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Consultation period slammed as too short by employer groups

EMPLOYER groups have dismissed the 10-day public consultation period as laughable, given the complexity of the Industrial Relations Reform Bill 2002 and the enormous ramifications it will have for job opportunities and the WA economy.

Master Builders’ Association of WA director Michael McLean said it showed the Government’s mind was already made up.

“You can rest assured that the government won’t be moved in any philosophical sense,” he said.

He added a number of staff were piling through the 210-page draft bill as quickly as possible to meet the February 1 deadline.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA also questions the short time frame, considering the Government itself took about nine months longer than it originally intended as a result of the enormity of the changes.

“The consultation period we now have is hardly adequate. It’s really a token consultation,” CCI spokesman Bob Pride said.

He said the difficulties the Government faced in getting the Bill together meant it was now under a lot of pressure from the unions to get the changes pushed through.

“Consequently, we are presented with a Bill which is not ideal and is not ready for legislation,” Mr Pride said.

However, it is not the first time the Government has come under scrutiny for its consultation methods. Last week, Business News reported on a number of Bills where the consultation period was viewed as inadequate.

Groups were given just two weeks to comment on changes to the Minimum Conditions of Employment Act, while CBD stakeholders were given just two weeks to put in a submission on the proposed route of the Rockingham to Perth railway line, expected to run under the city.

WA Small Business and Enterprise Association executive director Philip Achurch said Labor needed to demonstrate they were genuine about consultation.

“If it turns out the Government is just treating the consultation period as a game, then there will be trouble,” Mr Achurch said.

WA political analyst and Curtin University Professor of Political History David Black said the consultation period was up to the discretion of the ministers.

He said the short public consultation period would indicate that the community and business views were already sought during the drafting of the Bill.

“Presumably during this one-year period, since the Government has got in, a lot of consultation has taken place,” Professor Black said.

But Bob Pride and Mr McLean said talks with industry groups had been sadly lacking.

“The consultation prior to the draft was virtually nil. We only had one bit of correspondence,” Mr Pride said.

“There certainly hasn’t been any consultation with the MBA,” Mr McLean said.

“There might have been a lot of consultation with the union, but I don’t think there was any consultation with industry.”

However, Australian Hotels’ Association WA executive director Bradley Wood said he had had several discussion with the Government.

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