This morning’s High Court decision to uphold the Federal Government’s industrial relations changes should come as no surprise.

For more than a year Canberra talk said the Commonwealth’s use of the corporations powers to overturn state industrial relations regimes and impose its own would was soundly based in law.

The High Court has supported this in a five-two vote. Chief Justice Murray Gleeson and Justices William Gummow, Kenneth Hayne, Dyson Heydon and Susan Crennan supported the Commonwealth, with Justices Michael Kirby and Ian Callinan dissenting.

The decision is a blow for Labor and the trade union movement – but cannot be unexpected. The battle is lost. It’s now for the war. And that war will be best fought using asymmetrical warfare.

The High Court has dealt a blow to Labor’s and the unions’ credibility by supporting the laws. It’s now up to the labour movement to destroy the credibility of the government that put them in place. This will be a classic hearts and minds scenario. Conventional warfare has failed. The labour movement now needs to crank up its guerrilla campaign.

The Government has a mass of employment and salary statistics to deploy. Labor and the unions will hope to be able to keep up a campaign of short, sharp shocks by thrusting the details of different AWAs around the country into the public eye. Like all guerrilla campaigns, it will create a climate of fear – but the vital question is how that fear will manifest itself.

The Government’s economic management credentials remain strong. By highlighting hip pocket issues, the labour movement may scare voters into still supporting the Coalition.

There seems to be no doubt that WorkChoices is creating winners and loser – but who likes to think of themselves as a loser?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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