Saturday, November 01, 2008


Coalition backdown on laws for workplace

Mark Davis Political Correspondent, smh

November 1, 2008

LABOR'S chances of winning Senate support for its new workplace legislation have improved after the Opposition indicated yesterday that it would accept the Rudd Government had a mandate to overhaul the industrial relations system.

The Opposition's new workplace relations spokesman, Michael Keenan, used his first speech since taking up the position in September to declare himself a pragmatist rather than an ideologue on industrial relations.

Mr Keenan said workplace relations policy played a significant role in last year's federal election and the Coalition needed to heed the lessons of its electoral defeat.

"When the electorate delivers you a verdict on a particular policy, you don't turn around and argue the toss with them," he said. "We therefore accept that the Government has a right to make changes to our workplace relations system in keeping with the policy announced prior to the last election."

He reserved the right for the Coalition to finalise its position after the detailed legislation was available and said Labor's policies would need to be evaluated to ensure they did not contribute to higher unemployment.

"The global financial crisis completely alters the debate around workplace relations and employment in ways that will become apparent over time."

Mr Keenan told the Herald he had some concerns about the Labor's plans on unfair dismissal and collective bargaining.

The Government is expected to introduce the legislation this month. If the Opposition decides not to vote against the legislation in the Senate, the Greens would have no scope to pressure the Government to make the legislation more union-friendly.