348 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Alice, how is it that the removal of ‘work choices’ did not result in a removal of workplace agreements?

    My memory may be faulty but it tells me workplace agreements were introduced in or before 1995. If so, who introduced these instruments?

  2. I think you are right Ernestine. I didnt read your question properly. We had enterprise agreements before workchoices and these are a form of workplace agreement. It possibly relates to

    This is what I do have Ernestine
    Workplace Relations Amendment (Australian Workplace Agreements Procedures) Bill 2000
    “The purpose of this Bill is to encourage the spread and use of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) by reducing some procedures. AWAs were introduced under the Workplace Relations and Other Legislation Amendment Act (WROLA) in 1996.

    The aim of the Bill is to make the procedures concerning the scrutiny and filing of these agreements easier, and to clarify operation and termination procedures. The Bill also expands the role and responsibilities of the Employment Advocate (EA) who reviews AWAs and files them.

    Looks like 1996 Ernestine?

    Id like to know why the removal of workchoices didnt result in AWAs going as well. I suspect they didnt completely remove it Ernestine.

  3. Ernestine – I do have this.
    On 19 March 2008, a bill was passed in the Senate that prevented new AWAs from being made, and set up provisions for workers to be transferred from AWAs into intermediate agreements.[18]

    Hmmm Ernestine – it would seem it mainly prevents new agreements being made. But what, I wonder are the ‘Intermediate agreements.” This was the media take


    but what are these ‘intermediate agreements’???

    Thats what I would like to know.

  4. Ernestine Gross, I take it you mean the conceptual development of devolution in authority and other reforms emanating from the Public Service Reform Act 1984 which brought changes to Australia’s IR system and the workplace.

  5. Alice and M.o.S.H., thank you for your replies. I owe an apology. I made a mistake in line one. I had in mind enterprise agreements but I wrote workplace agreements. The former evolved into the AWAs and, if I remember correctly, AWAs belong to a policy named ‘work choices’ and some changes have been made to the work choice policy and now we have an intermediate policy named, ‘intermediate agreements’.

    M.o.S.H., you are right, my primary interest is in the conceptual developments IR reforms. Thank you for the reference to the Public Service Reform Act 1984.

  6. @Ernestine Gross
    That puts in square in Labor land after 1980 (the Labor Govts that swallowed the too liberal views IMHO Ernestine…was it a compromise that ultimatly went wrong… and of course the Coalition just couldnt wait to extend it to its core belief that “labour” should be fully flexible (repressed and rights stripped away) and employers would end up having the lions share of power and choice.

  7. Alice,
    You appear to have a serious survivor bias in your argument – but bias is what I expect. Most of the houses built in the 1970s (and for that matter earlier) that were of poor build quality have been bowled over for new houses to be put in their place. Ergo, you do not see much of the rubbish housing that was built in the 1920s – you only see the nice houses in the good suburbs. The average working man’s cottage of the 1950s, for example, was not built of “double brick and pretty solid”, the norm was weatherboard (frequently of asbestos) with a tin roof. Try building that today and local government would have your hide. OH & S would also laugh at you.
    As I have also said before (and you ignored) compare a recent Holden Commodore or Ford Falcon to their equivalent in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s equivalent. I can guarantee you they are cheaper now (as a proportion of wages) and much, much better. TVs, radios, food etc. etc. etc. are also much better and cheaper as a proportion of AWOTE.
    Of course, that is inconvenient to your argument, so feel free to ignore it as you have before.

  8. @Andrew Reynolds
    Oh but of course you ignore the price of housing also Andrew dont you? The elephant in the room and in your argument.

    You know and I know if there was a serious interest rate rise our property market could be a bloodbath with the average mortgage values now. Just as the banks ended up owning a much larger take of the wool clip after the financial crisis of the 1890s I dont suppose you would object to banks owning a much larger percentage of our housing market either. Isnt that what you would call the creative destruction of the market Andy? You want to talk about some homes (the fibros or weatherboards – and I might say a lot of weatherboards still stand where I grew up so I dont have tunnel vision towards good suburbs Andrew. No 1970s and before houses have not been “bulldozed” -not to the extent you suggest. As for OHS – I thought that would be on your deregulation hit list wouldnt it Andy (are you suggesting OH and S has brought better quality housing??)

