Work Choices: An International Comparison
Paul David Harpur
University of Queensland - T.C. Beirne School of Law
Queensland University of Technology Law and Justice Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 89-106, 2007
This article seeks to objectively examine the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Act 2006 (Work Choices) amendments to the remedies for dismissals. In general terms these amendments have strongly polarized Federal politics: The Liberal Government asserts: 'what we are fashioning here in Australia is a unique set of labour laws for the future of the Australian nation'. The Liberal Government claims the Work Choices amendments will greatly improve the Australian economy and benefit both employers and employees. 'There is not just anecdotal evidence about this; there are numerous empirical studies which show that the current unfair dismissal system is bad for business'. 'It is not wrong, unfair, un-Australian or immoral to set out measures that will help to ensure the continued success of this country's economy and that will help to provide more jobs, higher wages, more opportunities and greater prosperity'.
In response the Australian Labor Party (ALP) has been scathing. 'Labor opposes these unfair and extreme industrial relations changes and we will fight these changes in every city and in every town across the nation'. The ALP asserts that the Work Choices amendments abolish: protection from being sacked harshly, unjustly or unfairly for around four million working Australians. This is what the minister and the rest of the Howard government believe but they are too gutless to come out and say it. Instead, they hide behind $55 million worth of weasel words and an advertising campaign that would make a Nazi propagandist blush. The ALP claims that the Work Choices amendments are based "on ideology and not research: 'this legislation will be recognised for what it is: "antiworker hatred spilling from the Liberal and National parties". The ALP claims the Work Choices amendments: 'is the product of an extreme, outdated ideology-an ideology that has nothing to do with the challenges we face in the first quarter of the 21st century and nothing to do with the nation's economic needs'. The Liberal Government has: 'gone down the ideological road. It has gone down the road of abolishing the rights of employees in firms with fewer than 100 employees'.
Rather than getting tied up with ideological arguments the author proposes to attempt to provide a value-free comparison between the proposed Work Choices dismissal amendments and dismissal provisions in international jurisdictions. This article will firstly discuss the small business exclusion, the extended statutory probation period and the Operational requirement exclusion amendments. The article will then compare Work Choices internationally through an examination of equivalent unfair dismissal laws.
Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 4, 2011
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