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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

The times are a' changing « Previous | |Next »
November 23, 2005

I did not watch the political deliberations around the submissions about the Workplaces Relations Bill to the Senate. I should have watched the deliberations online through a video feed but I've been too busy, and the bits that I did see were predictably partisan. This was a one-week inquiry into a bill proposing the biggest legislative change to the law regulating workplace relations in Australia in over a century.

I agree that the opposition that this disregard for the Senate as a house of scrutiny subverts the democratic process and effective law making in Australia, and is a characteristic of a new authoritarian executive order.

The report of the Senate's Employment, Workplace Relations and Education Committee was handed down yesterday, recommending greater protection of a number of entitlements.

Well, there were four reports in all: a government one and three minority reports. I've scanned the government report prepared by the three Liberal Senators and it has Ministerial office written all over it. Read the Preface, especially the section entitled the political and social context of workplace reform.


We can expect the IR bill to be pushed through the Government controlled Senate using the guillotine. I expect there will be minor concessions to fine-tune the legislation, and to buy off Barnaby Joyce, who has not ruled out crossing the floor of Parliament to vote against elements of the legislation.

I'm currently reading the Australian Democrat's Minority Report written by Andrew Murray. This is his judgement:

In a nutshell, the fundamental changes Mr Howard’s Government seek to introduce will be the antithesis of many of the previous consensus items that I outlined above. A national system forced onto resistant states; the individual to be fostered over the collective; an individual wage and conditions fostered over the family wage and conditions; disputes going to the courts instead of the tribunals; capital and business given freedom, and labour and unions’ rights and freedoms heavily restricted. Unwisely, unprecedented ministerial intervention will replace a sensitively balanced system where politicians were kept at an arms-length from work arrangements and disputes. The safety net shrunk by three-quarters; the withering away of the award; the decline in real terms of the minimum wage; the loss of most statutory conditions.

It is radical, far-reaching change that will disadvantage many less skilled workers in an economic downturn.

The ALP has lost this parliamentary battle. But what of the battle for public opinion? Howard's sunshine spin is not working. It's political management of the issue a has been poor so far. The doubts in the electorate have become entrenched. In his Report Senator Murray addresses the politics of the radical change. He says:

The Coalition Government can rely on most Australians not grasping what is happening until long after it has happened. Evidence to the Committee made it clear that the full effects of the legislation will not be felt until after the next election in late 2007. Not only will 25 to 30% of all workers remain under state systems until then, but the transitional arrangements and the continuing validity of many existing agreements that only expire in 2008, means that for large numbers of Australians the effects will only be after the next election. That is what Mr Howard is counting on – that, and the expectation that they will remain in effective control of the Senate for two more elections, after which it will be very difficult for these changes to be reversed.

There's the problem for Beazley. It is why Howard can keep saying that the immediate experience of the legislation will ease current community concern about the the low wage, low productivity scenario predicted by the ALP.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 02:46 PM | | Comments (2)


And little Johnnie PROMISED! yes once again another howard PROMISE! that he would not use his Senate majority in an arrogant manner.
Well we know or should know just what faith we can put in a howard promise, don't we.
If anyone else in our community broke as many promises as little honest Johnnie we would title him/her as a congenital miserable, grubby liar.
But not the honorable?? little johnnie for some reason. The dumb greedy electors keep voting for him and his compliant, crawling liberals. numbat

Maybe little Johnnie has outsmarted the ALP?

He has become from behind and come ahead at the crucial moment in the past.