Workplace Relations Reform
Malcolm Turnbull has been prepared to risk forcing a double dissolution to obtain a vote by both houses sitting together on legislation to pass the Registered Organisations bill and to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission. That body was abolished under the Gillard government in May 2012 and replaced by Fair Work Building & Construction with much reduced regulatory powers. Turnbull also secured the winding up of the Roads Safety Remuneration Tribunal established under Gillard at the behest of the Transport Workers union and effectively designed to favour unions able to collude with transport companies.
Today’s The Australian has run several letters supporting the actions by the Turnbull government which, if successful in the election, will significantly reduce the unjustified power obtained by unions under the regulatory arrangements applying mainly to the construction industry. But the Fair Work Commission itself, which was also established by the Gillard government, has allowed its regulations applying to other industries to also favour unions. The restoration of the ABCC would not provide any significant improvement in those industries.
The Letters Ed has rather strangely titled the letters “It could take years for the economy to change course” but such a title is certainly relevant to the arrangements that would be applied under the Fair Work Commission. The letter which I wrote, and which is published below, refers to the FWC and suggests that Turnbull should propose reforms to the arrangements which that body administers in regard to industries outside the construction industry.
Relevant here is the findings of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, a section on which was omitted from my letter. When that body’s final report was published the Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash, wrote an article in The Australian indicating that “This government will take firm and swift action to act on the findings and 79 recommendations in the final report”. However, while Turnbull himself promised that a response to the Commission would be forthcoming, no attempt has yet been made to indicate other reforms are justified by it. Given that Turnbull has been subject to criticism for failing to establish an economic policy, a policy of further extensive reforms to workplace relations would fit well as part of such a policy and would have the potential to put Shorten on the back foot.
The US in Iraq/Syria
The Australian also reports that the US has, for the first time, sent a B52 bomber to help Iraq attack IS in Mosul. This follows the announcement by US Defence Secretary to send extra US troops there and an involvement of US commandoes with Kurdish forces (see The US in Iraq/Syria).
It appears that active preparations are being made for an attack on Mosul and that the US will be providing support, although not “troops on the ground” because, while Obama claimed recently that IS is on the defensive, he continues to oppose activating troops. The increase in activity follows a meeting by Carter with the Saudis and an attempt by him to persuade members of the Gulf Cooperation Council to play a more active role (see US in Syria/Iraq).
This situation provides an opportunity for Turnbull to establish a more active Australian role in circumstances where the US is increasing its role in a cause that is in our interests.
Earth Day occurs on April 22 and is widely used to promote the alleged need for governments to take measures to reduce the use of fossil fuels. It will be the day when those countries which pledged in Paris last December to reduce emissions formally sign the agreement in New York.
I have previously pointed out that, if the pledges are met, there will actually be an increase of 23% in emissions by the main emitters by 2030, mainly originating from China and India. As far as I am aware this has not been publicised and doubtless there will be celebrations in the media of the “success” of the Paris meeting and a repetition of claims that the recent increase in global temperatures confirmed the need for action. However this increase accompanied the El Nino and with the end of that natural phenomenon has already started to fade.