Federal Election 2016
It's that time again, with a federal election to occur on 2 July 2016.
Industrial relations policies have a very significant impact on the lives of workers and their families. Their shape is determined by the political party that forms government. That's why the ASU takes a serious interest in election campaigns and why this page of resources exists.
We believe it is part of our role to advise our members and supporters about matters that impact them.
Here we provide advice on which political parties' policies are best or least suited to progressing the interests of our members. Unions are advocates for working people and it is our job to understand the workplace environment on both a technical and practical basis.
Our work also crosses over into some other policy areas and so, where relevant, we'll provide you with information on those concerns as well.
We hope you find the election resources on this page useful.
ASU National Secretary
This table provides a summary of the ASU positions on our key issues during this federal election campaign and an indication of our ultimate aim in the medium term. For details, please speak directly with an ASU Branch or election spokesperson.
Current penalty rates for working unsocial hours should be protected, including different rates for Saturdays and Sundays, where they currently exist [download info sheet].
AIM: Govts to defend penalty rates formally.
Paid Parental Leave
The existing Federal Government Paid Parental Leave (PPL) Scheme of 18 weeks at minimum wage should be protected, including the ability to access both the Government scheme and applicable employer scheme, for both public and private sector workers [download info sheet].
AIM: The Federal Government PPL Scheme should pay 26 weeks (as per World Health Organisation recommendations) at minimum wage, plus superannuation at the Super Guarantee rate (the current PPL scheme does not include superannuation). Changes to Government PPL should be considered in conjunction with other family policies, such as child care subsidies, to ensure fair policies to support families are coordinated for best outcomes.
International trade agreements (eg. TPP, ChAFTA, etc)
Ensure that the trade deals don't undermine local jobs (labour market testing should be mandatory), quality and safety standards, and that Australian pay and conditions are the minimum to be paid. Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions that allow foreign companies to sue the Australian Government must be removed [download fact sheet and flyer].
AIM: Ensure a basic set of labour conditions are met by all trade agreements and are non-negotiable Australian standards. ISDS provisions should never be incorporated in Australian trade agreements.
Domestic Violence Leave
10 days paid leave for eligible workers who are victims of domestic violence and privacy measures where requested, via the NES [download info sheet].
AIM: 20 days paid leave for eligible workers who are victims of domestic violence and privacy measures where requested, via the NES.
Community Sector funding cuts
Stop and reverse funding cuts to the non-profit community sector [download info sheet].
AIM: Review community sector funding against outcomes being sought – fund services appropriately to deliver outcomes.
Rights at Work generally
AIM: Changes to workplace relations laws should be motivated by improving relationships between workers and their employers to achieve mutual goals.
As a union, the ASU's business is to care about what people experience at work and as a consequence of their work. Therefore we encourage our members and supporters to think about these issues carefully when deciding who they will vote for at the coming federal election.
Some of the particular areas of concern are below - click on the links to download more detailed info sheets:
- Penalty rates:
- The Federal Government and many employer groups have been on a crusade to cut penalty rates. The ASU and unions in general know that penalty rates exist because they represent an attempt at fair compensation for working unsociable hours and furthermore, that many workers make this sacrifice in order to make ends meet. Penalty rates also serve to encourage work-life balance for the entire community by promoting weekends, evenings and nights as times of rest and leisure. Of course, it can't be time off for everyone (especially our community & emergency services) and in that case, penalty rates reward workers who choose to or must sacrifice this time. We believe the attempts to cut penalty rates are short sighted with immediate profit gains for a minority of companies the goal. However, the impact on the economy in general of a big drop in disposable income to ordinary workers will be negative, particularly in regional and rural areas. Read more here: Penalty Rates info sheet
- Paid Parental Leave:
- See the next section below for details.
