“Look out Labor, Ian Hanke is
back. Hanke, whom Mark Latham once accused of running a Coalition ‘dirt
unit’, was spotted in Melbourne yesterday at a doorstop with Workplace
Relations Minister Kevin Andrews,” The Australian’sStrewth column reports today.

Er,
yes. That might be because Hanke is on Kevin Andrews’ staff. He does a
bloody good job, too – particularly if he’s the bloke who derailed
union attacks on the government’s IR reforms yesterday with the info that the WA Labor government is quite happy to let employees cash out two weeks of their annual leave.

Commenting
on yesterday’s AC Nielsen poll, Michelle Grattan observed: “The unions’
industrial relations campaign has greatly helped the Opposition leader.
People are concerned about the drastic changes and the debate has
overshadowed some of the negative issues that dogged Labor last week.”

But
she also warned: “It is possible, though, that once the changes are
bedded down, feelings could change. The public could find the new
industrial scene less scary than Labor and unions claim… (F)or the
first time for quite a while there is a clear distinction between
Coalition and Labor on an issue important to many people. This might
have got Labor its lift. But… the government is not in top gear in
putting its case yet, so this could be the ‘high water mark’ of public
opposition.”

A government ad campaign is imminent. More Joe Cocker jingles? I get by without a little help from my friends?

RMIT academic Nick Richardson wrote in the Herald Sun
on Friday: “It would have done Kim Beazley a power of good yesterday,
getting out in the Melbourne rain and mingling with trade unionists and
thousands of others down Swanston St.”

Richardson was talking
about the Bomber’s battles with the Roostocracy and troubles with a
certain former leader as much as his IR campaign. He warned how: “The
Opposition leader is, by nature, a consensus man. Adversarial politics,
or the kind of hand-to-hand combat that is often mistaken for political
debate, is not his forte. Yet it is this kind of aggression the
situation demands.”

“Labor needs to avoid the trap it fell
into with the GST, where it wrongly assumed people would maintain their
concern. Its negative campaign on workplace relations should be a
launching pad to give other, more positive, reasons to vote Labor,”
Grattan concluded yesterday.

This morning the ABC
reported that unions have renewed their call for Western Australia to
scrap the laws that allow workers to cash in some leave entitlements
after Andrews cited them as a precedent for national legislation. Just
what Beazley needs. A stroppy union movement in his home state picking
on a Labor government – particularly given that it always looks more
like a protection racket than a mutual assistance movement.

No
wonder Richardson warns: “It is a steep and winding road ahead for the
Opposition leader and he won’t find as many friends along the way,
unlike Swanston Street.”

Peter Fray

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