Howard government's changes to its IR laws

For the last year, the Howard government has been trying to convince the Australian public that its new IR laws are fair. This announcement that it will change parts of its IR legislation is simply an admission that these laws were unfair all along.

What this announcement shows is that the Howard government has been lying all along to the Australian public about the 'fairness' of its WorkChoices laws.

A bad piece of legislation that takes away workers rights and drives down wages and award conditions remains a bad piece of legislation no matter how much window dressing and political spin John Howard gives it.

These changes do not reinstate the unfair dismissal laws that John Howard took away from working Australian’s. They don’t allow for collective bargaining. And they certainly don’t ease the fears that parents have over what will happen to their children when the time comes for them to enter the workforce.

They are not retrospective. They add no new protections for workers and they leave power concentrated in the hands of employers at the expense of employees.

Rather, they are piecemeal changes that have been made solely for political reasons by an opportunistic politician. They are piecemeal changes that are big on rhetoric, but small on content.

In the lead up to the last election John Howard kept Australian’s in the dark about his IR reforms. He chose instead to force his unfair IR laws on Australian workers and working families after the 2004 election when he gained control of the Senate.

John Howard also promised that a number of conditions would still be protected by law, yet data leaked last month from the Office of the Employment Advocate showed that 44% of all AWAs scrapped every single condition that John Howard promised would be protected by law.

This next federal election is about trust. It is about protecting the idea of ‘a fair go’ in Australia. And it is about asking ourselves what sort of future we want to see for our children.

The Australian public know that John Howard's pre-election promises do not necessarily get delivered in government.

The Howard government’s changes to its IR laws have nothing to do with protecting the jobs of working Australians. They are about trying to save John Howard’s job.

Labor's industrial relations policy puts fairness back in the workplace whilst providing business with the flexibility it needs to meet the challenges of today's economy.

It guarantees a safety net of ten legislated national employment standards and modern simple industry awards for employees.

It helps working Australians balance their work and family commitments through flexible working arrangements and flexible parental leave rules.

It restores unfair dismissal protections for hard working Australians, and reinstates a genuinely independent umpire to hear unfair dismissal claims.

And it ensures that when a majority of employees at a workplace want a collective agreement, employers must bargain collectively

Contact: Alex Kouttab