Lib Senator urges Coalition to block IR laws


Lib Senator urges Coalition to block IR laws

A leading Victorian Liberal Senator has urged the Opposition to block Labor’s IR legislation, claiming that it will cost jobs and damage the economy in the current economic crisis.


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A leading Victorian Liberal Senator has urged the Opposition to block Labor’s IR legislation, claiming that it will cost jobs and damage the economy in the current economic crisis.
Senator Mitch Fifield, former adviser to then-Treasurer Peter Costello and co-publisher of the Liberal’s policy journal The PartyRoom, told a Young Liberals meeting that the situation has changed since the Coalition declared WorkChoices ‘dead’.
‘Immediately after the last election, it seemed like industrial relations policy would not play a major role this parliamentary term,’ Fifield said in a speech to the Young Liberals convention in Canberra.
‘After all, the Shadow Cabinet declared WorkChoices dead in December 2007.'
Minimal dissent
‘Indeed, most of us probably expected that Labor would move quickly to overturn WorkChoices, with minimal Opposition dissent, and then move on.'
‘This is essentially what happened with Labor’s transitional Forward with Fairness legislation.’
However Fifield said three things had happened since then.
Shift of power to unions
‘Firstly, the Government’s Fair Work legislation goes much further than Labor’s election policy with a massive shift of power back to the unions,’ he said.
‘Reopening the doors of every Australian workplace to unions and giving them access to the personal details of employees will not boost confidence. Allowing unions to engage in pattern bargaining will not create jobs, it will destroy them.'
‘Indeed, there is little doubt that uncertainty about the regulatory and economic environment following passage of Labor’s legislation is a major factor in the announcements of significant job shedding this past week.'
Economy changed dramatically
‘Secondly, the economic landscape has changed dramatically. Unlike 2007, we are now facing rising unemployment, slowing growth and a collapse in business and consumer confidence.'
‘Labor’s industrial policies will increase unemployment and damage business.'
Abandon core principles
‘Thirdly, there is a reassessment by many in the Coalition as to the wisdom of having been so quick to abandon our core principles on workplace relations after the election.’
Fifield said that ‘of course, the brand and policy iteration known as “WorkChoices” is dead’.
However he said that what should never die, and never fall from Coalition policy, is ‘the commitment to the right of individuals to negotiate without unwanted union involvement and the right of an individual to sell their own labour according to terms they choose’.
He said the Coalition’s position on the Government’s Fair Work Bill is that they won’t seek ‘… to frustrate the Government’s election commitment to implement its Forward with Fairness election policy’.
Campaign against WorkChoices
Fifield said this policy reflects the Party Room concern that unless the Opposition allows passage of Labor’s legislation, the Government will campaign at the next election on WorkChoices.
However, he said the Government would campaign on WorkChoices whether the IR legislation was passed or not, by claiming it had a secret agenda.
He said when in Opposition Labor had claimed the Senate had ‘both a right and a responsibility to debate and review legislation’.
‘We should take the same approach,’ Fifield said.
‘Defeat bad legislation’
‘The Coalition should never relinquish the legislative opportunity to defeat bad legislation, regardless of whether the measure in question is within Labor policy or beyond it.'
‘Our duty is to oppose policies we know will destroy jobs. Our duty is to oppose legislation that will diminish individual rights.'
‘Espousing freedom of the individual, freedom of association and expressing concern about jobs is meaningless if we are not going to stand up for the right of someone to sell their own labour on terms agreed by them without union interference.’
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