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Tag Archives: Industrial relations

Porter’s bills may sink BOOT into penalty rates, warns Burke

Shadow industrial relations minister Tony Burke has warned that Australian workers may lose their penalty rates by the end of January 2022 – not via targeted cuts, but through knock-on effects previously outlined in Attorney-General Christian Porter’s industrial relations reform bills.

In contrast to the planned penalty rate cuts the Turnbull and Morrison governments executed in a three-year interval from 2017 to 2019, workers may see their wages drop markedly across four major summer-based public holidays if the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) results in being revamped upon passage of Porter’s proposed legislation of two bills on industrial relations reforms.

Successful passage of Porter’s legislation, crafted and presented in federal Parliament’s final sitting week of 2020 last month when representatives between union leaders and the business lobby failed to previously come to an agreement on areas of reform, could even see the BOOT halted for any length of time.

“Australian workers could lose between $840 and $1170 from their pay packets next summer holidays if Scott Morrison gets his way and public holiday penalty rates are scrapped,” Burke said on Thursday.

The BOOT – according to the Fair Work Commission – in considering labour and remuneration terms which may be more or less beneficial overall to employees in an individual agreement versus that of a Modern Award for a particular industry, views an overall assessment being made as to whether employees would be better off under the agreement than under the relevant award.

Instead, under Porter’s scheme of industrial relations reform measures, the BOOT could be suspended in particular situations as deemed practical by the FWC, thereby leading to workers’ wages potentially being lost during the summer holidays.

“The Government recognises the BOOT’s importance as a key safeguard for workers,” Porter said last month in promoting his reform bills.

“Given that many industries are still reeling from the impacts of the pandemic, it also makes good sense for the FWC to be able to consider agreements that don’t meet the BOOT if there is genuine agreement between all parties, and where doing so would be in the public interest,” he added.

In a retaliatory blow aimed against Porter’s bills, Burke has taken the difference between the base and public holiday pay rates of typical award workers who work standard eight-hour days across Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Australia Day – four public holidays over a month’s span.

Moreover, Burke has compiled a list of figures taken from the government’s own fair pay calculator to arrive at his conclusions.

“Millions of workers across the economy are vulnerable to attack under Mr Morrison’s nasty industrial relations changes,” said Burke.

And by Burke’s figures, no one industry will be immune to the changes, provided that the reform bills are approved.

“From cleaners to miners, aged care workers to waiters, checkout operators to nurses – all could take a massive pay cut if Mr Morrison is successful in suspending the Better Off Overall Test,” he said.

The list of which workers in each industry could stand to lose the greatest amounts of their wages per December and January public holiday:

  • In aged care – $270
  • Banking, finance, or insurance (Level 3) – $293
  • Cleaners (Level 2) – $263
  • Junior fast food worker – $227
  • Retail – $220
  • Underground miners – $287
  • Hair salon attendants and/or beauticians – $272
  • Registered nurses (Level 5) – $223
  • Hospitality (Level 2) – $210
  • Restaurant waiters – $215

Burke also added that in the other 48 or so weeks of the year, suspension or bypassing the BOOT could potentially see workers losing their weekend, early morning and late-night shift penalty rates as well as those for public holidays.

“If you abolish something called the Better Off Overall Test, guess what will happen: workers will be worse off,” said Burke.

Porter claims that, in a summary of his authored reforms, a re-establishment of enterprise bargaining via a 21-day approval deadline will drive wage growth and gains in productivity, even at the expense of the BOOT on a case-by-case basis.

And if it runs side-by-side with other areas of the proposed legislation, particularly, a simplification of awards in what Porter has specified as the retail and hospitality sectors, it may have the reverse effect.

The union movement remains understandably livid over the possibility of penalty rates being collateral damage in any applications of industrial relations reform.

“When WorkChoices was introduced, employers rushed out to cut wages — the same will happen if this law passes,” Sally McManus, the national secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), said last month in response to Porter’s industrial relations reform bills.

“We believe this is the wrong thing for the country.

“We should be protecting working people at this time in order to grow the economy; you can’t go about hurting working people — that’s exactly the opposite to what you should be doing,” McManus added.

Burke also pointed out that the intentional cuts to penalty rates failed to create a single job, despite government promises to the contrary when the proposals were first floated.