    Cars are cheaper. They crumple more in accidents though and are designed that a small ding will set you back by thousands for repairs (gone are the rubber bumper bars). So are radios cheaper Andy – but who listens to the radio? and dozens more imports are cheaper, especially older technologies, Andrew but we all know imports are a leakage anyway and many household appliances are being put together with cheap componentry – so they should be cheaper.

    I admit some of your argument (the fibros with tin roofs) but you dont take into account quality or old technologies but even you cannot ignore the elephant and that is the cost of the roof over ones head.

  9. Dear me, Alice. You show ignorance of many fields in this comment. For example – the reason cars crumple is to reduce impact force in an accident. If it is a choice between dying (as I would have in an 1968 Falcon) or living with a hefty repair bill (as I am much, much more likely to do in a new Falcon) I know which I would choose. If I choose to die then I can always get one second hand.
    Radios are cheaper – and I listen to one every single day in my car. Perhaps you have yours turned off as you do not like all this new fangled “FM” stuff that our grandparents did not listen to.
    Good to see you recognised that asbestos fibro housing actually existed – I thought from your previous comment that you thought that all housing built in the 1920s (back when valve driven wirelesses were rare and very, very expensive) had been brick and tile. Perhaps you prefer housing that was made of deadly materials, was cold in winter and hot in summer, cost a fortune to heat and had no cooling at all and was built on a quarter acre. Two bedrooms, a sleepout and a laundry and toilet outside was good enough for our parents so it should be good enough for us, hey?
    Face it, Alice. Everything that goes into the house is much cheaper and much, much better these days. The houses are much better. We can afford to build them much better. they cost more as a percentage of our wages only because we choose to have a lot more in them.
    The only real issue is land prices – and that is the only thing that the market cannot provide much more of – as the supply of land close to a city is fixed. It has been partially dealt with by reducing block size and building more medium and high density housing. This has the side benefit of improving the viability of public transport.
    Almost everything we could possibly buy is now cheaper (in wage terms) than it was even 50 years ago – and most are cheaper now (in the same terms) than they were 10 years ago. Deal with it.

  10. Dont you “dear me” Andy – you sound like schoolteacher…Il have to call ABOM. As for whats on the radio……..instant press button computer put together muzsick.
    You gen doesnt know what music is Andy, in fact a lot of you still listen to 60s and 70s boomers music. Go on admit it! In some ways I preferred it when houses were smaller – it was good excuse to go meet the neighbours and get out of the house. Now people live in cocoons and many are lucky if they even know their neighbours. It started with those revolting US sitcoms that taught people that if they didnt have a spa a cuppacinno machine a caesarstone benchtop a massive floor to ceiling tiled bathroom they just werent cutting it? Overconsumption Andy. Cheaper just means more landfill and a throwaway mentality. Waste it because its there.

    You liberals mistake price for the be all and end all Andy and it just isnt. The price is not god, that we should live by it.

  11. Alice, if you want further ammo on the deteriorating quality of production in housing (and food, and virtually everything else) get your hands on Michael Rowbotham’s The Grip of Death:


    Andy won’t survive hits from this text.

  12. @Ernestine Gross , you’re wrong with regard to IR in a couple of ways.

    Enterprise agreements didn’t ‘evolve’ into AWAs, and AWAs weren’t introduced with WorkChoices. AWAs were very different to EAs. An EA is still a collective agreement, while an AWA was supposed to be an individual one. They often weren’t, of course – a standardised AWA stripping conditions was offered to workers en masse. And AWAs were introduced in the first round of Howard’s IR changes, in 1996, IIRC, with the assistance of the Democrats (who passed this in the Senate). WorkChoices came later, and its main problem was that the first iteration of AWAs had a ‘no disadvantage’ test; you couldn’t be worse off on balance with an AWA as compared to the relevant award (although I don’t think that applied to a comparison with the relevant EA), and WorkChoices removed this ‘no disadvantage’ test.

