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Abolition of State IR Commission an Easy One For O’Farrell

April 4, 2011

Political and industrial insiders will examine the entrails for signs of how quickly the O’Farrell government will move on the NSW Industrial Relations Commission. Some of my contacts confirm the new government sees as quite anomalous that there is a fully-resourced Industrial Relations Commission presiding over the wages and conditions of public servants. And only public servants. They are very likely to abolish it.

In its 2006 decision on Work Choices the High Court recognised overriding Commonwealth powers in industrial relations. That meant the NSW Commission only deals with state public servants and no workers from the private sector. I understand NSW public servants in the Department of Industrial Relations advised the Labor government to wrap up the IR Commission and hand matters over to the Commonwealth. Why wouldn’t they give the same advice, ignored by Labor, to the new Coalition government?

And why wouldn’t the Coalition government accept it?

In 1996 the Kennett government had handed its industrial relations powers over to federal jurisdiction. What would stop the NSW Coalition from doing the same? Certainly not a Labor-Green Upper House majority. The chances of that faded with the Green Party decision not to trade preferences.

In wrapping up the IR Commission an O’Farrell government would be saying, “Let Julia Gillard’s system – Fair Work Australia – be responsible for industrial relations in the state government sector.”

It will encounter harder debates than this to win.

  1. Thaddeus Du Fresne permalink
    April 4, 2011 8:51 pm

    All true Bob.

    Do you have a view on what it means (if it came to pass) for ALP affiliated trade unions?

    If you have no State IR system then it follows why have state based registration for trade unions? Presumably many State based right wing unions will be subsumed into their left wing Melbourne based national bodies?

    With 50% of the conference vote it surely changes the voting blocs within the ALP? Farfetched? Look at the NUW it only has 2 branches, NSW and all the rest of Australia – a small step to consolidate the NSW branch. A recipe for democratic centralism without the checks and balances of the States?

    • Bob Carr permalink
      April 5, 2011 7:01 am

      Don’t think it means anything since they have the High Court to blame for the end of a State system. When it comes to teachers, nurses, police the unions are not affiliated to the ALP ( they are though to Unions NSW ).

  2. Thaddeus Du Fresne permalink
    April 5, 2011 8:19 pm

    High Court didnt allow for regulation of state based trade unions hence union registration remained a state power other than for federal unions.

    Presumably if you abolish the Commission then it would make no sense for the Liberals to keep a seperate system of state based registration.

    • Bob Carr permalink
      April 5, 2011 9:53 pm

      So it is a separate decision from abolishing the State IR Commission ? Well, I would think the new government would find it easy to do. Whether that has a flow-on effect to Unions NSW I just don’t know. Is there State registration in Victoria ?

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