A refreshed Morrison government is going to examine the nation’s industrial relations system and red tape as part of a push to rev up Australia’s economy.
But the prime minister has put the hard word on business to play its part in convincing Australians that change is needed.
In a speech to business leaders in Perth on Monday, Scott Morrison announced he had tasked Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter with examining the system, including the role of unions in workplaces, and his own assistant minister Ben Morton with assessing levels of red tape.
“Our job post-election is now very clear – to get Australians off the economic sidelines and on the field again,” he told the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
His government will prioritise tax cuts and its proposed Ensuring Integrity Bill – which will make it easier to deregister unions – when parliament resumes next week.
But tax relief is just one plank of his economic plan, Mr Morrison said. Just as important are infrastructure building, a revamp of skills training and industrial relations, and Trump-inspired busting of red tape.
“To provoke the much needed ‘animal spirits’ in our economy we must also remove regulatory and bureaucratic barriers to businesses investing and creating more jobs,” he said.
He wants Mr Morton and department bosses to look at regulations from the viewpoint of business to better identify the bottlenecks for users and investors.
Mr Porter will be charged with speaking to employees and employers to find practical ways to ensure a “shared workplace”.
Mr Morrison said in many of the small and medium-sized businesses he visited with largely non-unionised workforces, there was an understanding among employees that the company’s success was theirs too.
“I’m keen to see that collaborative common effort that we see in those businesses writ large across the Australian economy,” he told reporters after the speech.
“I’m quite certain that we can find ways to achieve that with the flexibility that today’s workers demand.”
But he warned the business community if it wanted changes on the industrial front, it had to pitch in.
“No one who has an interest in this can afford to sit on the sidelines and expect others to do the heavy lifting,” he said.
“We have to constantly reassure Australians that the changes we’re seeking to make are about boosting their incomes by making our economy even more competitive, even more open.”
This was the prime minister’s first visit to Western Australia since the coalition’s surprise federal election win on May 18 and his first major economic speech since being returned to office.
He also continued pressuring Labor to back the coalition’s three-stage personal income tax plan in full, saying the first stage was equivalent to two 25 basis-point interest rates cuts.
Opposition frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon says the government’s focus on unions is a distraction.
“The government needs to start showing some initiative, start talking about what it’s going to do about productivity in the economy, rather than spend all of its time putting up these false debates,” he told ABC Radio National.