Except for The Age and (of course) the ABC, today’s media is replete with reports/analyses referring to the adverse use by unions and their leaders of the powers they have obtained under the regulatory arrangements and the agencies administering them. Of course, similar powers have existed for many years: but these have been enhanced under the previous Labor government and in particular by Gillard. Such enhancements have been helped by “suitable” appointments, including to Gillard’s Fair Work Commission and to the ACCC (see yet another excellent article by Judith Sloan “Compliant ACCC Turns Blind Eye to Bargaining Rorts”). The 5 year term of the present chairman of the ACCC concludes in August 2016.
The key point here is that the existing arrangements/appointments have allowed unions to establish quasi-monopolies and, while limited, the ACCC has powers it could and should employ. Under those quasi-monopolies, union leaders such as Shorten and many others, as well as those businesses directly involved, are able to claim that agreements were reached and that these agreements benefited both sides. That, of course, leaves out those businesses who might have provided effective competition as well as consumers (including those on low incomes). This is brought out in my lead letter published in today’s Australian (see below). Although the editor deleted my plea for early corrective action by the Abbott government, the heading he used is spot on.