A NEW industrial relations paper has been announced by federal industrial relations minister and attorney-general Christian Porter.

The paper is designed to look at ideas to boost cooperation and productivity.

“Research shows that when employers and employees work together to improve the performance of a business, they jointly share in the benefits that flow from that collaboration, including improved productivity, higher wages, more innovation, greater job security and better prospects for career enhancement and skills development,” Mr Porter said.

“Yet employee engagement levels in Australia are low compared to other countries such as the US and Canada. Workplaces where engagement levels are low have also been shown to suffer from higher levels of conflict and industrial unrest.”


Mr Porter said this suggested there was a significant opportunity to turn this situation around in Australian workplaces and deliver strong benefits for employers, employees and the economy.

“Importantly, legislative reforms are not required to achieve these sorts of positive outcomes. Instead, what is needed is fresh thinking and better management cultures that view and treat workers as assets, rather than merely as a cost of production,” he said.

The paper attracted praise from the Australian Resources and Energy Group AMMA, an old foe of the union movement.

AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said it was good to explore “how industrial relations policy can better support workplace cooperation, productivity and positive workplace cultures”.

“As a starting point, regulatory burden should be eased in high-paying sectors where employees more often than not choose their employer,” he said.

Mr Knott said Australia’s industrial relations system remained preoccupied with “us and them”, “capital vs labour” principles.

The announcement of the paper came just days after the government suffered a defeat in parliament with the Senate voting down efforts to more closely regulate the union movement.