“But now they want us to believe that cutting more penalty rates, cutting overtime, cutting shift loading, cutting allowances will create jobs?” Burke said.

Burke feels that Porter’s industrial relations bills should be doomed to fail – and the Morrison government is lacking priorities to growing the national economy out of recession.

“Pay cuts are bad for workers and bad for the economy. For Australia to recover from the recession we need people with the money and confidence to spend,” said Burke.

“The government says the economy is doing well enough that businesses no longer need JobKeeper. But then they say the economy is doing so badly they need to cut the pay of workers.

“They can’t have it both ways,” added Burke.

 

 

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Insecure work inquiry forthcoming: Tony Burke

With ever-growing concerns among those in Australia’s union movement over rising levels of casual work and under-employment, a Senate inquiry on insecure work will take place in 2021, shadow industrial relations minister Tony Burke announced on Friday.

This inquiry has been announced days after industrial relations reforms measures in the way of proposed legislation announced by the Morrison government and Attorney-General Christian Porter, Burke’s counterpart in industrial reforms matters, was seen by Labor to offer precious little if anything in the way of easing the levels of insecure work.

And as the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has come out to assail the proposed “WorkChoices 2.0” legislation as resulting the cutting of workers’ pay and conditions in addition to avoiding scrutiny of insecure work issues, Burke says that Labor shares the ACTU’s concerns about putting more people into more permanent working positions.

“Some Australians like the flexibility of casual or gig work. But Labor wants to see more people in secure work, with good reliable pay and the highest of safety standards,” he said in announcing the inquiry.

“Insecure work is the pandemic that will stay with us – long after the COVID-19 threat has passed,” added Tony Sheldon, the Senator from New South Wales and former national secretary of the Transport Workers Union who will be chairing the inquiry.

Sheldon hinted that those working in the gig economy – from food delivery drivers and riders, and those operating ride-share services, to any form of temporary contract workers, freelancers, consultants and independent contractors and professionals – would be examined towards reaching more permanent employment solutions for their sectors as well as that of the entire workforce.

The recent deaths of five food delivery riders in Sydney’s CBD since the end of September has also hastened the need to bring the issues of gig economy jobs within the spheres of insecure work as a whole into focus alongside the need to regulate the nature of that type of work, said Sheldon.

“It is not acceptable that an underclass of work has been spawned where workers are denied the basic rights and minimum protections all Australians deserve,” said Sheldon.

In October, in Victoria, the Victorian Council on Social Services (VCOSS) drew links – centred around the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic – between those whose employment was defined as being of an insecure nature and workers’ declining states of health and well-being.

“… our industrial relations framework has not kept pace with changes to the labour market, and neither has government policy,” the report stated at its outset.

Specific to those in the gig economy, the VCOSS report stated: “A safe workforce is a healthy workforce. COVID-19 has highlighted the heightened financial vulnerability of workers in the care sector, a lack of coordination and consistency in training, entitlements and protections, and the fragility of support systems in maintaining consistent, quality care

“Workers engaged in the gig economy, who work across multiple platforms or a mixture of platform and more traditional employment types, have no access, or limited access to sick leave and other entitlements. Wages vary across platforms, and time and travel costs between shifts are not compensated. Health, safety and workers compensation arrangements depend on a worker’s employment status.”

Shadow industrial relations minister Tony Burke, who announced the inquiry (Photo from abc.net.au)

Burke said the inquiry is set to commence under Sheldon’s chairmanship when Parliament returns from its summer break in February, and its investigations stemming from it could take up a majority of the year ahead of a final reporting date of November 2021.

Those investigations may include personal security areas such as in income and housing, as well as dignity in retirement, affecting roughly four million Australians lacking the benefits and entitlements tied to permanent employment.

“If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything it’s that insecure work is not just a threat to the wellbeing of individuals – it’s a threat to the wellbeing of our society,” said Burke.

Meanwhile, Wes Lambert, the chief executive officer of the Restaurant and Catering Association (R&CA), said in October that the lack of legislative definitions over what constitutes a gig economy worker was an area which required addressing.

Lambert, stating the R&CA’s position on the heels of a deadline for submissions into a State of Victoria’s own inquiry on the status of the gig economy and insecure work, said that his organisation seeks to operate within the rules and standards to suit gig economy workers – as long as all parties knew what was expected of them.

