FOLLOWING three anti-business, pro-union legislative changes passing through parliament late last week, AMMA chief executive Steve Knott issued this public statement calling for the next Australian Government (ALP or Coalition) to work with business, not against it.
DESPITE positive statements last Wednesday night that he would work with business, our new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s rhetoric did not match reality.
In less than two days after taking the leadership, our new PM waved through the parliament three anti-business, pro-union legislative changes – key Gillard-era legislation carried by one vote with a gaggle of independents.
Business had hoped for a change to sound investment, job creation and economic policies, but this marked an immediate disappointing start to his second chance at governing for all Australians. These legislative changes, with some provisions already coming into effect, were all rushed and are bad for business.
If he was serious about forging stronger ties with the Australian business community, the new PM would have stopped these irresponsible laws in their tracks. On the back of ramming these anti business laws through parliament, restoring some form of confidence with the business community will be a steep climb.
Our country has rich natural resources and world-class technical expertise, yet the legacy of this Labor Government has been failure in workplace relations and regulatory/taxation management that has seen Australia become the most difficult and expensive place in the world to build and operate large resources projects.
Our nation can do much better on productivity, it can do much better on competitiveness and it can do much better on keeping our resource industry strong well beyond temporary ‘booms’.
Working more closely with resource employers and the wider business community to fix these issues and deliver this long-term economic strength is a great challenge for the next Australian Government – whether it is an Abbott-led Coalition government or a Rudd Labor Government.
Fair Work Amendment Act 2013
AMMA maintains the government had no mandate for its latest changes to the Fair Work Act which included uninvited union intrusions into employee lunchrooms and employers subsidising remote site visits for union officials. It represents more efforts to artificially impose unions between employers and employees, regardless of the views of workers or the community.
This pandering to the government’s trade union constituents moves the ALP further away from their 2007 promise to leave existing laws governing union access to Australian workplaces as they were.
It should be noted that the government’s own Fair Work Review Panel did not recommend these extreme changes and, in my view, this overreach in the dying days of the 43rd parliament could go down as the ALP’s IR legislative WorkChoices moment.
These latest privileges for unions need winding back and hopefully either the current or Australia’s next government will restore balance and sensibility in this area by rescinding these laws.
For a wrap of these latest Fair Work changes, click here.
Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Act 2013
The divisive and borderline-xenophobic debate current around temporary skilled migration is both embarrassing to our nation’s international reputation and is playing out very negatively in the global investment marketplace.
There remains no evidence backing these laws to unnecessarily restrict employer access to the 457 Visa skilled migration program that has been proven to be both socially responsible and economically responsive. The 457 Visa scheme plays a very small, but very effective role in filling crucial areas of skills shortages on significant resources projects.
We also note these amendments are clearly contradictory to the position of former Immigration Minister and the new Treasurer of Australia the Honourable Chris Bowen MP, who as recently as late 2012 repeated his effusive support for the 457 Visa scheme at an AMMA Migration Conference.
For more information about these 457 visa changes, click here.
The Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Act 2013
AMMA remains bewildered at the lack of scrutiny and due process paid to the Migration Amendment (Offshore Resources Activity) Bill 2013, which passed into law last week and which will double the reach of Australia’s laws, potentially breaching our international legal obligations.
We consistently lobbied against these changes due to the concern they will add more red tape, more costs and more union interference to Australia’s offshore resource industry – an industry that is worth many billions of dollars and creates thousands of jobs.
The proposals in this bill are not ‘tweaking’ or ‘closing a loophole’ as the Immigration Minister and Maritime Union of Australia assert. They are radical changes that are out of line with how this industry operates anywhere else in the world.
Read more about these changes here.
In closing, following the passing of these laws AMMA hopes Prime Minister Rudd demonstrates his newfound declaration of wanting to work with business by engaging with industry representatives on how the government can promote competitiveness, investment and growth in our nation’s valuable resource industry.