Workplace relations overview

Budget Review 2009-10 Index

Budget 2009 10:Workplace relations


Steve O'Neill

The Budget measures relating to the Education, Employment and Workplace Relations portfolio provide an ‘additional’ $149.7 million over four years to implement the new workplace relations scheme.[1] The Government elsewhere reports that it will save $197.9 million over four years by rationalising workplace agencies as part of its Fair Work (FW) initiative.[2] Savings from rationalising the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, the Australian Fair Pay Commission and the Workplace Authority into the new regulator Fair Work Australia may thus counter any additional spending in 2009–10. The tasks set for Fair Work Australia (including related agencies) comprise:

  • processing of an increased number of collective agreements, including expired agreements expected to be renegotiated once the new legislation takes effect
  • administration of an increased number of claims under the new unfair dismissal protection law (i.e. the Fair Work Act 2009)
  • implementation of the 'better off overall' test to ensure that employees covered by an agreement are better off in comparison to the relevant awards
  • increased information advisory services, including an information line that will integrate information services currently provided by existing agencies and support the volume of calls expected with the commencement of the new law
  • education activities to assist employers and employees in understanding the new workplace relations legislation and
  • an increased number of Fair Work inspectors who will assist employers, employees and organisations to comply with the new workplace relations laws.[3]

The Government discontinued funding for the Unlawful Termination Assistance Scheme, saving $24.2 million over four years, and the Alternative Dispute Resolution Assistance Scheme, saving $19.6 million.

The following table compares total resources for workplace relations agencies in 2008–09 with those in 2009–10, to reflect the shift in resources and priorities of the 2009 Budget. The Workplace Ombudsman is a clear winner, while the Workplace Authority and Australian Fair Pay Commission have their functions subsumed into Fair Work Australia—by mid year for the Australian Fair Pay Commission and by the end of the year for the Workplace Authority (allowing it to approve Individual Transitional Employment Agreements until the end of 2009). The Workplace Authority and Australian Industrial Relations Commission/Registry are therefore budgeted to operate for part of 2009–10. The table shows only a marginal aggregate increase in 2009–10 for the key agencies associated with the FW initiative.

Workplace Relations Agencies




Australian Industrial Relations Commission and Australian Industrial Registry

59 712

10 886


Australian Fair Pay Commission

 7 479



Australian Building and Construction Commission

32 824

33 456


Workplace Authority

116 560

20 364


Workplace Ombudsman/OFWO[7]

71 076

154 741


Fair Work Australia

73 516


Total: FW initiative Agencies

287 651

292 963



368 880

328 285


Seafarers’ Safety Rehabilitation Authority




The General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS) received additional funding in the economic stimulus legislation increasing the 2008–09 allocation from $82 million by $70 million, primarily to meet the employee entitlement costs of the ABC Learning insolvency.[9] GEERS funding for 2009–10 is set at $106 million.

[1].    Australian Government, ‘Part 2: expense measures’, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2009–10, Commonwealth Government, Canberra, 2009, pp. 165–6.

[2].    J Gillard (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations), Establishment of Fair Work Australia delivers efficiencies, media release, 12 May 2009.

[3].    Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2009–10, pp. 165–6.

[4].    Australian Government, ‘Portfolio Overview’ Portfolio budget statements 2008–09: budget related paper no. 1.5: Education, Employment and Workplace Relations portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2008, p. 5.

[5].    Australian Government, ‘Portfolio Overview’, Portfolio budget statements 2009–10: budget related paper no. 1.5: Education, Employment and Workplace Relations portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2009, pp. 6–7.

[6].    ASL: Average Staffing Level. Change calculated from previous year: ‘Statement 6: expenses and net capital investment’, Budget strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1: 2009–10¸ Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2009, p. 6-67.

[7].    The Workplace Ombudsman is to be replaced by the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman.

[8].    Care should be taken in regard to the total resources made available to Comcare as the bulk of its allocation is derived from premiums paid by Commonwealth agencies for workers compensation cover for their employees.

[9].    Announced in the ‘National Building and Jobs Plan’ and passed via Appropriation Act (No. 5) 2009. J Gillard, Government seeks additional $70 million for redundant workers, media release, 15 March 2009.