23 March 2010

More madness in Canberra

March has been a less than stellar month for the recruitment sector in our national capital.


The madness of Senator Conroy's proposal for the Do Not Call Register to be extended to businesses was thankfully recognised by the Opposition, who last week announced their intention to block the legislation.

Sensibly the Shadow Telecommunication Spokesperson, Tony Smith, understands that the proposed new laws (that prove nobody in Federal Government or Senator Conroy's office has ever held down a real job in the commercial world) do not distinguish telemarketing from normal day-to-day commercial phone calls.

As the Opposition's statement succinctly puts it ‘If passed in its current form the Bill would severely hinder the ability of small businesses to conduct routine business and establish and maintain commercial relationships'.

Some sense at last.

Let's hope that with an election on the horizon and our PM's bet-the-house re-election strategy of focusing on health and education, will cause the Government to drop this ludicrous legislation and to focus on more important and more winnable battles.

Over in the Deputy Prime Minister's mega-department, the National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce released their Discussion Paper Resourcing the Future for public comment.

The Paper lays out the challenges for the Western Australian and Northern Territory economies, in particular, in providing enough skilled workers for the many multi-billion dollar resource projects coming online in the next decade.

Gorgon LNG, with its projected life span of 40 years, direct and indirect employment of 10,000 at peak construction and $43 billion worth of capital investment, being the most high profile of a long list of these natural resource projects.

Disappointingly, for an overall Taskforce of 24 people, comprising of a Skills Reference Group and Industry Reference Group, there isn't a single representative from the recruitment sector. Sadly this appears to be typical of the Federal Government's apparent disinterest in (or disdain for?) the relevance and views of professional recruiters - people who know far more about the realities and challenges of recruiting skilled staff than any politician, union official or government bureaucrat ever could.

Should we be concerned?

Well the Treasury's own modeling suggests that the economic impact of all the major projects listed by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), will lead to an increase in around $90 billion in real GDP and create around 136,000 direct and indirect jobs over the next five years.

Given the very important role that commercial recruiters have in quickly and efficiently identifying and recruiting skilled workers of all types, I would argue that zero representation for our industry on the Taskforce is a loss all round.

As an aside, I note that the in Discussion Paper's Foreword, Taskforce Chair, Labor's Gary Gray, writes ‘the Taskforce is specifically interested in receiving projections from resources and construction companies and other expert sources relating to the numbers and types of jobs (including skills required) by duration, project and geographic location for existing and planned projects'.

Gray further writes ‘The plan needs to be supported by evidence. Submissions to the Taskforce should be substantiated with information and data to support claims'.

Of course this would be hilarious if it wasn't so hypocritical. The Government requests ‘evidence' here, in contrast to it providing exactly zero evidence for its own argument that the DNC Register being extended to businesses is, overall, a good thing for Australian business.

If this wasn't enough to make recruiters want to migrate to New Zealand (or stay there if you were a Kiwi) then let's have a look at the actions of a man raised in the same Hobart street as yours truly, Assistant Treasurer Nick Sherry.

Senator Sherry is getting his knickers in a knot over alleged ‘sham' independent contractors. Senator Sherry (one time ex-State Secretary of Tas Liquor Employees Union), seems to believe that most independent contractors are rorting the tax system and, as a result, appears eager to adopt some of the radical proposals from the Board of Taxation.

If this were to happen, then it would represent a ‘massive assault on contracting'. These are not my words but those of one of Australia's most respected financial commentators, Robert Gottliebsen.

Given the importance of contracting to the growth and profitability of the recruitment sector, Senator Sherry's agenda (contrary to Labor's pre-2007 election promise not to meddle with independent contracting arrangements), is of serious concern.

There's nothing any individual recruiter can do alone about these three issues. However, at an organisational level, being a member of our peak industry body, the RCSA (Aus & NZ), plays a critical role in ensuring we have a financially sound, powerful and credible voice in Canberra.

The RCSA CEO, Julie Mills, is about to depart and head off for a very well earned rest after 12 challenging and productive years promoting the profile, interests and standards of our sector. As she does so, we should all be reminded that for all that Julie has accomplished in her time (and that's far more than she is generally given credit for) now, more than ever, is not the time to be complacent, ignorant or disinterested in the motivations and actions of those temporary residents of our national capital, elected to govern in all our interests.

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