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Reith'sindustr ial relations blueprint misses real social issues.

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Senator Andrew Murray

Australian Democrats

Workplace Relations spokesperson


May 6,1999





The Democrats are disappointed with the government’s new industrial relation s blueprint which largely focuses on “second order” issues while leaving out the real issues of concern to Australian society — job security and balancing work and family responsibilities.


Democrats Workplace Relations spokesperson Senator Andrew Murray says he is preparing his own blueprint which he would present to Mr Reith in coming months.


“Minister Reith wants progress on his issues. I want progress on other issues. Clearly, there is room for talk, but without progress on our agenda for improving fairness in the workplace, we are not going to get very far,” Senator Murray said.


“The Democrats are extremely concerned about any proposals which reduce the independence of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.


“We would like to talk to the Government about means of improving the independence of the Commission, and initiatives such as all appointments being on merit through a non-political process.


“I am not convinced that curbing union power overall, is necessary. Unions now represent only 28 per cent of the workforce and industrial disputation is at a record eighty-year low.


“What we are more concerned about is the increasing level of job insecurity due to the relative decline of frill-time jobs, harsh downsizing practices and the increasing use of contract labour companies.


“The impact that flexible working arrangements have on family life and workplace stress is also well documented and demands a policy response. Attending to these matters is good for productivity too” Senator Murray said.


“These are issues which need to be put onto Mr Reith’s agenda.”


Senator Murray says that some of the “new" ideas in the blueprint are measures rejected by the Democrats in 1996, and that Mr Reith would face a ‘very high burden of proof to show why these measures were now needed.


“The impact of the 1996 reform act is still bedding down. Major portions of the Act only commenced in July 1998. I think we need clear evidence of its practical operation before considering upsetting the balance of the Act,” Senator Murray said.


“We do know that the 1996 Act has largely fixed the unfair dismissals problem, has seen disputation fall and productivity and wages rise, but it has increased casual and contract employment, working hours and related stress.


“The Democrats will base our decisions on the real world evidence, rather than the political rhetoric. Mr Reith would be well advised to start collecting his evidence and arguments carefully, as he is going to need them to persuade the entire Senate that further changes are needed,” Senator Murray concluded.


For further information: Di Graham 08 9481 1455 or 0419 958 038