If 2005 was a watershed year with the passing of the Work Choices legislation, then 2006 may well be considered year zero, symbolizing the beginning of a new era of Australian industrial relations under the employer friendly legislative regime. Employer groups were actively engaged in lobbying the Federal Government for further industrial relations reform, particularly in relation to the award rationalization process, and in pressuring the government for codification of the definition of `independent contractors', as a means of immunizing them from many of the rigours currently imposed by employment and labour law. Key employer groups made significant submissions to the newly formed Australian Fair Pay Commission in the lead up to its inaugural minimum wages decision, and though generally urging caution in raising minimum wages, there were nevertheless some differences of emphasis and approach apparent between a number of them. Despite an absence of widespread industrial disputation, the year witnessed a number of employers exercising their newfound powers — including some enhanced legal options — to either by-pass unions or to constrain union activity.
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