Australian government introduces "Fair Work" to parliament

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Rudd Labor government introduced its "fair work" bill into the House of Representatives today, effectively dismantling the former government's WorkChoices industrial relations platform. The Australian Labor party campaigned heavily on abolishing WorkChoices at the 2007 election.

Julia Gillard introduced new industrial relations laws to federal parliament today
Image: Adam Carr.

The bill was presented to parliament by deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Industrial Relations, Julia Gillard. Introducing her government's bill, Ms Gillard said "Over a century ago at Federation, Australians decided that we would be different to other nations. Democratic, yes. With parliamentary institutions, judicial independence and individual rights similar to those of other great democracies like the United Kingdom and the United States of America, but without their wide social inequalities."

Ms Gillard said the WorkChoices platform said "make your own way in the world; without the comfort of mateship; without the protections afforded by a compassionate society; against odds deliberately stacked against you. No safety net. No rights at work. No cooperation in the workplace to take the nation forward."

Ms Gillard said that by voting for Labor at the last election, Australians had stayed true to Australian values. According to Ms Gillard the new Industrial Relations System "balances the interests of employers and employees and balances the granting of rights with the imposition of responsibilities."

Central to the bill is:

  • A safety net of ten minimum conditions that every employee has the right to. Including rules surrounding hours of weekly work, public holidays, leave, notice and redundancy pay;
  • For bargaining between employees and employers to be done in good faith;
  • Unfair dismissal protections;
  • Workers earning more than A$100,000 a year being exempt from award wages;
  • The establishment of Fair Work Australia to oversee worker's rights and review minimum pay levels.

A vote is expected in the House of Representatives by the end of the year, but a Senate inquiry will be held before the bill is debated by the Senate. Leader of the opposition, Malcolm Turnbull said the Coalition will vote in favour of the bill in the House of Representatives, but will reserve the right to amend it in the Senate.

Ms Gillard says the Government expects a Senate inquiry to look at the bill, but will not tolerate a delay.

"They shouldn't stand in the way of the Australian people, they should pass this bill," she said.

Neither unions or employers were completely satisfied with the bill, which the government has hailed as evidence it has come up with a balanced system.