BHP calls for workplace reform

BHP Billiton has stepped up calls for reform of Australia’s workplace relations system, with a senior executive labelling current laws “unbalanced”.

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BHP’s president of minerals operations in Australia, Mike Henry, told the Melbourne Mining Club on Thursday that current workplace laws constrain innovation and flexibility.

Mr Henry said the content of enterprise agreements has expanded well beyond the key terms of the relationship between an employer and an employee – those governing wages and benefits.

“The first thing we need is for the content of enterprise agreements to be limited to the key conditions of employment which they were originally intended to cover,” Mr Henry said.

Mr Henry said the number of terms in enterprise agreements required more bargaining time, provided more points for dispute and potential industrial action.

That was not good for the business, workers or the economy.

Mr Henry said that as the contents of enterprise agreements had expanded, inefficient practices had become embedded in the business.

For example, where should a worker start their shift? In the administration office and then spend half an hour getting to their equipment? Or, start the shift where the equipment is located?

Aside from changes to key conditions of employment, Mr Henry said freedom of association provisions and right of entry provisions for union representatives needed to be altered.

He said employers needed greater flexibility in arranging – not blocking – union right-of-entry accesses.

Mr Henry said BHP Billiton was not proposing radical reform but a small set of reasonable, achievable changes already included in its submission to the Productivity Commission.

Mr Henry told reporters that his comments on the need for workplace reform were not related to the pending federal election and were coincidental rather than election advocacy.

“This is something that we’ve been calling for for a long period of time – it was in our submission to the Productivity Commission,” he said.

“But all sides of politics as well as industry need to understand that if we’re going to be competitive and therefore sustainable and able to continue to grow, we can’t do it with the practices of the past.”

Inglis needs help from teammates: Maguire

South Sydney coach Michael Maguire has moved to defend his out-of-sorts captain Greg Inglis, saying the superstar fullback needs more help from teammates to get his game going again.

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And Maguire words have been echoed by Inglis’ Queensland and Australian skipper Cameron Smith.

Inglis has struggled to make an impact in the NRL this season amid continued claims of a knee injury, as Souths have spluttered to a 3-4 start to 2016.

“He is going through a period now where he has to look at his game and ways he can get himself into a good position when we have the ball and, defensively, he is working hard,” Maguire said on Thursday at Sydney Airport.

“It is a team thing – we all need to work hard to create opportunities for each other. If we work hard, those opportunities will come and Greg will get himself into position and we will be talking about the amazing things he does in the game.

“If we get all those one percenters right and that is exactly what it is, Greg will come to life.”

Souths play Brisbane at Friday night at Suncorp Stadium in the opening match of round eight, at a venue Inglis has played some of his best football.

Despite his struggles this year, Inglis remains a certain selection for next month’s Anzac Test in Mal Meninga’s first game as coach of Australia.

“When Mal said he’s going to back his experienced players, GI is one of the most experienced players at international level, so he will be there and I’m sure he will play well,” Smith said.

“I’m sure when the team (Souths) starts playing well collectively you’ll see Greg play well also.

“It’s a bit hard to ask a guy at the back of a team to carry the whole team by himself. They are a quality side, a champion side and they will come good soon.”

SA clashes with feds over mental health

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley says the South Australian government is responsible for the imminent closure of dozens of mental health beds.

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SA Mental Health Minister Leesa Vlahos has appealed to the federal government to extend two funding agreements worth $20 million a year until 2018.

She says community service provider Neami will be forced to close 34 beds across metropolitan Adelaide within weeks if the funding is not restored.

Ms Vlahos also cast doubt on the future of 20 community rehabilitation beds in Whyalla and Mount Gambier, as well as 10 step-down beds in Adelaide’s north used for patients leaving secure mental health facilities.

“We’ve been trying to talk to the federal government about this for a number of months,” she told ABC radio on Thursday.

“These community facilities just can’t be kept holding until the federal government decides it’s going to stump in at the last minute.”

But Ms Ley said the state government was well aware the agreements were coming to an end and should have prepared accordingly.

She said the comments from Ms Vlahos were a “deliberate attempt to deceive South Australians”, who would still receive support through new funding arrangements.

“It’s more a reflection on the mess the Weatherill government is making of health that they’ve been caught out panicking at the last minute when they’ve had five years to plan for this transition,” Ms Ley said in a statement.

“Ms Vlahos would be better focused on asking the premier and health minister why South Australia is no longer committed to funding mental health services or hospital rehabilitation and respite beds.”