotiated between the

employer and the employee can make an incredible difference in a person’s life, whether they’re going through a

particular difficult time, as all of us do from time to time, or whether they’re simply trying to juggle those

responsibilities as we do on a daily basis in our lives.

The reality is that there is always room for improvement. None of our arrangements, none of our life situations are

perfect. We can all aspire to and be encouraged to achieve something better than we have at the present time. And

we can do that in a flexible way rather than being locked in some of the rigidities and the inflexibilities that were

part and parcel of the past era in Australia so far as arrangements at the workplace are concerned.

One of the things which I had the opportunity of doing today, ladies and gentlemen, was releasing a report about

the "Workforce Tomorrow" in Australia. And one of the features of this research which has been undertaken into

the impact of an ageing population in Australia - we all know that we’ve got an ageing population.

The fact that we are on average living for about 25 years longer than had we been gathered here in Sydney when

the colony of New South Wales joined with the other then colonies to form the Commonwealth of Australia is one

of the advantages of an ageing population, but one of the problems or challenges if you like of an ageing

population is that the growth in our workforce is going to contract over the next five, ten and fifteen years, and

indeed the research which I launched this morning in Adelaide indicates that in just five years time in Australia,

we will have a workforce shortfall of up to 195,000 employees simply because of the ageing of the population in

this country. And so it’s not just an issue that’s facing us in 2020 or 2030, it’s an issue that’s facing us in four or

five years time in this country.

I mention that particularly tonight because flexibility within the workplace is going to be an important factor, an

important ingredient in how we respond to the ageing of the population in Australia. People want flexibility. They

want to be able to balance their work and family responsibilities at no matter what stage they are in life. We’re

talking about, say, mature age employees, they want to be able to balance their desire to continue to work but also

their desire to have some more leisure time, some more recreation time to spend with their families or to play

sport or to entertain their grandchildren or potter around the garden or whatever their particular interest or

leisure activity in life might be.

And what’s clear from looking to the future is that unless we find ways in which we as businesses - and I include in

that government and all the departments of government - unless we find ways in which we can accommodate that

desire for more flexibility and more ability to balance these competing interests in our lives, then as businesses we

won’t attract the workforce that we need in the future in order to sustain the businesses and therefore to sustain

the interests of those businesses and generally the economy in the future.

So this is something which affects us all today and will increasingly affect us all in the future. It’s something which

we need to address today and something which we need to increasingly address in the future in order to ensure

that the business organisations that we represent and are part of here tonight can continue to grow and thrive in

the future.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, may I commend all the finalists, all of whom provide a model of best practice to the wider Australian community. You are very much exemplars in the field of work life balance and should be

proud of your companies and yourselves.

These awards, ladies and gentlemen, reinforce the benefits of focusing on work and family flexibility and employer

and employee collaboration, away from imposing prescriptive processes and towards enabling those workplaces to

be able to better work together and to make informed decisions about how to best accommodate work and family.

As all of those who are finalists here tonight have demonstrated, a cooperative approach to work life balance will

lead to improved outcomes for all, and after all, that’s what we all want to achieve.

Thank you.

For further information contact:

Ian Hanke 0409 715861