By Leigh Johnston
The Head of the Fair Work Commission, Justice Iain Ross, has urged the opposing sides of industrial relations to get along, saying that they’re “shouting at each other across a crowded room in a different language”.
Justice Ross’ call for consensus and civility comes in a month after the Business Council of Australia called for a re-thinking of “complex” enterprise bargaining agreements and calls for industrial relations reforms at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
The council wants the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) Better Off Overall Test to be replaced with a no-disadvantage test that would offer award conditions to be traded for more remuneration or benefits.
Meanwhile, Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker told CPAC that unfair dismissal laws are a “block to growth” as they created “the threat of litigation from a staff member that’s not working out”, according to the Guardian Australia.
Unions and the Labor Party have countered both arguments, arguing that staff would end up being paid less and raising concerns that the Liberal Party may be returning to WorkChoices-era industrial relations policies.
Justice Ross, speaking at an event in Newcastle, rebuked such dialogue.
“We are left with a largely binary policy exchange characterised by slogans, factually inaccurate statements and an absence of an evidence-based policy proposals,” Ross said.
“Much like two people shouting at each other across a crowded room in a different language.”
Ross argued that greater collaboration is needed to address the challenges of the Australian economy in the near future.
“I think we need to start by building a reform consensus,” Ross said.
“A collaborative, consensus approach that focuses on our shared interests – on what united us, rather than on what divides us.”
Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter last month announced a review into workplace laws, which is expected to get underway later in 2019.