The Australian newspaper has reported more detail on Labor’s workplace relations policies, including another major piece of backsliding with the adoption of John Howard’s Workchoices constraints on workplace entry by union officials:
“A Rudd government would keep all of John Howard’s tough limits on unions entering worksites.”
The new strict controls on workplace entry have been a key target in the rhetoric from Labor and the unions since Workchoices became law. I heard it mentioned a number of times by Labor candidates and unionists in audiences at two recent Your Rights at Work forums I’ve attended in Brisbane and Ipswich.
As I’ve mentioned before, it really annoys me how parties can be vehemently against something one minute, ferociously bagging out people who voice any form of support for it – and the next minute they’re adopting that same thing as policy. I know if I’d ever voted in the Senate for the sorts of workplace entry rules (or for the unfair dismissal exemptions or secret ballot for strikes provisions) that are now Labor policy, the flamethrowers of abuse and howls of outrage would be being thrown at me at every opportunity in the lead-up to this election.
However, such is politics I suppose. It is all none the less a reminder of how important the Senate choice at this election will be. Even if Kevin Rudd is elected, he won’t have control of the Senate, and depending on the attitude of the Coalition in such a situation, the final decision on amendments to workplace laws will be left up to smaller parties, including myself if I get re-elected.
My record, and that of the Democrats more broadly, shows I won’t always adopt the union/Labor line, or the Coalition/business line. But if Labor’s line suddenly shifts all the way over to the Coalition line, as it appears to be doing on key aspects of workplace law, I’m not going to automatically agree to a package of amendments to the law which contain some of those elements.
There may be a case for some modification to the workplace entry laws as they stood prior to Workchoices, but I haven’t seen a credible case put as to why we should stay with the quite extreme restrictions that are currently in the law and I’d be reluctant to support any law changes that retained them.
If you want an idea of the principles I’ll be using to guide my assessment of any proposed workplace law changes, click on this link.