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Abbott must come clean on Liberals' plans for Australians' rights at work

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Embargoed to 6am, Monday, 20 June 2011

Abbott must come clean on Liberals’ plans for

Australians’ rights at work: unions

Tony Abbott’s ongoing silence about the new industrial relations laws introduced by the O’Farrell

Government in New South Wales raises legitimate concerns that the Federal Liberal Party has

similar plans to take away rights at work, say unions.

With a growing groundswell from employers and the Liberal backbench to reverse parts of the

Fair Work Act, ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said Mr Abbott must either condemn the actions of

his NSW colleague, Premier Barry O’Farrell, or confirm the actions are Liberal Party policy.

Mr Lawrence has written to Mr Abbott on behalf of Australian workers to clarify the Liberal Party’s


“Australian workers have a right to know if the Liberal Party will unilaterally set the wages and

conditions for workers right across the country, just as Mr O’Farrell plans to do for NSW public

sector workers,” the letter says.

The O’Farrell Government laws would enable workers’ important conditions, like penalty rates,

maternity pay, and long service leave, to be cut unilaterally without remedy from the independent

umpire. The introduction into the New South Wales Parliament of the Industrial Relations

Amendment (Public Sector Conditions of Employment) Bill effectively forces the Industrial

Relations Commission to enforce the Government’s policy without any negotiation.

“If passed, the O’Farrell workplace laws would be a clear breach of international law and

Australia’s obligation to respect human rights, which include labour rights and the right to

collectively bargain,” Mr Lawrence wrote in his letter to Mr Abbott.

“This will affect the wages and conditions of workers in NSW who run important public services,

such as teachers, firefighters, ambulance officers, and community workers.”

Mr Lawrence said the legislation would impact workers in Mr Abbott’s NSW seat of Warringah,

who had a right to know the Liberal Party’s position on workers’ rights, considering he wanted to

lead the nation. He said Mr Abbott was a Minister in the Government that took away the

workplace rights of millions of working people and that workers remained concerned he would

introduce similar laws again if he was elected Prime Minister.

“It is simply not good enough for Mr Abbott to avoid clarifying his position by hiding behind the

excuse that it is a ‘state issue’,” Mr Lawrence said. “As the Leader of the Federal Liberal Party

and member for the NSW seat of Warringah, we call on Mr Abbott to condemn this Bill and to

insist that Premier O’Farrell reconsider before it becomes law.

“Without unequivocal condemnation of these laws, working people can only conclude that Mr

Abbott condones the introduction of laws that remove workers’ rights and remove the

independent umpire. Working families cannot afford another Liberal Party-led attack on their

rights at work.”

Media contact:

Rebecca Tucker ph (03) 9664 7359 or 0408 031 269;