Government denies illegality allegations

THE WA Government has rebutted suggestions that the draft Industrial Relation Reform Bill 2002 is illegal in light of the new Federal Privacy Act brought in last month.

The issue of legality has been brought to the attention of the Office of the Federal Privacy Commissioner, providing it with the first major test case since the law was introduced.

The legislation will give unions the power to enter workplaces and search through confidential time and wage records of all employees, including those that are not a member of a union, all without requiring the consent of the employee.

Responding to the illegality charges, a spokesman for WA Consumer and Employment Protection Minister John Kobelke said there was no evidence the Bill would be illegal.

“Our advice is there is no issue here (in relation to inconsistencies with the Privacy Act) but, because this has been raised, we are getting this checked anyway,” he said.

He added that many employers who were doing the right thing and looking after their workers would actually welcome the opportunity for their competitors to get checked out to see if they were paying below the minimum wage.

WA unions, welcoming the new powers that are enshrined in the legislation, have joined the Government in defending the legality of the legislation.

Australian Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers’ Union assistant secretary David Kelly, who represents 18,000 WA members, said the focus on privacy was just a smokescreen from employers.

“The whole issue of privacy is nothing but a furphy from the business community.

“The proposed bill just puts in place conditions that existed prior to 1993,” Mr Kelly said.

He said the notion that employees would be unhappy with the release of sensitive employment records was also not likely.

“I’ve never had an employee saying they are unhappy with that,” he said.

“The Workplace Agreement Act in a lot of industries has driven wages down, particularly in cleaning and hospitality.”

He said a survey of employers in the hospitality industry indicated that 90 per cent were breaching the laws and not paying the award. Reason enough, he feels, to reintroduce checks into the system that have been absent since former Labour Relations Minister Mr Kierath introduced his industrial relations reform.

But while Mr Kelly believes there is a need for such union power, the Bill may has raised questions over whether the Privacy Act holds sway over State legislation and whether employee records are exempt from the National Privacy Policy.

Federal Attorney-General Daryl Williams is also investigating the claims by the business community. A spokesman for Mr Williams said a review was under way, which should shed light on the issue.

With the State Government now firmly focused on its industrial relations agenda, the finding from the review will be more pressing than ever.

MANY marketing companies in WA have had to develop more comprehensive, broad-based services to meet the strategic planning and creative needs of their clients, according to Braincells Creative Marketing chief executive officer Allen Burtenshaw.

Mr Burtenshaw believes that clients’ demand for value for money has led marketing companies to diversify into areas such as creative advertising, design, media buying and e-marketing services, as a means of adding further value to their core strategic planning services.

“I think clients are obviously demanding a lot more value for money at this point of time. They are wanting marketing/advertising companies that can really add value and complement their own thoughts and strategies,” he said. “I don’t think that clients are accepting any more that just a creative idea is going to solve the problem, it has to be more strategic.”

Mr Burtenshaw considers the move by Braincells Creative Marketing to develop its business into an integrated marketing and advertising service provider to be one of the main reasons it has not been seriously affected by the recent economic difficulties.

“From what I have heard there are some, strictly speaking, advertising agencies that are finding times different, that perhaps they are not as lucrative,” he said. “I believe that the client these days is looking for more of a marketing-cum-advertising service.”

Caron Marketing chief executive officer David Stephens believes total service provision is a natural progression for the industry, as marketing companies have long been telling their clients to value add to their products and services. Now, it seems, the marketing industry is starting to practise what it preaches.

The trend towards total service provision being sought by clients of marketing companies is leading to further rationalisation within the marketing and advertising industries in WA, according to The Marketing Mix chief executive officer Chris McCarthy.

“I think there is some rationalisation going on at the moment,” Mr McCarthy said.

“We have got other agencies coming to us saying ‘let’s join forces’. We have had two approaches from companies saying maybe we can utilise each other’s resources and be a bigger player.”

Mr Stephens believes small niche marketing companies are having to form alliances with advertising and promotions companies in order to remain competitive with the larger marketing companies.

“What were nice little niche marketing companies now realise that they have to spread their base because of this greater service that people want,” Mr Stephens said. “You need to get these alliances in place so that you can act in the same comparative level of a fully 100 per cent packaged company.”

But even with talk of rationalisation within the industry, all of the industry sources contacted by Business News believe that 2002 is shaping up to be a better year for their respective businesses.

This, they believe, is due to rising consumer confidence, with businesses looking to engage the services of marketing companies in order to set a long-term strategic plan for the branding of their image and to re-establish their position in the marketplace.

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