OPINION: The reality of the ‘Closing loopholes’ Bill will be a poorer nation, less jobs and a higher cost of living.

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Why, at a time when inflation and the cost of living for all Australians is going through the roof, why would a Government decide to introduce new laws that will make it more complex and costly for businesses to operate?

That is the question that eight of Australia’s peak industry and business organisations have been seeking the answer to, from both the Industrial Relations Minister Tony Burke and the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

While the Prime Minister and Minister Burke argue that it’s simply ‘closing loopholes’, they have consistently failed to detail exactly what those ‘loopholes’ are. Instead of explaining exactly how the proposed legislation will help create jobs and how it will help people be paid more, they are making it more costly for businesses to operate, who then will be forced to increase prices as a result.

While there is no doubt that unions play an important role in workplaces, it is timely to restate that there are approximately only 8% of workers in private enterprises who are a member of a union, a very small minority of workers. Modern workplaces reflect modern attitudes about working: the need for flexibility and reward for effort, hard work, skills and experience.

Independent research has shown that the three most important job considerations for the majority of Australians are higher pay, job security and flexibility. And the same research shows that for Generation Z, flexibility is even more important than job security with the greatest influences on overall job satisfaction being company culture, hours and interest in work.

And that is what is so bewildering about the ‘Closing loopholes’ Bill.  For example:

  • The Government proposes a new definition of casual workers – that is 3 pages long!
  • They want to force businesses to pay a more experienced and qualifies worker the same as a less experienced or qualified employee.
  • They want to remove the freedom for independent contractors to be their own boss.
  • And, they want to allow unions to enter workplaces at pretty much anytime they want to and give them more powers than the police to do so.

How do any of these measures create more jobs for Australians or help them to be paid more?

And by making things more complex and costly for businesses, how will that help them reduce the pressures on the cost of living?

The current workplace relations system is already complex and onerous for businesses, so why then make it even more complex and costly, perversely in the name of creating more jobs and ensuring higher pay? It simply doesn’t work like that. 

We need to constantly remind the PM and Minister Burke that it is private businesses that employ the majority of workers in Australia, not the Government. 

Australia has become a wealthier nation over the past 40 years in no small part of the changes to our industrial relations system that former Prime Ministers Bob Hawkes and Paul Keating introduced. They realised that by creating a system where employers and employees worked together, more jobs would be created and with better pay.

What the Prime Minister and Minister Burke are now arguing for is a return to an outdated system, with employers and employers at loggerheads, in conflict. The reality of the ‘Closing loopholes’ Bill will be a poorer nation, less jobs and a higher cost of living.

Tania Constable

CEO, Minerals Council of Australia

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