We still trust Australia’s Fair work Protections
In 2009, the Fair Work Act was passed into law by the Australian Parliament. An initiative of the Rudd Government, the legislation significantly expanded the fair work protections of all Australians and established Fair Work Australia (now the Fair Work Commission) as a tribunal to settle workplace disputes.
Like any politician, Kevin Rudd undoubtedly had his detractors. And those who disagreed with him politically made it known at the ballot box, voting him out of office less than a year after the introduction of the Fair Work Act.
But many of those who voted Rudd out no doubt benefited from or even supported the increased protections his government introduced with the Fair Work Act. This is a theme which consistency plays out in Australian society. That is, we may at times loathe politicians and distrust their policies. But ultimately, most of us still look to Australia (and its government) for support when times are tough, and particularly, for workplace protections.
Fair work Australia
The article follows on from other articles regarding that of Fair work Australia. This Fair work Australia is searched more on Google more than either the Fair work Commission or Fair work Ombudsman. The question is why? This article puts the emphasis on exploring why Fair work Australia seems to be the first phase searched on google. That we still trust in Australia.
In 2022, political cynicism is at an all-time high in Australia
Like many in of the Western world, Australians have become increasingly distrustful and cynical of our politicians. An Australian National University (ANU) study of the 2019 Federal Election reveals that trust in our political system is at an all-time low. Just 59 per cent of Australians are satisfied with the way democracy is working. This is a 27 per cent decrease from the record high of 87 per cent in 2007.
“I’ve been studying elections for 40 years, and never have I seen such poor returns for public trust in and satisfaction with democratic institutions,” said Professor Ian McAllister, lead researcher of the ANU study.
In 2021, Australian Parliament spectacularly failed to live up to our fair work laws
This growing distrust has in recent years been enflamed by a series of sexual misconduct scandals that have rocked Canberra. These scandals demonstrated that despite formulating this nation’s fair work laws, the Australian Parliament often doesn’t live up to them. Particularly when it comes to preventing sexual assault in the workplace.
Parliament was embroiled in so many scandals last year that they collectively warranted their own Wikipedia page. In 2021, the public learned via a whistleblower that members of Scott Morrison’s staff had performed lewd acts inside Parliament House. There were also allegations of historic rape levelled against Liberal Member of Parliament Christian Porter. And in a separate case, an anonymous Labor MP was also accused of historic rape.
Last year also saw perhaps the most famous case of workplace sexual assault in Australian history make headlines. Former Liberal party staffer Brittany Higgins’ allegations of rape against a colleague sparked deep discussions about the toxic workplace culture that exists in Canberra.
The Ideal of Australia
For Australians, these scandals seem to validate what they were already thinking. Namely, that our political system is rife with bad actors, and that maybe our cynicism is warranted. However, despite this growing distrust for politicians, Australians still look up to the ideal of Australia. That is, no matter how much Australian workers may hold our politicians or our political system in contempt, most still rely on and expect Australia (and its government) to deliver the support they need.
On no more grand scale has this theme played out than in the last two years.
An unpopular government keeps Australians working through COVID-19
In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic had just reached Australia’s shores, Scott Morrison was a deeply unpopular prime minister. Only months earlier, he had been ridiculed for his clumsy handling of the devastating bushfires that plagued much of Australia. And this widespread contempt for Morrison only increased as COVID-19 took hold of the country.
In the press, Morrison was slammed as “scared and confused about coronavirus” for not placing Australians in lockdown earlier. But as despised as Morrison was, many of his critics still trusted and expected his government to support them when they suddenly found themselves out of work during our first lockdown in April 2020.
The JobKeeper Scheme provided millions of out of work Australians with a lifeline in the year following the outbreak of COVID-19. Of course, JobKeeper wasn’t perfect. Many criticised the scheme for its flawed design, which in some cases led to companies who weren’t struggling financially to receive a boost to their profits. But ultimately, JobKeeper made good on the government’s promise to Australians – that in their toughest moments, when they are out of work and out of luck, they can rely on Australia to provide them with critical support.
