This chapter will enable readers to understand the
development of Australian employment regulation from the inception of the system of conciliation and arbitration
system of bargaining and agreements implemented under the Fair Work Act 2009 and the role of the Fair Work Commission
nature of the National Employment Standards and Modern Awards in providing a safety net
protections for employees from unfair dismissal, unlawful dismissal and discrimination under the Fair Work Act
protections under the Act for casual and temporary employees and contractors, and the shortcomings of those protections.
Legal regulation of Australian employment has undergone massive changes since the mid-2000s. The legislative regime introduced under the Work Choices policy by the Howard Liberal-National Coalition government in 2005 was revolutionary – it dismantled arbitrated awards, ensured that individual agreements prevailed over collective agreements, removed unfair dismissal protection from most Australian employees, introduced secret strike ballots and greatly diminished the independent industrial tribunal’s role. In a dramatic policy contrast enshrined in the Fair Work Act 2009, operative from 1 January 2010, the federal Labor government significantly reversed most of these changes, emphasising enterprise-based collective bargaining underpinned by a safety net of modernised awards and legislated conditions, eliminating individual bargaining and reintroducing job security through unfair dismissal laws. The common law employee–contractor distinction importantly underpins the new national system, together with employment anti-discrimination and occupational health and safety legislation. This chapter analyses these features, critiquing the new national system, which largely has moved away from reliance on market forces to a system of collective bargaining supported by protections for weaker groups and a new good-faith bargaining concept.