5 March 2014

Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA)

IT is reckless for Labor and the Greens to prejudicially oppose the government’s moderate changes to Australia’s workplace laws, before even hearing from important sectors like the resource industry about how they will support greater confidence, investment and job creation.

“The resource industry is very concerned that Labor and the Greens have already declared their intentions to block the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014,” says Scott Barklamb, executive director of Australia’s national resource industry employer group, AMMA.

“With $50 billion less in the resource industry project pipeline than just 12 months ago, and unemployment rising to a decade high of 6%, now is not the time to play knee-jerk partisan politics on nationally important reform.

“Martin Ferguson was right on the money last week when he said moderate workplace change was critical to boosting Australia’s global competitiveness.

“When an ex-union and Labor figure as experienced and respected as Mr Ferguson supports important changes long advocated by AMMA and other industry groups, it is time for others in the Labor movement to open their ears and open their minds.

“This is really a basic set of changes limited to what is most urgent to start getting our system back into a competitive balance.

“If we can’t achieve this important but modest level of workplace reform, what hope is there of ensuring Australia can successfully navigate coming economic and labour market challenges?”

Mr Barklamb notes that some specific criticisms recently coming from opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor’s office are erroneous.

“Key changes in the 2014 Bill directly relate to recommendations of the former government’s Fair Work Review Panel and are an execution of what the Coalition clearly said it would do prior to being elected,” he says.

“None of the proposed changes will erode pay and conditions, and it is disappointing Mr O’Connor’s did not make a more considered and informed contribution to discussion on the Bill.

“It is particularly disappointing that before any parliamentary committee has even started to consider the detail of the legislation, that we find two of the key voting blocks prejudging it.

“The Greens and Labor need to engage with the detail of what is proposed, and with the experiences of industry working with current, fundamentally-flawed legislation.

“The unemployed and underemployed in particular need our decision makers to do better than automatic, knee jerk opposition to critically important labour market reform.”

Click here for background on some of the government’s proposed workplace changes and the importance to Australia’s resource industry.

For a PDF of this release including relevant media contact, click here.