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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Kevin, Labor and IR go to the Press Club

It is with a sigh of relief that Miss Eagle has been watching Kevin Rudd addressing the National Press Club to-day. It was Rudd's first address to the Press Club since becoming ALP leader on 4 December 2006.
Why the sigh of relief?

Because at last the cat is officially out of the IR bag for all to see. Well, one cat is out of the IR bag. More still are lurking - but the important, seminal one is there for all to see.

For those who might have thought (and Miss E was never one) that all that needs to be done is elect an ALP government and wait for the rollback of Howard's draconian IR laws, listen/read the Rudd speech and you will have your hopes dashed.

The facts have always been that once the eggs are scrambled there is no putting them back in their shells. And Howard has effected a scramble of workers rights in no uncertain terms.

Be alert!

Be alarmed!
Howard has more to come - make no bones about it. One way or another - whether he bribes you, dear Reader, with tax cuts to take a wage cut or brings in masses of guest workers to drive down wage rates - your work and your wages will be affected. Work will be upped and wages will be downed.

Miss Eagle does not pretend she will be happy with the ALP's IR platform. In fact, she is certain she will not be. What Miss Eagle does assert, though, is that Labor is the best bet for workers' rights. Labor is the best bet for workers being able to influence federal and state governments with regard to their rights.

Rudd was questioned by Paul Buongiorno with regard to whether the Fair Pay Commission would stay and whether the Industrial Relations Commission would be re-instated to its former glory. Rudd wisely said that he had no answer on this and these were issues of transition.

For those not familiar with the finest of details of political platforms - particularly the platforms of parties who have a very likely chance of winning an election - transition or machinery of government policies are vital for the smooth transition from one brand of government to another. The transition or machinery policies are finalised very late in the electoral cycle. The arrangements for transition may receive a great deal of publicity but not necessarily so. Or some areas may receive publicity but details of other portfolios are not mentioned. The astute follower of the political process will be watching, reading, listening closely for transition details.

Miss Eagle, dear Reader, is about to stick her feathery neck out. Miss Eagle bets London to a brick on that the Fair Pay Commission in one form or another will survive. Not necessarily with the same membership and not necessarily with the same name (and aren't our pollies great at changing names and the stationery) - but survive it will. Why.
The Fair Pay Commission - in some form - will remain because it is a good idea and it does have something to offer. The idea came from Blair and his so-called new Labour. In this globalised world, where the cost of labour as a factor of production is eyed off internationally, some form of research and policy facility is the only way a social and pluralist democracy can fine tune its wages bills.

You will recall, dear Reader, that when Bob Hawke came to power way back in 1983 he brought with him the Accord - an agreement on wages which was supposed to be tripartite (business, government and unions) but finished up bipartite (government and unions). The research behind the Accord, while substantial, did not have the clout of the research that is building within the Fair Pay Commission. However, the motivation to-day varies little from what Hawke had in mind.

So to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, the price of your rights, dear Reader, is eternal vigilance.