Christian Kerr writes:

Even if the Treasurer hasn’t mislead the
Parliament, the revelations in The Australian today show the Government has
been economical with the actuality as it’s spruiked the superlative of the wonderful
world of WorkChoices.

Brad Norington spells it out in The Oz
very, very simply
– in words that even Alby Schultz could understand:

John Howard and
Peter Costello have been desperately trying to sell to the public the message
that their industrial laws are all positive: higher pay, more jobs and greater

It would have
been politically unpalatable to admit to what Treasury has been telling them.

While the
reforms are likely to have a “wellbeing” effect in the longer term,
Treasury says many people will suffer a dose of bad medicine. This is because
the real value of their wages will be cut as the new Fair Pay Commission puts
the needs of the unemployed ahead of ensuring people’s living standards keep
pace with inflation and clamps down on the minimum wage.

The wave of
much-heralded productivity gains that Howard and Costello say will be unleashed
by their workplace reforms also looks like a furphy.

Even more exceptional is this:

Treasury says on
productivity that while the outcome is likely to be positive in the long run,
it expects the effect to be “slow” and “negative” in the
short term. It even admits the likely impact on productivity is “difficult
to quantify.”

It is very
candid of the Treasury to say what is widely known among economists: that it is
almost impossible to predict what impact the workplace changes might have on

As Norington says, “Treasury has poured
cold water on the Government’s firm philosophy that individual employment
arrangements are best for productivity.”

That’s very full and frank advice. But Treasury
isn’t regarded as the premier department for nothing – the creme de la creme of
the public service. While most of the bureaucracy’s been bludgeoned, they seem
prepared to do their job.

And it’s a nasty job, telling the truth.
Someone’s got to do it and, as Norington says, you won’t hear it from the PM or
the Treasurer:

Treasury says
there is “no clear difference” in productivity gains between
collective and individual agreements.

What Treasury
means when it predicts a “negative” effect on productivity in the
short term is that the jobless who get employed in the first few years of the
changes are likely to be in the low wage bracket and less efficient.

The Treasury
expects productivity will improve as workplace agreements become more
innovative and behavioural change improves output.

The downside for
these unskilled workers is that their wages are likely to stay low.

But you won’t
hear that from Howard or Costello.

Barnyard boasted that the National Party
had saved Christmas when the WorkChoices bills went through. Plenty of people would rather be getting up
and going off to work next Sunday than finding this package under the tree.