catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

Background on Australian Industrial Relations

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Following my post on IR reform yesterday it occurs that overseas readers are probably not fully informed about our IR system and the nature of the recent changes. In broad terms, we have been travelling with a combination of comprehensive tariff protection and a highly centralised wage fixing sytem for a hundred years, since the States merged into a Federation at the turn of the twentieth century. At that time Australia had the highest per capita income in the world and from time to time since then, as our standing steadily declined, plaintive voices have suggested that the tariffs and wage fixing system have shot us in both feet so far as freedom and prosperity are concerned, without delivering the peace that was promised between labour and capital.

The tariff situation has improved over the last 20 years. There have been many heroes in this unfinished campaign and among them Alf Rattigan and Bert Kelly (the modest member) will be long remembered. Mounting pressure for significant changes on wage fixing and industrial relations has been driven by the H R Nicholls Society. Gerard Henderson played an important pioneering role, especially when he worked in John Howard’s office two decades ago when Howard’s party was out of office.

John Howard has been Prime Minister for almost a decade but reforms were blocked in the Federal Upper House until the last election. Just before Christmas a reform bill went through which purports to deregulate the system, when people can work out what is the actual impact of 700 pages of legislation, with regulations to follow. Nothing is likely to change at a great rate, hence the comment that everyone is going to be let down, both the hopeful reformers and the critics who predict that the workers will suffer so severely that the Howard government will go down like a stone at the next election.

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Written by Admin

January 18, 2006 at 8:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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