Nelson and the ministry of truth

At the very outset of Brendan Nelson’s already rather sorry looking leadership of the Liberal Party, I commented that he was showing distinct signs of morphing into what Peter Beattie was always accused of being – a media tart. Beattie of course was a veteran news manager, whereas Dr Nelson appears to have little grasp of what to communicate. No doubt some whiz kid at Liberal headquarters (if there are any left in the building) suggested to him that he needed to define his profile nice and early, because Brendan Nelson’s favourite topic appears to be himself. I suppose he can’t talk much about what the Opposition stands for, because they either don’t know or want to continue to laud the Howard legacy, and it would appear he doesn’t stand for much – as signalled by anodyne slogans like “putting Australia first”. I really can’t understand why he felt that he needed to address his marital history – I mean, who cares? The Liberal religious right? Anyone else? But I suppose he did have to address his rather promiscuous party past. As Guy Rundle notes, if even Gerard Henderson is lukewarm in his praise, you know Nelson has been bungling it.

It’s surely not a good look for a new leader to spend one of his first big interviews explaining exactly why he’s a liar.

The Libs, of course, could never get their lies straight on that piece of self-inflicted electoral disaster, WorkChoices. Either it was a fabulous new work order which was raising wages all over the show, or Labor tearing it up would lead to a “wages breakout”. As the shellshocked Coalition engage in desperate semantic twists over how much of WorkChoices they will continue to support, we might be about to see a truth breakout – as Julia Gillard promises to examine releasing a rigorous statistical analysis of how WorkChoices actually did impact on wages and conditions – something the previous government to its eternal discredit always refused to do. If the Libs are inclined to go on digging their political grave, the truth about WorkChoices will surely set them free to do so.

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Posted in politics
47 comments on “Nelson and the ministry of truth
  1. hc says:

    WorkChoices was intended to liberalise labour markets by allowing sellers of labour to negotiate directly with employers. Removing restrictions and restraints on the terms of employment allowed highly productive workers to get good conditions and wages and less productive workers less attractive wages and conditions but still to get jobs.

    Then the task of maintaining adequate incomes was left to the social safety net and the tax-transfer-mechanism where it should be – firms are not and should not be social welfare agencies – their task is to best match individual productivities with jobs. There are gains to society with this arrangement and adequate protection for workers because of strong competition in labour markets which occurs when you have very low unemployment.

    It is to the eternal shame of Australia’s left that the legislation was thwarted by its hysteria and stupidity. It is the workers at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder who suffer most when forced out of job because of leftist desires to ‘protect them’.

    And just as the left lied repeatedly about WorkChoices forcing ridiculous compromises such as the ‘no disadvantage’ test (what if wages were originally too high for a given skill level?) so it is now necessary to paint it as an ‘electoral disaster’ to keep labour market reform in a permanent ‘too hard’ basket.

    Deaf ears I know but don’t think you can perpetuate the myths and half-truths you continue to spout on this one.

  2. mbahnisch says:

    WorkChoices was intended to liberalise labour markets by allowing sellers of labour to negotiate directly with employers. Removing restrictions and restraints on the terms of employment allowed highly productive workers to get good conditions and wages and less productive workers less attractive wages and conditions but still to get jobs.

    This is a fantasy, hc. Have you ever read WorkChoices – all 600 odd pages and 600 pages of explanatory memoranda? Making the inclusion of certain terms a matter to be prohibited by the Minister and bargaining for them an offence punishable by a fine of $6000 is hardly a removal of “restrictions and restraints on the terms of employment”. You seem to think that what was introduced was akin to the NZ Employment Contracts Act of 1991 – but it was not – and it was not in any sense a measure which led to a “free labour market” though that in itself is a false and ideological construct.

    I’m not going to bother to address the rest of your comment, which is an ideological spray rather than any sort of analysis of reality and is nicely summed up in this one phrase:

    less productive workers less attractive wages and conditions but still to get jobs.

  3. hc says:

    You cannot read can you Mark? Your ideological blinkers make it impossible.

    Why is the complexity there? Why not a let it rip free labour market?

  4. kimberella says:

    To what end, hc?

    firms are not and should not be social welfare agencies – their task is to best match individual productivities with jobs.

