Page 3447 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 21 September 2005

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productivity. David Peetz, Professor of Industrial Relations at Griffith University, examined the New Zealand economy from 1991 to 1996 when the country undertook a major reform of its employment landscape, including a strong push for individual contracts.

In the same period, the Australian Labor Party, through the then federal government, remained committed to collective enterprise bargaining. In comparing the two countries he found that during this period Australia had considerably higher productivity. The drop in New Zealand’s productivity was due to employers switching from capital intensive methods of production to cheaper labour. This lead to a growing skills shortage as employers lost the incentive to invest in what was a largely disposable work force. Today, New Zealand’s Treasury working papers openly question the economic benefits of a deregulated labour market.

Peetz went on to compare Australia’s productivity alone, for the period of collective bargaining introduced by Labor to the current productivity cycle, beginning in 1999, which had seen an increased use of the AWA. Again, he found that productivity dropped from a peak of 3.2 per cent per annum during enterprise bargaining to just 2.3 per annum now. This number, 2.3 per cent, is actually below the annual growth rate that existed during the award period of the early 1980s.

Mr Speaker, the facts speak for themselves. These changes will have a detrimental impact on the working conditions, lives and social context of the territory. For this reason, the government supports Mr Gentleman’s motion.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.48): Mr Speaker, I support Mr Gentleman’s motion. According to Bradon Ellem, who is the Associate Professor of Work and Organisational Studies in the School of Business at the University of Sydney, the federal government’s industrial relations policy, alluringly subtitled A plan for a modern workplace, constitutes the most significant legislative change since the passing of the original Conciliation and Arbitration Act 101 years ago.

The Greens, at local, regional and national levels, have been campaigning for fair industrial relations laws since the party’s inception. At a national level, the Green’s industrial relations policies recognise that:

The last two decades of “workplace reform” have seen the systematic reduction in the safety-net of workers’ rights and entitlements, the weakening of the national system of arbitration and awards, and the deliberate weakening of the role of unions. These changes have gravely disadvantaged the most vulnerable and the least affluent workers, many of whom are women and young people.

The Australian Greens believe that it is necessary to redress the lack of balance between workers and employers. We believe that all human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue their well-being in conditions of freedom and dignity, economic security and equal opportunity.

More importantly, the policy goes on to say:

The objectives of profitability and efficiency should not override social and ecological objectives.

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