- Impact of trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP); China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA), etc, on jobs & wages for local workers:
- The ASU is not against trade agreements in principle, but we strongly argue that our Governments must negotiate them with the public interest of Australians at the forefront. Unfortunately the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (aka ChAFTA) has undermined labour market testing (the need to first make sure that there are no Australian workers available before bringing in overseas workers), safety and qualification standards. There are also serious concerns about how the ChAFTA has undermined Australian Governments' ability to legislate in the public interest without being subject to litigation from companies whose profits have been affected by that legislation (ie. ISDS). Read more about ChAFTA here: ChAFTA fact sheet and ChAFTA flyer
- Domestic violence leave:
- The ASU pioneered Domestic Violence Leave in Australia at Surf Coast Shire Council in Victoria in 2010. Since then the ASU and other unions have succeeded in making it available to over 1.6 million workers. However, we believe this should be a right available to all workers so we are fighting for it to be included in the National Employments Standards. Read more here: Domestic Violence Leave flyer
- Cuts to community services:
- In little over two years, the Federal Coalition Government has ripped over $1billion out of community, legal and Indigenous services and programs. At the same time, they have claimed they take the domestic violence epidemic seriously. How can you protect and support victims of abuse when you deprive the relevant sectors of this much funding?! The ASU represents frontline workers in social, community and disability services, we know how their ability to deliver for the communities they serve has been seriously undermined. We call not only for funding to be returned, but assessed to ensure it is meeting the needs of our most vulnerable. Read more here: Community services funding info sheet
- General attacks on our rights at work:
- Australian workers earning fair incomes that make ends meet without strain and with access to fair conditions delivering the living standards we deserve is what unions fight for everyday. Although many employers also believe in these values, there are unfortunately some who do not. When a Federal Government colludes with businesses that put increasing profits above all other considerations, then we face battles that we are always ready to fight. The current Federal Government has made it clear with its attempts to undermine both wages and conditions through various means that the fair society ordinary workers strive to be part of is under threat. Read more here: Our Rights at Work flyer and Jobs for our kids flyer
More attacks on our rights at work during the election campaign?
Unions suspected the Federal Government's Productivity Commission inquiry into workplaces was just a way to sneak in the workplace changes they wanted, but at arm's length. The Commission's Report followed the script. Will this be a Trojan Horse sent in to raid our rights at work yet again?
We also believe it is important to listen to the views of business groups like the Business Council of Australia who are urging a Coalition Government to go much, much further with workplace changes.
The Federal Government has promised a response before the election on the Productivity Commission's report and we await Mr Turnbull's commitments. We will keep you posted on progress on this.
The ASU predicted just before the last federal election in September 2013 that the Coalition's excessively generous Paid Parental Leave promise was unlikely to be delivered in full. We didn't, however, predict the spectacular backflip we saw in May 2015 where a generous PPL promise turned into PPL cuts and insults to parents!
We believe that the saga of paid parental leave under the Coalition reveals a contempt for the Australian public that goes far beyond the effect of the policy on new parents. The backflip that went from "rolled gold" before the election and turned into cuts to the existing modest scheme and insults to parents is evidence of a Government that is willing to manipulate ordinary people as they plan for one of the most expensive and challenging decisions in their lives: having a child.
To add further insult to injury, the Government's misrepresentation in the media that their proposed cuts will only affect high income earners is just patently untrue. Many workers on low incomes have access to employer paid parental leave via their enterprise agreements - this amount is deducted from the Government payment under the Coalition's PPL cuts regardless of how little they earn. These are not "first world issues" as Scott Morrison said, but REAL WORLD issues!
Union members have fought hard over generations for paid parental leave from both employers and from the Government. Even employer groups say the cuts are no good! Please read our info for details:
Gonski - funding for public education
The issue of funding for Australian schools remains a key point of difference between parties. Read more about this at the I Give A Gonski website.
The public education system is a key resource that Australian workers rely on to deliver affordable and quality education to their children. As such, it is in our members' interests that we advise that the Gonski approach to secondary school funding is most likely to meet their needs.
After an extensive research period headed by prominent businessman David Gonski, the plan now bearing his name was presented to ensure that Australian primary and secondary schools are funded on a needs basis. We find that very difficult to argue with! We encourage our supporters to "give a Gonski" and vote accordingly on 2 July.
Universal healthcare - Medicare
The ASU along with other trade unions fought for the social wage that gave birth to Medicare, the system of universal healthcare much cherished by Australians from all walks of life.
We will never walk away from defending Medicare and the principle of universal healthcare!
The Coalition Federal Government on the other hand, has made it clear that the health care needs of ALL Australians is not important to them. With attempts at introducing co-payments, reducing rebates to providers of pathology and radiology services, and now having a working group looking into PRIVATISING aspects of the Medicare system, it is clear that if you prioritise a fully funded Medicare that leaves no one at peril of sub-standard healthcare, then we urge you to put the Coalition last on you 2 July ballot paper. Budget 2016 confirmed the Coalition's approach to healthcare, so there is no doubt on this policy area.
Use this tool developed by a non-profit group of political scientists and hosted by the ABC to discover how you fit in the Australian political landscape.
ASU National Secretary David Smith is the spokesperson for the ASU's national campaign. For further information, please e-mail David Smith or ring 03 9342 1400.
For comment from our state ASU Branches, please e-mail ASU National Communications Officer Brigid Marasco or ring 03 9342 1469, who will be able to put you in touch with the relevant officials.
Social media provides us with a way to communicate with supporters quickly and effectively.
It also allows our supporters to amplify messages they agree with through their networks - a very important power that not all people understand they have!
The ACTU website and social media channels also have lots of useful info:
- Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU): Website - News
- Australian Unions: Website - Facebook - Twitter