10/08/2004 - 22:00

Labor could create an IR minefield

10/08/2004 - 22:00

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Overshadowed by some clever politicking by Labor leader Mark Latham on the US Free Trade Agreement, the Federal Opposition’s industrial relations policy has failed to get the scrutiny it deserves.

Overshadowed by some clever politicking by Labor leader Mark Latham on the US Free Trade Agreement, the Federal Opposition’s industrial relations policy has failed to get the scrutiny it deserves.

As we have pointed out several times in recent months, Labor is committed to abolishing Federal Workplace Agreements, among a raft of unsurprising proposals that would effectively corner employers rather than the current choice offered today.

Among the policy initiatives are a new payroll tax and widening the role of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

None of this is favoured by industry.

What is also clearly enshrined in the policy is the increasing role of the trade union movement, the major financial backers of the Labor Party.

All of these issues are wrapped in feel-good statements like fairness and work-life balance, signed off with clever slogans like “John Howard’s race to the bottom”.

Few people would argue against the egalitarian ideals of Australia but it is getting tiring to think that we need to return to an industrial relations environment of decades ago to achieve that.

Should any modern Australian government be enshrining another body with the power to do work it should be doing itself? Especially when that body is its key source of funds.

To me it’s all so archaic.

Yes, workers need strong advice in times of adversity and, occasionally, protection from bad employers. But that is the job of government to monitor.

In addition, we don’t need these constant layers of legislation and rules blanketing industry to ensure a few people are protected from even fewer poor employers. Unions argue for this because many have proved unrepresentative of their constituencies, losing members as they constantly choose to fight the wrong fights.

It’s one thing to stick up for the underdog, it’s another to consistently choose the lowest common denominator.

Competitive Australians striving to improve their lot don’t want to be lumped in with those too inflexible to take advantage of changes in the workplace.

Note an interesting story on page 6, which reveals that workers on AWAs at a BHP Billiton operation in WA were paid 8 per cent above their unionised colleagues. That is because their flexibility rewarded both themselves and the employer.

Adding a new payroll levy to fund a Labor guarantee of 100 per cent of employee entitlements is another blanket approach to IR policy. It taxes all employers for the poor decisions of a few – and the more successful you are the more others people’s failures cost you.

That’s just wrong.

Worse than that, a new tax of 0.1 per cent is easy to increase every time the government needs a bit more money.

Bingo, we have two payroll taxes weighing down business from getting on with the job of employing people.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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