    Do you ever ask yourself what the bigger purpose of this frabjous free market and booming economy is? Are individuals just “productivities”? If the election result proved anything, it proved (apart from the fact that people don’t want a workplace relations regime that is unfair, unbalanced and slanted towards employers) that Australians want to live in a society not just in an economy. Some of the Lib front bench, including Nelson, are savvy enough to realise that. Not hc apparently. This rigid free market dogmatism will never fly, and rightly so.

  5. frodo441 says:

    Well…seems some don’t understand the parity issues between political affiliations of quasi-left-right epistomology…either way your still gonna’ have to deal with servicing a rural population…and as labor the trend will lead you out of the country…good job…tally ho’…

  6. Paul Burns says:

    Hendo’s really in trouble on this one. Its pie in the sky to say an increasewd employment rate had something to do with social justice. Regardless of #1, Workchoices had nothing to do with social justice, rather the opposite most of the time. The reason Nelson couldn’t say how he supported social justice under Howard is because he never did.
    Now to Hendo’s rewriting of Liberal Party history.He seems to forget that while the Libs were in Opposition and Hawke/Keating were in Govt., the Liberal Party virtually castrated its moderate wing via a series of very nasty preselections, and paved the way for Howard and his neo-Thatcherite agenda. fraser as PM thought Howard was too far to the right, (as it proved to be)and probably thought he was incompetewnt as Treasurer, as the revelations about H’s treasurership this past election, showed.The Liberal Party that came into Government in 1996 was as Right wing as Bruce’s Nationalist Party in 1929, and as in thrall to big business as the UAP in 1941 (which is partly why the Independents switched their allegience to Curtin, and partly why Menzies set up the Liberal Party as a middle-class centrist party in 1943-4). Certainly not the sad wounded animal left Nelson by JWH.
    The factional divisions – the Howardistas and the Moderates – weren’t there in the 1940s,then it was purely a party of business that Menzies changed into a free enterprise party w3ith a social conscience. It was that free enterprise party with a social conscience that got taken over by Howard’s neo Thatcherites. Their great complaint about Frasewr was he wouldn’t dump his social conscience.
    So the shit thatr hit the fan in the late 1920s and early 40s is all set to engulf them again. I hope.

  7. Enemy Combatant says:

    Harry, the banality of your pure economic theory is that it fails to acknowledge that in every revenue producing unit, there lives a human being.
    Kimberella says it powerfully and clearly: [Australians want to live in a society not just in an economy.] cf. election results.

    It’s all over, H. Your former main man, El Rodente is now but rodente minor. He’s a terrifically enthusiastic handicap golfer these days because we gave him and economic management team the arse. It’s ok to let go now.

  8. mbahnisch says:

    Indeed, and therein lies the not too difficult to work out answer to the question of why the government lost despite “their advantage on economic management”.

  9. sorcerer says:

    hc forgets that the “free labour market” he so ardently desires is open slather for crooked and exploitative employers (of whom there were many during WorkChoices’ unlamented time)

    For instance there was (and still are as far as I know) a delay of over four weeks in processing employee complaints to the Office of Workplace Relations, and similar delays in complaints to ASIC by both secured and unsecured creditors of companies (many of these creditors employees and “independent” contractors), some of whom have either not gone into liquidation as required by law or who have attempted to rebirth and to continue trading as “phoenix” companies.

    WorkChoices with its blatant boss bias made an ideal snug harbour for these entrepreneurial pirates, coupled with an underfunded and hamstrung ASIC. After all, any Dodgy Bros. setup could pay the $1,000 or so to be registered as a proprietary company without any scrutiny of viability and cash flow and know that taxpayers would pick up the ball on minimum entitlements under sections 433 and 561 of the Corporations Act when the company inevitably folded. And WorkChoices meant you could not pick up the phone and call the Union if you were not getting paid properly.

  10. via collins says:

    “Deaf ears I know but don’t think you can perpetuate the myths and half-truths you continue to spout on this one”

    Harry, that sounds like the words of the Australian electorate as they swept the incumbent party, and its leader from power. To be honest with you, I grew heartily sick & tired of seeing my taxes being wasted on wave after wave of TV ads attempting to perpetuate the views that you & Howard share on the market dynamics. You’re welcome to your views, but the majority don’t agree.