“[The] R&CA expressly does not condone sham contracting arrangements, or any other such arrangement deliberately intended to undermine employees,” said Lambert.

“However, [the] R&CA submits that the current laws and workplace protections are not fit for the purpose in the 21st century, particularly as the world of work continues to change in the current and post-pandemic climate.

Lambert added that without any clear definitions in any current amendments of the Fair Work Act (2009), members of his industry sectors could run wild and rampant with interpretations as to what makes up gig economy participants.

“Such an arrangement, in the R&CA’s view, would create opportunities for unintentional mis-classifications resulting in disparate inconsistencies.

“More interestingly, if an employer can prove that they were not aware that the employee was not a contractor, and they were not reckless, they would not be in breach of the Act, nor be subject to any civil penalties,” he said.

So while an industry organisation such as the B&CA views and supports investigations around what next year’s Senate inquiry is trying to achieve, Sheldon says that the practice of insecure work is far from restricted to industries such as hospitality and tourism alone.

“Insecure work is not just found in food delivery and ride-sharing – it is expanding across the economy including the mining, retail, hospitality, health and aged care, university and information technology sectors,” Sheldon said.

“This inquiry comes at a critical time for our economy and for the future of work,” he added.

 

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Unflappable unions remain focused versus IR reform bills

In the federal Parliament’s final sitting week of 2020, Attorney-General Christian Porter has been unveiling the industrial relations reform “Omnibus Bill” via a piece-by-piece treatment – and Australia’s union movement has remained step-by-step in pace with a battle over the proposed legislative-based reforms.

In fact, Sally McManus, the national secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), has applied the blowtorch to the government – in the hottest of acetylene fashions, yet in her characteristic calm, measured delivery – in claiming that all of the hard work of the previous five months of industrial relations reform negotiations has been undone.

“These proposals were never raised during months of discussions with employers and the government,” McManus said on Tuesday, one day before Porter read two bills which would comprise the Morrison government’s measures of reform.

“The union movement will fight these proposals which will leave working people worse off.

“This was not the spirit of the talks with employers and the government, this is not about us all being in this together,” added McManus.

When the nation’s union and business leaders convened in June in Sydney and Canberra to commence bilateral negotiations on industrial relations reforms, both McManus and Porter – as well as many of the assembled representatives from both factions – agreed that if no accords were met, then the government would be drafting and introducing their own versions of reform measures.

That agreement had implied that the government’s measures would be geared in the form of a compromise between the interests among the two sides.

Instead, based on the early leaks over last weekend of the bills’ elements and highlights, they would be heavily favouring the business and employer groups’ lobbying efforts.

The two bills – the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Withdrawal from Amalgamations) Bill 2020 and the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020 – introduced by Porter in Parliamentary business in the upper house were finally released on Wednesday morning, and according to the ACTU, the government’s version of reforms under Morrison and Porter in these pieces of proposed legislation would:

  • Break up merged unions within the currently-legislated five-year interval in which mergers must remain intact;
  • Allow employers to cut wages and conditions to their workers, even to the point of allowing awards to dip below the safety net of minimum awards;
  • Reduce rights of casual workers, and can even demote part- and full-time workers to a status of casuals, in order to revoke leave entitlements;
  • Enable casual workers to become permanent part- or full-time employees tied to a single employer – however, if that option is not offered, workers have no recourse to challenge or enforce it;
  • Place the “better off overall test” on the back burner for workers for an interval up to two years, despite what Porter claims to be a boost to the process of enterprise bargaining;
  • Remove the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) requirement that workers currently possess a right upon starting a job that their agreements must be explained to them within a seven-day interval;
  • Enact anti-wage theft legislation, but with penalties which the ACTU sees as weaker than that in some states, such as in Victoria;
  • And avoid assessments of penalties to employers for reducing or restricting rights to casual workers, while those workers would lose the right to due process to appeals

As a result, McManus can only feel a sense of empathy for the nation’s workforce, casuals and otherwise, especially happening a little over a fortnight before Christmas, at the end of what has been a challenging year for everyone.

“Working people, essential workers, have already sacrificed so much during this pandemic, these proposed laws will punish them,” said McManus.

 

 

The details of the bills come on the heels of a report released by Griffith University, where industrial relations research professor David Peetz wrote one conclusion that a majority of leave-deprived casuals also are not likely to receive casual loadings and other entitlements.

