The main front page article today in my local paper, The Sunday Mail, started with the following sentence:
“Prime Minister John Howard launched Australia towards a nuclear future, while his opponent Kevin Rudd staked his claim on leadership with a promise of a return to the industrial relations laws of the past.”
Even allowing for poetic licence, the suggestion that Mr Rudd’s position involves a return to the laws of the past is somewhat off the mark, as the things he’s announced already include measures which are a significant shift from the law as it stood before the Coalition got control of the Senate. And of course, it ignores the fact that the make up of the Senate after the election will be influential on what sort of laws Australia ends up with in the event Mr Rudd gets elected.
More than any other area of law over the past ten years – indeed the past 25 years – it is industrial relations where the non-major party Senators have played a significant, continuing role. It was the loss of that balance of power, placing control of the Senate – and therefore the whole Parliament – in the hands of a single major party grouping, which opened the door to the extremist laws we currently have. If we are to shift back to a Senate which is independent of any single party or group, then the make of up of that balance power will be critical to what sort of laws will end up being passed.