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Crikey Says

Feb 28, 2014

Crikey says: Labor’s friendly fire from Ferguson

Virgin's loss, Qantas' pain: the airline fallout. Bernard Keane on Tony Abbott's brave stance. The real worry for Joe Hockey: capex. The battle for Crimea explained. A newspaper on the death of newspapers. How South Park thwarted Aussie game censors. And a Follow Friday from Africa.

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.

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14 comments

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14 thoughts on “Crikey says: Labor’s friendly fire from Ferguson

  1. granorlewis

    Bill Shorten’s embarrassment is not because Martin Ferguson has made these comments, but because Bill Shorten is totally refusing to hear the will of the electorate. Ferguson’s words that you have quoted, say it all. It is Shorten who is threatening jobs by his niaive positioning on IR.This whole current mess be it Qantas, GMH or any other example comes down simply to the fact that under Labor, Australia got all its priorities wrong, and that’s what killed these formally great businesses. Your very commentary, using words like unhelpful and embarrassment, indicate your bias in these matters, but that’s OK. At least Ferguson has the common sense to call things as they are, and you try to convert to a vested interest issue. Wrong,wrong,wrong!

  2. JohnB

    I didn’t much care for this bloke when he was in office – Even less so, now.

  3. David Hand

    Maybe he’s not merely “spouting industry lines” but actually believes what he’s saying.

    It’s so easy and superficial to ignore the substance of what someone says by criticising his or her associations.

  4. klewso

    He’s all Right. He got what he wanted out of the party.

  5. JMNO

    I felt for a long time that Ferguson was in the wrong party. Whilst in Government he always seemed more on the side of big business, especially in the resources industry, than of the workers. He still prosecuted a class war but it was not against the bosses but against ‘greenies’ which was anyone who questioned resource developments. He is now in his natural home.

    Bill Shorten shouldn’t feel too embarrassed about him. He should be relieved that he is no longer a member of the parliamentary party.

  6. Electric Lardyland

    I cu neer unnerstan wa Marn Fersn wuz sain anway.

  7. granorlewis

    Bill Shorten is of course part of the reason MArtin Ferguson is no longer there. The Labor mob is the poorer for his loss. At least, with his long experience in the Labor/Union world, he knows as well as anyone the problems and issues that prevail – but Shorten has no idea!

  8. AR

    “Stockholm Syndrome” or, another foreign term, Quisling?
    Since the Right took over the Sussex St Lubyanka during the Fraser years – when the ACTU leader was … forgotten his name, little man complex, loud voice and little between the ears except a desire to get his bum on board seats – and the demoralised ALP were bludgeoned (literally in the case of inner city Sydney – remember Peter Baldwin?)into toeing the party line in return for a mess of potage/power.
    And wotta mess it turned out to be, a front bench of apparatchiks who’d never done a day’s work in the real world, the ‘horny handed sons of toil’ had become, in Frank Crean’s words, “the scum of the middle class”.

  9. Sean Doyle

    Martin Ferguson just took off the rather thin and transparent veil he wore in government. Couldn’t do enough to appease the miners when minister and his new job after politics is about as surprising as the sun rising in the east. A blow in to Batman, where he was a severe mismatch to the southern section (at least) of that seat, he got what he wanted for himself without worrying too much about his constituents. He’s no loss to the ALP.

    Unfortunately for the ALP, they seem stuck with Paul Howes for now.

  10. R. Ambrose Raven

    Let’s just list his more appalling actions since leaving politics:
    …1…in being employed as an energy industry lobbyist within a few months of leaving Parliament, Martin Ferguson demonstrated not merely a contemptuous breach of the Gillard Labor Ministerial Code of Conduct but also the ease with which politicians can exploit their parliamentary experience for personal gain, including advancing projects deeply contrary to the public interest that they were supposed to be representing while in public office.

    …2… Martin Ferguson also managed to be given charge of a panel seeking not only to resurrect the notorious Gunns pulp mill, but also insisting that Tasmania’s economy depends on doing so! In deeply hypocritical contrast to his views on IR, Ferguson asserted that there was no role for either federal or state Governments in the development.

    …4… Ferguson sought to exploit exactly the pressure on domestic gas supply caused by his approval of Queensland’s three massive LNG export projects to politically blackmail the NSW government into accepting open-slather CSG mining.

    …5… Ferguson has openly become a class traitor. He criticised the WA MUA as a “job-killing” and “rogue” union, while urging more extreme IR laws, the old ABCC back, and greater aggression against unions. Ferguson clearly did not care that he was obviously wrong in his claims that unless the unions were tackled and excessive wages reduced, more Australian jobs would go offshore.