Bit by bit, the Federal Labor Government is changing Australia’s labour market laws to be more like that of France. The latest attempt to rewrite the anti-discrimination law is another step in implementing French-style industrial relations legislation in Australia.
This is a recipe for a grievance industry, low productivity growth, high unemployment and a growing distrust between employers and employees. It will further cement the rights of insiders (those who already have a protected job) against outsiders (the unemployed and those on the disability pension who are seeking jobs). It will encourage employees to stay in jobs that they hate, because of the inability to move to a more satisfactory position. It will discourage employers from giving a go to potential new employees for fear of an over-the-top discrimination case. Where previously an employer would think “I’d better get another employee”, instead the employer will try and muddle through. In other words, the Government’s policies promote hatred between employers and employees.
Unions and other employee advocates will be the winners. Employers and employees will be the losers – the former due to lower economic growth and fewer opportunities to make innovative change; the latter because of slow productivity growth and hence slow wages growth.
The Government seems committed to destroying every competitive advantage that Australia offers. Yes, our IR system will become more like France, but we do not have the accumulated infrastructure and other capital that France is presently running down so our pain will be more acute than that of France which can continue its present path for somewhat longer.
Nick Cater outlines the growth in the human rights industry in Canberra – a pathetic organisation which should cease to exist.
Australia and Argentina enjoyed the highest per capita living standards at the start of the 20th century. Both countries retreated rapidly from the top as they adopted supremely bad policies; in Australia’s case the dominance of protectionism. Finally economic reforms under the Hawke/Keating and Howard Governments, in conjunction with a dynamic and productive labour force, pushed Australia back up the ladder, while Argentina, unable to reform itself, remained stuck at the bottom.
It seems that the era of good economic and social policies ended about six years ago. Australia has entered a new era of protectionism; not tariffs on the imports of goods, but human rights and inflexible industrial relations laws. The bad policies may be different, but the result will be the same. An inexorable decline in relative living standards until the Australian population wakes up and demands sensible policies.