Workplace relations

Budget Review 2013–14 Index

Anne Holmes

New measures

Workplace bullying – individual right of recourse

The Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 currently before the Parliament gives the Fair Work Commission the power to issue orders to stop workplace bullying.[1] The Budget provides $21.4 million over four years in extra resources for the Commission to carry out this new function.[2]

The anti-bullying measure follows growing public uneasiness about workplace bullying. A recent inquiry by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment recommended that workers who are bullied should have a right to seek remedies through an adjudicative process.[3] This measure is a part of the government’s response to that report.

Establishment of an individual right to seek remedies was widely supported, but there was some debate about what the mechanism should be. Some employer groups argued that bullying is not a workplace relations issue, but a work health and safety issue.[4] There was also some concern about the possibility of forum shopping and confusion between the workplace relations jurisdiction and the work health and safety jurisdiction. There was, however, a good deal of support for using the Fair Work Commission because its processes are well understood, relatively speedy, and not costly.[5]

Funding for this measure comes partly from a reduction in funding to the Office of the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate.

Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency

The Budget includes funding of $10.5 million for the establishment of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency within the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Legislation for the establishment of the agency is before the Parliament.[6] The Bills digest for the Bill contains useful background information.[7]

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency will coordinate the implementation of a national strategic plan to improve asbestos management and awareness. The plan is due for release on 1 July 2013. A draft of the plan has been released for public comment.[8] It states its goal as ‘to minimise exposure to asbestos fibres, in order to eliminate asbestos-related disease in Australia’, and sets out strategies under the headings: Awareness; Better Practice; Identification and Removal; Research; and International Coordination.[9] Asbestos management is currently regulated by the states and territories, and part of the Agency’s work will be to develop nationally consistent responses.

The Agency will support an Asbestos Safety and Eradication Council to advise the Minister and the Chief Executive Officer. Part of the funding will be used for research and communication activities to improve asbestos awareness.

Funding for this measure comes partly from a reduction in funding to the Office of the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate.

Other funding decisions

Fair Work Ombudsman

The 2010–11 Budget included funding of approximately $20 million a year for three years for the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman to assist in establishing the national workplace relations system, including providing education, guidance and mediation services to employers and employees.[10] The 2013–14 Budget provides for a partial continuation of that funding, to the extent of $25.7 million over four years.

Funding for this measure comes partly from a reduction in funding to the Office of the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate.

The Fair Work Ombudsman will also receive an additional $3.4 million over four years to monitor and enforce employer compliance with conditions for 457 visas. These visas require that workers be paid market rates and be employed in specific jobs. Previously the Fair Work Ombudsman could hear complaints of abuse but could not undertake checks for compliance.

Office of the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate

Funding for the Office of the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate has been cut by $24 million over four years. The savings will be achieved through changed administrative and procedural practices.

This cut of $6 million a year is substantial in the light of total available resources for the Fair Work Building Inspectorate in 2012–13 of $73 million.[11] On the other hand, funding for the Inspectorate at $65 million for 2013–14 is still comparable to funding for the predecessor body, the Office of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which was $68 million in 2010–11.[12]

The savings from this measure will partly fund the three other measures discussed above.

Other measures

The Budget provides $6.2 million over four years to establish a Pay Equity Unit in the Fair Work Commission. The Unit will initially focus on the early childhood education and care sector, collecting data and conducting research. This measure is an element of the Government’s program to boost the quality of early childhood education, which is dealt with elsewhere in this brief.

The Fair Entitlements Guarantee Scheme assists workers who are owed money when their employer enters liquidation or bankruptcy.[13] Until now, outworkers, some of whom are very vulnerable workers, have not been able to claim under the scheme because they are not employees. (The situation of outworkers in the textiles, clothing and footwear industry was improved by amendments last year to the Fair Work Act 2009 which made businesses along the value chain responsible for moneys unpaid by other businesses in the value chain.[14]) The Budget includes funds of $1.2 million over five years to extend the Fair Entitlements Guarantee Scheme to outworkers in the textiles, clothing and footwear industry.



[1].       Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013, introduced 21 March 2013, accessed 16 May 2013.

[2].       The budget figures have been taken from the following document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2013–14, accessed 16 May 2013.

[3].       House of Representative Standing Committee on Education and Employment, Workplace bullying: ‘We just want it to stop’, The House of Representatives, Canberra, October 2012, accessed 16 May 2013.

[4].       For example, Australian Industry Group and Australian Mines and Metals Association, Submissions to the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Inquiry into the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013, accessed 16 May 2013.

[5].       Ibid., chapter 6.

[6].       Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency Bill 2013, introduced 20 March 2013, accessed 16 May 2013.

[7].       I McCluskey and T Fox, Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency Bill 2013, Bills digest, 105, 2012–13, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2013, accessed 16 May 2013.

[8].       Office of Asbestos Safety, National Strategic Plan for asbestos awareness and management, discussion draft, DEEWR, Canberra, 2 April 2013, viewed 16 May 2013.

[9].       Ibid.

[10].      Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2010–11, 2010, p. 146, accessed 17 May 2013.

[13].      Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, ‘Fair Entitlements Guarantee’, DEEWR website, accessed 17 May 2013.

[14].      S O’Neill, Fair Work Amendment (Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industry) Bill 2011, Bills digest, 92, 2011–12, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2012, accessed 17 May 2013.

For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.


© Commonwealth of Australia

In essence, you are free to copy and communicate this work in its current form for all non-commercial purposes, as long as you attribute the work to the author and abide by the other licence terms. The work cannot be adapted or modified in any way. Content from this publication should be attributed in the following way: Author(s), Title of publication, Series Name and No, Publisher, Date.

To the extent that copyright subsists in third party quotes it remains with the original owner and permission may be required to reuse the material.

Inquiries regarding the licence and any use of the publication are welcome to webmanager@aph.gov.au.

This work has been prepared to support the work of the Australian Parliament using information available at the time of production. The views expressed do not reflect an official position of the Parliamentary Library, nor do they constitute professional legal opinion.

Feedback is welcome and may be provided to: web.library@aph.gov.au. Any concerns or complaints should be directed to the Parliamentary Librarian. Parliamentary Library staff are available to discuss the contents of publications with Senators and Members and their staff. To access this service, clients may contact the author or the Library‘s Central Entry Point for referral.

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print
Back to top