It’s just like Holmes and Moriarty. The Government and the ACTU are locked in a deadly grip, tussling on the edge of the precipice. But look who’s sitting by and watching. Why, it’s that nice Mr Rudd!
He was talking IR with Jon Faine on ABC Radio in Melbourne yesterday:
Every person in every workplace will be able to choose who they negotiate through, whether that is unionised or non-unionised. My responsibility, Jon, is to represent working families wherever they are.
There’s been a debate recently about declining union membership. Am I concerned about that? My response to that is: that is a matter for trade unions to compete out there in the workplace themselves in terms of whether they have the confidence of workers to represent them in what is an increasingly adverse industrial relations system.
What’s my job as the alternative Prime Minister? To ensure there is a national set of laws which looks after people, whether there are unions in the field or not. And that’s what I’m determined to do.
Do I intend to produce a set of industrial relations laws, for the country which is simply the ACTU wish list? Not on your Nelly – not on your Nelly.
Now, that’s quite an interesting approach.
Last week, the PM was out begging business for some third party endorsements for WorkChoices. They weren’t forthcoming.
You’d think John Howard might have remembered what happened when he was treasurer, the days of the wages breakout of the early eighties when much of Australian industry signed its own death warrant by enthusiastically caving in to ACTU demands. Business didn’t do much back then.
And you also might think that some more of the commentariat might remember that WorkChoices hasn’t really had much of an enthusiastic greeting from anyone.
WorkChoices has been portrayed as IR fundamentalism, but the H R Nichols society doesn’t like the laws. They’ve been condemned for being too bureaucratic.
Rudd has his third party force fighting away – the union movement and the Your Rights at Work campaign. Yes, he’ll have a balancing task of his own crafting an IR policy, but he’s the only hope of the ACTU.
IR laws are a threat to the government. They’re also a threat to the union movement.
IR laws could well defeat the government. And social trends could well defeat the trade union movement – or continue its journey down the path of irrelevance. We are no longer a society of joiners. The traditional institutions and organisations we have belonged to, be they service clubs, mainstream churches or trade unions, are withering.
Either way, Kevin Rudd wins.
He has his third party endorsement guaranteed, though, because the unions are going down fighting. They’re part of the political struggle.
Business is a different matter. They have to keep on keeping on. They have to deal with the government of the day – whoever it is.
So the WorkChoices war could see both John Howard and the ACTU go over the Reichenbach Falls – and who’ll be left? Why, that nice Mr Rudd.