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National IR system in jeopardy, say farmers

19 November 2008

UNLESS all states refer their industrial relations powers to the Commonwealth, the Federal Government’s bold and ambitious pledge to achieve nationally-consistent industrial relations laws will be seriously jeopardised, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) warned today.

“We commend the Federal Government for tackling the jumble of workplace relations systems that beset Australian workplaces – recognising that lines on a map bear no correlation to the way modern businesses operate,” NFF President David Crombie said.

“Most states realise that maintaining multiple workplace systems places unnecessary burdens on business. As negotiations continue, we urge the Federal Government not to lose sight of the big picture – specifically, the need for all sectors to be included if the new system can truly be said to be national.

“Of principal concern to farmers is the fact that over 90% of Australian farms are small family-owned businesses and, therefore, are unincorporated businesses. This means, should negotiations fall over, farmers would fall outside of the Federal Government’s Constitutional power to make laws as they apply to corporations.

“If all states do not come on board with one national system, most of Australia’s 155,000 farms and their almost 300,000 employees will be stranded in various state systems.

“The Australian farm sector needs the states to refer their powers for there to be any benefit for farmers.

“We’re relatively comfortable with the draft legislation as it stands. However, the operation of the legislation needs to be assessed on the final text of the Bill and the NFF is keen to analyse how the final Bill will apply to farmers in practical terms, having brought together the many reform components.”

The final Bill is due to be introduced into Parliament on 25 November 2008.

[ENDS]

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

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