So, Lindsay Tanner has a piece in the Fin
today attacking the “hypocritical champions of competition” – the Business
Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and
their views on industrial relations:

As always, such
pronouncements were portrayed as the objective contributions of independent
experts, not the self-interested pleading of special interests. When the
Australian Council of Trade Unions talks about wages, it’s a sectional interest
group arguing its constituents’ case. When the business lobby talks about
profits, it’s a noble defender of economic rigour and the national interest…

There is no
shortage of major economic reform issues in Australia,
but the BCA or the ACCI deal only with those that suit them.

You’ve got to love Tanner. He sure does the
unbearable lightness of the op-ed very well.

To be sure, much of what he says is, well,
pretty self evident. Indeed, commendable. However, with Tanner, the problem is
always in the implementation. Good op-ed, not much follow through.

Tanner laments the business community not
saying enough on competition and deregulation, citing airline deregulation
and communications as examples. Too right. But hang on, Lindsay, weren’t you
Shadow for Communications at one point? What was your policy here? Extra
channels perhaps? A fourth network? Telstra separation? No, it was none of the
above. It was to oppose the sale of Telstra – hardly new wave Labor thinking, I
would say.

And then we have the Sydney to LA
airline route. What was Labor’s response when Howard kept the Monopoly
Kangaroo? Open skies, perhaps? Don’t think so. It was to keep quiet and if
you’re careful no one will notice your silence. Classic.

Oh, one can go on. Woodside and Shell?
Support domestic capitalism against big nasty foreign capital. Of course, you
know it’s the new Labor way to ensure those poor impoverished, hard done by,
Woodside execs keep their jobs. Foreign workers and apprentices,
perhaps? Again, nothing works like a bit of a dog whistle on foreign workers,
does it?

C’mon, Lindsay. It might be cute to whack
the business community for not doing enough on competition – and yes, they
deserve a whack – but don’t challenge our intelligence by ignoring your own
responsibility. As the so-called leader of Labor’s policy review, when we see
Labor actually announcing open skies, telco deregulation, pharmacy
deregulation, abolition of foreign investment rules, etc etc, then we can
believe that you carry more weight than just the unbearable lightness of the op-ed.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey