After decades pulling the strings behind
the scenes, Ray Evans, the Svengali behind former WMC CEO Hugh Morgan,
finally stepped out of the shadows on Inside Business
two days ago. Evans is chairman of the seemingly resuscitated right
wing think tank, the HR Nicholls Society, and this is what he told the
ABC’s IR warrior Stephen Long for his Inside Business report:

It’s rather like going back to the old Soviet system of
command and control where every economic decision has to go back to
some central authority and get ticked off. Well, there’s a lot of that
sort of attitude in this new legislation and I think it’s very
unfortunate.

I don’t believe the Howard Government is really that keen on freedom. This new legislation is all about regulation.

He
is a centralist, he’s the most centralist prime minister we’ve had, I
think, since Gough Whitlam. This attempt on his part to diminish the
role of the states, to concentrate all power in Canberra, is very much
to Australia’s detriment.

The problem with the WorkChoices legislation is that you have nearly 2,000 pages of detailed prescription.

Evans spent more than a decade working under Hugh Morgan, writing his
more inflammatory speeches and pushing his weight around in Melbourne’s
right wing think tank scene. However, he was out of a job by the time
BHP took over WMC in 2004, at which point Morgan took over as President
of the Business Council, where insiders say that he was largely kept on
the straight and narrow, except when he’d just had a conspiratorial
lunch with Evans.

Crikey produced one of the few public outings for Evans with this anonymous piece by a Melbourne think tank insider in 2000.

Tony Jones latched onto the duo on Lateline last night when his interview with Workplace Relations minister Kevin Andrews included the following:

The HR Nicholls Society was founded 20 years ago by the young Peter
Costello, among others, to push the cause of industrial relations
reform. One of the co-founders is the society’s current president Ray
Evans, and yesterday he claimed the Government’s reforms are “like
going back to the old Soviet system of command and control”. His
complaint is about the plethora of new regulations that emerged with
the new laws.

Amongst its members are the Reserve Bank director Hugh Morgan, the
immediate past president of the Business Council of Australia, and the
former head of Western Mining. Now when people like that belong to a
group that’s saying that you’ve made a big mistake here, that you’re
going back to a command and control-style economy, do you have to sit
up and take notice?

Andrews should have said that the two old Cold War warriors are a bit
of a laughing stock these days, but inside contained himself to
describing the HR Nicholls Society as “a small organisation”.

Given that Morgan has also publicly lent his name to Josh Frydenberg’s
attempt to unseat Petro Georgiou in Kooyong, it is fair to say that
his relationship with Peter Costello is probably a touch strained these
days, especially given the Treasurer’s infamous glass jaw.

Cossie
appointed Morgan to the Reserve Bank board on 14 August, 1996, but he
certainly won’t be getting another government gig when his term expires
on 28 July, 2007.

Peter Fray

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