THE FEDERAL ELECTION – Industrial Relations Policies

By on October 24, 2004

Sarah Kerr, CMPA Secretary

With the coming Federal election, the CMPA felt it appropriate to review the major parties industrial relations policies. The following article looks at the policies put forward by the Australian Labour Party, Australian Greens, and the Australian Democrats. Unfortunately the Liberal Party’s policy had not been released at the time of this publication.

Australian Labour Party (ALP)

The ALP’s policy was released on August 6th and is based on four key areas, or pillars, being:

  1. Improving job security, by protecting employee entitlements and preventing the misuse of casual employment and other forms of insecure employment to erode pay and working conditions
  2. Encouraging family-friendly workplaces that allow working Australians to balance work and family life
  3. Restoring the right of working Australians to bargain collectively
  4. Assisting parties to avoid and resolve disputes

To achieve these ‘pillars’, the ALP proposes the following:

  • Encourage the IRC to give casuals employed on a long term regular basis the right to make a reasonable request for conversion to permanent employment
  • Introduce a national employee entitlements scheme to protect 100% of employee entitlements. This will be funded by a levy of 0.1% of payroll for businesses with more than 20 employees
  • Support the participation of unions in health and safety matters and continue the tripartite forum at the national level for OHS
  • Encourage the IRC to allow parents returning from parental leave to make a reasonable request for part time work
  • Require the IRC to consider effective provisions to assist employees to combine work and family responsibilities when making awards etc
  • Restore the right of all working Australians to bargain collectively
  • Abolish Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA) and the Office of the Employment Advocate
  • Re-empower the IRC to settle long-running, intractable disputes
  • Ensure that parties bargain in good faith
  • Abolish the Building Industry Taskforce and establish a tripartite Building Industry Council
  • Support measures to ensure that the principle of equal pay is effectively applied to women in the workforce
  • Ensure employees can recover
  • underpayment of wages and
  • other entitlements

This information was drawn from the site

Australian Greens

The Australian Greens have based their industrial relations policy similarly on four key principles being:

  1. That the policy is underpinned by the principles of social justice and empowerment through workplace democracy
  2. That a just society provides opportunities for all people to engage in work which is safe and secure, satisfying and socially useful, and productive and environmentally sustainable
  3. That the objectives of profitability and efficiency should not override social and ecological objectives
  4. That the ability of workers to organise collectively in democratic unions is essential to achieving a sustainable democratic future.

Drawn from these key principles are fifteen short term goals towards which the Australian Greens plan to work to. These goals look at issues such as:

  • Restore power to the IRC
  • Abolish AWAs
  • Legislate the requirement of employers to negotiate with unions, and to allow union access to sites
  • Allow enterprise agreements to deal with economic, social and environmental matters
  • Legislatively protect the right to strike
  • Restore the right of all employees to challenge termination
  • Invest the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission with increased power and sufficient power
  • Increase the power of the IRC
  • Support a shorter working week without loss of pay
  • Provide a paid national parental leave scheme
  • Provide a national framework for accredited and transferable training
  • Encourage the growth and development of unions
  • Establish a scheme that would protect 100% of employee entitlements
  • Legislate to protect outworkers
  • Implement ILO Core Labour Standards 87, 98 (right to collective bargaining), 100, 111, 138, 29, 105, 182

For further information, see www.greens,

Australian Democrats

The Australian Democrats, in their ‘Work and Family’ issue sheet, recognise the growing pressure felt by Australians who have family responsibilities, whether it is raising children or caring for someone with a disability, frailty,
or mental illness.

While care-giving responsibilities have changed little, the structure of families has changed, accompanied by an increase in women’s participation
in the workforce.

Their key areas of concern are, in summary:

  1. Paid maternity leave
  2. Flexible workplaces
  3. Re-balancing working hours
  4. Childcare and elder-care

These areas of concern further supported with other measures including a mixture of tax rebates to encourage employers to fund dependent care expenses.

For further information see

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