Goldstein News March 2009
The Coalition’s approach to industrial relations this year will be crucial if we are to retain our credentials as the party best able to manage the economy.
The next election, whether it is held this year or next, will almost certainly be fought against the backdrop of increasing unemployment and soaring budget deficits.
Thanks to 11 years of disciplined economic management, the Coalition is well placed to earn the trust of voters on election day.
But there is a hurdle to be cleared.
The Rudd Government’s Fair Work legislation goes much further than Labor’s election policy with a massive shift of power back to the unions.
Reopening the doors of every Australian workplace to unions and giving them access to the personal details of employees will not boost confidence. Allowing unions to engage in pattern bargaining will not create jobs, it will destroy them.
The economic landscape has changed dramatically since 2007. We now face rising unemployment, slowing growth and a collapse in business and consumer confidence. Labor’s industrial policies will increase unemployment and damage business.
Re-regulating the labour market under these circumstances could have devastating effects on the Australian economy.
We must show that Labor’s industrial relations system will destroy jobs. We must do our best to stop them being passed into law.
Don’t get me wrong. Of course, the brand and policy iteration known as “WorkChoices” is dead.
But what should never die, and never fall from Coalition policy, is our commitment to the right of an individual to sell their own labour on terms they choose.
The Coalition should never relinquish the legislative opportunity to defeat bad legislation, regardless of whether the measure in question is within Labor policy or beyond it.
Such an opportunity approaches in the Senate. We’re an opposition. We should be in the business of frustrating bad policy. Our duty is to oppose policies we know will destroy jobs. Our duty is to oppose legislation that will diminish individual rights.
Espousing freedom of the individual, freedom of association and expressing concern about jobs is meaningless if we are not going to stand up for the right of someone to sell their own labour on terms agreed by them without union interference.
We will not win by being Labor-lite. We will not win by tacking left. And we should never be tempted to abandon responsible economic policy in the pursuit of political gain.
Let’s not make the mistake of drafting our policies in response to the circumstances of the last election. Let’s not make the mistake Labor made after 1996 of failing to defend our economic reforms.
Running away from what we have always stood for will not regain the trust of the Australian people. It is wrong and the public will grant us no reward for abandoning principle.
Let’s have confidence in our principles. Let’s have confidence in our capacity to make our case.