The Rudd government has ratified the Kyoto Protocol. It also plans to work with the international community on combating climate change. The new Australian government’s foreign policy is likely to show strong continuity with that of its predecessors, stressing relations with four key countries: the United States, Japan, China, and Indonesia. The Rudd government strongly supports the United States engagement in the Asia-Pacific region and has pledged to maintain Australian troops in Afghanistan.
It will withdraw Australia’s combat troops from Iraq in 2008, however, leaving air, naval, and training assets in and around Iraq (Australian Government Information, 2008). It will also seek to undo some of the labour market reforms instituted by the Howard government after the 2004 election. The reforms, which eliminated some worker protections in the name of labour-market flexibility, were never accepted by many working families in Australia, and they deserted Howard in the election. C.
Contemporary Background to the Australian System of Employment Relations 1. The Role of the State Initially, under the constitution, IR power is very limited. With economy policy, under Whitlam as well as Fraser governments, it attempted to overrule the issue of the IR, however it is unsuccessful. From Hawker government, significant government intervention can be observed such as social compact of the price as well as incomes accord, pegging wage with CPI index, national wage case as well as two-tier wage system.
From Keating government, there is an enterprise bargaining. The IR Reform Act 1993 had established an award stream and bargaining stream of wage determination which lead to wage dispersion. During the Howard government, the accord has ended. WR Act1996, reduce the power of AIRC to vet non-unionized enterprise agreements, AWAs, as well as the WR (Work Choices) bill 2005 was enacted (Microsoft PowerPoint Lecture_5_-_Australia, Slides 9& 10). 2.
The Role of Collective Bargaining Since 1996, with the Coalition in power in the Commonwealth, every state government has, to some extent or another, re-collectivised industrial relations law. That is, while the Commonwealth has enabled employers under their jurisdiction to bypass unions to negotiate directly with individual employees and curbed the ability of unions to organise, the states have reaffirmed the collective bargaining process and the role of unions.
At the Commonwealth level, decentralisation of industrial relations (that is, the encouragement of enterprise and individual bargaining and the downplaying of arbitration) and decollectivisation (that is, reducing union rights) began while the Labour government’s policies were being framed by the Prices and Incomes Accord between ALP and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) (1983–96). Although the Accord involved a process of ‘managed decentralism’ (with a two-tier wage-fixing system introduced in 1987), arbitration and union rights were retained (MacDermott, T.
1997). The Industrial Relations Reform Act, 1993 allowed for non-union collective bargaining through Enterprise Flexibility Agreements but these agreements were little used; nor was the Commonwealth tribunal done away with (Cooper 2005). In short, this period of change decentralised, without decollectivising, the regulation of industrial relations. By contrast, in all the states except one (Queensland), the changes were quite different to this. 3. The Role of Union
Unionism was centralized however it is relatively weak at the workplace or enterprise level. Craft-based unions to start were developed into general as well as industrial unions. Union membership continues to decline from 49% in 1990 to 23% in 2002 (Microsoft PowerPoint Lecture_5_-_Australia, Slide 11). Only 26 percent of workplaces, according to AWIRS (1990), have an active union at the workplace, and no union representative in 1/3 of workplaces.
In addition to that AWIRS (1995) has indicated that a significant decline in number of Australian workplaces with union members can be observed. In 1927, ACTU was formed wherein 95 percent of all unionists were covered. It is the merger of Australian Council of Salaries and Professional Association or ACSPA (1979) as well as Council of Australian Government Employee Organizations or CAGEO (1981), which became both manual and non-manual union’s confederation (Microsoft PowerPoint Lecture_5_-_Australia, Slide 12).