    If Workchoices was a positive for Australia, why was it not clearly communicated as such to the electorate? Why do so many have trouble understanding the up-side? Are you suggesting the majority of Australian have ideological blinkers, or just Mark & Kim?

  11. derrida derider says:

    In piling on Harry, most of you have missed the point that Mark made. Whether or not a free labour market is good, bad or ugly, Workchoices had nothing to do with it. Workchoices was full of explicit regulation to try and destroy Teh Unions in ways a free labour market would not.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, Howard’s daddy must have had a run-in with the Mechanics Union at some stage and this was little Johnny’s carefully-nurtured revenge.

    I suspect that Julia, Liberal propagandists and the left might all cool somewhat to this ‘rigorous statistical analysis’ when they’ve got it. It’s quite likely to show that Workchoices did indeed boost employment – not by boosting productivity as the propaganda claimed (if anything the reverse is true) but by engineering a simple wage cut.

  12. Vee says:

    WorkChoices was the Liberal Party’s version of the Accord. Nothing more really.

  13. The Doctor says:

    Harry,
    the whole point of WorkChoices was to create a de-unionised labour market i.e. the moment a recession appeared, things would have been worse than the 1890’s, simply because the unions would not have been allowed to be or become actors. Indeed,the behaviour WorkChoices allowed could easily push Australia into depression because of the ‘race to the bottom’ effect that was designed into it!

  14. Paulus says:

    Not true, Doctor. I did some research a while ago on employment in various occupational categories in Australia during the Great Depression.

    There were some clear trends. Average wages, as you might expect, fell heavily in non-unionised occupations or where unions were weak.

    Wages fell much less where there were strong unions. But in those occupations — such as mining — employment levels crashed as one employer after another went out of business, unable to pay high wages.

    Ultimately, it was not in union members’ best interests to leave them queuing at a soup kitchen.

  15. mbahnisch says:

    But in those occupations — such as mining — employment levels crashed as one employer after another went out of business, unable to pay high wages.

    Falling demand didn’t have anything to do with it, I suppose?

  16. FDB says:

    But was it the demand for chickens, or eggs Mark? 😉

  17. mbahnisch says:

    It’s quite likely to show that Workchoices did indeed boost employment – not by boosting productivity as the propaganda claimed (if anything the reverse is true) but by engineering a simple wage cut.

    DD, I’d be surprised. The evidence from sectors such as retail where WorkChoices really bit is of reducing labour costs for the hell of it, not to create jobs, which are driven by demand.

  18. mbahnisch says:

    Coal, I imagine FDB! Btw, I blame you for my new addiction to bacon and egg burgers from the entrepreneurial small biz down the road. 😉

  19. FDB says:

    Mark – I was making a somewhat flippant point about falling demand being the essence of the recession (or at least its impact on OZ mining) in the first place.

    Re: the boigaz – just as long as you eschew the Golden Arches, you remain pure.

  20. Paulus says:

    A business has no control over demand. It does, however, have some control over its costs. And wages are often the major cost.

    If things are bad enough, it can either a) reduce wages, b) sack people, or c) close down. Strong unions render a) impossible.

    Mark, are you actually asserting that there is no relationship at all, now or in the past, between wage levels and employment?

  21. FDB says:

    Re #19 1st para: as you were too, obviously.

  22. mbahnisch says:

    No, Paulus. I’m asserting that employment levels have other causes than wage levels alone.

    Let’s look at it this way – if you were running a small retail business with say 10 staff all up (most casuals) and you got to reduce wage costs by 5% using AWAs, would this automatically induce you to hire more staff irrespective of demand? Do the math. (Ignoring the fact that most employers would pocket the savings on labour costs essentially.)

    Unions, by the way, and I’m talking about the here and now not in the Great Depression or whenever, are usually prepared to cut employers some slack when there are genuinely hard economic times for firms, believe it or not.

