Oil man: Martin Ferguson wants more workplace reforms.

Martin Ferguson, once the country's highest-ranking unionist and a senior Labor minister, will today claim the Abbott Government has not gone far enough in reforming industrial relations.

In a surprise move, Mr Ferguson will urge the Federal Government to make a "clear-eyed assessment" of the Fair Work Act in a bid to protect the country's economic prosperity.

He will tell a Perth forum that Australia is at risk of pricing itself out of the global LNG market, partly because of industrial policies and inefficient regulations.

Mr Ferguson is chairman of an advisory board to oil and gas lobby group APPEA but was previously leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and a resources and energy minister.

His speech today will call for a reassessment of industrial laws with regard to "continued ratcheting up of wages and conditions" in agreements for new projects.

He wants the scope of matters that can be included in agreements, and over which unions can legally strike, to be reconsidered. Mr Ferguson will also call for the duration of agreements to be expanded to prevent renegotiations at critical points of the project.

"While the changes to the Fair Work Act so far are a step in the right direction, they really are quite modest," he will tell the Committee for Economic Development of Australia forum.

"I would urge the Government to keep an open mind on the need for further reform in this area."

Mr Ferguson said inefficient regulations added to an increasingly high cost of doing business, with oil and gas regulated by 150 statutes and more than 50 agencies.

He will support the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, claiming it held both sides to account and ensured projects were delivered on time and on budget.

Mr Ferguson will also take a swipe at the Maritime Union in WA, which last night had to call off a planned strike by Tidewater staff on the $29 billion Wheatstone project. The Federal Court yesterday found it made a technical error in its application for a strike. The union will hold a new ballot next week.

"The way that particular union leverages its bargaining position threatens the economic prospects of its members, and the State," Mr Ferguson claims.

MUA boss Christy Cain said the wages of maritime workers were worth less than one per cent of total costs for a major project.

"Given this, it's clear maritime wages are not a threat to the sector," he said. "This is a highly profitable industry, so we make no apology for seeking fair and affordable wage outcomes."

The West Australian

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