IR done
and dusted – or the unions done, anyway? No, according to one of the Prime
Minister’s closest confidants.

The Howard Government should go to the next election with plans for a
further wave of IR change, while the Government still faces significant
challenges in bedding down the WorkChoices legislation, according to Finance
Minister Nick Minchin.

IR news service Workplace Express (subscription only) is running details of Minchin’s address to the HR Nicholls Society’s 20th
anniversary conference in Sydney.

According to Workplace Express, Minchin says that there will not be any
further IR change before the election, “but I think we do need to seek a
mandate from the Australian people at the next election for another wave of
industrial relations reform”.

Minchin says it is “ridiculous” for the Government’s opponents to say
WorkChoices was “extravagant and radical reform”. “This is evolution, not revolution, and there is still a long way to

Workplace Express
reports Minchin has stated there is still much to be
done in changing the post-WorkChoices IR “edifice” – “awards, the IR Commission,
all the rest of it.”

He also says the HR Nicholls Society had to play a key role in formulating
the next mandate. Perhaps that might stop the bruvvers fighting.

And Minchin’s speech has carried some interesting admissions – of vulnerabilities
over IR and tensions within the Government. “Poll after poll demonstrated that the Australian people don’t agree at
all with anything we’re doing on this – we have minority support for what we’re
doing”, he admitted.

According to Workplace Express, Minchin described the public
of the Liberals – as the party of the bosses – as their “great negative”.
And the Finance Minister admitted that the Government had had “very big issues
bedding this down” and he remained nervous about the fate of the
legislation in
the High Court.

Having appointed conservative judges to the High Court, “we may find
that those very conservative judges take a conservative view about the extent
to which the corporations power is capable of supporting these sorts of laws”.

Finally, it appears that Minchin seems to have had a St
Augustine “Lord, make me good – but not yet” moment
over the WorkChoices laws.

According to Workplace Express, the Finance Minister, “who confessed
himself a genuine federalist, admitted he didn’t find it easy to accept the federal
takeover of IR.” So everybody’s happy then.