Friday, December 21, 2007

WorkChoices Undead

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson has declared WorkChoices dead. Not everyone likes this. Back bencher Russell Broadbent has come out strongly against the decision. Sid Maris thinks the decision is cowardly and weak. To me its a perfectly sensible move. The Liberals ARE weak, after all they are in opposition, to have WorkChoices hanging around would see them constantly attacked and painted as big , bad worker-bashing monsters. They can’t take such an unpopular policy to the next election.

The Liberals should be about freer labour markets, not about something called WorkChoices. The Australian electorate is conservative, people are wary of radical change. Governments were able to introduce unpopular policies in the 1980s and 90’s such as privitisation and the GST because times were tough. The public was willing to swallow the bad tasting medicine. Thanks to Howard the good times are rolling and people see no need for scary change.

Yet change has occurred and even after the Rudd governments changes should still be a lot freer then they were in 1996. Sid Maris outlines the Labor changes in his article:

Rudd Labor has accepted the fundamental legal and constitutional change that WorkChoices wrought on Australia’s century old industrial relations system.

A legislated set of national minimum conditions, based on the corporations powers of the Constitution not the document’s arbitration powers, will remain. (They will be effectively lifted from 5 to 10 terms).

This means that emphasis at law that a workplace deal is a contract rather than a dispute that needs to be settled continues.

True, Labor is putting more of an emphasis on a collective bargaining and awards will be more often the guide to minimum pay and conditions.

But even Labor is not completely going back to the 1994 system of the previous Labor industrial relations minister Laurie Brereton.

Common law individual contracts, already 30 per cent of agreements, may increase under the new Government with special awards based on the 10 legislated minimum conditions that Labor will introduce.
It’s a case of two steps forward one step back The task of the Opposition is to try to prevent any further backslide and to come up with acceptable policies that can take us forward that extra step.

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