Well, this is unhelpful: an ex-Labor minister urging a new Coalition government to get tougher on workplace relations. Speaking at an energy conference in Perth today, Martin Ferguson pushed Tony Abbott to go further than his “modest” proposed reforms:

“We must get serious about closing the competitive gap that has opened up between Australia and our rivals. A workplace relations system that drives investment to other countries is in nobody’s interest — certainly not those union members and their families who will be bargaining themselves out of a future.”

Of course, Ferguson would say that — he now sits on an advisory board to APPEA (“the voice of Australia’s oil and gas industry”) and was speaking in that capacity today. Perhaps Labor could have pushed its former resources and energy minister to uphold the spirit of the ministerial code of conduct, which states:

“Ministers are required to undertake that, for an eighteen month period after ceasing to be a Minister, they will not lobby, advocate or have business meetings with members of the government, parliament, public service or defence force on any matters on which they have had official dealings as Minister in their last eighteen months in office. Ministers are also required to undertake that, on leaving office, they will not take personal advantage of information to which they have had access as a Minister, where that information is not generally available to the public.”

If Ferguson didn’t have his plum new job to spout industry lines on industrial relations, Bill Shorten could have avoided the embarrassment.

Peter Fray

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