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Maxim Institute real issues - 13 October 2005

Maxim Institute real issues - 13 October 2005


* One employment system for all
* Co-operating for Justice
* Taking order seriously

One employment system for all

The contrast between big government and small government was highlighted this week in Australia, when Prime Minister John Howard announced the Federal Government's plans to reform Australia's workplace relations system. Called "WorkChoices – A New Workplace Relations System", the framework aims to decentralise and simplify Australia's industrial relations system.

WorkChoices has three major elements, including: the introduction of a national workplace relations system for the first time; the simplification of the agreement- making process; and a better balancing of unfair dismissal laws. There are currently 6 different workplace relations systems in Australia, as well as 130 different industrial relations laws and 4000 collective awards. A new and independent Australian Fair Pay Commission will be established to deal with such matters as minimum award wages.

The system whereby the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) must be involved in every collective agreement, even when employers and employees are in complete agreement, will come to an end. Both collective and individual Australian Workplace Agreements will take effect from the date they are lodged rather than the date of certification or approval. Nonetheless, employees will not be prevented from belonging to a union if they wish.

By introducing these reforms, the Federal Government has taken a step toward ensuring that workplace relations are underpinned by the principles of choice and flexibility. This means that state regulation is being used constructively to protect workers conditions by setting standards, rather than entangling businesses in red tape. It may also mean the relationship between employers and employees will be less adversarial and more co-operative, as WorkChoices will give them the opportunity to negotiate fair workplace agreements without interference from the state. Consequently, the WorkChoices scheme is an example of the positive effect of limited state intervention to foster individual freedom, which is also a building block for a prosperous society.

To download a copy of the Australian Federal Government's WorkChoices booklet that explains the scheme, please visit:

  • Work Choices
  • Co-operating for Justice

    There seems to be an increasing trend of disregard for the consequences of breaking the law. This week the first of the 'Bali Nine' charged with heroin smuggling have gone on trial. The Australian police are facing criticism for co-operating with the investigation. Similarly with the case of Australian Schapelle Corby, much of the Australian public called for the Australian government to do more to protect her.

    While there may be an issue of punishment being proportional to the crime, at the same time, all nine must have been aware of the severity with which drug offences are treated in Bali. The consequences were clear before the individuals chose to engage in the act. Bali has tough sentences for offences involving illegal drugs, and it is possible that if found guilty the nine could face the death penalty. Australia does not have the death penalty and this has seen calls for the Australian police to abstain from co-operation. In reply, the Australian police have noted that they frequently rely on foreign co-operation to help their investigations.

    With the use of drugs becoming an increasing problem in many Western nations, it seems somewhat surprising to hear such an outcry of sympathy. If the outcry were over the issue of a fair trial, or specifically about the suitability of the sentence compared to the crime, it would be a little more understandable. In fact, the outcry seems to be a reflection of the abandonment in the West of the concept of personal responsibility; the understanding that people's actions have consequences that must be faced. Asking the government to protect even those who have chosen to commit illegal actions is one more step along the path of undermining this concept.

    Taking order seriously

    Standards, manners, good order and evidence in a courtroom; is there a relationship? There certainly appears to be. The Principal Judge of the Family Court, Peter Boshier is insisting on more formality and respect in the family court. Simple things like asking lawyers to stand, not sit, when they address judges will become common practice. There will be a return to judges wearing gowns, he hopes.

    Certainly the family court is different from other courts, but good order remains critical. Mediation should not undermine authority. Boundaries should be clearly defined without threatening a useful degree of informality.

    All this is common sense, but Judge Boshier's concerns are not peculiar to the family court. The identification of informality with compassion and formality and manners with uncharitable authority is a confusion that helps no-one. In a family court, deep-seated respect for authority remains critical for no less reason than its role in protecting children. More just outcomes are likely to follow. Judge Boshier is doing all of us a good turn by insisting on more formality, clearer standards for evidence and good all-round respect.

    To read Judge Boshier's speech, please visit:

  • Justice Boshier's Speech
  • THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) Sir, I say that justice is truth in action.


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