We head into 2018 following an eventful 2017, including a Ministerial reshuffle and the shake-up of Federal Parliament due to the citizenship fiasco late in the year.
While it is impossible to predict exactly what is on the cards for Australia’s political landscape in 2018, we do have some clues as to what’s in store in the area of workplace relations policy.
AMMA’s policy team is keeping an eye on the following key pieces of workplace relations legislation which remained before Parliament at the end of last year:
- Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2017, which will introduce a much-needed public interest test for union mergers. This is an area in which AMMA did extensive work in 2017 and where we continue to lead the response and advocacy for the nation’s resources and construction employers.
- Fair Work Laws Amendment (Proper Use of Worker Benefits) Bill 2017, aimed at ensuring that money that is paid into funds for worker entitlements is held for the benefit of workers and not used for any other purpose.
- Fair Work Amendment (Repeal of 4 Yearly Reviews and Other Measures) Bill 2017, which will, among other things, overcome the requirement for strict compliance with Notice of Employee Representational Rights (NERR) requirements, remove the requirement for the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to conduct 4 yearly reviews of modern awards, and, following the amendment successfully introduced by the opposition, overturn the FWC’s February 2017 decision to reduce penalty rates in some awards.
With the Fair Work Amendment (Repeal of 4 Yearly Reviews and Other Measures) Bill 2017 not having passed before the FWC was due to commence its next 4 yearly review of modern awards (1 January 2018), FWC President Ross determined to delay the commencement of the next review. It is now not likely to commence before 2019 – after the current review has been completed and parties have been given an opportunity to consider how the recently reviewed modern awards are operating in practice.
AMMA’s key concern is for the introduction of a public interest test for union mergers, which includes consideration of the merging organisations’ history of compliance with Australia’s workplace laws.
In the lead up to Christmas we saw further examples of unashamed lawlessness by the CFMEU and its officials, at the cost of the taxpayer. The CFMEU and two of its officials were fined $242,000 for deliberately disrupting work on the $4.3 billion taxpayer funded regional rail project in Victoria.
In the Federal Court’s decision, Justice Tracey said the case ‘falls into a pattern of repeated disregard for the law’.
“The penalties, available under the Act, and imposed by the court, have not been sufficient to persuade the union and its officials to obey the law,” Justice Tracey said.
AMMA continues to encourage our parliamentarians to protect Australia’s public interest and pass this Bill as a priority in 2018.
We also know that the following issues will remain high on the agenda during 2018:
- Labour Hire Licensing – legislation is set to commence in Queensland and South Australia, with legislation in Victoria likely to pass early in the New Year. AMMA is continuing our efforts to ensure that the regulation in this space does not encroach into legitimate contracting and other commercial arrangements not traditionally thought of as labour hire.
- Skilled Migration – the next update to the Short-term Skilled Occupation List and the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List will occur in January, with a regular review of the lists every six months.
- Modern Slavery in Supply Chains Reporting Requirement – legislation to introduce a modern slavery in supply chains reporting requirement is expected be introduced in the first half of 2018.
- Greenfields Agreements – recommendations from the Review of the Greenfields Provisions of the Fair Work Amendment Act 2015 are likely to be made known early in the year, following the Review’s completion in November 2017.
- Future of Work – the Select Committee on the Future of Work and Workers is inquiring into the impact of technological and other change on the future of work and workers in Australia. Submissions are due by the end of January and the Committee is to report by 21 June 2018.
- FIFO in Queensland – the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act 2017 will commence in March 2018, impacting 100 per cent FIFO workforce arrangements on operational large resource projects which have a nearby regional community. In preparation for commencement, the Office of the Coordinator-General is seeking feedback on the draft Social Impact Assessment Guideline by 6 February 2018.
AMMA’s fortnightly News Update will provide further detail and opportunities for member input as developments occur in each of these areas of workplace policy during the first quarter of 2018.
Our dedicated policy team looks forward to proactively representing members’ interests in these areas and many more throughout the year. For more information on these issues or any other workplace policy matter, contact [email protected].