The Australian Petroleum, Production and Exploration Association blueprint for labour market reform released today is an important contribution to the debate on Australia's productivity and competitiveness.

The current industrial laws have increased the power of trade unions and tribunals at the expense of direct relationships between employers and employees in the workplace. Limits imposed on choice and flexibility have increased project costs and undercut the industry’s capacity to sustain and create more high-wage jobs.

If Australia is to be competitive in the 21st Century, labour market reform is critical.

Just last week, BHP Billiton revealed that its costs for a truck operator in the Bowen Basin were approximately 1.5 times more than the same truck at its operations in New Mexico in the USA.

In his final public speech before stepping down as the head of the Australian Workers Union Paul Howes acknowledged that Australia's industrial relations system is "dragging us down". Without change, Australia will slip further behind its global competitors who are hungry for our market share in resources and energy.

Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics data shows there is up to $327 billion worth of projects in 2015 that could be developed with the right policy and commercial settings in place. These projects would generate many thousands of new jobs and billions in taxes and royalties for Government. We have to get the settings right to deliver these projects.

Abolishing the carbon tax, which includes a six cents per litre impost on diesel, and the Minerals Resource Rent Tax will be a positive first step in an industry where our international competitors face no such comparable imposts.

But more will need to be done to help restore Australia’s competitiveness.

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