IR changes offer $3B benefit: AMMA

RESOURCE industry employer group the Australian Mines and Metals Association has used its annual national employment conference in Perth yesterday to Turnbull Government to put "fundamental workplace relations reform" back on the political agenda.
IR changes offer $3B benefit: AMMA IR changes offer $3B benefit: AMMA IR changes offer $3B benefit: AMMA IR changes offer $3B benefit: AMMA IR changes offer $3B benefit: AMMA

Haydn Black

Reporter

AMMA CEO Steve Knott said it was "disappointing" that the government failed to respond to the Productivity Commission's recommendations on workplace relations reform during the election campaign.

Indeed, while Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called the double dissolution to consider re-instating the Australian Building and Construction Commission to crack down on allegations of union corruption, the topic was barely raised during the eight-week long political slugfest.

During that time the Coalition lost its commanding buffer in the lower house and now has one seat majority on the house, and three fewer seats in a much more fractured Senate.

Knott reiterated the need for the Coalition to pursue changes beyond the double dissolution triggers of the ABCC and a new Registered Organisations Commission.

AMMA has long blamed union intransigence for the high costs of developing Australia's resource projects, such as Gorgon and Wheatstone, and for the high costs of completing works on offshore facilities.

"Fundamental reform of our workplace relations laws cannot be put on the backburner," Knott said.

"The government's commitment to combating union lawlessness and corruption is positive, but to assume this should be the last word on workplace reform would do Australian employers, employees and the wider community a profound disservice.

"Stopping at the five workplace relations bills foreshadowed by the government should not be acceptable. There are additional, widespread and longstanding problems with our workplace system that need to be addressed.

"AMMA is calling on the government to pursue its clearly foreshadowed changes while simultaneously implementing the Productivity Commission's recommendations to improve Australia's workplace relations framework."

Referencing Tuesday's rate cut by the RBA, half of which was passed on by the banks, and the threatened downgrading of Australia's AAA rating by the major international credit rating agencies, Knott warned "significant micro and macro-economic reforms" were needed to stop the momentum for further downgrades.

"Australia is stuck in a period of domestic political and reform inertia, and we have become an increasingly costly and complex place to do business," he said.

"Unless we can begin to change this, we can expect upwards pressure on borrowing rates with consequential adverse impacts on both consumer spending and living standards.

"The AAA credit rating wake-up call and a historic low cash rate simply reflect what most in business already know. Put simply, Australia desperately needs to lift our competitiveness.

"In our industry the decision on where to invest capital largely rests on costs versus returns, political stability and the right policies for doing business. It is imperative that we present a more attractive platform for investment to secure the $254 billion worth of potential major resource developments in Australia that are in limbo, yet to achieve final investment decision."

Knott told the conference that research commissioned by AMMA and conducted by KPMG suggested AMMA's modest proposals would create 36,000 jobs in the resource industry and supporting supply chain and add $30.9 billion of value to Australia's GDP.

"And that's just through the resource industry alone - imagine the real benefit to the broader economy if the government took up all of AMMA's recommendations for reform," Knott enthused.

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