Sick of the fawning pre-Budget profiles of the Treasurer? Talk to the right people in Melbourne and you’ll hear something very different about Dollar Sweetie.

Poor Petey, some gorgeous gossip goes, has been a little too full and frank in private moments and non-attributable chats. He has quite openly told some journos and inhabitants of the top end of town that the Government is rooted — or words to that affect.

Ian Campbell’s departure, too, is likely to be followed by a few more. The Budget session before the election is a good time to give it away.

Both the major parties will welcome the opportunities Budget week creates for them. They’ll welcome the parameters it puts on debate.

Bill Heffernan last week managed to arrest the best bit of momentum the Government had built up all year. He got Julia Gillard off the hook very nicely, indeed.

Still, there are now people who, when the Labor deputy’s name is mentioned, immediately think two words — Medicare Gold — or four: lead in the saddlebags.

It’s probably not all her own fault. Labor needs to have the courage of its convictions over industrial relations.

The Labor Party need not concern itself too much over the reaction of the business “unions” — ACCI etcetera — to its industrial relations plans. Much of this is a distraction. In the end, business will work with whoever wins. They simply follow the money.

Regardless of the rhetoric, Labor has to work with business. It has to come up with the best achievable outcome it can on the day — and look towards a better one tomorrow.

Just like we can’t choose our relatives, most of us can’t choose with whom we have to work. So, if we don’t get along, all we can do is minimise the interactions and be as civil as we can be when we have to be together.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey