Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Today by Elle Hardy

WorkChoices resurrected
The Coalition’s commitment to employer-oriented IR laws may be dead in name but not in nature

Former Australian prime minister John Howard and Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter. Source: Facebook

Almost 12 years ago, WorkChoices and its aim to revolutionise industrial relations in favour of employers helped to bring down the Howard government.

The children of that failed revolution may be back in power now, but you won’t hear the name WorkChoices uttered by anyone in the Morrison government. While the impetus that drove the radical business-oriented industrial relations reforms is as strong as ever, the Coalition has learnt its lesson.

It has learnt that as removing workers’ rights is hugely unpopular, it needs to be done by stealth. To that end, since May’s federal election, we have seen a slow trickle of stories outlining workplace relations reforms. They have arrived noticeably without fanfare or any kind of branding for political attacks to coalesce around.

Last week, the government announced that it will appeal to the High Court to overturn a landmark legal decision by the Federal Court that grants shift workers more sick leave.

Workers at a Hobart Cadbury factory last month won the right to receive sick leave of a full day’s pay for their 12-hour shift, instead of the 7.6 hours per sick day they were being paid by their employer.

Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said the government was appealing, in addition to the company Mondelez International lodging its own appeal, because the decision had “sparked confusion and uncertainty around the way sick and carers leave entitlements should be calculated”.

Porter said that the Federal Court decision had “created significant inequities between employees”, and stated that employers of shift workers could face wage bills of up to $2 billion higher each year.

Today, Porter announced [$] through an exclusive in The Australian that he will consider sanctions against sacked workers who fail to make reasonable efforts to follow through with their unfair dismissal claims.

“Failure to properly pursue a matter once commenced and without formally withdrawing the claim means wasted resources, funded by the taxpayer – plus an unfair burden on the small-business employer that has to spend precious time and money to defend a non-pursued claim to its conclusion,” Porter told The Australian, in response to a complaint by Fair Work deputy president and Coalition appointee Alan Colman.

This is the beginning of WorkChoices 2.0: the silent edition. A new raft of laws and court cases are intended to create a climate of uncertainty and fear for workers, which goes hand-in-hand with the outright hostility towards anyone relying on the welfare safety net. It also goes hand-in-hand with the government’s Ensuring Integrity bill, which, if passed, will only make it harder for unions to advocate for their members.

Changing workplace laws to favour business is imbedded in the Coalition’s DNA, but the government appears to be prepared to change the industrial relations landscape before what many feel is an inevitable recession.

In Guardian Australia today, Greg Jericho reminds us of the misery of economic decline. He notes that more than half of the current workforce was not old enough to work when the last recession hit in 1990 – some 29 years ago.

Unless you are in you late 40s you have no idea what it is like to see jobs (and likely yours) evaporate around you. And given that in 1990 only half of people aged 15–19 were employed, chances are, even if you are under 50, you weren’t working when the last recession hit.

This also means that the majority of voters may not see the warning signs of a stalled economy before job losses begin to hit home. And if the worst is to happen, a deliberately humiliating and degrading welfare system awaits. The government is quietly but actively working to create an employer’s market for hard times that are expected to come.

“It is important that the process is allowed to be conducted in full.”

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds says the inquiry into allegations of war crimes committed in Afghanistan by Australian special forces, including Victoria Cross winner Ben Roberts-Smith, is at arm’s-length from the government to ensure its integrity. Roberts-Smith has denied the allegations made against him.

“I would get a Nobel Prize for a lot of things, if they give it out fairly, which they don’t.”

US President Donald Trump revives his beef with the selection committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize.

Death of the speech
Don Watson on the end of speech making in politics, and how the loss of narrative undermines bold policy.


The amount by which the number of guns in NSW has increased – to 1,024,498 – since 2001, despite John Howard’s gun laws enacted after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. Gun ownership rates are outstripping population growth in the state.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will introduce a “practical” green plan to focus on plastic pollution and recycling, as part of a commitment to substantially increasing economic support and cooperation in the south-west Pacific Ocean, which includes taking on illegal fishing.

The list

“On a sunny July day, less than 24 hours after a two-year-old Australian-born Tamil girl held for 16 months at a Melbourne immigration detention centre had four teeth removed after they rotted from malnutrition, Sydney artist Luke Cornish painted a mural on the Bondi Beach Sea Wall. It depicted 24 helmeted and heavily armed officers standing in line looking out across the ocean. Their left chest pockets were stamped with ‘AUSTRALIAN BORDER FORCE’ in bright yellow. Each carried an assault rifle, index finger on the trigger. Above them was written: ‘NOT … WELCOME TO BONDI’.”

“Australia’s newest senator is a straight talker yet to be schooled in the poker-faced way in which Canberra politics is played. ‘I know you fought my appointment, you two-faced slimy f*ck,’ she tells a political foe … Deborah Mailman claps and tilts her head back in laughter when I repeat her jaw-dropping dialogue from the new series. ‘Oh my god, she is fun to play.’” 

“Jacqui Lambie came in from the goat farm, washed the smell off her hands and collected her messages. Two people lay in waiting – foes in life but side by side in Lambie’s voicemail. First was Gillian Triggs – former head of the Human Rights Commission, and now assistant secretary-general of the United Nations on refugee matters. Triggs had left a long message … The next message was briefer. ‘Jacqui, Peter Dutton here.’” 

Elle Hardy

Elle Hardy is an Australian journalist based in the United States. She can be found at www.ellehardy.com



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