Lost reform opportunity will cost workers, communities and nation

The failure of the Senate to pass key reforms in the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2021 will discourage investment, jobs and wage increases, and reinforce Australia’s international reputation for complex and inflexible workplace relations.

It is regrettable that the Opposition, the Greens and some crossbench senators have stifled important regulatory improvements that the nation needs to accelerate post-COVID economic recovery.

The original bill’s measures to accelerate the approval of enterprise agreements and allow longer greenfields agreements for major projects were modest, incremental and overdue changes to boost investment, productivity and prosperity.

These measures were compromise solutions that emerged from extensive discussions between employers and unions in the industrial relations working groups conducted last year by the government.

It is disappointing that much-needed reforms to drive economic recovery have been sacrificed to political expediency.

The minerals industry is Australia’s largest export earner, pays high wages and accounts for approximately one-quarter of company tax.

There are currently 108 minerals projects across Australia in the pre-feasibility or feasibility stage.

Together, these projects are worth $47 billion and entail approximately 30,000 construction jobs and 21,000 ongoing jobs.

While improving workplace relations is not a panacea, the Australian Parliament should expedite all and any policy changes that boost business confidence and encourage additional investment and employment.

The opportunity cost of maintaining the status quo is not zero.

Every project that is forgone means a slower recovery and fewer jobs.

Every project that is delayed sends a negative signal to investors and leaves Australians unemployed longer than necessary.

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