In citing this report, the ACTU puts it in the perspective not merely in regard to the industrial relations reform bills which were pending at the time, but to the lack of rights and entitlements which casual workers possess – rights and entitlements which are now hanging in the balance.

“The majority of casual workers are working the same hours every week, but with none of the entitlements that permanent workers can rely upon. They are being ripped off. The proposal from the Morrison government will not only entrench this, it will take rights off casual workers,” said McManus.

“On top of the lower pay and reduced rights, casuals also contend with the constant stress of having no job security,” added McManus.

Meanwhile, Porter – who also doubles in the Morrison government as its minister for industrial relations – refuted the ACTU’s claim that one in four workers will be worse off for wages under these bills.

“It is quite absurd,” Porter told Sky News on Wednesday morning.

“This isn’t about pay cuts for people, this is about more jobs, more hours, more ability to move from casual to permanent employment,” he added.

Porter also said that as daunting as the proposals in the bills are, no verdicts were expected this week.

In fact, debates marked with as much passion as facts and the ideologies of modern politics may cause the fates of these bills to last well into 2021, a reality which is not lost on Porter.

“It should also be said that the introduction of the [bills] today is by no means the end of the consultation process, with a Senate committee likely to examine the legislation in detail over the coming months,” Porter said on Wednesday.

“This is an opportunity for further submissions to be made by all sides of the debate and the government will be willing to consider any sensible amendments that pass the simple test of being good for job growth.

“The danger is that if those inside and outside the Parliament revert to their traditional ideological corners, these critical reforms could be delayed or even blocked, leaving business without crucial supports and workers without an opportunity to get back into jobs,” added Porter.

 

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Overcome threats, halve insecure work numbers: McManus

While the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) waits alongside the country’s working classes with baited breath on the Morrison government’s resolution bill on industrial relations reforms, it has called upon the federal government to cut the rates of insecure workers in half within the next ten years.

Sally McManus, the ACTU’s national secretary, in an address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, outlined in detail the reasons for these demands and goals, and how they can be achieved.

“Many employer groups and some in government have actually refused to acknowledge the facts of the widespread nature of work insecurity and the ways in which it disadvantages people,” McManus told the NPC’s lunchtime assembly in her speech.

“And there are others that even argue that more insecure work is good.

“As a country we cannot hide from it anymore. This is an issue our generation can and must fix,” McManus added.

McManus was also an integral participant in the industrial relations reform negotiations – after forming what was seen as an unlikely alliance in March with federal Attorney-General Christian Porter, who doubles in the Morrison government’s cabinet as its industrial relations minister as well – and she admitted that the government’s solutions to the impasses that resulted in that five-month process earlier in the year are on the way.

“We are told that the government’s IR omnibus bill is imminent,” McManus said, while Porter admitted that the terms of that bill may be coming as early as next week.

Those talks, which McManus has said that the unions and the government entered in a spirit of good faith and thereby has described as “challenging”, do provide a bit of context about how the ACTU can reach their goals towards drastically reducing numbers of insecure workers.

“Two things have happened to unions during this pandemic. Firstly, nearly every union has grown in membership, despite job losses, as workers looked to their union and the union movement for protection and support,” said McManus.

“Secondly, the union movement has had its national role returned to where it should always have been – as a widely accepted part of Australia’s civil society, and a trusted social partner for governments and businesses.

“This consultation and cooperation must not only belong to the pandemic – it must become business as usual again in Australia as it makes us better as a country,” added McManus.

In a sharp, marked contrast to the “Change The Rules” campaign which was run for two years leading up to the 2019 federal election, where it was predicated upon winning upper and lower house seats to affect the government’s balance of power as a more likely pathway towards influencing new industrial relations legislation, the mindset now exists to work with the government in power in good faith negotiations, regardless of whoever is in government.

“Governments and employers may not always like, or agree with what we have to say, but decision making is improved when our capacity, as well as workers experience and perspective are at the table,” said McManus.

“If we are good enough to be relied upon during a crisis, if we are trustworthy enough to have in the room facing a pandemic, if unions were needed to get us through the toughest of times – surely the voice of working people has a place at the table in an ongoing way,” she added.

McManus says that a spirit of “leave no one behind” – which she opened her NPC speech with, citing Australians’ commitment to collectivism as the nucleus behind a social contract – will serve as an essential element to achieve goals around insecure work.

