Employment and Migration Blog

“Life’s a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (Macbeth, Act V sc v)

Posted by Stephen Booth on 7 Jul 2011

While I don’t want to be quite as nihilistic as that at the prospect of more political “debate” on IR, seeing Tony Abbott, Nick Minchin and Peter Reith manoeuvring last week about Coalition’s IR policy does suggest impending sound and fury, signifying not very much.

Ever since the lead up to WorkChoices in 2005 and 2006, the political debate about this has diverged from reality because, once past the Howard Government’s radical step of nationalising the IR system, there has been much more continuity from WorkChoices (Mark II at least) to the Fair Work Act than you would imagine, given the heated rhetoric.

Most employers I work with hope to have the rules stay the same, just for a little while!

Given that WorkChoices is a poisoned brand (as Nick Minchin, ironically, acknowledges), what areas are likely to come up for change under Coalition policy? My bets are:

  1. the option of some form of individual workplace agreement, with a clear and strong safety net
  2. an unfair dismissal exemption a lot less adventurous than the “100 employee rule” was;  
  3. some other steps toward individual rather than collective dealings.

Some of those things would be “nice to haves” from an employer’s point of view, but for most will be marginal. And whether they can be sold, and get through the post 1 July Senate, is another matter altogether.

The Witches probably have the right words to describe the battle of slogans:

Fair is foul and foul is fair: hover through the fog and filthy air (Act I, sc i)