Was targetting WorkChoices a mistake for Labor?

There is little doubt that the uncertainty of the election result is good for journalists.  There seem to be an enormous number of newspaper articles today analysing the reasons for the poor showing of Labor and the gains made by the Coalition, although some of the commentary is also  focusing on why the Coalition was not able to make it across the line (eg. Baume in the Fin).

Relatively little attention is given, however, to the question: was targetting WorkChoices a mistake for Labor? And, of course, it was not just Labor but the ACTU, Paul Howes (mmmm), GetUp and others.  Certainly, in the dying days of the campaign, Julia stepped up the shrill-o-meter on this issue, repeating the point that Abbott was lying about his intention to leave WorkChoices dead, buried and cremated (always seemed like a bit of overkill, Tony). The journalists travelling with her evidently got to the point of wondering whether she was lying on this point.

After all, anything other than a procedural change to the regulations of the Fair Work Act would require both Houses to approve and so Tony Abbott’s promise was never needed.  Having said that, it was something of a pity given the possibly job-destroying operation of the unfair dismissal provisions (increasing in number, some bizarre decisions already, the small business dismissal code requiring revision – yes, by regulation by the Rudd/Gillard government) and the need for some form of individual contracting (and, yes, there is scope within the Fair Work Act for individual flexibility arrangements, although they are being effectively scuttled by the trade unions).

After all, when Julia told us she saw job creation as the central issue, she failed to draw the connection with policies that promote labour market flexibility, which her Fair Work Act undermines.  My guess is that others did pick up on this inconsistency.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Was targetting WorkChoices a mistake for Labor?

  1. Infidel Tiger says:

    I reckon the WorkChoices BS worked very well for them in the rust belt.

  2. Infidel Tiger says:

    After all, anything other than a procedural change to the regulations of the Fair Work Act would require both Houses to approve and so Tony Abbott’s promise was never needed.

    If more than 5% of voters could tell you about how the bicameral system works, I’ll go hee. The sooner we introduce voluntary voting, the better.

  3. Yobbo says:

    Labor cares so much more about this than anyone else ever did.

  4. C.L. says:

    Kroger was mocking brilliant Labor strategist Mark Arbib on election night by looking at his watch and saying ‘we’re re-introducing WorkChoices on Monday – what time are we introducing it again, Mark?’

  5. Butterfield, Bloomfeld % Bishop says:

    yeah most people could work out it wouldn’t get past the Senate.

    They should have concentrated on the Liberals costings debacle.

    more political genius at work!

  6. C.L. says:

    Yeah, the “costings debacle.” That was so much more important than the $50 billion Rudd and Swan flushed down one of Julia Gillard’s $10 million toilets.

  7. pedro says:

    I suspect that it more likely reinforced concerns about the Labor record. Why pick up the bucket of shit for an obvious and stupid scare campaign if you smell so good yourself.

  8. Boris says:

    Workchoices was what made Labor election possible in 2007 in the first place.

  9. Peter Patton says:


    My take on Workchoices is that it was bad, bad, politics to go to the 2007 election with, and was still whiffy at this election.


    1. Unlike say the GST, Howard did not campaign on it.

    2. Even acknowledging that the greatest liberalization of IR (and ‘workers’ rights and entitlements’ if you wanted to follow the 2007 ALP/ACTU line), took place under Hawkeating, Labor was STILL benefiting from the halo effect of being the ‘workers’ party’, as there were still a lot of Useful Idiots.

    3. The economy was booming, and unemployment was extremely low. Now, if the economy had been down the crapper, and unemployment was over 10%, the people would have been up for drastic action, and receptive to “liberalization = jobs” messages. Just as they were prepared to listen to the case for a Regressive Big New Tax – the GST. When everybody is already employed that message doesn’t work.

    4. The brilliant campaign by the unions is still very fresh in the electorate’s mind, as it is only 3 years later. So psychologically, Labor had no problem pressing those fear buttons, just like ex-smokers apparently get aroused at the smell of cigarette smoke or ex-junkies at the sight of a syringe.

    The real test would be to check out which are the most marginal seats after the counting is done and ask these questions seat by seat.

  10. Blake Van Buren says:

    WorkChoices was the last major economic reform to be undertaken in this country but it was lousy politics.

    Largely pointless ideological overreach is never an attractive feature in a government. Not to mention the hideous and almost comical advertising campaign run by the employer groups.

    Abbott has been proved correct in his assessment at the time that it went too far. Abbott is the best political mind the conservatives have generated in a long time.

  11. . says:

    “Regressive Big New Tax”

    I hope you only mean this polemically.

    A VAT is proportional. The GST with its exemptions and transfer payments at the time was progressive.

    If you’re going to value progressivity on income, you do realise that actually abolishing regressive taxation, by that heuristic is in fact, “regressive”?

  12. Butterfield, Bloomfeld % Bishop says:

    let us look at definitions of regressive taxation on the web.

    •A regressive tax is a tax imposed in such a manner that the tax rate decreases as the amount subject to taxation increases. …

    •A regressive tax is a tax that takes a smaller proportion of a income as income rises. In other words it is a tax that hits less well-off people harder than the better-off. An example of a regressive tax is the television licence. …

    •a tax such as a sales tax that applies equally to every purchaser but which results in taking a larger percentage of income from a low-income person than from a high-income person

    According to Marky a person on $100k who pays say $30 of VAT on goods and services is the same as a person on $30k paying $30 on goods and services.

    He lives in a parallel universe

Comments are closed.