Country Report Australia October 1996 Main report

Economic policy: Federal gov't woos Democrats on indust'l relations

The Democrats have agreed to support an amended version of the federal government's Workplace Relations Bill. The Democrats support award simplification (provided that workers do not lose minimum conditions), the government's proposed employment advocate (an ombudsman-like figure) and its reforms to unfair dismissal legislation. However, they oppose other areas which they think may be covered by the legislation, including the permitting of non-union individual contracts which are not vetted by the Industrial Relations Commission, the repeal of the "conveniently belong" rule which reduces the number of unions in the workplace and secondary boycott legislation which draws in consumer and environmental boycotts. It is unclear what exactly the Democrats mean by consumer and environmental boycotts, and whether the government ever had any intention of including them in industrial relations legislation. It is probable that the Democrats have raised the issue in an attempt to reinforce their claim to have a "watchdog" role. The Democrats support secondary boycott legislation relating to industrial relations matters.

It is thought likely that differences between the government and the Democrats can be resolved and that the bill will be passed by the Senate in October.

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