Alan Fels and Fred Brenchley have a somewhat strange piece in the AFR this morning. They argue that embracing IR changes could be paradoxically be good for the ALP by allowing them to progress towards being a social democrat party, they also fail to give any consideration as to the distributional and social effects of the changes (which any social democratic party would do automatically).
They do make a good point in that the changes to the IR system are neither here, nor there:
“While the reforms address a national IR system, wage setting, unfair dismissals, union muscle and the future of individual agreements, they leave in place an array of restrictive practices, monopoly power and federal-state overlapping controls that sustain a skills shortage and inhibit Australia’s potential in the global economy�?
While the regulations purport to simplify the labour market interaction, it really is just adding another layer of complexity to our current regulations. Not only do they leave an array of restrictive practises, they introduce more, such as regulations that restrict the right of individuals to negotiate agreements collectively. Rather than encouraging competition in the labour market, these changes simply add another layer of regulatory complexity that seeks amend previous (perceived) bias and skew the balance of negotiations in favour of the employer.
I feel that there was a need for reform to the Australian labour market. The changes that went through are not the reform that was needed — what was needed was a COAG sponsored agreement on the federalisation of labour market regulation, which still allowed for collective agreements, and protected unfair dismissal laws and the right to be unionised. It would have removed the state based regulations, rather than just plonking another level of regulation on top of them.
I will make this post a spot to put other interesting points on IR that come to my notice. What I need now is concise summary of the state of play at the moment, now that the laws have been passed.