As Brendan Nelson waits to find out who he actually has to assemble a frontbench out of, fierce debate continues in the Coalition about Australian Workplace Agreements.

The role AWAs may – or may not – have played in the Liberals’ strong showing in the West is particularly problematical. The Liberals appear to have taken the seats of Swan and Canning from the ALP.

New deputy leader and West Australian Julie Bishop warned last week that care needed to be taken over abolishing AWAs. Outspoken regional WA MP Wilson Tuckey is being even more irrepressible than usual over the issue.

The Age claimed on Saturday:

One of the foundation stories about former prime minister John Howard’s workplace laws has been shown to be a myth: even the highest-paid workers on individual employment contracts voted against the government…

In most mining towns, a majority voted for Labor in two-party preferred terms.

The figures show the 796 voters in mining town Newman swung almost 9% towards Labor, Port Hedland’s 986 voters swung 10%, Dampier’s 667 swung 4% and Karratha’s 1358 swung more than 5% against the Liberal candidate, Barry Haase.

Spot the flaw in their methodology? That “in most mining towns” is a bit of a giveaway. We live in the age of fly-in, fly-out. Many of the beneficiaries of the resources boom in the West don’t live in Port Hedland or Karratha. They live in Perth.

On election day the front page of The Weekend Australian featured a shot of “miner Steve Knuckey, who is very happy with his AWA, outside his home in the Perth suburb of Nedlands” – a damned good home in a damned good suburb.

A suburb in the seat of Curtin, which only swung against the Liberals by just over one half of one per cent. Presumably Knuckey voted there – and for the sitting MP, Julie Bishop.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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