Opposition backs AWA lite

Individual statutory agreements and an exemption from unfair dismissal laws for small businesses are likely to remain a part of the federal Opposition’s IR policy, Liberal leader Brendan Nelson said yesterday.

In comments on Adelaide radio, Nelson said while the Opposition didn’t vote against the abolition of WorkChoices, it remains committed to an AWA style individual statutory agreement combined with a no-disadvantage test.

He also confirmed that the small business exemption from unfair dismissal retains support within the Opposition.

“We strongly believe that there should be individual statutory agreements with a fair no-disadvantage test as is embraced in Labor’s own legislation, and we also feel very strongly… about small business being free from unfair dismissal,” Nelson said.

The first tranche of industrial relations reforms introduced by the Howard Government in 1996 retained a strong no-disadvantage test, but this was removed by WorkChoices in 2006.

Nelson said yesterday that this was a mistake. “We got it wrong,” he said.

But deputy leader Julie Bishop, who is in charge of formulating the Coalition’s new IR policy, was yesterday less prepared to concede moral ground on WorkChoices, telling a resources sector audience that some criticisms of the policy have been off the mark.

“WorkChoices has been demonised by Labor and the unions to the point where every grievance in the workplace is laid at its feet,” Bishop said.

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