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ALP toughens up « Previous | |Next »
June 13, 2006

Well it was foreshadowed wasn't it. Despite the wavering Kim Beazley and the ALP will abolish John Howard’s Australian Workplace Agreements--'the poison tip of John Howard's industrial relations arrow.' Federal Labor has also made industrial relations a centrepiece of the fight with John Howard's Coalition. It has given the ALP what it needed: a strong support base with voters, a clear differentiation from John Howard's Coalition and a potent weapon-- AWA's dismantling work conditions and lowering wages --- that resonates in the community.

So we have the political as a conflict between political enemies.

Bill Leak

But the unions only form 20-25% of the workforce and AWA's only cover about 2-3% of the workforce. It is unclear whether the ALP is revisiting the past on industrial relations, or looking to the future.

There were promises to pay TAFE fees for training the traditional trades, to encourage kids to investigate those trades through a "Trade Taster Program", and to pay TAFE fees for trainee child carers. This addresses the workplace crisis facing Australia - the shortage of skilled workers. That Australia is so short of skilled workers is a failure of government policy and pushing this issues is good policy. .

Yet this is lost in the rhetorical turn to 'jobs for Aussies' instead of importing workers, skilled or unskilled, to ensure the human resources are there to enable the West Australian mining boom. This turn to economic nationalism with tis roots in the socailly conservative blue collar base backs away from Australia as an open economy.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:37 AM | | Comments (6)


This is the dichotomy that Howard has rode well, that Australia is socially conservative but needs to be outward focussed.

However, the end result is that the country now has a schizoid character.

We honestly don't know who the hell we actually are or where we stand in the world.

This will be his true legacy, long paid for as we struggle to regain some positive sense of identity not rooted in vague jingoistic naiveities.

As to the ALP's politics, my biggest concern is that it puts business (and especially big media) off side early - lots of extra campaign dollars and free kicks given to Howard.

yeah the big business drum against Beazley's NSW Labor Conference speech is being banged hard, isn't it, especially in The Australian. The message is pretty focused and clear cut:

'Beazely is a captive of the union bosses, he's old-fashioned, and backward looking, is trying to shore up his job, living a 20th century fantasy, going back to the 1950s, he is economically irresponsible etc etc. '

Federal Labor is going to have the address the issue of importing a skilled workforce from India, China and the Philippines, whilst he gets the education/training scheme up and running as a way to deal with an ageing workforce and a fiercely competitive economy.

Flashing a 2 cent coin on the media and chanting Spotless as Stephen Smith is doing doesn't address the above issues.

The AFR editorial on the imported labour issue says:

Mr Beazley indulges in the caricatures of an earlier generation's cheap nationalism which is driven by fear of other people..its shameful's a race of its own to the bottom of fear mongering.

It shows that Beazely & Co have to come up with a unitary industrial relations system that has flexiblity, protection of living standards and job security, and allows for skilled migrant workers.

Gary,The Perth electronic media is taking the same slant as the Australian ref Bomber Beasley.They are very subtle in their bias, but none the less it is there. As per usual government members and toady's are given carte blanche to make as many stupid statements as they please, with the usual no right of reply to the opposition.

To change the subject slightly, I was mortified to see the Bomber give a little burst of good luck and other soapy sickening out pourings to the Socceroos just prior to their match with J.A. Pan & Company. Has this man lost the fucking plot? Who ever the fuck wit was that advised him to do this,must be a member of the Liberal Party. I despair for the Labour Party they haven't got a clue. Hey the Bomber dont do sport, and should be locked in a cupboard during the world cup. I am sure the man would turn blue playing tidly winks.Brother!!!!!!!!!!!

The Government onslaught was pretty full on, and indicates an awareness that the workplace changes have hurt the Coalition, and will continue to do so.

In question time time yesterday Howard responded to all the ALP questions about AWA, and examples of worse conditions, lower income etc with his record about economic growth, creating jobs and lowering unemployemt. His record was so much better than the Hawke/Keating government on this etc etc He did not rebutt the claims that some people are being hurt in the process, other than to say that any job is better than no job.

But Howard mentioned aspirational outer suburbanites voters in every sentence. AWA helps aspirational workers to better themselves. Beazely stands opposed to the this. He has no time for aspirational workers and attacks the dreams of hundreds of thousands of Australians and their desire for prosperity.

Therein lies the danger for the ALP.What are they doing to help aspirational voters? Mark Latham understood that. I'm not sure that the inner Beazely circle does. Beazley promises that 'Labor will be fleshing out its industrial relations policy as we move forward in the interests of middle Australia'. I presume that most of the work on this will come from the ACTU.

I am beginnig to wonder whether the 'aspirationals' are beginning to become the 'shit-we-need-to-hold-onto-what-we've-got-als'.

If so, this is trouble for Howard in a big way, as he has basically promised free beer and peanuts forever for this group.

The key to all this is western Sydney - currently Liberal territory - but now suffering from Sydney's falling residential values, fuel costs and increasing interest rates.

If they lose confidence that Howard (or Costello) is the one that can enable them to keep using their increasing equity to fund their lifestyle, then the government will change.

Of course, keeping this group happy is not at all easy - I pity the next government's time dealing with them.

Gary, I agree with your comments on what drives Howard on implementing his I.R. laws,lower wages yada yada yada =low employment.However I would go one further,(shoot me down at leasure)Howard knows this boom is temporary,and this will be more about controlling the workers in high un-employment.I am coming to believe that Howard knows his days are numbered,and they are going to try and make the Labor Party carry the can for the shit fight that is to come.If he hands power to the smirker before the next election, his advisors will have told him he can't win and get the smirker to carry the loss.