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WorkChoices Will Bolster Farming Industry

28 March 2006

THE introduction of a new era of workplace relations laws in Australia this week will bolster the ability of Australian farmers to improve productivity to the ultimate benefit of farmers, farming families, farm workers and regional communities.

“WorkChoices provides a wealth of new opportunities for small businesses to implement more flexible arrangements that better suit the needs of the individual workplace and each individual employee,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President, Peter Corish said today.

“The shackles of centralism at its very worst have finally been cast off as one of the last bastions of the pre-economic reform era is finally dismantled.

“For the farming sector in Australia to remain internationally competitive, it is imperative that deregulation not only occurs in markets, but in the workplace.

“WorkChoices provides us with the mechanism for greater productivity gains in the workplace, so desperately needed for a sustainable future.

“The key benefit to the farming sector is the ability to introduce agreements with the new Fair Pay and Conditions Standard as the new safety net. As farmers are advised of the details of the new system over the next few months, we will encourage farmers to seriously consider the introduction of formal agreements (e.g. Australian Workplace Agreements) at the workplace that can be tailored to meet the needs of their businesses and their employees.

“NFF strongly encourages farmers to seek advice from State Farming Organisations before they embark on any changes to ensure that they are well informed of the new laws. Education forums will take place throughout regional Australia to assist farmers to better understand WorkChoices.

However, Mr Corish warned that employers should be mindful of the fact that WorkChoices is based predominantly on the constitutional corporations power and the referral of industrial powers in Victoria. This means that not all benefits of WorkChoices will automatically be available.

“Currently agreement making and the small business exemption from unfair dismissal laws are only available to all employing farmers in Victoria and the Territories, as well as farmers in the remaining States who employ workers through a company structure,” Mr Corish said.

“Farmers who are not operating under an incorporated structure will be provided with information by NFF on their options. This includes information on how they could undertake a restructure so that they have access to the full array of WorkChoices options without removing the benefits of not being incorporated, such as access to Farm Management Deposits.”

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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