Recently, academic John Buchanan was exposed as anything but politically impartial. Readers may be interested to find out that David Peetz, a Professor of Industrial Relations at Griffith University, and the other academic involved with the recent and highly questionable study on WorkChoices, is another socialist bitterly opposed to labour market reform. Clear proof can be found in his address on Radio National in January 2006:

But isn’t the “massive” increase in AWAs a sign of the individualist ethic? Well for one thing, workers don’t go around initiating AWAs, as they often end up losing their penalty rates or overtime pay – rather, they get told to sign them by management. Moreover, after nine years, AWAs only cover about four per cent of the workforce. This is seriously below what the Government expected, and the poor take-up is no doubt one of the reasons that WorkChoices takes away most of the protections previously associated with AWAs, making it much easier for employers to force employees to sign them as a condition of employment.

The push to individualisation in employment relations is not a response to some exogenous change in social values. It is something being driven by people with power – lobbyists for large corporations, and the political party they founded six decades ago – using it to further increase their power. Bargaining strength is stronger when you’re collectively organised. Individual contracting represents a transfer of power from workers to corporations, so they on average lead to lower wages and poorer conditions of employment for the ordinary workers who are covered by them, compared with what they would receive if they had the power of collective representation.

Although it is undoubtedly true that most business groups strongly advocate in favour Australian Workplace Agreements, it is opinion, and not fact, that they are invariably contrary to the interests of employees. However, quite a few employees on AWA’s have appeared in the media saying that they are happy with their wages and conditions, and this would indicate that Peetz’s views are informed by a strong ideological bias, not reality. Even the Australian Labor Party has pledged to remove award protections for the best paid workers, an acknowledgement that many people do quite well on individual agreements and have no need of the award safety-net.

Furthermore, Peetz has been described as “a leading opponent of free labour markets” by Gerard Jackson, who also strongly criticises the right-wing H.R. Nicholls Society in the very same article. In fact, Peetz’s industrial relations views have been promoted and endorsed in the Labor ‘e’ Herald. And union lefty Greg Combet has even offered the following glowing reference: “David Peetz’s research demonstrates clearly that individual contracts are the antithesis of modern, productive employment relationships”.

Peter Costello however has been slightly less flattering in his description of Peetz:

There we have, lining up with recommendations for further industrial relations reform in Australia, the OECD, the IMF and the Governor of the Reserve Bank. Who is lining up against further reform of economic matters in this country? We have an article written by the member for Lilley (Wayne Swan) in today’s Australian Financial Review… He quoted labour economist David Peetz in support of his proposition. I do not know David Peetz, but a very quick survey on this independent voice quoted by the member for Lilley finds that David Peetz, under the auspices of the ACTU, has been conducting research for the last 18 months into the experience and performance of union officials and delegates.

A search of the Workers Online magazine finds that David Peetz is described as its resident bard who writes poems for Workers Online… He sings songs that he himself writes, including one called You’re fired–which apparently is sung to the tune of Rawhide… Anyway, here is a question for the House of Representatives. Those in favour of economic reform are the OECD, the IMF and the Reserve Bank; those against are the member for Lilley and David Peetz. I wonder who would be the more reliable advisers on this particular matter. Would it be possible that David Peetz and Wayne Swan know what is better for the Australian industrial relations system than the OECD, the IMF and the Reserve Bank governor?

In another article, this time for Online Opinion, Peetz wrote that:

WorkChoices is not about increasing productivity or prosperity; rather, it is about increasing the power of those who already have the most power and resources, and in doing so taking power away from those who have the least, and from those who would challenge the power of the mighty.

Politically impartial? Don’t take his word for it (or mine), to paraphrase Janet Albrechtsen.

As evidence that the study is little more than a hatchet job on the Government, consider the following facts:

  1. The study was partly funded by Unions NSW.
  2. Both of the academics responsible for the research clearly oppose economic rationalism and have very strong views on the virtues of collective bargaining and the award system.
  3. There are very apparent problems with the study’s methodology.
  4. The study is very critical of Workchoices.
  5. The findings have been released just a couple of months before the federal election.

None of these facts register with the left, who have once again sought to de-legitimise criticism of their intellectual comrades posing as independent professionals. One tactic even involved claiming that Albrechtsen was “channeling” Senator Joe McCarthy. It is of course pathetic to compare legitimate criticism of others with the actions of Senator Joe McCarthy.

Such criticisms clearly fail to differentiate between the exercise of the right of free speech, which is entirely consistent with tolerance of different viewpoints, and McCarthy’s witch-hunt of people that he alleged were Communists, which undermined free expression. Once again, the left try to smear those who disagree with them in an attempt to de-legitimise their viewpoints. Whilst the left falsely accuse the Federal government of silencing dissent, they employ smear tactics which are aimed at attacking the people who criticise them, rather than challenge their ideas.

Of course, the pretence of impartiality is hardly the exclusive domain of left wing academics, as the misleading research quoted by the Business Council’s pro-WorkChoices advertisements have shown. That however, doesn’t make it respectable or acceptable. John Buchanan and his lefty Grifftafe comrade David Peetz have both been exposed as the ideological opponents of workplace reform that they are.

From now on, I would advise both of them to include a disclaimer in any research that they conduct, disclosing the conflict that exists between their political views and the assumption that they are politically impartial. That way, all of us will be able to be aware that the research has not been conducted by academics involved in a selfless pursuit of truth, but by ideologues who support left wing causes.

And the left generally shouldn’t be so indignant when others criticise pro-union, anti-market academics who pose as politically impartial researchers.