Former federal treasurer Peter Costello (Image: AAP/Dean Lewins)

One of the myths peddled by Australian business, its media cheerleaders and political representatives is that if only unions were less militant and worked with business, everyone would be better off. Some employer groups even publicly pine for the 1980s (when industrial disputation was twenty times its current level). It’s a myth not because of this, or because it’s necessarily false, but because the people arguing it don’t believe it. 

In the one sector where union and employer cooperation has delivered massive wins for Australians -- the industry super sector -- the result hasn’t been applause and the lauding of industrial cooperation, but relentless vilification of trade unions. To hear the Liberals, conservative media commentators, the Financial Review and big business tell it, industry super isn’t an example of how employer and employee representatives, working together with equal power for the betterment of members, show how a less divisive industrial model can be effective, but an example of the power of corrupt trade unions.