  23. mbahnisch says:

    Note further, in terms of my example, that sales staff don’t directly generate profits (while being necessary to make them) so “expansion” of a retail business wouldn’t follow automatically from hiring more staff (or for that matter from productivity improvement beyond a certain level).

    Or looking at the example of mining – hiring more workers for the hell of it because you’ve been able to bid down their wages would get you nowhere because you only need a certain number to get minerals out of the ground, and even if you have what is in effect slack capacity, there may be other capacity constraints involved in getting the goods to market. For example. And greater productivity improvements are normally available from substituting technology for labour, which again has nothing much directly to do with the price of labour, although it may provide an incentive.

    In coal mining at least the price for the output is normally determined by yearly negotiations with purchasers because of the lead times involved and therefore doesn’t equate either to a free market model. It’s actually far more akin to a political bargaining process, as has become evident recently with the news that the former government lent on BHP Billiton not to force up the price to China to the degree that they may have been able to do. Miners in Australia have traditionally been price takers but are now price makers, and this has effects on their labour relations as well.

    The simple so-called equation of “lower wages = more workers therefore more productivity” is just flat out wrong for any number of businesses. I doubt that many who advocate such simplistic nostrums have ever worked in the private sector dealing with managerial realities. Probably mostly cosseted academics. 😉

  24. kimberella says:

    Anyway, even if we accepted hc’s little fable for the sake of argument, its political logic has a fatal flaw. hc says that a vast left wing conspiracy convinced people they would lose wages and conditions. But he argues that WorkChoices did reduce wages and conditions for “less productive workers”.

    Now, weren’t the said “less productive workers” – and their families and friends – doing the rational thing by voting against this? It might be easy to pontificate from the pedestal of a tenured academic job with a middle class salary that those “less productive workers” should accept wage cuts for the “good of the economy” or “to create more jobs” but what person with an ounce of political nous would expect that they would?

    Back in the 70s and early 80s, the Fraser, Reagan and Thatcher governments discovered that “fight inflation first” economic strategy and an acceptance of large levels of unemployment (which economists obligingly christened “natural”) carried no political penalty from middle class employed voters. It’s only really been since the 90s that governments have had to worry – as “downsizing” and “outsourcing” heralded unemployment becoming a reality for white collar workers too. So there’s little surprise that there were no votes in promising jobs for someone else while those with them had less money on the table while the cost of living was going up.

    Of course, my comment about academic economists isn’t meant to be taken personally. I’m sure many of them have voluntarily forgone tenure and switched to AWAs which will reward their productivity but see them sacked if they don’t perform so there’s no inconsistency between their beliefs and their practices.

  25. Paulus says:

    “The simple so-called equation of “lower wages = more workers therefore more productivity” is just flat out wrong for any number of businesses.”

    Firstly, everyone acknowleges that productivity actually falls as unemployment falls, due to less-skilled workers being taken on.

    Secondly, and more importantly, your assertions, while they may be true for some particular businesses, fail to capture the picture for the entire economy.

    You are no doubt familiar with the “5 economists” plan to reduce minimum wages and compensate workers with tax credits. The economists in question were no free-market zealots a la HC.

    In a 2002 version of their proposal, they discussed research surrounding the elasticity of demand for labour. One study had this at -1.0, meaning that a 1% cut in average real wages would increase employment by 1%.
    http://ideas.repec.org/p/auu/dpaper/450.html

    Other research they discuss has slightly different elasticity figures, -0.8 or -0.9 instead of -1.0, but either way it is still a significant effect.

    To quote from a 2006 paper from UWA’s Centre for Labour Market Research:

    “Research indicates that a 10 per cent
    increase in average wages reduces employment by about 8 per cent. Thus, moderation in average wages increases employment and, with the usual caveat that all other things are equal, unemployment will fall. The responsiveness of employment to wage changes is beyond doubt.”
    http://www.fairpay.gov.au/NR/rdonlyres/24E4540F-4CC4-44F4-9361-2396D6AC2883/0/Minimumwagesandemployment_CLMR.pdf

  26. Paulus says:

    “Back in the 70s and early 80s, the Fraser, Reagan and Thatcher governments discovered that “fight inflation first” economic strategy and an acceptance of large levels of unemployment …”

    Mmm, not to mention a certain Australian pollie who engineered a “recession we had to have” in order to deal with inflation. Why did you leave his name out, Kimberella?

