One of the characteristics of the recent industrial relations debate
has been the observation: “haven’t the unions done a great job.” This
comment appears in the media and is common in conversation. But why are
they saying this? Why are we so impressed that someone is challenging
the Howard Government? Is it because we are so cynical about politics
that we had given up on any informed public policy debate?

The problem for the government has been its inability to demonstrate to the public the economic
benefits for them in the IR changes. When the GST debate was in full flow,
Costello could point to the blackboard and show a series of calculations that
left average Australian families $30-40 better off each week. So far he has
been unable to do that. A more flexible workforce means nothing to the average
employee except that they now think it means that they’ll have to work public
holidays. Furthermore, the unbridled support of the business community has made
average Australians suspicious.


Peter Fray

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