Sunday, November 10, 2002

Business as Usual

Sunday, 10 November 2002

One of the central dogmas of the Big-Endian ideology that dominates political life in contemporary Australia is that the Trade Union movement has too much power. This belief has been a staple of Australian political life for at least the past 50 years and Tony Abbott, who inherited the mantle of Federal Minister for Cutting the Unions Back Down to Size from Peter Reith, has long been a believer in this principle.

So it's no surprise to read in this morning's Age that Mr Abbott proposes to extend the Federal government's power in unfair dismissal cases or rather, as the Government would prefer us to think of them, fair dismissal cases. In the print edition, Michelle Grattan reports that the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry also plans to release proposals for further "workplace relations reform" later this week (or perhaps its "employee relations reform" these days - sometimes I have trouble keeping up with the cant vocabulary of this area of politics).

The ACCI proposals are aimed at hustling along the transition from a "nine-decade old centralised system based on 19th century paradigms" to something more befitting the modern age. Among other things, the ACCI proposes a summit of the ACCI, ACTU and Federal and State Governments to help things along. I'm not sure how the ACCI expects to sell the ACTU and the Labor state governments on the idea that a national summit on a return to Master/Servant Law is a progressive notion - but in an area where an employer's right to sweat non-union labour is defended as "Freedom of Association" and a bill to restore to some employers the right to arbitrarily dismiss their employees rejoices in the title "Fair Dismissal Act" all things seem to be possible.

Update: one of my serious researcher friends has taken me to task for missing the opportunity to include this Age report from Friday in this post. This report from October 30 is marginally relevant too. And Mr Malothane, the injured worker at the centre of the fuss, tells his own story here.

Further Update: Ken Parish has written a reply to this item, for those who want the other side of the story.

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