Economic Reforms Needed to Protect Jobs and Prosperity

Cory Bernardi
Cory Bernardi
Economic Reforms Needed to Protect Jobs and Prosperity

One good thing out of this Coronamania is that we now have business and government talking publicly about substantive economic reform.

One good thing out of this Coronamania is that we now have business and government talking publicly about substantive economic reform.

It’s a nice change to see captains of industry focussed on their company performance rather than using limited shareholder money and plentiful CEO ego on some indulgent social ’justice’ campaign.

Even the government seems to have rediscovered the need to redress the impact of some of their more indulgent decisions with mentions of tax reform and deregulation.

Let’s hope that tax reform is government speak for lower taxes and deregulation means unwinding red, green, blue, brown and yellow tape that is strangling productivity.

But there is one area of reform that desperately needs to be addressed - that is industrial relations.

It’s only commonsense to know that companies cannot succeed without workers and workers need successful companies in order to get a job.

So why is there so much conflict in the IR system.

Let's start by acknowledging that not all employers (or employees) do the right thing. It's an unfortunate part of the life and we always need to make sure there are effective protections in place to prevent exploitation.

However,  there are also powerful organisations who love the influence and money attached to corralling workers and fighting bosses.  In essence they have a vested interest in maintaining a combative IR system.

In recent years we have seen some of those organisations trade workers entitlements away for the benefit of themselves.

We’ve seen illegality, misuse of members funds and the all too cosy and questionable association with industry superannuation funds.

More and more workers recognise that unions aren’t working for them which explains why membership continues to fall.

We also know that the modern work environment requires more agility and flexibility than ever before. The last few months is testament to that but it has required extraordinary government intervention to make it happen.

We can do better by reforming legislation to modernise our IR system.

But first we have to acknowledge some truths inherent in the free enterprise system.

Good employers will move heaven and earth to keep good employees. We also know that some people can command higher rates of pay due to superior skills, experience or knowledge than others.

To be blunt, some people just aren’t employable at $30 an hour but they could have all the benefits and skill development of a job made available at $15 per hour.

Sure, it would require voluntary agreement between both parties but at least there is a chance that both may benefit from the discussion.

Unfortunately, under the current system an employer can’t make that opportunity available nor can a potential employee accept it.

The current rigidity effectively prices some people out of the job market.

We also know that given a choice, workers won’t stick with bad employers. That’s why we have to make sure there is an abundance of employers from which to choose.

The age old divide between capital and labor is behind us. We need voluntary co-operation between business owners and workers for both to prosper.

That's going to take some courage by government to reform the industrial relations system.

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