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19
Aug
2015

Serious Fightbacks?

There are signs that the Coalition has  adopted a more aggressive policy stance particularly in regard to workplace relations and (indirectly) climate change (see below Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: PM changes tone and turns tide). News Corp is also publishing detailed information on the exposure in the RC of the activities of union leaders, some of whom have already been charged and others are recommended to be charged (including of criminal offences). If this change is sustained, Shorten’s activities when head of the AWU will also be drawn to public attention in some detail, although the Coalition would presumably have wanted this to wait for the election campaign. But depending on how this new strategy develops in polling, an election may not be far away.

The new strategy is presumably in response to the bad polling (note that the article Chinese Labour is headed “Fightback”, which is reminiscent of Hewson’s extensive proposed policy changes that were only just defeated in the early 1990s by a Keating who was a vastly different politician to Shorten). But the time taken to change on this occasion suggests a need for Abbott to upgrade the arrangements for advising himself and his ministers. However, sustaining a stronger strategy should also be helped by Labor’s decision to go over the top by asking the Governor General to withdraw Heydon’s commission. That appears as a desperation measure as it (implicitly) argues that Heydon has acted in ways which infringe the constitution in the same way Whitlam did! The chance of Cosgrove dismissing Heydon is remote and Labor’s attempt to try will now provide the Coalition with scope to ridicule the Opposition.

The Australian also reports that the government will attempt to revise environmental legislation so that only those with a direct interest in developmental projects will have the legal standing to challenge it (see Climate Change & Coal). If successful, this would preclude successful challenges such as those made by green groups against the enormous coal project by Indian company Adani and which have (temporarily) stopped development because account was not taken of the threat to a snake and a skink. Challengers to the Adani project came only from those living a considerable distance from it.

Labor’s decision to oppose any change to the legislation raises a major issue given the importance of this project for economic development and foreign investment. It also has considerable significance for global warming policy. Labor’s opposition implies that it is opposed to coal developments because it’s environmental policy makes it essential to do so ie an environmental policy that is not supported by any international agreement (and is unlikely to be at Paris) will hit Australia by preventing investment, stopping additions to employment in the industry and reducing exports.

It is also reported that the government will launch an advertising campaign in support of the China-Australia free trade agreement and Labor’s assertion that it will allow increased use of Chinese labour. The government claims there is provision for labour market “testing” just as there is under the use of 457 visas (see attached article Chinese Labour)

These changes in policy strategy are encouraging but they need to be “sold” to the public. This will now be a major challenge for Abbott.

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