    The thing is though, PJK and the others were perfectly right: beyond a certain point, inflation becomes highly destructive of an economy. Giving the RBA independence to target inflation was actually one of Labor’s big achievements.

  27. kimberella says:

    Why did you leave his name out, Kimberella?

    Because, Paulus, I was talking about the origins of the “fight inflation first” strategy in the 70s and 80s from right wing governments. Keating never would have accepted – at least rhetorically – that a low inflation rate was a goal to have absolute priority over reducing unemployment. Whether his practice was consistent with that is another thing – though after he became PM he seemed to change his tune and certainly pumped lots of money into the economy to stimulate demand (after the “inflation dragon” had already been slain).

    What was significant for my argument was that prior to these governments, it was always accepted that unemployment over say 2 or 3% would be electorally deadly. (Incidentally under Whitlam it averaged 3.3% but 6.5% under Fraser. Hawke-Keating was 8.5 and Howard to Aug 07 is the same as Fraser’s – http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/rp/2007-08/08rp04.htm#Labour )That’s the context in which I made the point.

  28. mbahnisch says:

    Secondly, and more importantly, your assertions, while they may be true for some particular businesses, fail to capture the picture for the entire economy.

    Which of course is made up of particular businesses…

    The figures you quote are from a study commissioned by the Fair Pay Commission interestingly. Every year when the AIRC used to determine the minimum wage, employers used to warn that an increase of x% would lead to increased unemployment of y%. Strangely, as you would be well aware, unemployment just kept falling. Just because someone has an econometric model to show what would happen if certain assumptions held doesn’t mean that the assumptions are valid. These sorts of predictions are always made, and the real world effects are very rarely observed but they keep on being made.

  29. mbahnisch says:

    Anyway, before hc jumped in, the prime thrust of the post was supposed to be on Nelson’s self-spruiking to date. Would anyone like to comment on that?

  30. Darin says:

    He’s got to get a profile before Kevin calls a Double D on revoking work choices. 🙂

  31. Andrew E says:

    There’s a pattern here. After the Liberals lose office, they go for someone who’s lite, brite and trite. Snedden in ’72, Peacock in ’83, almost all state opposition leaders, and now the airiest construction of them all in Brendan0sevnan.

    I really can’t understand why he felt that he needed to address his marital history – I mean, who cares? The Liberal religious right? Anyone else?

    Gets it out of the way early, rather than spilling at the last minute and hoping for the best like Ross Cameron.

    The WorkChoices thing is a sign of deeper issues: they’re not the government any more, guys. The architects of WorkChoices, Minchin et al, are firmly in the saddle and any repudiation of WorkChoices or apology to Aborigines is an attack on him and his. Two years from now that lot will have lost the fire and Nelson will be buggered.

  32. Sir Henry Casingbroke says:

    I don’t even think Harry Clarke (HC) is going to read this. Having marked a bit territory out in the blogosphere he has retreated back to his own bailiwick, where he doesn’t have to put up with opinions other than his own – he simply erases them if doesn’t like it. Be that as it may, Harry likes the freedom of a spot of “leftist” bashing here, in the way the Soviet nomenclatura used to go for a spot shopping in the West.

    Unable to visit HC behind his rion curtian I love it when Harry comes here to accuse “leftists” of not being able to “read” or “think”, allegedly because of their ideological blinkers. I would just like to say however that Harry himself is not an ideologue at all but a Howard-style pragmatic conservative. In his essay “Why I am not a Conservative” Friedrich Hayek criticised conservatives of the Howard kind for their chronic inability to adapt to changing circumstances (human realities) or being able to put up a positive political platform. And indeed we saw just that during Howard’s negative campaign, and with which Harry not only agreed but would “borrow” from time to time its slogans on his website with which to answer Howard’s critics, whom Harry sought to engage on the Howard government’s behalf.

    So as I said, it is always good to see Clarkie come out fighting, rejuvenated by yet another tax deductible o/s conference to trumpet about freedom, such as the “freedom to negotiate” with one’s employer.

