Further developments in the Shorten saga appear in the written media but the ABC seems to have “overlooked” them. The main developments include:
- A report in the AFR (Shorten Supports IR Debate) stating that Shorten has “indicated that Labor would not be changing its mind and supporting the two bills to be put to the Senate as a priority when Parliament resumes”. This refers to the bills attempting to restore the powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and putting union officials on the same legal basis as business executives. Abbott is reported as being “appalled by the revelations in the royal commission and they want to see unionism cleaned up”. But he should surely be saying that more than “cleaning up” is needed;
- Peter Reith has written an article (Shorten Not Up To It – Peter Reith) circulated in the Fairfax press and suggesting that Shorten is “an albatross around the ALP’s neck”. He identifies three problems facing Labor viz declining union membership but unions still controlling Labor politically; hence Labor’s policies are dependent on union approval; the quality of leadership is slipping and there is no Tony Blair around to get Labor on the track. These problems also face those who seek major reform in workplace relations. Reith’s knowledge in this area might be usefully employed by the government if he was prepared to be appointed in an advisory role;
- The AFR editorial (Trade unions have problems) argues that the royal commission revealed “a lot of problems with union governance” and that “the supposed representatives of the workers are too free to pursue their own agenda rather than that of the workers they represent”. And in similar vein to my analysis, “the root problem is that the workplace laws effectively grant the unions monopoly control over the supply of labour… [and] erect barriers to competition from new organisations”. Hence “this entire good cop/bad cop routine is a protection racket”. But there is no indication of what should be done about this situation.
- In an article in The Australian Judith Sloan argues that Abbott is not seriously interested in economic problems and makes too many lame responses to dealing with them (Abbott & Econ Reform). She refers to the appointment of John Fraser as Treasury Secretary and his recent speech addressing longer term problems and his call for industrial relations and tax reform. Also Fraser’s point that “unless we lift productivity growth, through reforms across all sectors of our economy, we face a future of stagnant and possibly declining living standards”. Sloan notes that “it doesn’t matter if Abbott is not personally involved in all the details but he and his key ministers must create a narrative so people can understand that… some fundamental changes” are needed. This suggests that Abbott may not have economically skilled close advisers – or that he is not consulting them sufficiently.
- Although not directly connected to reform of industrial relations, the excellent article by Alan Moran (Cost of Renewables) also illustrates the need for Abbott to become more involved than he appears to be publicly in environmental policies. True, Abbott has delayed the announcement of what Australia will say at the Paris Conference about its post 2020 emissions reduction target. But while that in itself is sensible, it is allowing warmists to obtain extensive publicity favouring renewables with little response from the government about the costs of using renewables. What is badly missing is a factual analysis showing the cost of renewables compared with that for coal and gas.
- Finally, this is a report on the evidences presented at the RC’s investigations of CFMEU activity in Canberra. The report speaks for itself on the problems occurring because of union power.