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ALP: conferences + regulating labour markets « Previous | |Next »
April 27, 2007

The ALP is looking increasingly confident and united. It has shifted from the old negative campaign strategy of saying no, being a small target, and returning to the past to providing substantive policies that address real problems. Remember a desperate Labor's opposition to tax cuts in 2005? The IR plan is a good example of the shift under Kevin Rudd.

It proposes a modern decentralized workplace system, rather than the rejection of the Howard Government's Workchoices and a return to the earlier model. Even though the architecture is a rebadged IRC, that restores to the function of setting minimum wages along with some new functions, the message is that the ALP is the party of the future. It has an IR policy for the 21st century.

At the core of the proposals about a new IR architecture are a uniform national industrial relations system, the introduction of secret ballots over strikes, a ban on pattern wage bargaining, and changes in unfair dismissal laws for small businesses. It abolishes the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and replaces it with an organisation called Fair Work Australia; described as "a one stop shop", that replaces the Australian Fair Pay Commission, the Office of Workplace Services and, with the abolition of Australian Workplace Agreements, the Office of the Employment Advocate. The market would continue to determine wages above the minimum wage.

Julia Gillard suggests that Fair Work Australia will be out in the community, with offices in shopping centres in suburbs and in country towns rather than in city tower blocks.

It is a proposal because the plan has to be debated and agreed at the 43rd ALP national conference on the weekend at Darling Harbour Sydney. We can be sure that it will be agreed as the tightly controlled, stage managed Conference is more a series of set pieces and political theatre on the conference floor. The debate about how to protect workers in a neo-liberal world takes place behind the scenes amongst the various factions and unions. What we see as citizens is a political convention structured for television that reflects the dominance of executive power in the ALP.

Even though big business is unhappy with the IR proposal the ALP is rebuilding the IR architecture on the foundations of the Howard Government's unitary system on the corporations power.It addresses the way that WorkChoices causes unease and anxiety with the claim that the ALP can restore balance and fairness to the system. It is electorally astute politics, since the plan can be marketed as a reform rather than a roll-back.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:37 AM |