According to the McKell Institute, the statistics around insecure work reflect one in four workers classified as casual workers and as many as four million workers being either casual, part-time, or under-employed, or even as many as 2.1 million workers holding more than one casual job at any time or even throughout the year in an effort to make ends meet.

The ACTU said earlier this year about the state of insecure work:

Employers use casual and other insecure work arrangements to cover entire work functions. For many employers, it’s now a business model. Our work laws have made it more and more difficult to protect permanent work. The result is an emerging class of workers without jobs they can count on. They have no sick leave, no holidays, no job security, little bargaining power and severely reduced capacity to get home loans. Casualisation and insecure work have led to Australia having more inequality now than at any time on record.

“We would rather be working with employers and government on the big issues that help to grow our economy and strengthen the safety net – lifting all Australians up by driving down unemployment levels, by saving and creating jobs, improving wages, making work from home a shared opportunity for employers and employees, increasing workforce participation through free childcare, supporting dignified retirement incomes for workers, and planning for good high skilled jobs in Australian manufacturing.

“A genuine national economic reconstruction plan,” said McManus, regarding the general terms of the scheme which the ACTU is likely to forge to counter the ongoing trends and qualities around insecure work.

However, for as helpful as it could potentially be, the white elephant in the room may also very well surround the government’s bill on industrial relations reform.

It may be a threat to the ACTU’s goals, but they likewise welcome it as a first step forward.

“We are concerned that the industrial relations omnibus legislation, will indeed seek to take rights off workers, that it will punish the very people who have already sacrificed so much,” said McManus.

“Any taking away of rights, any attempt to weaken workers protections is a weakening of our social contract and will be resisted by the union movement,” she added.

 

 

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Tony Abbott is your friend.

In fact, he’s everyone’s friend. He’s so inoffensive to anyone that why there should be resistance to his nefarious schemes is inexplicable. Tony Abbott, and his Coalition, are unfeasibly flexible; whoever you might be, whatever interest group you represent, the Coalition is on your side. One day Abbott will be patting you on the back and swearing his undying support for your cause; the next day he’s in the enemy’s camp and promising your head. Tony Abbott is the friend who will promise you undying support, so long as it will not require him to take action against the other group to whom he has already pledged his undying support.

This article was originally going to be about the shape of Tony Abbott’s first week in government, if he’d really been held to all the promises he had made. The first week would have been spent in the north of Australia, but it’s doubtful whether Abbott would have had the time to focus on indigenous issues considering the hectic schedule of legislation he had promised. Carefully-worded non-promises aside, however, many of the concrete legislative promises which the Coalition offered have been met on schedule – at least to the point of beginning investigations and committees, if not the actual drawing of legislation. Blandishments in the current world of politics need to be made very carefully. Tony Abbott himself raised the petard of “liar”, of an inflexible requirement to deliver exactly what you promised during a campaign. Leading politicians are now very aware of this pitfall and make certain to couch their statements and their support in terms that are vague enough or specific enough in their limitations that you can get away with less than people thought you had promised.

So the article went on hold. Then the Prime Minister’s hectic round of international travel and meetings began and gave another angle to examine. The thing in common between the promises made, over many weeks to many audiences, about initial actions and legislation, and the approach to international leaders, has been one of inconstancy. Or more precisely, being a “man for all seasons” – constantly nodding agreeably to whomever he is addressing.

It’s partly an outcome of the small target approach the Coalition took to the election campaign, and in the heat of an electoral campaign a bit of “policy flexibility” may be excused. It’s not as if the Coalition is unique in this regard; Kevin Rudd took the art form to new heights himself, earning himself the moniker Chameleon Rudd.

However, once in government, and temporarily freed of the pressures of a looming election, a politician is lumbered with certain inconvenient hindrances that don’t harness him/her in opposition; hindrances like actual power, and actual interactions with people outside of the need to get them to vote for you. In this circumstance, it becomes necessary to have the courage of your convictions; in Tony Abbott’s parlance, to “say what you mean and do what you say”. It is disheartening to see that the Coalition, one month into government, appears to be maintaining its approach refined so successfully during its time in opposition. In any number of ways Tony Abbott’s Coalition is still an Opposition, still seeking to demonise the failures of the other side whilst minimising scrutiny of their own intentions and actions. And they are still telling people what they want to hear, assuming they tell them anything at all.

