When Kevin Andrews argued in opinion pages of the Fin Review
yesterday that his new IR Laws were an incremental development of the
reform blueprint laid down by Paul Keating it seemed inevitable that
the fiery former PM would hit back. Sure enough, today Keating comes
out swinging with ths strong opinion piece in the Fin (subscription only):

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.

Here’s Andrews’ attempt to claim his reforms are of a piece with the Keating IR agenda, from yesterday’s Fin:

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 minumum 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.

Andrews might’ve been slapped down, but it was pretty smart politics
nonetheless. If Keating had let the claim stand Andrews would’ve been
able to use it to diffuse the ALP’s efforts to paint the new laws as IR
Armgaddeon.

Former leaders who read the papers can come in handy.

Peter Fray

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