Business chambers in Australia unite against "rushed" industrial relations legislation

Top bosses highlight the impact of draft legislation on small and medium business owners

Business chambers in Australia unite against "rushed" industrial relations legislation


By Jonalyn Cueto

In a unified stance, the CEOs of chambers across Australia are urging the Senate to reconsider the implications of “rushed and flawed” industrial relations legislation, highlighting its impact on the small and family enterprise business community described to be “already under significant pressure from rapidly rising costs.”

In a joint statement, the leaders express “grave” concern over the unfavourable effects the proposed legislation could inflict upon business owners and operators, particularly those in the nascent stages of growth.

They emphasize the legislation’s potential to undermine the welfare of employees, contrary to its intended protective measures. Additionally, they describe the legislation as threatening to destabilize communities relying on the resilience and expansion of local businesses, which employ millions of Australians across various sectors and regions.

“Most of our members are small businesses that contribute so much, and we will burden them with additional constraints and costs. These costs will be passed on to the community or result in the loss of jobs. Or both. Small business owners are already subject to a bewildering array of bureaucratic constraints, and this legislation will further bind them in red tape,” the statement said.

Key elements of the legislation drawing criticism

The leaders listed the particular elements that “worried” them:

  • Employee-like work definitions are overly broad, potentially affecting independent contractors in industries without mandated standards.
  • Uncertainty around casual employment regulations may deter employers from hiring, impacting job creation and workers who value casual flexibility.
  • Granting expanded rights to union officials to enter workplaces without notice could disrupt operations, despite low union membership rates.
  • The legislation echoes the problematic Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, raising concerns for owner-drivers in the road transport sector.
  • Intractable bargaining provisions may prolong disputes, potentially putting employers at the disadvantage in arbitration.
  • Legal protections already exist for employees regarding unreasonable work hours, facilitated by modern technology, promoting work-life balance.

In a resolute stance, industry representatives emphasized their disagreement with industrial relations laws that they find to potentially hinder business owners’ wealth generation and impede small business owners’ growth, job creation, and skills investment.

The leaders who signed the joint statement included the following:

  • Andrew McKellar, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (pictured)
  • Daniel Hunter, Business NSW (pictured)
  • Paul Guerra, Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Chris Rodwell, Chamber of Commerce and Industry Western Australia
  • Greg Harford, Canberra Business Chamber
  • Heidi Cooper, Business Chamber Queensland
  • Michael Bailey, Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • Greg Ireland, Chamber of Commerce Northern Territory
  • Andrew Kay, Business SA

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