Wednesday, April 18, 2007

WorkChoices 12 months on: Howard has won.

WorkChoices is now a fact of Australian life. Just as is the case for the GST, WorkChoices may be changed, but it will never be dismantled. Labor promised to tear up one and roll back the other. It will leave the architecture of both in place because they are too valuable to it as they are.

The new Australian tax system will bequeath to an incoming Labor government a big and growing tax with little public opposition. The new Australian industrial relations system will hand to Labor the ability to central control private sector industrial relations. Despite Kevin Rudd’s early promises to “rip up”, “repeal” or “rid us” of the new system, it was always too valuable as it was...

Labor will now manage a central industrial relations system rather than disband it. Kevin Rudd plans to be in office for a long time, and so plans to manage the system in a way that he believes will be fair for both employers and employees.

Never before has an incoming federal Labor government been handed that opportunity.

Employers don’t like onerous and complex unfair dismissals requirements, so he will simplify them and exempt the employees they are most likely to want to dismiss.

The public doesn’t much like industrial action, so he’ll make it all but impossible.

And many ordinary Australians are disturbed by the thought that the secret one-on-one employment contracts known as Australian Workplace Agreements can remove their rights to penalties, holiday pay and the like.

They would like those rights re-enshrined in law and they would like the pay-setting process to be more open and obviously fair.

John Howard has handed Kevin Rudd the power to do all of those things, and as he made clear yesterday, he’s not going to let it go.