Workplace relations agencies overview

Budget Review 2012–13 Index

Steve O’Neill

The workplace relations agencies reviewed in this brief fall under Outcome 4 of the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). One significant change to the agencies is the replacement of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) with the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate, following the passage of the Fair Work (Building Industry) Act 2012.The new agency commences with somewhat fewer resources than its predecessor while retaining the staff of the former Commission. The Opposition has long opposed the replacement of the ABCC and would seek its reinstatement.[1]

The table below compares departmental expenses of the key workplace agencies along with average staffing levels (ASL) for 2012–13 against those of 2011–12.

Workplace relations agencies





Fair Work Australia

74 648

75 260



Fair Work Ombudsman

128 771  

141 790



The Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate

30 726

36 070



Safe Work Australia (jointly funded with the Commonwealth by the States and Territories, Cwlth contribution itemised)






485 994

454 213



Source: Portfolio budget statements 2012–13: budget related paper no. 1.6: Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2012.

Comcare, which operates the Commonwealth’s workers’ compensation fund, will receive higher contributions from premiums.[3]  Workplace relations programs which continue in 2012–13 include Protected Action Ballots, Australia’s subscription to the International Labour Organisation and provision for the Commonwealth to meet asbestos-related compensation claims from its current and former employees, which is expected to cost around $70 million for this and future years.[4] The Home Workers Code of Practice program has been discontinued. 

Reflecting a general economic malaise experienced in particular sectors such as manufacturing, the Government has revised potential commitments under the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme. The scheme meets unpaid employee entitlements in the event of employer insolvency. The GEERS budget was predicted to fall to $102.3 million in 2011–12 but the outcome has been revised to $199.3 million.[5] The GEERS budget in 2012–13 will be $202.6 million rising to $214 million in 2015–16. The Fair Work Guarantee legislation underpinning the GEERS system was to have been introduced in 2011 but is now likely to be introduced later in 2012.

[1].       The Parliamentary Library canvassed stakeholder views on the repeal of the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act 2005 which supported the operation of the ABCC in the Bills Digest on the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Amendment (Transition to Fair Work) Bill 2011. The Opposition’s call for the ABCC’s reinstatement was aired once again in the Leader of the Opposition’s Budget Reply speech on 10 May 2012.

[2].       The bulk of Comcare’s resources are funded from workers compensation premiums paid by Commonwealth and other agencies.

[4].       Ibid., Table 2.4.3, p. 105.

[5].       Ibid., Table 2.4.1, p. 103.

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