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'Too much ideology' in productivity debate, Gillard says
21/08/2012 - Prime Minister Julia Gillard has delivered a passionate defence of Australian workers and her own workplace laws while telling business leaders there's too much ideology in the debate about productivity.
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Gillard on Monday said although the country's overall productivity rate had fallen over the past decade, there were some commonsense reasons for that.
"Not lazy or militant workers," the prime minister told an Australian Industry Group dinner in Canberra.
"Not restrictive industrial legislation."
Instead, Gillard pointed the finger at a "sharp multifactor productivity decline" in mining and utilities.
Mining suffered from the fact it took years before new investments paid off, and because miners were now accessing lower quality or less accessible deposits.
With utilities, there had been increased capital expenditure beyond levels suggested by demand.
Gillard said Australia's labour productivity ranked above that of South Korea, Japan, Canada and the United States.
"Australia is one of the top 12 international performers when it comes to labour productivity levels," she said, arguing there'd been too few facts in the debate to date.
"In the year to March 2012 labour productivity grew at its fastest annual rate in a decade."
The Labor leader said it was a myth individual contracts boosted productivity, pointing to official data which showed multifactor productivity experienced virtually no growth under Work Choices.
"The workplace model that best drives productivity improvements is enterprise bargaining," she said.
Gillard also took a veiled swipe at Opposition Leader Tony Abbott who on the weekend again argued he could return Australia to the "golden age" of the former Howard government.
She said former Labor prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating oversaw a "golden age of productivity secured by working smarter".
School retention rates rose as did university enrolments, while at the same time new technologies were adopted. There was also "the first wave of enterprise bargaining".
Gillard said Labor's new "productivity agenda" would be built around five factors: infrastructure, innovation, tax, deregulation and skills.
The government would consider changes to its Fair Work Act to ensure fairness and productivity continued to be realised, she said, but the debate needed to be "mature and sophisticated".
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