In this submission to the Williams’ Inquiry into Options for a New National Industrial Relations System, the Australian Institute of Employment Rights (AIER) argues that for the proposed model for a national system to be successful it requires a firm foundation of principles based on state and Commonwealth consensus, and a strong governance model adopted to put in place and maintain national industrial relations laws.
In August 2007, the NSW Iemma Government commissioned an inquiry into options for a new national industrial relations system headed by constitutional law expert Professor George Williams. The purpose of the inquiry was to develop options for a national system that was based on greater harmonisation between the states and territories and cooperative federalism. The report, Working Together: Inquiry into Options for a New National Industrial Relations System, sets out a new model that aims to provide an improved underpinning for the regulation of industrial matters in Australia, and is based on the perspectives of employers and employees across Australia. In his report, Professor Williams specifically highlights the AIER’s Australian Charter of Employment Rights as an option for founding the principles of a new national system of industrial relations.
The submission by AIER supports the establishment of a new national industrial relations system, but argues that for it to be successful it requires cooperation between the Commonwealth and the states and at the very least a consensus as to the broad shape of the fundamental elements of the system. The submission argues that the principles identified in the Issues Paper are worthy, but are broad and insufficiently detailed to identify the essential elements around which a consensus may be built.
The submission suggests that a mechanism be found to assist the Commonwealth, the states, and perhaps the key stakeholders to reach agreement as to those foundational elements, and offers AIER’s Australian Charter of Employment Rights as a starting point.
The Charter is a back-to-basics attempt to define the rights of employers and workers by identifying the fundamental principles on which fair and balanced workplace laws and workplace relationships should be based. The Charter, and the book which accompanies it, is the collaborative work of eminent workplace relations practitioners. It provides a more detailed statement of principles and exemplifies the kind of document around which agreement as to the foundational elements of a national industrial relations system can be based. In that respect, the Australian Charter of Employment Rights can be used as a starting point for the principles which will form the foundation of a national system based on state and Commonwealth consensus.
Once a set of principles is agreed, the submission argues there be a firm nexus established between the agreed principles and the constitutional or other mechanism adopted to put in place and maintain national industrial relations laws. AIER provides greater detail on the models proposed by Williams’ report.