11/03/2009 - 22:00

IR debate to intensify in Liberal camp

11/03/2009 - 22:00

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BUSINESSES nation-wide are waiting on the Liberal Party to formally announce its position on the federal government's industrial relations legislation, which moved to the Senate this week.

BUSINESSES nation-wide are waiting on the Liberal Party to formally announce its position on the federal government's industrial relations legislation, which moved to the Senate this week.

At time WA Business News went to press, the Liberals had yet to announce their position following a series of meetings, although six amendments had been released.

"We are targeting areas of the legislation which extend union power, provide a disincentive for employment and go beyond what the Labor Party took to the election in 2007," the Liberal Party said in a statement.

In particular, the Liberals are seeking to protect non-union employees' privacy and allow workers to decide democratically if they want a union representative to come on site.

The coalition also proposed the removal of union notice for greenfield agreements, and clarity over the definition of a small business. Currently, the government describes small business as having 15 employees or less; the opposition claims there is widespread concern that this is too low.

Under the government's IR proposals, employees at a small business will be able to make claims for unfair dismissal.

The government has flagged changes to its own draft laws, however, including heavy penalties for unions that abuse their right of entry to workplaces.

Liberal Senator Eric Abetz says the debate is no longer about the former government's WorkChoices regime.

"It won't do for (Labor) to try and wind back the clock and talk about the policy position we took to the last election because that is no longer our position," he said.

"What is under scrutiny in the Senate is the government's policy, legislation and policy impact on jobs."

Senator Abetz said the yardstick was whether the new laws would cost jobs.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson said business did not believe the government had got the balance right.

"The legislation will certainly cost jobs in some industries over a period of time. Our 800,000 small businesses expect ... the laws that are made by the parliament to reflect the realities of their business circumstances," Mr Anderson told reporters in Canberra.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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