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Below is my letter calling for the Government to immediately change FWA legislation in the national interest. Also below is today’s editorial calling on the government to act in the national interest instead of being union representatives. Missing is any reaction from the Opposition, although today’s cartoon shows what’s up as did the pathetic response on last night’s 7.30 report by Hockey.

Des Moore

PS Gerard Boyce is a barrister specialising in IR cases

Under pressure, Joyce acted for the good of all
letter published in The Australian, 2 November 2011

Gerard Boyce contradicts claims by Gillard (and others) that action by the three Qantas unions would have been possible under previous legislation. In non-legal language the current legislation provides unions with new opportunities to select a target and, under protected action, continually stop or seriously hinder management in operating the business. This is relevant to many businesses other than Qantas and has serious adverse implications for the economy.

One claim by unions is of particular concern viz the need for job security. That is what unions have obtained in some European countries (such as Italy and Greece) with the result that labour costs in those countries have made them uncompetitive and contributed to negative GDP growth per head.

If it is concerned with the national interest, the Government should not wait for an inquiry but immediately change the current legislation to restore a more appropriate balance of bargaining power.

Des Moore, South Yarra Vic

PM must stand up for productivity and Qantas
Editorial in The Australian, 2 November 2011

ONE of the most disturbing, and ultimately damning, aspects of the government's handling of the Qantas dispute is the way former union advocates Julia Gillard, Bill Shorten and Simon Crean have reverted to anti-business rhetoric.

The word "extreme" is deployed against Qantas, just as it was in 2007 against Work Choices. But the Prime Minister and her ministers need to understand there is a world of difference between representing the narrow interests of a group of workers covered by one union or another, and standing up for the national interest.

In parliament yesterday, Ms Gillard attacked the opposition for its benign view of Qantas. The opposition, she said, was all about helping the boss and hurting the worker. Mr Shorten goaded Tony Abbott to take a stick to the airline, and Mr Crean conjured up a reference to "scab" workers. This was the us-versus-them language of a bygone era. Illuminatingly, Ms Gillard characterised her role as an industrial referee who stood between the demands of Qantas and its workforce, "treating the interests of employers and employees in balance" before sending them off to the Fair Work Australia tribunal. This was the Prime Minister as union lawyer, but the nation needs the former union lawyer to behave more like a prime minister.

The national interest in this matter is clear. Our nation's carrier has been subjected to long-running and unpredictable industrial action, disrupting flights, scaring away customers and jeopardising its future. Union leaders have even urged customers not to book with Qantas. At issue is not fair wages and conditions, but rather a global company's authority to employ the staff required to meet the airline's objectives, at the locations it decides. Unions are demanding to keep functions based in Australia whether or not they are needed and viable here. In the face of these demands, pursued through guerilla industrial action, Ms Gillard and her government chose to stand back. A number of planes were grounded for a month while Qantas was forced to scale back its operations. The government said little. Eventually, the company decided to bring the matter to a head and grounded the entire fleet.

Whatever its view of that dramatic action, the government concedes it had the power to terminate it. But it chose not to, instead sending the matter to FWA for adjudication.

Even now, Ms Gillard refuses to "take sides" and the matter is far from over. The planes are back in the sky, but the airline's future is up in the air. It is time for the Prime Minister to take a side -- and that side is the national interest. Australians want their national carrier to survive. We need businesses to be answerable to their shareholders and the laws of the land -- not union leaders. Qantas must have the ability to shape its operations and boost productivity without a union veto. Unless the airline is competitive, any union victories will be pyrrhic.

A prime minister not beholden to the unions or the Greens would have stood up and made these points before it came to this. A strong leader would have been ready to terminate the dispute if the company or the unions threatened to ground the whole fleet. Still we wait, with conciliation under way, for Ms Gillard to stand up for the rights and future of Qantas.

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