Employers, Liberals ‘caved in’ on IR laws, says Hendy


Employers, Liberals ‘caved in’ on IR laws, says Hendy

Former ACCI chief executive and Liberal Party staffer Peter Hendy has attacked business organisations and Liberal Leader Malcolm Turnbull for ‘caving in’ on Labor new IR laws.


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Former ACCI chief executive and Liberal Party staffer Peter Hendy has attacked business organisations and Liberal Leader Malcolm Turnbull for ‘caving in’ on Labor new IR laws.
Hendy, who was former Liberal IR Minister Peter Reith’s chief of staff before joining ACCI, then went on to work in the office of then Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson. He is now leaving Australia to work in Bahrain.
In today’s Australian newspaper Hendy accuses Turnbull of a ‘disgraceful backdown’ on core Liberal IR policies, such as exempting small business from unfair dismissal laws.
‘Certainly, on unfair dismissal laws the Liberals have surrendered to the government,’ Hendy said.
He said that after declaring WorkChoices dead, Brendan Nelson had spelled out the key pillars of the Liberals' policy, including support for individual statutory employment contracts and for small business exemption from the unfair dismissal laws.
Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop had publicly supported these principles.
‘Unfortunately, I personally never heard Malcolm Turnbull, when he was shadow treasurer, repeat this declaration and what is more worrying have not heard him say it since he was promoted to leader,’ Hendy said.
‘Disgraceful back-down’
He said the Opposition had been ‘completely spooked’ by the ACTU election ads showing a young mother being threatened with dismissal if she stayed home to look after a sick child — action that Hendy said might have been illegal under the Howard government's workplace laws.
‘On the basis of one, misleading, 30-second advertisement the Liberal Party is now abandoning a 16-year-old core policy,’Hendy said. ‘This is a disgraceful backdown and should not occur.’
He also accused business groups, including the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, of behaving like ‘frightened sheep’ after campaigning against Labor's industrial relations policy during the 2007 election.
Hendy said the 2007 business campaign had succeeded in securing modifications to Labor's industrial relations policy, including the retention of special powers against lawlessness in the building and construction industry.
However Hendy said that after Labor's victory the business groups had opted to ‘be extra nice’ to the new government while it was drafting its industrial relations laws, and hope the Liberals would block them in the Senate.
‘That was never going to work,’ Hendy said.
Hendy took particular aim at the Australian Industry Group, which refused to join the 2007 business advertising campaign against Labor's industrial relations policy.
Ai Group chief executive Heather Ridout has been appointed to a series of Rudd government policy review committees, including the Henry review of the tax system.
‘The Ai Group has let its members down,’ he said. ‘The Ai Group is an organisation which represents its secretariat and what its secretariat wants, as opposed to its members.
‘Although it will profess that everybody is a free trader now and all business groups are in support of decentralised wage-setting, scratch the Ai Group and they are still part of the old IR protectionist club.’
Praise for Government
Meanwhile at a business luncheon in Brisbane on Friday, acting ACCI chief executive Greg Evans praised Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for the Government’s action in shielding Australia from the worst of the economic crisis.
‘… from the onset of the global economic deterioration the response from both government and business has been positive,’ Evans said.
‘We knew we could not insulate ourselves from the entire impact of global contraction, but we have fared better than just about every other comparable advanced nation.
‘ACCI supported the action of government to sustain activity in the domestic economy, including:
  • the phased stimulus arrangements;
  • dealing with consumer demand;
  • building schools and community infrastructures; and finally
  • the roll out of economic infrastructure.
‘We also supported strongly the business investment allowance, providing a tax break amounting to 50% for small business and 30% for larger business.
‘We join with government and encourage all businesses to consider what benefit it may provide their operations.
‘Prime Minister, we thank you for the straightforward manner in which you have dealt with our current economic challenges, your willingness to engage, and as you have shown again today, your accessibility.’
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