    Women of non-English speaking background are found cleaning railway carriages at night, gutting chickens, operating overlock machines in the garment industry on piecework rates and cleaning up after incontinent seniors in nursing homes, all over Australia. As “sellers of labour” they are among the most efficient workers – we know this because NSW State Rail in numerous studies have found migrant women cheaper and more efficient than any robotised machinery.

    One then has to ask if they are so efficient and in such demand why do they not negotiate directly with employers for better wages and conditions? Listening to Professor Harry one must come to the conclusion that they have struck a just and fair bargain and are happy with their lot, having negotiated (in Albanian) for $6.35 an hour.

    Harry knows all this because he runs into them from time to time at places such as the Adriatic Coast over a bone-dry Tocai Friulano, which goes so well with lobster. (Link: http://kalimna.blogspot.com/2007/11/italian-seafood.html )

    But enough about Harry. Let’s just have a quick word about Harry’s intellectual superior, Gerard Henderson esq. Paul Burns is clearly a Hendo watcher, as is Sir Henry.

    Mr Burns has got to the nub of things: we are witnessing some sort of denouement. Like Sinologists and Kremlin watchers of the 50s and 60s, there is something going on here.

    In his latest opinion piece in the Teh Herlad, Gerry gives Judith Brett a serve, delves into the history of the Liberal Party, nicely eating up some column inches (Gerry, like the migrant women, is on piecework), and then gets onto his favourite hobby horse of late, sticking it up the recently departed leader of the parliamentary Liberal Party.

    Something must have happened to turn Hendo from an obedient hack into a pisser on The Rat’s political grave. it may be that JHW had forsaken Hendo’s advice for that of another; Grahame Morris’s, for instance. Or it may be that with Johnny gone to play golf, Hendo needs another patron. When Costello powdered, Hendo threw his skinny little grafter’s ass behind Mal Turnbull but it turned out a dud move.

    So what do we see in today’s kaleidoscopic feuilleton? Hendo is damning Nelson with faint praise and offering a bit of Hendersonian advice on where the good doctor went wrong tactically. This bit is worth quoting:

    “It is too early to assess Nelson. But it is fair to say that, judged by his brief time as Liberal leader, there is room for improvement. Two instances come immediately to mind. Interviewed on ABC radio’s PM on November 29, the Opposition Leader had trouble enunciating how he, as a member of the Howard government, had demonstrated a commitment to social justice. The answer should have come readily. After all, during Howard’s term as prime minister unemployment fell from about 8 per cent to about 4 per cent. That is consistent with a commitment to social justice – as was the Howard government’s generous treatment of families with dependent children.”

    Eat your heart out Grahame Morris.

  33. mbahnisch says:

    I’m laughing a bit at the thought of Hendo being on piecework, but of course you’re right, Sir Henry.

    Apropos of the other thread on Tom Switzer’s ringing defence of the necessity of having right wing pundits to further the battle of ideas, etc, blah, I think you’ve put your finger on it – they don’t actually have any – they just have patrons. Albrechtsen doing the switch to Costello, Milne acting as his de facto press secretary and dirt slinger, and now poor old Hendo not knowing who to talk up. The point about conservatives parallels Rundle’s analysis damning them for the same faults that Popper analysed in The Open Society – propagandists and flaks rather than ideas merchants.

    What does “modern Australian conservatism” stand for now? Recycling the Howard era slogans? Or something else? Where are the ideas?

  34. hc says:

    Sir Henry, The fish ‘n chips in Manly are not too bad and you can always feel vaguely patriotic about eating Australian-prepared cuisine. But, yes, I’ll go for northern Italian.

    I plan to visit Manly and confront you personally about some of your unwarranted slurs.

    The key issue that Mark and the rest of you fail to get is that economic systems should maximise the size of the pie – you do want efficiency. You want an allocation of personal productivities that get the most out of the system in terms of output. In short you want efficiency.

    Moreover you will get efficiency in labour markets if you allow people to freely contract provided there is enough competition. Then firms have no particular bargaining power and the best thing unions and government can do is get out of the way.