Compared to the United States, Australia’s workplace protections are lightyears ahead
This trust and idealisation of Australia as a nation that will always come to the aid of its citizens isn’t unique. The same could be said for the United States. Americans, despite being far more politically divided and cynical of its politicians, still have a healthy optimism that their nation will abide by the lofty ideals that make up its Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The United States is of course famous for enshrining freedom of speech in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. This is something the Australian constitution lacks. But when it comes to fair work protections, Australia is clearly the more progressive of the two nations.
Fair work Act and protections
The Fair Work Act provides Australian workers with protections that go well beyond those offered by the American legal system. An example of this is the at-will employment laws that exist in every American state except for Montana. This law enables an employer to dismiss an employee for any reason. That is, without having to establish “just cause” for termination, and without warning. The termination, however, must not be for a reason that’s illegal. For example, due to the employee’s race, religion, sexuality or any other protected attribute.
On the spot dismissal
In 2016, an unfair dismissal case that came before the Fair Work Commission ruled that the concept of “at-will” does not exist in Australia. The case involved an employee who received an on-the-spot dismissal without explanation. The employer argued that the terms of the employee’s contract justified such a dismissal. However, the Commission ruled that the employer’s “severely flawed approach” subverted the “statutory unfair dismissals laws, and also offend the broader common law position that has developed in Australia.”
Much more so than Americans, Australians can rely on its government for fair work protections. For instance, the Fair Work Act establishes the national minimum wage for all Australians. This is a critical workplace protection that the United States lacks. The United States is also the only industrialised nation yet to introduce statutory agreements for minimum employee leave from work.
Australia continues to strengthen its workplace protections
When it was introduced in 2009, the Fair Work Act significantly overhauled Australia’s existing workplace protection laws. And recent amendments to the Act offer further support for Australian workers, particularly with regard to sexual discrimination and harassment.
In September last year, the Sex Discrimination and Fair Work (Respect at Work) Amendment Act 2021 (Respect at Work amendments) took effect. This amendment updated the Fair Work Act to provide protections to those who experience sexual harassment at work. The changes included defining sexual harassment and introduced stop sexual harassment orders. They clarified that sexual harassment at work can be a valid reason for dismissal. And the changes stipulated that an employee can now access their compassionate leave entitlement if they experience a miscarriage.
Reporting sexual harassment
A 2018 survey conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission found that 33 per cent of respondents had reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. Almost two in five women (39 per cent) and one in four men (26 per cent) had done so in the five years prior. This latest amendment to the Fair Work Act will go a long way to addressing the lack of protection for these victims of sexual assault in the workplace.
Australian workers still have faith in this country, despite our scandal-prone politicians
It’s interesting to note that the aforementioned sexual assault protections were passed by Parliament at a time when it was embroiled in perhaps the most egregious sexual abuse scandals in its history. And it seems that the protections were passed not because of those scandals, but in spite of them.
Perhaps that’s why Australian workers still have faith that their country will ultimately deliver the workplace protections they need. The ideal of Australia as one of the world’s most progressive society’s is one that most of us still have faith in. Our confidence in the nation’s collective ability to address workplace wrongs remains firmly intact. And interestingly, this confidence seems to be negatively correlated with the lack of faith many Australians have in our politicians and political system.
Conclusion to We still trust Australia’s Fair work Protections
I hope the article was of some interest to you. Whilst we are all individuals, however we still need to have a sense of the collective good. We can all contribute in our own way, from paying taxes, being a volunteer, to ensuring peoples rights are maintained in minority groups and interest. Its up to you. We are A Whole New Approach P/L, leading workplace commentators, advisors and representatives. Any matters to do with the Fair work Australia regime, casual employee rights, workplace investigations, sick leave.
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One of the nations leading workplace advisors, representatives and commentators. Gary has represented some 12,000 clients over some 20 plus years, published some 300 plus articles. He is passionate about employees rights and the test of fairness in the workplace. Have a problem, concern, wants to contribute to the debate or research, call him directly.