“Kim Beazley hates the term but yesterday he committed himself to roll back slabs of John Howard’s industrial laws,” Michelle Grattan
writes today. “Such a promise is an obvious strategy but by the 2007
election it could leave Labor with the same problem it had with its
2001 GST ‘rollback’ policy. Beazley has learnt that ‘rollback’ isn’t a
good term to use, but he doesn’t seem to have absorbed the substance of
the lesson. Saying you will rewind a new system after it is operating
and people have got used to it can turn into thankless and
counterproductive politics.”

Spot on, Michelle. It can look like flip-flopping. Labor should be able to capitalise on IR – but can it under Beazley?

Yesterday’s “Lib Briefing” email – the daily email sent out to gee up the troops – targets the Bomber’s weak point:

Yet again, it seems that Mr. Beazley is trying to walk both sides of the street.

First,
Mr. Beazley said he opposed AWAs: “Our view on workplace agreements –
that’s not the course we favour. We favour collective bargaining and
awards.” (Kim Beazley, ‘Sunday’, Ch. 9, October 9 2005)

When Laurie Oakes pressed Mr. Beazley on whether Labor would abolish AWAs, he answered:

“There’ll
be a million of those things in place when we come into office, and you
can’t wander round cancelling contracts.” (Kim Beazley, ‘Sunday’, Ch.
9, October 9 2005)

Yet, in the very next breath, Mr. Beazley
admitted that his intention is to cancel AWAs by stealth: “But what you
can do is put in place very tough provisions, which we will, on
ensuring that AWAs cannot undermine collective agreements and awards,
and are genuinely policed as to whether or not they’re voluntarily
entered into. Now we know darn well that if you do that, AWAs will
disappear. If you apply that to many individual contracts they’d
disappear as well. That’s a good thing, that is what we want…” (Kim
Beazley, ‘Sunday’, Ch. 9, October 9 2005)

It is now almost 10
months since Kim Beazley resumed the Labor leadership – yet the people
of Australia still don’t know what he stands for, or what his plan is
to keep our economy strong.

Today’s Newspoll
is a stinker for the Labor leader. Beazley should be getting more
traction, but will IR help him? There’s the rollback angle. Its
complexities mean the windbag factor comes into play. Then there’s the
issue of the opposition leader’s relevance to the whole debate. The
unions are setting the agenda on this – with a bit of help from Stephen
Smith.

It’s fortunate that no one is breathing down Beazley’s neck. Yet.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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