Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Further workplace reform on the agenda.

Download PDFDownload PDF

   The Hon. Peter Reith, MP       Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business       Leader of the House of Representatives       Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

9 May 2000 69/00



The Workplace Relations Act 1996 , now in its fourth year, has transformed Australia’s workplace relations system. Responsibility for wages and conditions and work practices has been put back where it belongs - into the hands of employers and employees at the workplace level.

Australia’s old industrial relations system emphasised the settlement of disputes by third parties. It relied far more on tribunals, unions and employer associations than on encouraging employers and employees to reach practical outcomes based on the circumstances of their particular enterprise.

Employers and employees are now much more likely to make agreements at the enterprise level. Some 17,235 collective agreements were made in the first three years of the Act. More than 10 percent of these have been made directly with employees under Section 170LK of the Act. There are now more than 100,000 individual Australian Workplace Agreements.

These agreements have contributed to improved productivity, higher real wages and greater access to family friendly provisions. Along with other important provisions in the Workplace Relations Act relating to freedom of association and clearer rights and responsibilities for unions and employers, they have made Australia’s workplace relations system more responsive and adaptable to the competitive pressures of today’s economy.

We can,and must, do even better. In an environment of accelerating structural and technological change, Australia needs to keep improving the efficiency of its enterprises.

The Government intends to continue to pursue its agenda for further reform of the workplace relations system - set out in its 1998 workplace relations election policy - during the course of this Parliamentary year.

A key element of the Government’s reform agenda is to introduce stand-alone registered organisations legislation to increase transparency in organisations' financial affairs, enhance their accountability to members and improve democratic control of organisations by their members. An exposure draft of the Registered Organisations Bill 2000 was released for public comment in December 1999 after extensive consultation with interested parties.The intention in releasing the exposure draft was to continue the process of wide consultation in the development of this Bill to ensure the

views of all interested parties are taken into account.

The Government is now considering whether amendments to the Bill are appropriate in light of comments made on the draft and intends to introduce legislation in the 2000 Winter sittings of Parliament.

The Bill reflects a diverse range of interests. It maintains unchanged many of the existing arrangements that work effectively, but also crystallises the Government’s intention to:

modernise the regulation of employee and employer organisations;  ● improve the efficiency of the regulatory regime;  ● ensure that the rights and responsibilities of registered organisations are consistent with the other elements of the workplace relations



establish increased accountability levels in respect of political donations by industrial organisations; and ●

reduce the level of taxpayer funding of union and employer association elections from 100% to 80%.  ●

The Bill would remove all provisions dealing with the registration of organisations and their regulation from the Workplace Relations Act and establish a separate Registered Organisations Act.

Looking towards more fundamental reform, on a number of occasions I have raised the idea of moving to a more simple, national system by using the Commonwealth Constitution’s corporations power. The proposal is not Government policy but it has some intrinsic benefits for both employers and employees.

The benefits include:

a move away from the wasteful duplication and complexity involved in maintaining Federal and State workplace relations systems to a more coherent national framework;


enhanced safety net coverage and compliance for Australian workers -of particular benefit to the low-paid; and ●

an end to the cumbersome, confusing and costly procedures that have developed over almost 100 years of the operation of the conciliation and arbitration system.


Under a revised system, there would be a continued role for awards and the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, unions and employer bodies, but under a different statutory framework. The focus would continue to be on enterprise and workplace agreement making, with the underlying protection of a national safety net.

I am eager to foster widespread discussion of this proposal and I will be releasing a series of papers to promote informed debate on the subject. Following the release of the papers, a series of seminars will be held. I am keen to ensure maximum opportunity for the Australian community to

comment on the proposal to further enhance our workplace relations and industry’s productivity

For further information contact: Brett Hogan 0419 484 095

The way that the GST affects Budget estimates, accounting statements and appropriations is described in Budget paper No. 4.

Back to Top      Back to Media releases


home  |  search  |  contact us disclaimer | privacy statement | © copyright Department of Employment, Workplace Relations & Small Business