Mark Textor is one pollster who does know the significance of his findings, and government difficulties with the trade union campaign against the new industrial relations laws is clearly coming up as a big negative for his client the Liberal Party. Hence the recent humiliation of Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone by her Cabinet colleague Kevin Andrews.

Senator Vanstone last week quite cleverly sidestepped the issue of American Express wanting to import Japanese speakers to work in its Sydney call centre. Amex proposed to pay the holders of short term work permits the same $36,000 salary it gives to locals doing the same work but this happened to be less than the minimum wage of $41,850 the Commonwealth Government has decreed as being necessary to permit labour imports. In the face of Amex claims that it might shut up shop, costing Australians their call centre jobs, if the government rate had to be applied, the Senator asked NSW Premier Morris Iemma for his opinion. It was a neat way of ensuring that should Amex carry out its threat the blame would at least be shared between a Federal coalition and State Labor.

Before Premier Iemma had a chance to venture his opinion the Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews bluntly ruled out any variation of the minimum wage. Mr Andrews clearly believes that the current campaign alleging the Commonwealth is all set on reducing wages is far more damaging than the closing of a call centre could ever be.

So there was Amanda left and high and dry but like a real trouper she fronted up yesterday and said she did not want “foreign workers coming here at all to undermine job security.”

I wonder what the pollster will say if Amex does move. Probably that the Senator be called on to explain. After all, she handles all the other impossible cases.

Peter Fray

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