A transcript of the Hon Paul Munro’s speech on the application of the new industrial relations environment at the recent Workplace Relations Brunch as part of the Clubs NSW Conference & Trade Expo, held at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre.
I retired from the AIRC in mid-2004. Reviewing the workplace relations environment in perspective, I was struck by a parallel with Edmund Burke’s widely quoted definition of statesmanship. The essence of the Burkean tradition was summarised in a recent piece by David Marquand. It demands a combination of a “disposition to preserve” with an “ability to improve” plus a balance between them. Marquand paraphrased the balancing task before contrasting contemporary demands for statesmanlike qualities:
“Headlong change, based on a priori theorising, could lead to disaster, but so could rigid adherence to the legacy of the past…
One of the great questions of the age is how to protect the precious filaments of civil society from the pressures of resurgent capitalism, hyper-individualism, resentful populism, family breakdown and state encroachment… The feverish social engineering beloved of old Thatcherite and New Labour policy wonks is part of the problem… lasting social and cultural changes have to grow from the bottom instead of being imposed from the top”. David Marquand, ‘Cameron is no secret Thatcherite’, Guardian Weekly.
An appropriate balance between a disposition to preserve and an ability to improve seems to me to be a fair measure against which to test the quality of Australia’s industrial governance. In what I have to say, I will apply that measure generally to both the WorkChoices and Forward with Fairness (FwF) models of industrial governance and social engineering. In doing so, the experience of the registered clubs industry will be related to that context, including some settings in the new industrial relations system that particularly affect it; some deficiencies in the proposed system in its protection of employment rights will then be touched upon; I will conclude with an outline of a quality assurance, risk management process now being developed to ensure that participating work places are being conducted in conformity with a reasonable balance between employment rights and operational efficiency.