Labour Minister Meets Australian CounterpartsLabour
Labour Minister Max Bradford is to attend the Australian Labour Ministers' Conference in Melbourne tomorrow to discuss the impact and future of labour market reforms.
Mr Bradford said the Workplace Relations Act which took effect on January 1, 1997, would be an important source of Australia's improved overall competitiveness.
Like the Employment Contracts Act, the Australian legislation aims to promote fair and flexible labour market through enterprise bargaining.
"It will be interesting to see how the new legislation is going. If it works as well as the Employment Contracts Act did in New Zealand, it will provide us with both opportunities and problems."
New Zealand made a huge leap forward in terms of deregulation and market reform - including the Employment Contracts Act - over the past decade. But for the last two years progress had stopped while other countries implemented similar reform and carried on further, Mr Bradford said.
"There is increasing evidence New Zealand is being left behind. The challenge is to think strategically about what New Zealand does next in the life of this Government and beyond."
The Australian Labour Ministers' Conference will address the implementation of an integrated industrial relations framework throughout Australia, minimum and youth wage issues, worker's compensation and occupational health and safety arrangements and their effect on small businesses and business efficiency.
"Many of these issues are equally pertinent to the New Zealand labour market," Mr Bradford said.
As well as the Labour Ministers Conference, Mr Bradford will meet the Australian Minister for Industrial Relations, Peter Reith, to discuss the reform of the International Labour Organisation.
Currently the ILO is proposing to develop a Declaration of Principles.
"New Zealand wants to see all possible options for strengthening workers fundamental rights explore in full, and I will be discussing the implications of this with Mr Reith," Mr Bradford said.