It may be instructive to examine a few of the many faces of Tony Abbott and the Coalition.

On Diplomacy

Kaye Lee helpfully summarised the following in the comments on “Transforming Tony Abbott” a recent AIMN post.

Japan is Australia’s closest friend in the region. However, we are also BFF with Indonesia, “in many respects our most important overall relationship”. Except, of course, for Papua New Guinea, because there is no more important relationship for Australia. One wonders how many respects are left to qualify Tony Abbott’s statement that “New Zealand is in many respects Australia’s closest relationship.” One can only hope that if they’re ever in a room together, those four countries can work out where their relative standings with Australia sit, because I certainly can’t.

On Foreign investment

Australia’s sovereignty and ability to feed itself is at risk. So obviously the laws surrounding foreign investment need to be tightened up. Except that we also need to inject “…momentum into deals with China, Japan and South Korea as a matter of urgency” and lure foreign investment back. It helps that the Coalition has under its roof representatives who passionately believe in foreign investment, and those who obstinately oppose it, so it’s possible to send the right person to the right forum to ensure the right message is given. So long as they don’t go telling their position to the media, which gets read by interests of both persuasions.

On climate change

Tony Abbott’s varied positions on climate change are well documented. Commencing with his famous 2009 statement that the science around “climate change is crap” – itself a 180 turnaround from his previous position – he has been variously a supporter of a carbon tax, a trenchant opponent to any kind of market mechanism, a reluctant convert to the anthropogenic origin of global warming, and most recently both an advocate of the Direct Action plan’s ability to meet targets, and an apologist in advance of when it doesn’t. About the only position he’s not recorded to have held is support for a market-based price on carbon, which economists and ecologists alike think has the greatest bang for buck in carbon abatement. Of course, his actions upon reaching government hark back to his original poor view of climate science, indicating that if he’s unable to change his opinion in an area where the science is becoming ever more irrefutable and the consequences ever more dire, he is unlikely to change his original beliefs in many other areas either.

See http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/03/09/climate-change-cage-match-abbott-debates-abbott/, wherein Tony Abbott debates Tony Abbott on climate change science.

On industrial relations

It’s commonly accepted wisdom that Workchoices was the Coalition’s downfall in 2007. Tony Abbott was regarded then as a moderate, which may be part of the reason that Labor’s personal attacks on the man and fear campaign regarding the resurrection of Workchoices policy was not as effective as hoped. In this policy area, the Coalition is spoilt for choice when it comes to the messages they deliver the electorate. Do they roll out Tony Abbott, the “best friend of workers“? Or if the audience is made up of big business and industrial heavyweights, would it be more appropriate to send in workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz?

It’s true that the Coalition’s IR policy – this term – is cautious, to the point that some business leaders and ex-politicians have called it “timid”. The sense is that this is an area where the electorate is still tender after being bitten by the Coalition’s previous attempt. There are exceptions, though, largely because the Coalition wants to be able to give big business good news. Thus we see the push to reinstate the Australian Building and Construction Commission, a body whose primary achievement was to decrease workplace safety and lead directly to a spike in workplace accidents and deaths. And we see the vilification of unions.

Unions are one group to whom the Coalition does not seek to speak softly. This is why the Coalition’s rhetoric has been about “union thuggery” and “union corruption”; the intent is to drive a wedge between workers and their historic support groups. Unions provide monetary and other support to Labor and it is for this reason that they must be curtailed, but you can’t directly attack the union movement without first discrediting it.

The weakness of Teflon Tony

The examples above are prominent policy areas, but the technique of saying to each audience the thing most closely calculated to their own hearts is one that sees use in a multitude of areas. Whether he’s telling farmers that they should have the right to refuse entry of mining leases to their farms, or supporting the ability of mining companies to enter private property at will; whether he’s promising that a paid maternity scheme will be “over my dead body”, or proposing his own scheme an order of magnitude bigger than the one that Labor had just rolled out to acclaim, Tony Abbott and his Coalition will say anything to anyone. Words are cheap and promises are meaningless.