  13. Weatherboard houses and the like were not built all over the land. I have lived in several South Australian towns (Adelaide is just a big town :-), Murray Bridge, Mount Gambier) and visited dozens more. Stone – good Mount Gambier limestone as one example – is found in many of the older homes built pre-70s. Sweeping verandahs and high pitched roof were common features. But the big thing, the thing that made these properties intrinsically better than a modern Mawson Lakes eyesore, was the block of land with its almond, plum, apple and orange trees, tomatoes and carrots, beans and the like. Backyard cricket with enough room to have two wickets set up. Common block sizes were approx 780sq metres, and 1400sq metres.

    On the other hand, in the present, every Xmas at Mawson Lakes there is some poor kid wondering how the heck to set up their Totem Tennis present – the instructions start off with In your backyard place the totem pole in the ground with at least 3 metres clear around it.

    Not everything in the good ol’ days was worse than now.

  14. Alister @ 38, thank you for the clarification of detail. It may well be that in some cases the distinction between ‘collective agreement’ and ‘individual agreement’ matters, although the instances where ‘individual agreements’ do not involve a ‘collection of interests’ would exclude the corporate sector.

    If I may pick your knowledg base a bit more: Would you agree that it was the introduction of Enterprise Agreements which was the crucial change in the institutional environment because the basic unit of analysis was no longer pay and conditions for a particular type of work done (a proxi for the economic notion of ‘a commodity’) but ‘the enterprise’ – a legal entity?

  15. So, Alice – you are basing your whole argument – lock stock and barrel – on the price of housing? Everything? If I were able to show that housing prices (as a proportion of wages) were actually lower now than they were then, then you would concede that you were in fact wrong and that things are better now? Is that the case?

  16. @Andrew Reynolds
    If you are going to show me some data collated by the Commonwealth bank Andrew – dont even think about it….

    You find me some housing data that uses the Ontario measure which is internationally recognised, and includes a benchmark where those people below the 40th percentile of a distribution of household income is incurring housing related costs in excess of 39% of their gross household income. That is a very different measure to those commonly cited in the media (and why wouldnt the Commonwealth bank push the latter ? Its business is selling loans).
    Get some OECD stats Andrew. Like OECD economic outlooks (issue 2, 2005) which, showed Australia’s housing was overvalued in 2004 by 51.8% compared to the UK of 32.8%.

    Then read this


    I dont want any bank / real estate institute studies thanks. They both have a vested interest in keeping people buying.

  17. @Ernestine Gross, I think the introduction of EAs was a crucial change. Thinking about it briefly, while a basic notion of equity is equal work for equal pay, the award system can allow for this (which was one of my problems with WorkChoices – it deliberately undermined equal work for equal pay). EAs allow for variation based on the notion that work isn’t intrinsically equal between enterprises. But there have been other changes to industrial relations that are important as well. On solely the institutional level, then EAs were a major change, and perhaps the major change. But I don’t think it’s required to focus on the institution and IR. Other systemic changes would also be important, and I’m not sure that it’s helpful to focus on just one of the changes in IR.

  18. Alister @ 43, page 7, again thank you for your reply. Yes, ‘equal work for equal pay’ is an element in the basic notion of equity, as I understand it, and awards within a centralised wage fixing system is, in principle, consistent with this idea.

    A crucial problem with enterprise agreements is that a constraint on management is relaxed. That is, management is no longer forced to act competitively in the labour market by having to take prices (awards) as given. I am not advocating a return to the exact system of centralised wage determination but for a version thereof.

    Collective bargaining (ie union representation) is not resolving this problem because the ‘bargaining’ takes place on an enterprise level. In some situations, individually negotiated contracts (eg in the professions) may even be better than collective bargaining(because one has one boss rather than two possibly equallly unqualified representatives – the IR staff of ‘the employer’ and the union representative of ‘the employee’).

    So, ‘work choices’ may be dead but the more fundamental problem remains.

    Of course, not all the economic problems have been caused by the introduction of enterprise agreements and the abolishion of this corporatist instrument will not solve all the economic problems. That much I certainly can agree with.

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