The Morrison Government has started making some noises about what it intends to do in reforming the laws around industrial relations. Those noises are made with considerable political caution. So far it’s all been about industry/employer groups being the engine room for suggestions of change.
The political advantage in getting industry to suggest change rather than the government is that blame can be laid upon industry in the event the changes are unpopular. One of the big problems with Work Choices was that it could be clearly seen as John Howard’s baby so when the public turned against Work Choices they turned against Howard at the same time.
The Morrison Government has obviously decided that this won’t happen to them! They say they will only pursue change that industry suggests to them. What has industry suggested so far? Perhaps unsurprisingly the major employer groups appearing to be singing from identical sheet music. Here is what the public has been hearing so far:
- Hasten on with personal tax cuts
- Change the Unfair Dismissal law to achieve “clarity”
- Change the Adverse Action law to achieve “consistency of tribunal decisions”
- Amend the Fair Work Act to include a clear definition of what the words “casual employee” mean
- Tweak the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) for enterprise agreements so that the test applies to logical groups of employees not to every employee
- Hasten on with the Ensuring Integrity Bill in relation to trade union officials
Nothing earth shattering there but I wonder whether the government will restrict itself only to those six matters or will it move a little bit more widely? For instance, will individual contracts make a comeback? You would be foolish to say that such a thing won’t happen. We watch with interest as the next few months are likely to reveal where the government will head on industrial relations change.