Martin Ferguson, the former resources minister in the Rudd and Gillard governments, says the Abbott government needs to go further than its “modest” reforms to the Fair Work Act.
In a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, Ferguson, now the chairman of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, says the current industrial relations system is sending jobs offshore. “We must get serious about closing the competitive gap that has opened up between Australia and our rivals,” he said.
The Fair Work Act was the creation of the Rudd government in 2009. The legislation was introduced by the then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard.
In his speech, Ferguson says: “The objectives of the Fair Work Act need to be examined to make sure they truly reflect the need for Australia to be internationally competitive.”
He added: “It is time that some in today’s union leadership recognised that their members’ long-term interests are aligned with their long-term job security.”
Three weeks after leaving Parliament at last year’s election, Ferguson was appointed Chairman of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association. Critics of his comments today describe him as an oil and gas industry lobbyist.
On its website, the association says: “The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association is the peak national body representing Australia’s oil and gas exploration and production industry. It has more than 80 full member companies. These are oil and gas explorers and producers active in Australia. APPEA members account for an estimated 98 per cent of the nation’s petroleum production. APPEA also represents more than 250 associate member companies that provide a wide range of goods and services to the upstream oil and gas industry.”
Prior to being elected to parliament in 1996, Ferguson spent his early working life as an official of the Miscellaneous Workers’ Union. He was President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions between 1990-96. He served in the Rudd and Gillard cabinets as Minister for Resources and Energy from 2007 until his resignation in March last year at the time of the stillborn challenge to Julia Gillard’s leadership.
Text of Martin Ferguson’s speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.
Competitiveness of the Australian gas industry
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you.
Today, I will discuss the Australian oil & gas industry and our national economy.
I will outline the industry’s widely underestimated contribution to our national prosperity and how in coming years it can contribute even more to our economic security.