After Kerry Packer sold the Nine Network to Bondy for a cool billion dollars or so he remarked that you only got one Alan Bond in your lifetime. John Howard must feel much the same way about Kim Beazley, and he’s been lucky enough to get him three times.

Alan Wood in The Oz today writes about the IR imbroglio. First to some facts:

It is much too early for an assessment of the ultimate impact of WorkChoices, but what is already clear is that the threatened mass unemployment, falling wages and soaring industrial disputes have failed to make an appearance, and are unlikely to.

In the June quarter this year, working days lost to disputes per thousand employees were down to a mere 1.1 in Western Australia, from 9.0 in the June quarter last year, itself a historically very low figure. There is a similar story nation wide, yet these are reforms Labor would reverse as part of the re-establishment of union power.

One of Woodie’s points is that “incredibly” Beazley is making the same mistake Howard made — “… dribbling out just enough of his policy intentions to give the Government the basis for an effective campaign against Labor on industrial relations, but has put out no detailed policy”.

This is giving Howard and Industrial Relations Minister Kevin Andrews a great run in parliament. But this game has a long way to run. “Rollback” will not work (Henry’s opinion) but arguably (OECD, Alan Wood) much more reform is needed.

Master labour market analyst Richard Blandy predicted in the 2005 Anne Hawke memorial lecture: “Assuming that the proposed legislation passes the Parliament and survives various legal challenges, it will have about two years to be bedded down and for people to become familiar with its results. I would expect that some of the results will be hard luck stories and that some of the results will be good luck stories. But, as time passes, more and more of the results will turn positive. The new proposals will make a good contribution to the long run welfare of the Australian people”.

Read more at Henry Thornton.

Peter Fray

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