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Martin Ferguson Calls For Further Industrial Relations Reform; Urges Union Rethink

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.

Ferguson

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. [Read more…]


Martin Ferguson Resigns From Gillard Ministry; Second Departure Today

Martin Ferguson, the Minister for Resources and Energy, has resigned from the Gillard government.

Following yesterday’s leadership spill debacle, Ferguson said his resignation was “the only honourable thing to do”. He voted for Kevin Rudd in last year’s leadership ballot and would have voted for Rudd yesterday if the former prime minister had contested the ballot.

Ferguson is the second minister to resign today. The Minister for Tertiary Education, Chris Bowen, announced his resignation this morning. [Read more…]


Gillard Tackles Electricity Prices

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has written to state premiers asking them to prepare for a new national agreement on energy prices by the end of the year.

Julia Gillard

Gillard said power prices have risen unsustainably because of over-investment that has driven up energy costs by 48% in the past four years. “And ordinary businesses and households have been entirely uncompensated for these significant cost increases.” [Read more…]


Queensland Floods: Latest Briefings

These are some of today’s briefings on the Queensland floods. [Read more…]


Martin Ferguson Attacks Greens Over Forests Policy

The ALP’s spokesman on foresty issues, Martin Ferguson, has launched an attack on the Greens, accusing them of placing at risk the economic security and jobs of their constituents.

Martin FergusonIn a speech to the National Association of Forest Industries, Ferguson distanced the ALP from the Greens on forestry issues and called on them to “wear” the decisions of “democratically elected governments”.

Ferguson claimed that “for the last two years international clients of the forest industry have been subject to a lobbying and email campaign calling for a global boycott of Tasmanian products.” He said “the Greens have also undermined the Tasmanian forest industry with UK parliamentarians, potentially jeopardising UK visitor numbers to Tasmania and placing at risk the almost $50 million spent by British tourists in Tasmania each year.”

Lauding the $1 billion contributed to the Tasmanian economy each year by forestry, Ferguson said that Tasmania’s timber industry “is conducted to the highest standards in accordance with the Australian Forestry Standard, the development of which was initiated by the Commonwealth government and based on internationally agreed criteria”. [Read more…]