    Given that you have maximised output you then use the tax and transfer system to guarantee a fair distribution of incomes. Economists call this the ‘second theorem of welfare economics’ though the leftist rabble would probably see it as a ‘theory of social democracy’.

    It wasn’t a hit and run attack at all sir Henry. But yes I’ll take the time to set out my ideas more fully elsewhere.

    The flaw in Mark and Kim’s reasoning is that efficiency to them is such an ugly word. They want to force social obligations onto firms which means the second theorem can’t work. Reading between the lines there is also a kiddie-level theory of wages here – wages don’t reflect productivity issues in the face of competition. To lefties they are a kind of goodwill gesture by firms to workers that need to be goaded on by governments and unions. Its a pathetically naive view that denies so much sound economic theory.

    WorkChoices was overly complex because it anticipated a lunatic campaign by the ACTU and other groups (like LP) to discredit it. These groups succeeded and labour market reform is unlikely to be looked at further in your or my lifetime.

    Costello wanted a more radical liberalisation and Howard said the electorate would not buy it. Howard was right but failed to anticipate the powerful impact of vested interests among unionists and the left.

  35. mbahnisch says:

    WorkChoices was overly complex because it anticipated a lunatic campaign by the ACTU and other groups (like LP) to discredit it. These groups succeeded and labour market reform is unlikely to be looked at further in your or my lifetime.

    No, it was absurdly complex, hc, for three reasons – first the incompetence of the Minister and second the obsession with micro-management which characterised the Howard government and which was necessary to introduce unwarranted and gratuitous anti-union positions.

    As to efficiency, it is quite untrue to suggest that I, or for that matter the ACTU leadership, aren’t concerned with it. The Australian IR system always sought to balance efficiency and fairness prior to WorkChoices. The Keating reforms provide a template for how it can be done.

    The biggest problem the Australian economy has at the moment is capacity constraints which will not be solved by lowering wages. There is an absence of suitable workers. Intervention needs to be on the supply side. The assumption that unemployment continues to exist because wages are too high or benefits too high or the gap too high or whatever is just theology.

  36. Sir Henry Casingbroke says:

    I wish you wouldn’t post such ambitiously provocative posts, Harry. For a tumescent polemicist such as myself it is the equivalent of an alcoholic getting accidentally locked up at Noel Beards overnight. There is no flaw in your reasoning for the good reason that there is no reasoning. It’s all edicts and pronouncements.
    1. It was not a lunatic campaign, it was a rational campaign in defence of working conditions of their members. But you use “lunatic” as a form of abuse so I guess I can’t take this seriously.
    2. You can’t blame the flaws in WorkChoice legislation because of either anticipated or even unanticipated reaction. WorkChoices should have stood up on its own merits. If it was politically untenable then it was bad legislation. Politics is the art of the possible. If it was overcomplex and it failed because of that, than it was bad/stupid legislation. If nobody was able to understand your dismal science lectures you’d get the arse too. But maybe you work in a protected market? I don’t know. How hard would it be to have you sacked for drunken incompetence? As hard as it would a judge I imagine.
    3. It is disingenuous to suggest that public campaign against WorkChoices was somehow lunatic but the Howard government’s campaign proselytising WorkChoices was, conversely, rational and sane, especially when we now have clear evidence that the public bought one and not the other. Advertising works best when people are inclined to buy. They weren’t inclined to buy WorkChoices.
    4. Now you tell us! Dollar $weetie wanted a more radical “liberalisation” (together with Hugh Morgan and Nick Minchin barracking, no doubt) but Howard didn’t? Are you saying that $weetie and Minchin lied to us when repeatedly asked that question? Are you of the view, Harry, you freedom fighter you, that we should be made to swallow a bit of freed-up labour market medicine for our own good? What sort of undemocratic paternalism is this? Have a think about that before you write your next paper.
    5. Mark and Kim never said that efficiency was a dirty word. It was a loaded inference on your part, Harry. In any case, one person’s efficiency is another one’s poison. It’s a bullshit term anyway. It’s easy to win an argument if you invent the terminology and concepts.
    6. Some people cannot be considered free agents in a labour market because they do not have the means to negotiate on an equal footing in what is clearly and overwhelmingly unequal relationship with the work provider. It’s not like trading marbles at Beacon Hil primary, which was the last free market you ever saw. The notion is absurd in practice.
    7. Brendan Nelson is the leader of the Liberal Party, the party of the free market in labour, right? Brazza got to this position by being the president of the Australian Medical Association. The AMA used its market power monopoly to “negotiate” on behalf of its members, just like any other union, for institutionalised fees, which are then charged out to public hospitals and by way of socialised medicine. Why do we not have a free market in croakers? Because of the good work by Brendan. Give me a break.
    9. We can do a lot better than fish and chips (which are fattening) in Manly these days, Harry. As a member of the local Fourth Estate, I have certain advantages over mere mugs. Even here there is no free market.

