SMEs have every right to be disappointed in the actions of Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey over the past couple of days.
Yesterday Hockey promised he would resign from any future Coalition ministry if substantial changes are made to the current industrial relations regime, effectively putting the kybosh on business hopes that the red-tape-plagued fairness test could be changed or abolished entirely.
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And now he has refused to release research commissioned by his own department into the benefits of the current industrial relations system, a decision he has reportedly justified on the oh-so flimsy basis that Australians are “all researched out”.
All researched out? It’s true that a bucket-load of research has been conducted into the industrial relations system over the past year, but if there is good news about its economic benefits then surely we are entitled to hear about them.
On the other hand, if the report reveals that both business and the Government have had to foot big costs arising out of the implementation of the fairness test, then we are entitled to hear that too.
The higher than expected number of AWAs that have not passed the fairness test, in many cases because businesses have simply not provided the Workplace Authority with the information required, is evidence that there are problems in the fairness test system. And anecdotal evidence from business groups and IR lawyers suggests the fairness test has so reduced the benefit of moving on to AWAs that many businesses are now choosing not to bother.
There are already good reasons why Hockey should not have taken the possibility of substantial post-election reform to the fairness test off the table. If the research his department has commissioned backs that view, his actions over the past couple of days are even more lamentable.