May 29, 2008

Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks

Meaty snippets from the home of government plus the daily reality check and the pick of other people's political coverage. Richard Farmer writes.

A new round of ACTU ads. There would not be many marginal seat holders in the Parliamentary Labor Party who didn't think that the television campaign by the ACTU attacking the Coalition's WorkChoices legislation played a major part in their success. Those same members should thus be a little apprehensive that the ACTU has decided that it should "continue its conversation with working Australians about their rights at work, through an advertising campaign." This time it is not the dreaded John Howard who is being sent a message but his successor Kevin Rudd. "These ads put all politicians on notice - working Australians voted to get rid of John Howard's unfair industrial relations laws and we expect the Rudd Government, the Opposition and all Senators to respect the will of the electorate," is how union boss Sharon Burrows puts it. Ever so politely Ms Burrows explained the need for the campaign: "Just because the Liberal Party was defeated at the last election doesn't mean WorkChoices is dead. Until we see the final legislation we won't know if the rights of working families will be protected, although we are confident the Prime Minister will keep his election promises. Until WorkChoices is completely scrapped and a new fair and balanced industrial relations system introduced, the ACTU will continue our discussion with the Australian public. Labor's new laws need to restore the rights that were stripped from working Australians under WorkChoices, from unfair dismissal to the rights of unions and collective bargaining." The new television ad started going to air last Sunday.

Conflicts of interest and credit rating agencies. Senator Nick Sherry, Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law, might be a junior minister in the formal scheme of things but the upheaval in the world financial community has given a new importance to the corporate law part of his ministerial title. When the financial markets of the world finally settle there are bound to be changes in regulations to ensure that there is not a repeat of the sub-prime crisis so the investigation into the role of credit rating agencies Senator Sherry announced last week is highly appropriate. There does seem something odd to me when the agencies rely on the companies that design these elaborate financial derivates for their payment. It will be intriguing to see what recommendations come out of this Australian review to stop conflicts of interest occurring. Almost certainly the new Australian rules will implement changes announced this week by the International Organization of Securities Commissions to its Code of Conduct for Credit Rating Agencies. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is represented on the IOSCO technical which drew up the changes described by Michel Prada, the committee Chairman, as assisting credit ratings agencies "in strengthening their processes and procedures to protect the integrity of the ratings process, ensure that investors and issuers are treated fairly and safeguard confidential material information provided."

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