'Big bear' Hockey a good bloke, but WorkChoices is bad policy: Labor

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'Big bear' Hockey a good bloke, but WorkChoices is bad policy: Labor

Labor has already responded to the choice of Joe Hockey as the new Minister to sell WorkChoices by saying he is a 'good bloke chosen to sell a bad policy'.

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Labor has already responded to the choice of Joe Hockey as the new Minister to sell WorkChoices by saying he is a 'good bloke chosen to sell a bad policy'.

Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd made the point on the ABC yesterday, and Shadow IR Minister Julia Gillard followed it up with a series of radio interviews.

However, Prime Minister John Howard described Hockey as 'avuncular' and said: 'If he reassures and is friendly and embracing and is a big bear of a man, well what's wrong with that?'

Gillard said Howard had 'tried to put a new coat of paint on his government' with yesterday's ministerial reshuffle.

Issues remain

'But the problem of course is that the fundamental issues remain,' she said. 'You might have Joe Hockey being nice to everybody but it doesn't change the fact that the laws that this government has put in place aren't nice laws, they are not decent laws and they are not good for Australian working families.

'It is not really a question of who is selling the message, it is a question of the substance and the substance of the WorkChoices laws.

'Joe might be a different face and he might have been selected for salesman skills but the substance of this is what the election is going to be fought on, and they are bad laws, bad for individuals and bad for the country.'

Gillard said the choice of Hockey was meant to put a 'friendlier face' to the WorkChoices laws.

Need more than a 'friendly face'

'But a friendly face doesn't give you additional rights in your workplace, and a friendly face doesn't create a new wave of productivity for this country,' she said.

ACTU Secretary, Greg Combet, said Hockey's appointment was 'irrelevant'.

'The Government dressing it up in some way by, at least on the Prime Minister's terminology, putting someone avuncular or a cuddly big bear into the IR portfolio, I mean really it's a joke isn't it?' he said. 'The underlying problem is not who the salesman is, it's that it's a crook product.'

Hockey not intimidated

However Hockey said he is not intimidated by public opposition to industrial relations changes.

'The union movement and the Labor Party are focused on self interest; I'm focused on the workers' interests,' he said. 'That's what's driving me, that's what's driving the Government.'

A 'chance' he will perform

Peter Hendy, Chief Executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has added to the pressure on Hockey by saying he will need help to sell the Government's industrial relations laws.

'All strength to Mr Hockey in arguing that WorkChoices is a good policy,' he said.

Hendy said he is looking forward to working with Hockey to fight what he describes as a union scare campaign.

'It's a step up, he looks a bit like a rugby league or a rugby union player, he's moving up to first division now, it's a tougher, faster game, but I think there's a chance that he's going to perform,' he said.

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