||Issue No. 288||04 November 2005|
Interview: Public Defender
Legal: Craig's Story
Unions: Wrong Way, Go Back
Politics: Queue Jumping
History: Iron Heel
Economics: Waging War
International: Under Pressure
Poetry: Billy Negotiates An AWA
Review: A Pertinent Proposition
The Locker Room
Truth in Advertising
What a Woman!
It's Not Pretty
Howard Barges Into Workplace
Legal experts say the new Act will empower the Minister to disallow sick leave, notice provisions, redundancy pay and a host of other conditions in AWAs, collective agreements and State awards, without reference to Parliament.
The powers lie in obscure 'Henry VIII' clauses that give the Minister the power to change the legislation by regulation.
The Henry VIII clauses are scattered through the Bill, but the most alarming example gives the Minister for Workplace Relations power to over-ride the will of contracting parties with the stroke of a pen.
"He can just decide he doesn't like them," says barrister Adam Searle.
Legal experts fear the Government is keen to use the new power to scratch provisions he thinks are too generous
"The Government has been waiting for years to be able to cut back employees' work conditions in such a way," says barrister David Chin.
'The first attempt to use regulations in such a way was in July 1997, " he says, adding the only reason Government failed on that occasion was that, unlike now, it did not control the Senate.
"The government is enhancing its ability to interfere," says Searle. "They can say you and your employer are making the wrong choice."
Lawyers say the ability to use regulations is important because they do not need to be scrutinised by parliament or made public until after they come into force.
Searle says the government's control of both houses of parliament mean it is practically impossible for any Ministerial decision to be challenged.
"While any member of parliament can object to what the Minister decides, a regulation can only be struck out if the majority of either the House of Representatives or the Senate votes to disallow it," he says.
Other controversial aspects of the Workchoices Bill, include:
- Youth Wages - The Bill does not guarantee a Federal Minimum Wage for junior employees, trainees or disabled employees. Whether these people get a Federal Minimum Wage will depend on whether the new Australian Fair Pay Commission decides to give them one.
- Overriding State Industrial Commissions - Besides getting rid of the power of state IR commissions to create new awards, the Bill also gives the Fair Pay Commission the power to ban them from granting pay rises under existing state awards.
- Banning Industrial Action On New Project Sites - Employees working on new projects will be unable to undertake otherwise legal industrial action for at least one year, with Government backbenchers now pushing for the ban to be extended to five years.
- Jail Sentences for Highlighting Unfair AWAs - Union advocates and journalists who highlight unfair Australian Workplace Agreements could face six months jail.
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