Unjust laws that have to go

November 24, 2006

Workplace Relations Act (1996)

This law stripped allowable matters in industrial awards back to 20, restricted the right of union officials to enter workplaces and introduced individual contracts (AWAs).

Trade Practices Act (1974)

Sections 45 D and E outlaw solidarity strikes (secondary boycotts) by unions, and allow affected businesses to take legal action against unions to recover damages.

The act also empowers the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to prosecute unions for supposed use of monopoly power.

Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act (2005)

This law regulates all workers employed in, or servicing, the building industry. It makes industrial action illegal, except with the written permission of an employer, if a worker's life is in immediate danger or during the bargaining period for an enterprise agreement. It makes workers who take "unlawful" industrial action, including attending union meetings, liable to fines of $22,000. Unions can be fined $33,000 or more.

It also gives the Australian Building Construction Commission the power to force workers to attend a secret interrogation where they do not have the basic legal right to silence. Failure to attend the interrogation, or failure to answer any question, carries a penalty of six months' jail.

Work Choices (2005)

This law scraps the "no general disadvantage" test for AWAs. Now, individual agreements must only meet five minimum conditions: federal minimum age, 38-hour week, 10 days sick/carer's leave, four-weeks' annual leave and 12 months' unpaid parental leave.

Any worker taking "unlawful" industrial action can be fined $6600, and higher for unions. It places hefty restrictions on unions' right of entry to workplaces. It makes any matter not directly relating to wages or conditions "prohibited content" for awards and enterprise agreements. Individuals seeking to include "prohibited content" can be penalised $6600; for unions it is $33,000.
This law also gives the federal workplace relations minister the power to apply to stop lawful industrial action where it is deemed to be against the "national interest".

It forces unions to seek an Australian Electoral Commission-run secret ballot to decide on strike action, for which unions must pay 20% of the cost. To stage a lockout, a boss must give workers just three days' notice. It also gives the Office of Workplace Services the power to initiate legal action against unions and individual workers.

Welfare to Work (2005)

This law forces single parents to seek part-time work when their youngest child turns eight. It throws disabled pensioners deemed able to work 15 hours a week off the pension and onto unemployment benefits. It introduces an eight-week breach period where social security benefit will not be paid to those deemed to have broken Centrelink rules, and introduces an eight-week wait for benefits for those who cannot prove that they did not resign from work, or were not sacked for "misbehaviour".

Anti-terrorism Act (2005)

This law allows police to detain terror suspects for up to 14 days without charge, place suspects on control orders for up to 12 months, and impose a seven-year jail term for "sedition".

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