Page 2098 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005

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their utmost within their power to further improve the strong relationship between the University of Canberra and the Belconnen region. Indeed, the ACT government has demonstrated its understanding of this relationship through the proposal for the City West development.

That commitment, unfortunately, has not been recognised by the federal government, which is laying the foundations for an assault on the university sector after 1 July. For staff of Australia’s universities, the most brutal aspect of this assault comes in the form of the new higher education workplace relations requirements. These changes have been specifically designed to test the implementation of the politically motivated industrial system of the Howard government. The fact that higher education institutions and their staff, both academic and non-academic, are being used as workplace reform guinea pigs is deplorable.

These requirements will force universities to place their employees on Australian workplace agreements in place of their existing enterprise bargaining agreements. Consequently, it will mean inferior working conditions for university employees, deteriorated wage negotiation positions and limited scope for representation within the workplace. Don’t believe me? Just watch this space. The administration of that alone will be disastrous for smaller campuses such as the University of Canberra. The pure red tape associated with administering up to 1,000 AWAs compared with a central enterprise bargaining agreement will dramatically affect the efficiency of university administration.

However, the much larger problem associated with the implementation of this individualistic culture within the university community is productivity. Members of the staff of the University of Canberra have told me that productivity increased dramatically during the implementation of the enterprise bargaining arrangements in the early 1990s. This statistic makes perfect sense. Staff actually work harder, more efficiently and effectively when they are secure in their employment. With the introduction of the federal government’s so-called reforms, university staff will no longer have the benefit of this security.

The Howard government is attempting to introduce industrial relation reforms for universities under the guise of productivity gains. However, expert analysis released today by 17 of the most eminent labour market academics in Australia contradicts such a claim. Through their spokesperson, Russell Landsbury, the academics, who are from nine of Australia’s most reputable universities, have called on the Prime Minister to abandon the reforms on the basis that the legislation would decrease productivity due to staff unease.

As many other industrial relations practitioners have already said, staff are more productive when they are secure in their employment and happy in their workplace. I do not think that one needs to be Einstein to figure that one out. Such characteristics only emerge from positive working conditions and collectively bargained contracts, which can only result from effective representation within the workplace.

Mr Speaker, there is a real need right now for our federal government to listen to the experts. The legislative program they are presenting currently will not improve the productivity of our universities, it will not improve Australia’s international standing as an education provider and it will not improve the community aspects of our universities.

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