What’s responsible for Australia’s
30-year-low unemployment rate? Good economic management or Australian Workplace
Agreements? Or are the two interconnected?

That’s going to be the main issue thrashed
out as Parliament resumes today for its final fortnight before the winter
recess. Labor thinks it’s on a winner with IR, but
Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews has accused Kim Beazley of caving
to union pressure
over his announcement to abandon AWA. The Government line this week will be
that Beazley’s policy is
motivated by concerns over job security – his own.

The Government
will be busy talking up their record of economic management. They’ll be busy
explaining how economic security ensures job security. It’s an “I’m
all right, Jack” pitch. While Labor and the union movement will wheel out case
after case of WorkChoices victims, the Government has comparisons of wages
under Labor and pay over the past ten years and the joblessness figures to point
to.

It’s been a
bad few weeks for the Government – no Budget bounce and all that. We’re about
to discover over the next few weeks if downward envy can cut both ways. Sometimes big
government can look very reassuring.

Peter Fray

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