Jul 8, 2009

Fair Pay: the perils of politicians appointing ‘independent’ experts

The Fair Pay Commission is a classic example of when politicians appoint independent experts, things often don’t turn out exactly the way they planned.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

When the Fair Pay Commission was established under WorkChoices in 2005, expectations weren’t exactly high that it would live up to its title which, like much of the selling of the Howard Government’s IR changes, had an air of doublethink to it.

And its newly-appointed head, Ian Harper, was savagely attacked before the commission had even commenced, labelled by unions and the Left as an “evangelical Christian nut”, a “zealot” with “hands-on experience making working people’s lives misery”. And the presence of hard-Right warriors like Judith Sloan on the Commission suggested Australia’s lowest-paid workers would be waiting a long time for a raise.

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2 thoughts on “Fair Pay: the perils of politicians appointing ‘independent’ experts

  1. Heathdon McGregor

    after decades of trickle down you may now eat cake

  2. Mephistopheles

    Writing from the atheist right I wouldn’t start with an expectation that I would agree with Ian Harper on very much but he does appear to have been reliably honest and apolitical (no surprise). As one who has long advocated the “social wage” part of early 1980s moves towards the Accord I, like you, applaud, the reasoning you relate (well, you obviously approve of it anyway).

    Clear thinking helps clear away damaging humbug and there is a lot to be said allowing employers to pay only what their employees are worth in a competitive market and allowing the supposedly moral element to be largely looked after by government using the ever moral taxpayers’ money. (Nothing here BTW that says employers shouldn’t be kind, honest compassionate, even generous, only that they should not be the ones to bear the cost of a minimum wage set for reasons of social or political fashion).

    The argument, sometimes made by reference to Singapore (with occasional legendary variations referring to Henry Ford 100 years ago) that higher wages forces the economy into a high wage, high skill, high tech, high profit path is certainly worth taking seriously. But let it be taken really seriously (and not just exposed to the sort of appalling low grade cant that forever spills out of the mouth of Sharan Burrows whenever a TV camera is in front of her: can’t someone find her a marginal seat to run for in everyone’s interests?). Attempting any broad brush approach on such reasoning in Australia would probably demonstrate that our economy was too complex and that we would be left with a lot of never-to-be-skilled, dim and geographically or socially difficult cases who would either be totally unemployed or exploited.

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