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Business faces greater complexity and red tape from today.

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Stephen Smith MP Shadow Minister for Industry, Infrastructure and Industrial Relations Member for Perth

21/06 27 March 2006


On the day the Government’s industrial relations legislation commenced I asked the Prime Minister the following in Question Time:

Isn’t it the case that the legislation and regulations which take effect today consist of 1252 pages of legislation and explanatory materials and 592 pages of regulations and supplementary materials, more than 1800 pages in total?

Does the Prime Minister agree with the view of the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Finance, Senator Nick Minchin when he said to the HR Nicholls Society on 3 March that the unintended consequences were "mind-boggling"?

Or does the Prime Minister agree with comments by HR Nicholls President Ray Evans that the legislation is

…rather like going back to the old Soviet system of command and control, where every economic decision has to go back to some central authority and get ticked off…

Isn’t your so-called simple, single system just a complex dog’s breakfast or as the Prime Minister put it, strangulation by regulation?

John Howard simply said no and refused to answer the question.

But the problem for the Prime Minister is that it’s not just Labor making this point.

Chris Briggs, a research fellow with Sydney University's Workplace Research Centre (formerly known as the Australian Centre for Industrial Relations Research and Training - ACIRRT)

The finest legal minds in the country can't work out the meanings of some of these sections, so you can expect some lengthy court cases required to sort out the

detail…It will take quite a bit of time for its effects to flow through, and legally it's going to take a long time to sort out. (The Age, 27 March 2006)

Tim Frost, a Melbourne partner with law firm Allens Arthur Robinson

Many businesses will strongly resist aspects, in particular the 38-hour week and the time-keeping requirements… If the Government were to respond to the resistance that I expect would arise, then I expect it would be necessary to alter the legislation. (The Age, 27 March 2006)

Dr Michael Shaper, President, Small Enterprise Association of Australia and New Zealand

…business owners will be in the dark. (AFR, 23 March 2006)

Tony Steven, Chief Executive of the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia said of the Government’s changes:

…for the regulations to be released on Sunday and then come into effect on the 27th does not leave much time for small business…to digest the amount of information… (AFR, 23 March 2006)

The Government’s ideological pursuit of its extreme industrial relations changes ignores the reality of the on the ground position of business operators, particularly small business seeking to make ends meet.

Because of the complexity of the Government’s legislation and regulations, these business operators don’t know where they stand. A handful of Government seminars won’t fix that.

There are 1800 pages of complexity and red tape for small business to wade through. That’s 1800 pages of additional obligations on employers, including

• Keeping records of employees details; • Calculating nominal daily hours for full-time and part-time employees; • Calculating and record variations to nominal hours; • Keeping records of accrual dates for all forms of leave; • Keeping records of agreements on any averaging of hours agreed between

employers and employees; • Keeping all records about payments made to employees; • Showing the basis for the calculation of the rates of pay determined with employees; • Keeping time records for all employees, including those who don’t work fixed

hours such as managers, with nominal hours and variations fully detailed; and

• Keeping all records for up to seven years.

The Government’s extreme industrial relations changes do nothing to build workplace productivity and do nothing to make Australia more internationally competitive. It has everything to do with an ideological desire to reduce wages, slash conditions and entitlements, and remove safety nets.

And from today the Government’s ideological obsession means that Australian business have to deal with a complete dog’s breakfast that will only lead to greater complexity and more confusion for business, particularly for small business.

Contact: Courtney Hoogen on (02) 6277 4108 or 0414 364 651