In late 2012, in the throes of the US election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney self-destructed because of this exact kind of policy vagueness. In the case of Romney, the Democrats and at least some parts of the media were willing to draw attention to his various contradictory promises and policy positions. The message to Australians is that it is possible to overcome a hostile media (in the US, Fox News is almost as overbearing as the various Murdoch enterprises down under) – so long as there is a will to expose inconstancy for what it is. It’s too late for 2013, but if the Coalition will maintain its T-1000 approach to communications, it will soon enough be time to highlight that for every favourable position the Coalition has held, it has also held the alternative position, and the only real way to tell the intentions of the party in the future is to examine them in the recent past.

We all know to judge a man by what he does, not by what he says. This is doubly true of the Coalition. During the next term of government, and leading into the next election in three years – if not before – the left, and the media, need to focus not on the Coalition’s statements, but on the range of opinions they have held as a backdrop to their statements; and not what the Coalition says and promises, but on what it has done.

If you believe in a fairer, more considerate Australia, a more progressive Australia, a clever country that designs and builds things and innovates new technology rather than relying on the non-renewable resources with which this country has gifted us, then Tony Abbott is not your friend. Whatever he might say to your face.

How come readers of the Fifth Estate can see what our journalists can’t?

Apart from momentarily shouting that it will make Australia a better place, ie, acting as Tony Abbott’s mouthpiece, the mainstream media hasn’t said boo about Abbott’s Industrial Relations policy, unveiled a few days ago. I’ve been waiting. No doubt they are aware that in truth it will hurt the pocket and the work/life balance of most working Australians and they think it’s best to keep that a secret to themselves. Either that, or they see nothing negative about the policy.

If you want to know if the policy is being dissected and discussed then you can’t rely on the old media (the mainstream media – MSM). You need to turn to the new media – the Fifth Estate. I did such a thing today and it was refreshing to see the opinions of people who really matter: workers, not journalists. Following is a sample of what I found:

From Tom R at Café Whispers:

I get the distinct impression that the voices such as our media and the Australian Industry Group etc claiming that the libs IR policy is ‘timid’ are not being completely frank with the electorate.

The Daily Derp has a column highlighting Productivity and the effect the previous workchoices incarnation had on on it:

http://thedailyderp.net/2013/05/10/abbott-and-abetz-announce-workers-paradise/

But the gist of what is going on is highlighted in this statement from that column:

This article was copied form The Daily Derp on 9 May, 2013 at 22:04. You can read the original article here: http://thedailyderp.net/2013/05/10/abbott-and-abetz-announce-workers-paradise/

These new IR laws the LNP plan to introduce are Workchoices by stealth, designed to do nothing except smash the unions, and put all the power in an employer/employee relationship fully in the hands of employers, just as Workchoices did.

It is only by ‘stealth’ if our media refuse to analyse and then report their findings in the media at large. I have not seen that happen to date. It is all ‘timid’, which it isn’t, it is just sneakier.

The unions and Labor need to be vocal about this, not rabidly so, but very loud. Point out that, even though he says ‘no disadvantage’, that means ‘no disadvantage’ under the liberals interpretation of the term, ie, ‘no disadvantage’ for the employer.

I am pretty sure the media will not highlight this. It is time for Labor to shout it out for all to hear. Workchoices is back, no matter how much our totally failed fourth estate try to tell us otherwise.

From Min at Café Whispers:

. . . clearly the words “timid” and “industrial lite” are being used to enhance the somewhat false impression that New WorkChoices is non-threatening . . . to help us remain “relaxed and comfortable”.

The one which makes me smile (somewhat wryly) is the claim that Tony Abbott was never all that keen on WorkChoices. This is due solely to his often reported comment that WorkChoices went too far. This was never about policy but Abbott speculating on why the Liberals lost the election. He wasn’t suggesting that WorkChoices was wrong, just that they shouldn’t have gone so far because it cost them the election. With a good majority a likely outcome, Abbott will not have any such qualms in the future.

From Tom R again.

