AIER on the Draft PC Report
The Productivity Commission’s draft report on the Workplace Relations Framework has certainly generated a lot of attention as expected and as it should. Essentially the draft report argues the system is fine. From the Commission’s perspective “repair not replacement” is the policy imperative. In many ways it vindicates the authors of the previous review into the Fair Work Act, who similarly found that the legislation was operating broadly as intended and also significantly that there was no convincing evidence that the Fair Work Act impedes productivity growth.
There is a lot of value in reports like these. The Productivity Commission has the capacity to investigate and interrogate an enormous amount of evidence and argument. The draft report’s almost 1000 pages provides detail and considered responses to the issues it chooses to cover.
But such reports must always be read with their limitations in mind. The Productivity Commission approaches its task from its “economic rationalist” perspective that values economic efficiency over social values. AIER, of course, takes a different approach, grounding our work in a rights-based approach as elucidated in our Charter of Employment Rights.
The Productivity Commission’s draft report can be seen as yet another step on the well-worn path of restricting and eliminating the collective interests of workers from the industrial relations system, in contravention of international standards. But this is not so radical. It is a project that has been underway for 30 years.
The regulation of workplace relations has a profound social role, along with an economic one. The Productivity Commission acknowledges this in its report but then makes recommendations and findings at odds with this notion. There are some worrying elements to the report that have been widely noted.