Minister says full employment is Catholic "first principle"

CLICK HEREDefending the Government's industrial relations reform proposals, Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews has suggested that Catholic Social Teaching gives priority to right of all to have a job, over the employment conditions of those who already have jobs.

Mr Andrews told ABC Radio's Religion Report this week that Pope John Paul II said in his 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens that "governments must turn their attention to the fundamental issue, which is the question of finding work, the issue of suitable employment for all those who are capable of it".

"And he sets that out as a fundamental ethical principle in that way, and that's one of the major motivating factors for us in making these changes," said Mr Andrews.

"If we didn't make some changes in 1996 to the Workplace Relations Act, according to an Access Economics survey there'd be something like 350,000 people without a job today, who have got a job," he said. "So I don't think we can ever dismiss the need to ensure that the conditions for creating employment are made out in the economy, and that will always change from time to time as we adapt to changing circumstances."

Mr Andrews said that the conditions of workers are determined by local conditions in each country.

"If you talk about collective bargaining, for example, in the UK there are no rights to collective bargaining as we have it in Australia, but nobody says that the system - from a Christian point of view - is immoral in the UK," he said.

Catholic barrister Dr Jim Macken, who sat as a judge on the bench of the New South Wales Industrial Relations Commission for 15 years, spokeon the same program. He disputed the Minister's interpretation of the industrial applications of Catholic social teaching.

He said: "You can easily create a position of over-full employment by simply dividing all your full-time jobs into two part-time jobs and then say 'See? We've abolished unemployment.' The issue is not the creation of employment - we've got nearly full employment now in Australia - it's the creation of employment in a situation in which men can economically and materially and spiritually grow. It's not just the creation of work."

Industrial relations and Church teaching (ABC Radio The Religion Report 17/8/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Hon Kevin Andrews MP

Remote area voice sees PM 'off target' on IR (CathNews 12/8/05)
Commission answers PM's denial of existence of Catholic position (CathNews 10/8/05)
PM dismisses voice of Church (CathNews 8/8/05)
Melbourne Archbishop coordinating IR response (CathNews 3/8/05)
Minister tells churches to stay out of IR fight (CathNews 11/7/05)
Pell voices wages concerns (CathNews 4/7/05)
Canberra bishop speaks out on job insecurity fears (CathNews 1/7/04)
Church leaders worried about Howard IR changes (CathNews 29/6/05)
Bishop hits back at Minister's claims on IR reforms 1/6/05)
Catholic body seeks meeting with Minister over workplace laws (CathNews 30/5/05)

Federal Industrial Relations Reforms (Catholic Education, Archdiocese of Brisbane 15/8/05)
Tony Smith: The parable of the Bees (Online Catholics 17/8/05)

19 Aug 2005