Minerals Council of Australia Criticises Proposed IR Changes Amid Net Zero Pursuit

Minerals Council of Australia Criticises Proposed IR Changes Amid Net Zero Pursuit
Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese waits before the start of a meeting with NATO's Indo-Pacific partners during the NATO summit, in Vilnius on July 12, 2023. (Ludovic Marin/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The Minerals Council of Australia called on the federal government not to push through with its proposed industrial relations amendments amid a global boom in clean energy, a sector in which Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia would have a significant role to play given its vast natural resources.

“The MCA calls on the Albanese Government to rip up this bill and head back to the drawing board,” the mining lobby group’s CEO, Tania Constable, said on Sept. 4.

“For Australian mining, this excessive burden and workforce rigidity will put the industry’s ability to deliver the full economic and social benefit from the emerging clean energy mining boom under serious threat.”

During his speech at the Minerals Week dinner, Mr. Albanese said that Australia has the potential to reduce another seven percent of the world’s emissions if it turns into a renewable energy superpower, citing an idea of the University of Melbourne in Business and Economics Professor Emeritus Ross Garnaut.

The prime minister added that Australia possesses crucial resources for green energy, making it an essential player in the global pursuit of net zero. These resources include lithium, cobalt, rare earths, and critical minerals usually used as components of electric vehicle batteries and clean energy-generating infrastructure.

“All of them [are] found here in Australia. We stand at an extraordinary intersection of unprecedented global demand and abundant national supply. And this is a chance Australia will only get once,” Mr. Albanese said.

Australia Headed Down a Dangerous Path

However, Ms. Constable said that the land down under is headed into a dangerous path as it faces economic pressures such as inflation, rising unemployment rates, and an aging population, and the proposed IR changes, if implemented, would only make matters worse.

The proposed amendments include a “Same Job, Same Pay” scheme, requiring employers to convert casual employees who have been employed for 12 months and have worked a regular pattern of schedule over the last six months into permanent staff and criminalising wage theft.

“The Australian economy is heading into uncharted waters, with global competition heightening, China’s long-run economic growth beginning to ease, and the battle for ascendancy in the clean energy transition heating up,” Ms. Constable said.

“At a time when we need government policy to bolster economic growth, to encourage productivity and investment, and spur job creation, Australia’s most productive businesses face unprecedented upheaval that will restrain ambition, limit innovation, and chase investment overseas.”

Australian mining companies have already been plagued with protests from unions due to demands for higher wages and more favourable working conditions, and according to MCA, the proposed amendments would only increase the power, reach and access of unions in businesses.

“It is clear the government will seek to legislate the ultimate ideal for unions at the expense of workers, businesses and the wider economy,” Ms. Constable said.

Mr. Albanese, on the other hand, told the minerals industry players that his government is working to improve the Australian economy and ensure that businesses can rely on a skilled and productive workforce.

“Our government will keep working with you to ensure that as you continue to create good, secure jobs, you can rely on a skilled and productive workforce,” Mr. Albanese said.

“The belief that Australian workers and Australian businesses can shape the big economic changes underway in our world and make them work for us.”

Celene Ignacio is a reporter based in Sydney, Australia. She previously worked as a reporter for S&P Global, BusinessWorld Philippines, and The Manila Times.
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