||Issue No. 298||10 March 2006|
Interview: Organising In Cyberspace
Industrial: How Low Is Low
Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
Unions: Bad Medicine
History: Right Turn, Clyde
Economics: Long Division
International: Union Proud
Politics: Howardís Sick Joke
Indigenous: The year of living dangerously
Review: Lights, Camera, Strike!
Culture: News Front
The Locker Room
Wipeout: Minchin Surfs New Wave
Finance Minister, Nick Minchin, told an audience of Right Wing activists his government wanted to bulldoze another round of workplace change over the opposition of Australian voters.
But, according to Labor Council NSW secretary, John Robertson, it was the reaction from Prime Minister, John Howard, which confirmed the agenda.
Speaking from India, Howard, sought to hose down controversy over Minchin's speech to the HR Nicholls Society.
"We won't be taking any more proposals in that area to the next election," the Prime Minister said.
Robertson said every Howard-watcher in Australia would pick up the nuance, intended for consumption by the Prime Minister's big-business constituency.
"Well, he didn't take Work Choices to the last election," Robertson said. "He sprang it on people without warning and Minchin has told their supporters why.
"Plausible deniability has been Howard's hallmark. To you and I it means fibbing, but to him it means creating wriggle room, for later.
"This statement is a classic."
In a candid presentation, Minchin told backers at the HR Nicholls Society annual dinner, the Coalition wanted to embark on a new round of workplace change.
He conceded that most Australians "violently disagreed" with Work Choices.
"Poll after poll demonstrated that the Australian people don't agree at all with anything we're doing on this," he admitted. "We have minority support for what we are doing."
Minchin broke with the party line by conceding there was a real possibility the High Court would veto the core of the legislation - because his government had stacked the bench.
Minchin said his administration had been appointing conservative High Court judges for 10 years and they might well take a conservative view of the intended use of corporations powers in the Constitution to override states rights.
Minchin turned up at the HR Nicholls Society to present its Charles Copeman Medal to the operator of a Melbourne company that refused to negotiate with a union and then closed down after a 10-week dispute was resolved.
Richard Colebatch pitched dozens of Melbourne people out of work and moved his entire operation to South Australia where he has no union agreement and employees are treated as independent contractors to keep them away from award entitlements.
Minchin, who asked forgiveness from HR Nicholls Society members because Work Choices did not go far enough, is a close ally of the Prime Minister.
Aggressive Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss, Peter Hendy, previously a chief of staff to former Howard Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith, immediately endorsed the call for another round of workplace change.
Robertson said it was a "victory for democracy" that Minchin had let the cat out of the bag, even if he hadn't meant to.
"The Liberal Party is captive to the Business Council and Chambers of Commerce," Robertson said. "This is their agenda and the public is entitled to know what they are up to."
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