It must have been a little confusing for Kevin Rudd on Saturday morning when one of yesterday’s men declared Labor’s industrial relations policy made a mockery of Mr Rudd’s claim to be a man of the future.

Rod Cameron, as the ANOP pollster, played a vital role in helping the former trade union official Bob Hawke become the party’s longest serving Prime Minister and well understands the vital role that the accord between government and the ACTU played in reforming the Australian economy.

But now, reported Paul Kelly in The Australian, the former Labor Party strategist says most Australians support a deregulated workplace and that Kevin Rudd must confront the trade unions over industrial relations.

Well, as the man who turned so many ANOP findings into the words politicians uttered during those election campaigns so many years ago, I beg to differ – not about the Rudd policy being a return to yesterday but in the assertion that it is electorally damaging for Labor to be going back there.

To my mind Kevin Rudd’s industrial relations policies are conservative in nature and an acceptance of the dislike which people have for drastic change. Change is made best not by confrontation but with the stealth, in the spirit of cooperation, which Prime Minister Hawke used so effectively with the accord to achieve such considerable reform.

That was the Howard way too for most of the last decade until the lure of a Senate majority enticed him to put at risk the steady adjustments to work practices he had made without controversy for a chance of a big bang reform. Taking a step back in these circumstances shows a regard for the future of the country  — not disregard.

I wonder if The Oz will quote an old Labor campaign man saying that?