The Oz leads with a stirring story about Santa Barnaby, and Santa’s helper John Howard. “Employees who refuse to work on key public holidays such as Christmas Day and Anzac Day will be protected from the sack under changes to the Howard Government’s industrial relations reforms.

“After sustained pressure from unions and Nationals senator Barnaby Joyce, the Government has agreed to include new safeguards in the legislation.”

Shaun Carney discusses the “spring in Kim Beazley’s step.” The big fella gave a focussed performance on The Insiders yesterday morning. He remains committed to “tear up” the new IR legislation, although Henry was left uncertain about why new legislation will be needed. Time may tell, I suppose.

On Friday, Laura Tingle in the AFR had some interesting comments on the “chinks in the PM’s armour.” The IR advertising blitz has irritated people, the PM’s announcement of an imminent terrorist threat was met with “hostile scepticism” and the IR changes are “electoral poison.”

A well-known Labor man told me yesterday that Labor would much prefer to face Howard than Costello in the next election. “Costello is much closer to our position on most things”. Ouch!

Read Henry’s full blog here.

Meanwhile Ray Block asks, “What is the US bond market trying to tell us?” and has a hunch that there could be an economic downturn in the US in 2007.