Queensland National Party causing headaches for Howard on IR

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Queensland senator Barnaby Joyce looks set to complicate Australian prime minister John Howard's plans to pass his IR reform bill before Christmas.

The powerful Queensland Nationals management committee has urged that changes be made to the bill, including guarantees that penalty rates on "iconic" public holidays such as Christmas Day and ANZAC Day be protected. The proposed changes were slammed by Peter Hendy, the chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as being "not acceptable" and "inflexible".

Nationals Senate leader Ron Boswell stated that he thought that the Government would eventually accept Senator Joyce's amendments to the bill, and Federal Nationals leader Mark Vaile said that any changes demanded by the Queensland branch of his party should be minor and achievable. John Howard and workplace relations minister Kevin Andrews have previously said that "commonsense" amendments to the bill would be possible, but no changes to the overall substance of the bill would be permitted.

The Queensland Nationals have provided John Howard with plenty of headaches on IR in the past week, with the Queensland Nationals siding with Labor premier Peter Beattie on Thursday in a motion calling on Queensland senators to oppose the new changes.

Labor groups are campaigning hard against the workplace reforms, which they say will cause workers to be exploited, and tip the balance of workplace power in favour of powerful bosses. Employer groups, however, claim that the changes will allow business to become more flexible and reduce unemployment.