“Blair remains a symbol of the
differences between Australia and Britain – remember that one of his
first decisions was to accept the Thatcher economic settlement”, Paul Kelly comments in The Australian today. “The idea of Blair campaigning for office against industrial relations reform would have been a joke.”

Music
to the Government’s ears, as were Workplace Relations Minister Kevin
Andrews claims in yesterday’s Fin (subscription only) that his new
policy package is the logical continuation of Labor’s line:

Work Choices builds on Keating’s start

Today
marks the introduction of Work Choices, an evolutionary change to the
workplace that builts on reforms first introduced by the Keating
Government in 1993.

And in that context it is worthwhile
reviewing just the sort of workplace relations system that was
envisaged by the Keating Government.

In 1993, Paul Keating told
the Institute of Company Directors that: “Let me describe the model of
industrial relations we are working towards. It is a model which places
primary emphasis on bargaining at the workplace level within a
framework of minimum standards. Over time the safety net would
inevitably become simpler. We would have fewer awards, with fewer
clauses. We need to find a way of extending the coverage of agreements
from being add-ons to awards to being full substitutes for awards.”

That was the model envisaged then and essentially that is what is being delivered now…

And just the line the Prime Minister was pushing in Question Time yesterday.

Kim Beazley opened proceedings with a question to mark “the first day of the government’s war on workers”.

And
the PM’s response: “These reforms are not extreme; these reforms are
measured improvement to the labour market laws of this country. Now
that they are implemented we will still have a labour market that is
more highly regulated than the labour market of New Zealand or the
United Kingdom.”

Interestingly Keating refuted Andrews’ claims in the Fin today, neatly disproving the common wisdom that former leaders serve their party best when they’re neither seen nor heard.

Work Choices the enemy of productivity

In
defending his indefensible policy, Industrial Relations Minister Kevin
Andrews is forever telling people he is really only continuing the work
I began as prime minister and goes on to add that the changes he has
introduced are the ones I was really heading for (AFR opinion, March
27).

The truth is nothing could be further from the truth.
Andrews knows this and his piece yesterday in the AFR is nothing but
another piece of camouflage to mask his real changes.

Andrews is
so into manipulation and spin he has lost sight of reality. His program
is called Work Choices, when in fact, the legislation makes clear that
it is devoid of choice. As part of his program, he has a so-called Fair
Pay Commission, which will no doubt become an unfair pay commission.
Now he claims to tell the world what I meant over a decade ago when I
made a speech to the Institute of Company Directors in Melbourne in
1993.

Peter Fray

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