Understanding the Future Made in Australia

The Albanese Government’s industrial policy framework – the Future Made in Australia Act (FMAA) – has finally been unveiled. A centrepiece of the 2024 budget, the FMAA seeks to realise the Labor government’s aspirations of making Australia a ‘renewable energy superpower’. It is expected to be a key pillar of their re-election strategy. The FMAA and its context must be understood by progressive campaigners to ensure it genuinely advances industrial development, decarbonisation, and the interests of workers.

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New rights for union delegates with surprising origins and effects

On 1 July, an important change in the industrial relations landscape came into force. Industrial awards (‘modern awards’, as they’re now called), that set minimum standards in workplaces, will include guarantees of rights for workplace union delegates. All new enterprise agreements must also include such provisions.

This is a result of the first part of the Closing Loopholes Act. Part 1 passed the Parliament in December last year.

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Does closing the loopholes matter?

Three big things have happened with the passage of the second half of the ‘Closing Loopholes’ Bill through Federal Parliament on Monday.

One is world leading, one is not far from it, and one is playing catch up with the rest of the world. A fourth big thing happened a couple of months ago, with passage of the first half of the Bill.

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Closing Loopholes Bill confronts the new realities of self-employment

Self-employment has changed in recent years. It’s been both shrinking and becoming more precarious. Proportionately, there are fewer business owners and there’s more gig work.

The reality is getting further away from what many have imagined.

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Kicking the can down the road: Australia risks missing climate transition opportunities

Australia is being urged to seize the opportunities of decarbonisation.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers recently announced that the federal government’s much-anticipated package of climate industry policies will be delayed by at least another six months.

He cited concerns over skills shortages and environmental approval wait times before moving ahead with new measures to stimulate renewable energy and related industries in Australia.

The concerns raised by Mr Chalmers are real, and need attention. But the industrial opportunities of the net zero transition will not remain forever. Australia can’t wait for the perfect moment before responding to the rapidly changing global industry conditions – and in particular Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.

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Will ‘Closing the Loopholes’ protect ‘gig economy’ workers?

One of the most important aspects of the government’s Fair Work Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill is the detailed provisions covering gig workers. Those provisions account for 100 pages of the 284-page bill.

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Why Australia Needs a Climate Industrial Policy

For the first time in decades, Australia is talking about industry policy. And the interest is coming from all sides.

At Labor’s recent national conference, the Electrical Trade Union (ETU) led a successful motion demanding the Commonwealth government invest big money to support domestic clean technology industries.

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) released last week a report that called for a reinvigorated government industry policy to develop advanced manufacturing and renewable sectors, among others.

Several landmark reports, including by the Centre for Future Work, have all reached the same conclusion: Government must invest big in industry policy to accelerate the clean energy transition and build Australian renewable industries.

Business, unions, and civil society are all singing from the same sheet. Clearly, something has changed – but why?

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We need more than a definition change to fix Australia’s culture of permanent ‘casual’ work

The surprising thing about the Albanese government’s announced reforms to “casual” employment is not that they’re happening. It’s that employer advocates are getting so excited about them, despite the small number of people they will affect and the small impact they will have.

That’s not to say the changes aren’t needed. Rather, true reform of the “casual” employment system, of which this is just a first but important step, has a lot further to go to resolve the “casual problem”.

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Don’t blame Australia’s lowest-paid workers if interest rates rise again

The odds have been shortening on the Reserve Bank of Australia lifting interest again, and Australia’s workers are again being blamed for driving inflation.

Harvey Norman chairman and executive director Gerry Harvey is one of the business leaders flamboyantly warning higher wages will lead businesses to cut staff numbers or increase prices, making it harder for the central bank to get inflation down to its 2–3% target.

This follows the decision of Australia’s industrial relations umpire in its Annual Wage Review last week. The Fair Work Commission granted a 5.75% increase to award wage rates, and an 8.6% increase to the minimum wage.

But there are good reasons this decision won’t have a material impact on inflation or interest rates.

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After the NSW election, privatisation is politically dead in Australia

Last month’s New South Wales election ejected the final mainland Coalition state government from office. As the dust has settled, it isn’t just Chris Minns’ Labor Party which has emerged victorious; public ownership – particularly of Sydney Water – has been resoundingly endorsed by NSW voters. It is now safe to say: privatisation is politically dead in Australia.

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