The quest to determine why Australian productivity growth has been sluggish over the last decade compared to the 1990s has been intensely ideological at times. John Quiggin, for example, has assailed the conventional wisdom of a productivity decline. And the right and business have sought, repeatedly, to blame it all on our rigid industrial relations system despite the repeatedly demonstrated decline in labour productivity (which is merely one element of the broader productivity picture) under WorkChoices and rise again under Labor's Fair Work Act.

So toxic was this debate at times it became the pretext for attacks on public servants by the right. In 2012, then-Treasury deputy secretary David Gruen gave a paper that noted attacks on workers weren't helpful for productivity given labour productivity outperforming multifactor productivity -- and was attacked as partisan by Peter Reith and one of The Australian's menagerie of far-right parrots, Judith Sloan. For the right, the mere suggestion that workers weren't to blame for our poor productivity performance was deeply offensive.