Letter to the AFR regarding Workplace Relations Reform

24 August 2006

Laura Tingle's claim (Canberra observed, June 23) that Business Council criticism of federal Labor's announcement to scrap Australian workplace agreements (AWAs) and reverse the direction of workplace reform is "excessive and political" misses the point.

For the past two years, the Business Council of Australia has advocated the importance of reform in four key areas of the economy to sustain current levels of economic growth into the long term.

Further workplace relations reform is one of the four areas, together with infrastructure renewal, tax reform and cutting the burden of red tape on business.

The importance of reform in all four areas to Australia's future prosperity is supported by independent research commissioned by the BCA.

This research has demonstrated that reform in these areas will result in the average Australian being more than $70,000 better off by 2025, with Australia elevated to the third-most prosperous nation in the world.

In relation to the specific benefits of workplace relations reform, BCA-commissioned research has found the workplace relations change since the 1980s has led to the direct creation of 315,000 more jobs. Related BCA research has also highlighted the compelling link between workplace flexibility, as provided by instruments such as AWAs, and productivity growth.

As all parties consistently acknowledge, activity growth is vital if Australia is both to remain competitive as an economy while addressing emerging challenges such as the ageing workforce.

Therefore, any party announcing the intention to not only ignore the importance of, but reverse a key criterion for, Australia's prosperity will inevitably invite a strong response from any organisation concerned with sound policy. Federal Labor's announcement is not only counter to sound, independently supported policy but was framed without any meaningful consultation with business, a key stakeholder in any major policy related to the workplace.

In the same way the BCA has been critical of the federal government for not articulating a strategic plan for tax reform, the council will continue to highlight the necessity of putting Australia's long-term interests ahead of short-term political considerations.




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