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Government rejects latest ILO views on Australian Labour Standards.

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Media Release


Government rejects latest ILO views on Australian Labour Standards The ILO Committee of Experts on the Applications of Conventions and Recommendations issued its latest annual report in Geneva on Friday 23 February 2001. It includes observations on Australia’s implementation of Convention 87 concerning freedom of association and Convention 111 concerning discrimination in employment and occupation.

The Australian Government considers that Australia complies with the freedom of association convention and that our workplace relations legislation implements this convention as appropriate for Australian workplaces and Australian circumstances.   The Government was disappointed to learn that the Committee had simply noted its arguments, and then repeated the Committee’s previous statements. 

At issue are the circumstances in which industrial action may be taken.  The Government has argued that the provisions of the Workplace Relations Act, which provide a right to strike in particular circumstances, are appropriate for our national circumstances.  This is demonstrated by the improved industrial climate that Australia has experienced in recent years.  The ILO is seeking a virtually unfettered right to strike.  The Government is not prepared to go back to the days of high levels of industrial disputation that would undoubtedly flow from the ILO’s approach, noting that consistent with the Convention the right to strike is not an unlimited one.

In commenting on Australia’s secondary boycott laws, the Committee failed to recognise the crucial domestic role these laws recently played in limiting the possibility of nationwide damage from a shutdown of Australian ports.

In commenting on the way that Australian laws restrict industrial action over essential services, the Committee fails to realise that it is out of step with successive Australian Governments and other member countries which have differed from the ILO on this issue.  The criticisms made by the Committee in this regard included criticisms of the Queensland Government’s legislation.

The Committee has repeated its call for the repeal of provisions in the Crimes Act 1914 concerning strikes and boycotts beyond essential services.  This is despite the Government’s advice that repeal was being considered but that it had low legislative priority given that that no such action had been taken for over 40 years.

Australian people don’t need reminding that it is the federal Parliament, elected by the Australian people, that decides Australian laws on these important matters - not the ILO.

The report of this Committee takes the form of observations.  They are not findings, they are not final, and the usual practice is for Governments to enter into dialogue with the ILO where there are differences in interpretations.  The Government will continue this practice, to help the ILO obtain a fuller understanding of how Australian law and practice operates in the historical context of our highly regulated domestic workplace relations system.


For further information contact:

Simone Holzapfel 0417 656 668