New powers may not stay
The PM says recent moves to give bosses more power over workers will only be temporary.
The Federal Government wants almost one million employers currently administering JobKeeper wage subsidies to be able to change hours, duties and locations.
New legislation will soon be introduced to parliament to support pandemic-inspired powers, but the government says these will only continue until March to coincide with JobKeeper's extension.
“I'm not proposing that as a permanent arrangement. I'm proposing that as a temporary arrangement to deal with the next phase of JobKeeper,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this week.
But businesses that do not qualify for wage subsidies would still retain the power to change employees' conditions.
“There will be firms that have graduated out of it that will still benefit greatly from having that flexibility,” the prime minister said.
“It will keep people in jobs.”
Labor and unions believe the government wants to make the crisis measures permanent.
“The answer to this jobs crisis is not harsher industrial relations, or even more job insecurity,” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has drawn inspiration for reforms from former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher and ex-US president Ronald Reagan.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese says Thatcher and Reagan-era policies would hurt Australia.
“That just saw a withdrawal of government services, massive privatisation, an increase in unemployment,” he said.
Also this week, the government announced its National COVID-19 Coordination Commission will begin looking at job creation and economic recovery.
Workforce trends, skills and retraining are now high on its agenda.
“The attorney-general has a specific group looking at the industrial relations reforms,” says committee chair Nev Power.
“We may have an opportunity to input to that, but it is not our primary focus.”
Retired banker Mike Hirst, resources executive Samantha Hogg, and farmer and Australian Unity director Su McCluskey have been added to the commission.
Food franchise founder Bao Hoang, indigenous business chief executive Laura Berry and union boss turned KPMG partner Paul Howes have joined too.