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Although unions appear in this campaign to have less funding to help Labor (and themselves) than in 2007, union criticism of Coalition policies (or supposed policies) is increasing and there is precious little analysis in the media of such critiques. The AFR report (below) on union advertising is basically descriptive and, while my attempt to draw attention to the internal contradictions was published (see letter below), the editor chose to omit the important last sentence.

The acknowledgement in the PEFO that the economy may grow at a much lower rate than the official forecast adds weight to the need for structural reforms that would help lift investment, employment and productivity, such as IR and regulatory (particularly environmental) reforms. It almost takes us back to the early 1980s when Hawke called a meeting of business leaders and Wran ran with “a jobs, jobs, jobs first” agenda. Today, we don’t have the inflation problem that existed then but, with people dropping out of the work force, we need a reforming program to help/encourage business to create jobs. The steady downward trend in business confidence (the latest NAB survey is almost down to levels reached in the GFC) highlights the many regulatory problems faced by business, but which have so far received little attention in the election campaign. Important as the budget figuring is, the micro reforms are being overlooked.

It is of some importance that Holden workers appear to have accepted some kind of wage freeze. With our unit labour costs now being much higher than most other countries in the OECD, the case for changing out award system is very strong.

Des Moore
PS For your amusement I have included a photo of the PM and “his” doggie friend.  Note that nobody else seemed to be listening.

Wages growth worsens
(Letter published in the Australian Financial Review, 14 August 2013.)
[square bracketed omitted by Editor]

You report that through  a program of TV advertisements the ACTU is attacking the Coalition

for an industrial relations policy which allegedly threatens reductions in wages (“Unions start ad attacks on Coalition”, AFR, August 13). ACTU president Ged Kearney alleges “the biggest threat ... is ... of having your pay packet cut”.

The ACTU has apparently overlooked the Reserve Bank’s latest analysis in its August statement on monetary policy showing that under the present government “wages growth has dropped to its slowest pace since the early 2000’s” and that the “increase in the unemployment rate over the past year or so indicates that there are more people actively looking for work”. Indeed, this has occurred with “employment growth remaining below the growth of the working age population” ie people have been dropping out of the work force because of the difficulty of finding jobs.

This performance of wages and employment growth is much worse than under the Howard government. [One cannot help wondering if there is something wrong with the existing industrial relations policy].

Des Moore
Institute for Private Enterprise
South Yarra Vic

Abbott attacked in new union TV ads
(Article by Mark Skulley and Joanna Mather
published in the Australian Financial Review, 12 August 2013.)

ACTU President Ged Kearney argues that the ‘fine print’ of the Coalition’s industrial relations policy and its promised review of the Fair Work Act mean workplace conditions are at risk.

The ACTU will use television advertisements to attack Opposition Leader Tony Abbott over the next fortnight, while putting most of its effort into direct lobbying of about 120,000 “soft or swinging” union members in 38 seats.

The advertisements, which screened on Sunday night, argue Mr Abbott cannot be trusted on workplace laws, public sector jobs and services.

One national ad poses the question “Why Trust Tony Abbott?” and says he will move to cut overtime and penalty rates while making changes to unfair dismissals laws. It ends with a 2009 quote from Mr Abbott that “workplace reform was one of the great achievements of the last Liberal government”.

Another ad, which will only air in Queensland, states “there isn’t any” difference between Mr Abbott and the state premier, Campbell Newman, on cutting jobs and public services.

The Coalition has pledged not to make immediate changes that would cut pay and conditions, but it will order the Productivity Commission to review the workplace laws before taking any changes to the next election in 2016.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said the “fine print” of the Coalition’s industrial relations ­policy and its promised review of the Fair Work Act meant conditions were at risk.

“We know what the business agenda is: abolish penalty rates, cut wages, introduce individual contracts, make it harder for workers to bargain collectively and make it easier to sack people in the name of flexibility,” Ms Kearney said. “We are calling on the Coalition to release the terms of reference of the proposed inquiry so we know what’s in and what’s out.”

The unions have millions of dollars to spend on the election campaign, but their spending will be a fraction of the $30 million that was spent over several years in the “Your Rights at Work” campaign that helped unseat the Howard government in 2007. Their campaigners claim to have already contacted about 150,000 union members. The campaign is funded by unions paying a levy of $2 a member, which will raise about $4 million a year through to 2015.

Undecided voters targeted

Union sources say they will use a network of about 22,000 local activists who will contact union members who have been identified as possible ­swinging voters. This will often involve peer-to-peer contact such as teachers and nurses speaking to their colleagues.

They say their research identified about 350,000 union members living in 38 marginal seats, with about 120,000 of these being identified as possible swinging voters. According to the 2010 Australian Electoral Study, 52 per cent of union members cast their first preference vote for Labor. But nearly half voted for other parties, and the ACTU campaign aims to stem the flow of votes to the Liberal Party.

Tertiary union-funded television advertisements supporting independent Andrew Wilkieand Greens candidate Adam Bandt will be aired from Monday.

The union is paying for the advertisements using a $1 million war chest. It is the first time the union has directly endorsed candidates in a federal election and the move represents a snub for Labor after cuts to higher education.

The union is also backing Greens candidates in the Senate, with TV ads for selected upper house candidates to air in Perth, Adelaide, northern Tasmania and regional Queensland.

The ACTU survey showed the top concerns for union members include the cost of living and job security. “The biggest threat to cost of living is the threat of having your pay packet cut – through losing penalty rates or overtime,” said Ms Kearney.

The TV ads will screen in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania during programs such as Australia’s Got Talent, The X Factor, The Project and Big Brother. Ads focusing on Campbell Newman’s public sector cuts will screen in Queensland. 

Kevin Rudd and listeners
Photo: Andrew Quilty

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