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News News PM works hard on empty pledges
By Julia Gillard

May 08, 2007 12:00

Article from: The DailyTelegraph

THE Howard Government is about to spend yet another bucketload of your money to fund more industrial relations advertising.

That's millions of taxpayers' dollars about to be wasted on a so-called information campaign about the Howard Government's fake industrial relations fairness test.

Last time, the Government spent $55 million of taxpayers' money to tell us about its extreme industrial relations laws. Now the total ripped out of the wallets of hard-working families is going to be $60, $70, $80 million or more - and for what?

For more untruths.

In the last advertising campaign, John Howard told Australian working families their overtime and penalty rates would be "protected by law".

Who could forget it? It was stamped on the ads like a guarantee.

Sadly, leaked data from the Government's own agency, the Office of the Employment Advocate, shows the conditions Howard promised Australian working families would be "protected by law" - things like penalty rates, overtime, public holiday pay - are being stripped away without compensation.

This data demonstrates what Australians have suspected for some time.

Under Howard's Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs), 75.4 per cent scrap shift-work loadings, 69.5 per cent scrap bonuses, 67.6 per cent scrap penalty rates, 52.3 per cent scrap public holiday pay and 51.4 per cent scrap overtime.

Indeed, 45 per cent of Australians on Howard's AWAs lost all 11 award conditions he promised would be "protected by law".

Under Howard, 75 per cent of these AWAs do not specify or do not guarantee a pay increase. And AWAs can operate for up to five years.

So much for the Government's claims that people are bargaining their overtime and penalty rates away for higher pay.

Just like last time, all Australian working families can expect from the new round of taxpayer funded advertising is hollow promises.

This time around, their hard-earned money will be used to tell them the Government has heard their concerns and will be introducing a "fairness" test for new workplace agreements.

Australia's working families know that this is yet another attempt by the Government to hoodwink them on industrial relations, and get Australian working families to pay for it.

Under this test, Australian workers earning up to $75,000 are supposedly going to get something if they lose entitlements like penalty rates, overtime pay, shift loadings and public holidays.

They are the very conditions Howard said were going to be "protected by law" and are now supposedly going to be protected by his fake fairness test.

His fake fairness test is full of holes. The test provides that an employee earning less than $75,000 must be given fair compensation if their so-called protected award conditions are taken away.

But in the fine print is the fact that you may not get fair compensation for losing all your entitlements if your employer is struggling, or where the offer of a job is deemed sufficient compensation, or where you are provided with something you don't need.

The worst thing about this sham test is that it has been introduced for purely political reasons. Howard has confirmed he still does not believe workers are losing pay and entitlements on AWAs and this test is merely to address the perception that people are.

And it won't last a day after the election if Howard is re-elected. Treasurer, Mr Costello had the chance on Sunday to say the test would stay if they were re-elected. He failed to promise the so-called fairness test would stay.

Labor can promise that fairness will be key to our industrial relations system every day, not just in the lead up to an election.

Labor believes we can have a productive economy and have fairness in our workplaces. We don't believe this is a choice - we believe they can go together.

Our policy - Forward with Fairness - guarantees minimum conditions for all working Australians such as hours of work, parental leave, flexible work for parents, personal leave, long-service leave and termination of employment and redundancy arrangements.

These conditions also include specific measures to help Australians balance their work and family commitments. Parents will have unpaid leave options so they can provide care for their children in the first two years. Under Labor, parents may also request flexible work arrangements until their children reach school age.

Labor will ensure there is fairness in bargaining, so employees don't get offered take-it-or-leave-it wage cutting AWAs and employers can just ignore the wishes of their employees to bargain collectively.

That is why we have put enterprise bargaining at the workplace level at the centre of our new system.

The best way to drive productivity in our workplaces is to let people who work as a team, negotiate their pay and conditions as a team - if that is what they want.

Experience and common sense tells us that this type of co-operation can make workplaces more efficient - and allow employers and employees to share the benefits. There's no better fairness test than that.

* Julia Gillard is Labor's employment and IR spokeswoman

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