Australian opposition promises to scrap workplace agreements

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Kim Beazley, Australian opposition leader
Wikinews Australia has in-depth coverage of this issue: Australian industrial relations legislation, 2005

Kim Beazley leader of the Australian opposition has promised to scrap workplace agreements introduced as part of the Howard government's controversial Workchoices industrial relations reforms.

Speaking at the New South Wales Australian Labor Party today, Mr Beazley promised that a government under his leadership would create "a land of decency and fairness". Mr Beazley said such a plan has no place for individual Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA).

"I believe AWAs are nothing more than a means to cut wages, cut conditions, undermine decency and fairness in our workplaces," he said.

"So today delegates I announce that a Beazley Labor government will abolish John Howard's Australian Workplace Agreements."

The opposition leader told his party faithful that AWAs can not be fixed. "I know AWAs can't be fixed, they can't be made good, they must be rejected," said Mr Beazley.

Mr Beazley said a government under his leadership would reward hard work and effort.

"The government I lead will be guided by one core principle - when you put in, you get back," he said.

"That's my pact with middle Australia. When Australian workers put in a good day's work they'll get job security, decent wages, decent conditions, decent protections against unfair dismissal."

The announcement comes as the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) launches its multi-million dollar advertisement campaign against the government's changes. The unions say their ads portray the stories of real Australians who have been affected by the government's industrial relations reforms.

ACTU leader Greg Combet welcomed Mr Beazley's proposal, saying they were beneficial for both the ALP and the nation as a whole.

"It means that there is a clear choice between the Liberal-National government and the Labor Party on these industrial relations issues at the next election," he said.

"More important than policy commitments, what Mr Beazley is clearly articulating are labour movement values: fairness, decency, respect for people, dignity in their workplace, the right to be represented, sharing in the economic wealth.

"These are all extremely important values that he is articulating and I think it is those values that are going to put Labor in good stead."

Mr Combet said that the ALP state conference in NSW showed the amount of support Mr Beazley has within his party, despite recent party in-fighting, leadership speculation and attempts by the government to undermine Mr Beazley's leadership.

Australian Prime Minister, John Howard accused Mr Beazley of giving in to union pressure. "It is clear from Mr Beazley’s AWA rollback plan that the Labor Party will do whatever it takes to make the unions happy, even if it is at the expense of Australian workers," he said.

Mr Howard accused Mr Beazley of planning a return to an industrial relations system that left one million Australians without work. Mr Howard also said that Mr Beazley has promised to eliminate AWAs but has failed to put forward a replacement. "Mr Beazley today proposed that Labor would abandon AWAs but did not outline any replacement for the existing arrangements," said Mr Howard.

In a statement, Mr Howard said that Mr Beazley had no plan to ensure the continued growth of the Australian economy and accused Mr Beazley and his party of failing to "take advantage of an increasingly competitive global marketplace".

Defending his government's legislation that allows AWAs, Mr Howard said that AWAs give negotiating power to workers. "AWAs now play an integral role in the nation’s workplace relations culture, with almost one million Australian workers since 1996 enjoying the benefits of making workplace agreements on their terms, " he said

The Prime Minister also dismissed any claims that AWAs have reduced wages and satisfaction of employees. "AWAs have delivered higher wages, greater productivity and enhanced satisfaction for employees, " he said.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.