Saturday 24 September 2011

Trouble in Paradise: the Bogeyman Strikes Back

Being a chronicle of the Tony Abbott vs. Peter Reith public confrontation, in their own words as reflected by local mainstream media, on the subject of IR reforms:

June 16, 2011: "Reith's Bid [to Liberal Party presidency] Blocked". Phillip Coorey. SMH.
"THE cancellation of a Liberal Party federal executive meeting scheduled for this weekend has fuelled claims it was a deliberate act to stymie Peter Reith's bid to become the party's national president and stifle party reform."

June 28, 2011: "Betrayed Reith Hits at 'Lackey' Abbott". Phillip Coorey. SMH.
"PETER REITH has scolded Tony Abbott for being too timid to embrace industrial relations reforms (...)
"Mr Reith indicated he would start publicly advocating policy change in defiance of Mr Abbott (...)
"Mr Reith is seething after losing by one vote the battle for the Liberal Party's federal presidency on Saturday.
"He feels betrayed that Mr Abbott voted against him after urging he run against the incumbent, Alan Stockdale."

June 29, 2011: "Abbott Bows to Reith on IR". Michelle Grattan. SMH.
"TONY Abbott has yielded to pressure from fellow Liberal Peter Reith to abandon his low-key approach to industrial relations (...)"

August 30, 2011: "John Howard Joins 7:30". Chris Uhlmann. ABC.
"CHRIS UHLMANN: (...) Why is the Coalition mute now on industrial relations? Did you make it harder for them through WorkChoices?
"JOHN HOWARD: No, I don't think so.
(...) But I do know that at some point this country has to wind back the re-regulation of the labour market."

August 31, 2011: "Abbott Backs Howard on IR Laws Rollback". Jeremy Thompson. ABC.
"Saying the Gillard Government had swung 'the pendulum to the other side', Mr Abbott endorsed the former prime minister's comments (...).
"Until now Mr Abbott has shied away from workplace reform, fearful of a repeat of the anti-WorkChoices campaign that helped topple the Howard government in 2007."

September 1, 2011: "Coalition Presses For Fair Work Reforms". Andrea Hayward. AAP/Business Spectator.
"The coalition is attempting to fan the winds of change in the industrial relations landscape while keeping the spectre of its discredited Work Choices policies firmly buried. (...)
"The Greens have vowed to oppose any move to bring back Work Choices

September 20, 2011. "Reith Wants Coalition to Cast Off IR Bogeyman". ABC News.
"Earlier this year Opposition Leader Tony Abbott distanced himself from Mr Reith, who had been pushing for a return to a WorkChoices-style policy within the Liberal Party.
"But Mr Reith told the press club that the Coalition was spooked over the issue in the aftermath of the election.
" 'It's
[sic] has been inflated as a bogeyman, ridiculously inflated, and I think that's a political mistake the Coalition has made,' he said".

September 20, 2011. "Abbott Speaks to Chris Uhlmann". ABC.
"CHRIS UHLMANN: On another matter, industrial relations: do you think that there should be a return to individual contracts?
"TONY ABBOTT: No, I don't.
"CHRIS UHLMANN: And if the answer they have is individual contracts would make the workplace more flexible, you wouldn't listen to them?
"TONY ABBOTT: Well we don't support statutory individual contracts. We did once, we don't now. We're happy to look at building more flexibility into the Fair Work Act.
(...) Other than individual contracts, how would you make the workplace more flexible?
"TONY ABBOTT: Well, we'll have a policy in good time before the next election, Chris, but I'm not going to pre-empt the kind of feedback that we've gotta get from the community."

It's important to note that the Labor Government, to the best of my knowledge, has said nothing officially about this campaign and, instead, has summoned a debate on the subject for next year.


So that's how political debate is conducted in Australia, while the world economy is going down the toilet.

Overseas readers could be forgiven to think productivity and "workplace flexibility" are Australian slang for "anger at not being elected President of the party".

What's unforgivable is having doubts, like the following: there will be rollback of enterprise bargaining (instead of individual contracts), but there will be no individual contracts (WTF?). What about unfair dismissals? Shift penalties and overtime? Union access to workplaces? Non-disadvantage tests? Minimum working standards?

Keep voting Labor or Coalition, folks. We're fucked, big time.

See also accompanying piece Trouble in Paradise: Incomes

The Age's Michelle Grattan's piece seems to coincide with mine!

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