IR missing from Asian Century white paper: industry

The release of the Australia in the Asian Century white paper has cited new opportunities for Australian manufacturers, but industry have criticised the paper’s neglect of industrial relations reform.

The release of the Australia in the Asian Century white paper has cited new opportunities for Australian manufacturers, but industry have criticised the paper’s neglect of industrial relations reform.

The white paper, released yesterday and authored by former federal treasury secretary Ken Henry, mentioned that new opportunities, driven by a growing Asian middle class, would become available to niche manufacturers.

“As growth in countries such as China, India and Indonesia moves to greater reliance on domestic consumption, increasingly affluent consumers will demand the high-quality food, manufactured goods and services that Australia provides so well,” said Craig Emerson, the federal trade minister.

However, the failure to address industrial relation has disappointed some.

“Disappointingly, another key ingredient of productive performance – workplace relations reform – is noticeably absent in the White Paper,” said Innes Willox, CEO of the Australian Industry Group, in a statement.

“Yet more flexible workplace relations are critical to the realisation of productivity gains from other sources including education and training and innovation.”

The infrastructure and engineering group UGL Limited also criticised the lack of attention given to IR. Its CEO Richard Leupen told The Australian the white paper didn’t consider “our expensive labour costs in manufacturing, nor restrictive work practices, which are not offset by productivity.

“So it's hard to see how we will become a manufacturer for Asia's middle class. The trend is the other way.”