While reading the coalitions document, this is the relevant section that worries me the most:

A Coalition Government will ensure that enterprise agreements cannot restrict the use of IFAs. Because a Coalition Government will retain Labor’s own ‘Better Off Overall Test’ it will mean that any IFA will always lead to a worker being better off. A Coalition Government will not reintroduce AWAs.

http://www.liberal.org.au/sites/default/files/13-05-09%20The%20Coalitions%20Policy%20to%20Improve%20the%20Fair%20Work%20Laws.pdf

Now, correct me if I am wrong here, but an enterprise agreement is designed specifically to restrict an IFA, in that trades can only be done where the IFA will not result in the agreement being worst off.
http://www.workplaceinfo.com.au/resources/employment-topics-a-z/better-off-overall-test-boot

For them to claim that enterprise agreements will not restrict an IFA, means that the worst off test cannot be applied. It is internally inconsistent. Both cannot happen. Reading it in the worst light, it can only mean that they will apply a ‘Better Off Overall Test’ without being restricted by an existing enterprise agreement. Basically, they have bypassed the enterprise agreement section of the ‘Better Off Overall Test’, while at the same time claiming they will retain Labor’s own ‘Better Off Overall Test’.

I also recall a previous rendition of the Libs IR policy that claimed an AWA will always lead to a worker being better off.

A Coalition Government will not reintroduce AWAs.

No, they are just calling them IFA’s, but they are designed to do the same thing.

From Min:

. . . the reason that Howard originally brought this in was to delay OH&S inspections by union representatives. Many is the case, mostly onsite at isolated locations where following an industrial accident that the bosses sought to exclude any data being gathered pertaining to the accident site. The delay in accessing the site written into legislation suited the bosses perfectly.

From Jane:

As for SerfChoices, it has always been unpopular with employees and i can’t see any advantage for employers, particularly small employers, in having to negotiate and set individual rates of pay & conditions for every employee.

Inefficient and frankly bloody stupid. Much easier and less time consuming for both boss and employee to work within the existing framework and for employees who have never been taught how to negotiate their rates of pay or conditions.

Tom R, of course it’s SerfChoices by stealth and there are no doubt still plenty of people in the workforce who suffered under the imposition of that attempt to reduce the workers to servitude.

And some evidence that Serfchoices is counter productive wrt productivity:

http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/09/07/searching-for-truth-on-productivity-among-the-ir-spin/

And some evidence that SerfChoices is just that – a plan to return to the good old days of personal fiefdoms and serfdom for the workers:

http://webdiary.com.au/cms/?q=node/1496

From Nasking on The Political Sword:

One only has to think back on Abbott’s gleeful address to the Tea-Part like anti-carbon rally . . .

His kowtowing to Murdoch, owner of Fox News, at the IPA dinner . . .

Hockey’s brandishing of American Republican Party propaganda lingo like ‘entitlements’ . . .

Their addiction to loud mouthed shock jocks who sound more Rush Limbaugh and less sane and rational by the day . . .

To know that their softly softly approach on industrial relations, health care, education and do on are a ruse . . . complete BS.

Yes, Abbott and team also get into UK Cameron’s ‘big society’ . . . but let’s face it . . . even American Republicans love the idea of replacing essential service jobs paid for by Govt with volunteers . . . working for tax exempt charities.

The corporatised MSM . . . the neo-Liberal spruikers and apologists will generally fail to tell you that Abbott and Hockey are born again foxes in sheep clothing . . .

I won’t.

Again from Nasking:

. . . And only want to get out the chainsaw to rip into the unions splattering blood all over the workplace.

Be a wee bit more convincing if they weren’t the old guard Liberals . . . the Blitzkrieg troops who got so excited and showed so much hubris about IR reform when they last had both the Senate and House of Reps.

I bet that Workchoices’ body is being reanimated now in Joe Hockey’s basement . . . Andrew Robb furiously working on the new costume and makeup after the facelift approved by Dr Rodent and Mr Smuggles themselves.

“Not long now my creation . . my love . . . not long now . . . you shall walk amongst them again soon” squeals Dr Rodent . . . fingers twitching, stroking the jutting eyebrows in rapturous glee.

The bride of Workchoices farts.

No longer eyes wide shut.

There we have a very small sample from a few contributors. But what astounds me, is that on just a couple of ‘new media’ sites and from just a handful of commenters chosen randomly, how come they have more to say than our political journalists, who appear to be in hiding? How come they can sniff the truth out of this policy but our political journalists can’t?

Further, one only has to go to Twitter to see the number of exchanges that citizen journalists are having with the media journalists, and raising the same points. More and more people are questioning their lack of honesty in the way this policy is being reported, which they unanimously laugh off as just another lefty conspiracy theory. It sums up why they don’t report the truth: they are simply oblivious to it.

How come readers of the Fifth Estate can see what they can’t?

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