||Issue No. 307||19 May 2006|
Open for Business?
Interview: Out of the Bedroom
Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
Legal: The Fantasy of Choice
Politics: Labor Pains
Economics: Economics and the Public Purpose
Corporate: House of Horrors
History: Clash Of Cultures
International: Childs Play
Culture: Folk You Mate!
Review: Last Holeproof Hero
The Locker Room
Pleased with Beazley
What is Working Class
National Day of Protest
Higher Profile for Labor
Open for Business?
The NSW election pits a three-term government with a new leader who wants to maintain state industrial powers against a three-time loser with a new leader who want to hand those powers over to Canberra.
On Work Choices, the NSW government has done all it should; led the charge amongst the states to shore up the state system, passed legislation to make it harder for a hostile takeover and run the constitutional arguments through the High Court.
NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca, in particular, has read the politics and connected the dots from IR to family values, creating clear differences between the government and an Opposition that will toe the Canberra line.
If only the battle lines for the March election were this clear.
The X factor is a perception being driven from within the government itself that the Labor Government is exposed on the economy. Driving this fear is the fact that a short-term, cyclical deficit is budgeted for next year.
To put this into perspective, this shortfall will represent less than half of one per cent of the state's GDP and is linked to a downturn in the property market, a decision to scrap a number of taxes and, to its credit, a decision to pay public servants decent wages.
These numbers have created something of a panic at Macquarie Street, with our much loved Treasurer sharpening the knife for job cuts and looking for anything not nailed down for privatisation.
Forget that the biggest political issue facing the NSW Government is a perceived erosion of public services due to under-investment over many years by treasurers desperate for surpluses, the focus of all political angst is the budget bottom line.
This mindset has driven a shift in broader messaging and policy: the 'Open for Business' catchphrase being seen as defining motif of the Iemma Administration.
It is this attitude that seems to be behind an ill-conceived push to water down occupational health and safety laws, ending the strict liability requirement on employers at the behest of the business lobby.
That the discussion paper on changes that would make it much harder to prosecute negligent managers and directors was circulated as the Beaconsfield rescue was in full throttle is an unfortunate coincidence.
The broader political question though, is why choose now to cuddle up to an employer lobby that is still licking the cream of its lips after the WorkChoices coup d'etat?
Regular Workers Online readers will be familiar with the analysis of American pollster Vic Fingferhut (see issue 272), developed over four decades of research, that the frame of the debate decides elections.
In simple terms, conservative parties win elections on the economy - regardless of the merits of the policies; left of centre parties win on services delivered to people.
While there could be a case that budget trimming is needed to neutralise the economy attack from the Conservatives, there is no logical argument for making a crusade out of it.
Next time the Treasurer does a victory lap around cutting jobs, don't think of it as economically smart, it's just politically dumb, handling the Opposition the playing field that suits it best,
State Labor has its winning election strategy - workers rights and public services; the less focus on the budgetary heroics and the interests of the business community over the coming months the better for all of us.
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