Jeff Lawrence address to ALP National Conference, Sydney, Friday, 2 December 2011

It gives me great pleasure to speak on behalf of the trade union movement about this platform and the amendments that have been moved. I want to express appreciation to all that have been involved in this process. We’ve had an ACTU process, we’ve had a factional process, we even had IT glitches, but notwithstanding that, there is one overall amendment that will be moved by Joe De Bruyn and seconded by Dave Oliver and a range of other contributions.

The platform and the amendments in our view do make further advances on Forward With Fairness and the Fair Work Act.

And I have to say Labor must not just resist the dishonest campaign by employer organisations and some employers who have never accepted that WorkChoices has gone. We must as well provide further rights at work and ensure that the system - especially those aspects that relate to bargaining - advance workers’ living standards and their rights.

Some employer organisations have never accepted, have never accepted, in particular that there should be an enforceable right for collective bargaining.

Unions on the other hand are looking to the future, and that’s why we’ve launched the Secure Jobs. Better Future campaign.

We have an inquiry to be chaired by the former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe that’ll put the spotlight on the future of work in a general sense, not just issues about job security although they’re an important focus. And of course the reason they’re the focus is there are some 40% of the Australian workforce who are actually now on some form of insecure work.

We’re going to put the spotlight on the question what does this actually mean, not just for work and workers’ rights, but for our society as a whole? What additional protections are required in a modern economy?

And the platform and the proposed amendments, the platform as a whole, actually do start to address these issues. And this will be a particular policy focus for the ACTU and the whole of our movement, through the inquiry and the broadly in the lead up to the ACTU Congress in May, which I would expect would endorse a further concrete agenda.

And we see every day these issues come to the forefront.

The Qantas dispute and other disputes we’ve had and have now show the need for a more even-handed bargaining system and one that is not open to abuses by employers. And in our view, the platform in some respects takes some important steps forward in this regard: greater rights for delegates and greater access for the union in the workplace, a more activist role for Fair Work Australia to spread collective bargaining including to those who are currently not in the bargaining system. Arbitration as the final step of the dispute settlement procedure in agreements. And this is something that is now contained in the platform, something we’ve spoken about and argued about for some time. And a range of job security provisions.

It is essential that the bargaining system is inclusive, is even-handed, and Fair Work Australia actually takes a more activist role in the way in which the system operates.

So delegates, we’ve done a lot of work in this area. And there’s more to be done. And I look forward to unions, the party and the Government working together on these issues. Because the platform does provide a good basis for that work, and I commend it to you.