  37. anthony says:

    “Sir Henry, The fish ‘n chips in Manly are not too bad and you can always feel vaguely patriotic about eating Australian-prepared cuisine.”

    I’ve often dreamed of opening a place where I could prepare cuisine on-site. I’d call it a ‘restaurant’.

  38. frodo441 says:

    ee’gad’s…are you chaps playing Orwells’ 84’…Oceana will never be the same…

  39. Tony D says:

    Nelson is doing perfect. Grab as much air-time as possible to keep the Libs in the media, act like a semi-twit, cop a lot of custard pies to the face, resign after 12ish months to make way for someone (hopefully) electable.

    All on schedule so far.

  40. Paul Burns says:

    Sir Henry,
    More a Liberal Party watcher. I’m fascinated by decaying empires.
    DD,
    According to Howard family tradition Howard’s father was in the Fascist New Guard, w3hich might explain some of Howard’s more peculiarly offensive ideas.
    You can never trust the middle classes. They’ll always stab you in the back if it furthers their own interests.

  41. Curi-Oz says:

    I’m just fascinated by the way in which the current leader of the Opposition is generally referred to by diminutives or variants of his given name.

    And in consideration of all previous leaders of both sides in the past who were nicknamed some variant of their family names, Mr Nelson is the only one I can recall that is referred to consistently as “Brenden” (often with a nasal whine in the pronunciation).

    Why is it that he hasn’t earned one in all the years he has been involved in politics? And could it be one reflection of why he is not being taken particularly seriously as the parliamentary leader of the Liberal Party?

  42. Paul Burns says:

    Well,
    I suppose you could call him the Flying Dutchman. [Neson, Br. Admiral, victor of Trafalgar] always steering a lost ship around.

  43. Sir Henry Casingbroke says:

    This is a tough one. I offered Brazza, but it’s not quite there yet. Brenno? Randy? Brandy? Bro? Donny? Denny? Dano?

  44. Enemy Combatant says:

    You handle merchants are a dime a dozen! How about The Nightwatchman?
    But only if Miss Keeler approves.

  45. Ambigulous says:

    Naval references abound. Sir Henry, is it time to haul up from the briny depths that sunken, failed and much-lamented craft:
    Her Majesty’s Vessel Menzies?

    Last reports had the remnants of the Lads and Officers drifting along in lifeboat number 24-11.

    It appears they made land. Midshipman Abbott has been sent into the Deserts to Make Amends and Seek Ancient Wisdom; this will be the Making of Him. He was a Self-Made Man, of Shoddy Workmanship. Vicount Turnbull is now Quartermaster but chafing at several bits, awhile. Lt Downer is still feeling terribly ill. Admiral Nelson has stamped his authoruty, leaving no trace. The former Cap’t (and King) departs. Lt Ruddock stole the Rudder, but in those last days of HMV Menzies, no-one noticed.

    Meanwhile a racing skiff (coxless) has been doing joyous laps of Lake Burley Griffin, it’s flame-haired oarswoman setting new speed records. With no cares darkening her young brow.

    Ahoy, mateys!

  46. FDB says:

    “coxless”

    Champagne.

  47. Ambigulous says:

    Ahoy, FDB

    Methinks this was stolen from an unfortunate British sports commentator, conveying the scene to his radio listeners after the annual Oxford/Cambridge boat race:

    “And now the Duchess of Windsor is kissing the cox of the Cambridge crew.”

    cheerio

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