‘Only thing wrong with WorkChoices was its name’: Tuckey

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‘Only thing wrong with WorkChoices was its name’: Tuckey

The Opposition has at least one avowed WorkChoices champion in its ranks — renegade former Minister Wilson Tuckey says the only thing wrong with WorkChoices was its name.

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The Opposition has at least one avowed WorkChoices champion in its ranks — renegade former Minister Wilson Tuckey says the only thing wrong with WorkChoices was its name.
 
The WorkChoices issue has resurfaced after Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said he would not rule in or out the return of individual contracts until he could assess how the Federal Government’s new IR laws are functioning.
 
Totally supportive
 
This morning Tuckey said he was ‘totally supportive’ of bringing back stronger laws, including individual agreements.
 
‘I was never comfortable with people coming out without partyroom endorsement at the time and saying WorkChoices was dead,’ he said.
 
‘The only problem with WorkChoices was its name.’
 
Turnbull declared WorkChoices ‘dead’ late last year after the Government’s IR legislation was passed.
 
Election factor
 
WorkChoices has been widely credited as being a major factor in costing the Coalition Government in 2007, and partly responsible for then Prime Minister John Howard losing his seat.
 
IR Minister Julia Gillard continued her attack on WorkChoices and Turnbull during Question Time yesterday and in media interviews.
 
In an interview with Sky News, Gillard derided claims that individual contracts were not synonymous with WorkChoices as they were around during the Keating years.
 
‘Well, how on earth can Malcolm Turnbull make that position add up?’ Gillard said.
 
Safety net stripped away
 
‘The heart of WorkChoices, its very beating heart, was individual statutory employment agreements that allowed the safety net to be stripped away.'
 
‘Penalty rates, redundancy pay all taken away without a cent of compensation. Malcolm Turnbull here is endorsing what made WorkChoices what it was and he is doing it in the middle of a global recession.’
 
Gillard said Labor’s new IR laws provide the ‘necessary flexibility’ for business.
 
‘We have done it with a safety net that workers can rely on,’ she said.
 
‘Ten statutory employment conditions and simple modern awards and things like redundancy pay are guaranteed in our 10 minimum conditions, penalty rates, overtime are in awards and Malcolm Turnbull is saying he wants to sweep that aside with individual contracts which we know from the Howard Government were all about stripping basic pay and conditions away.'
 
‘Turnbull … hasn’t gone out there to say let’s look at flexibility arrangements, he has gone out there to say let’s look at individual statutory employment agreements.'
 
‘Yes, he’s hidden that behind the language of flexibility, but that’s what the Liberal Party did in government.'
 
‘Every day Turnbull and his fellow ministers used to go out and justify WorkChoices. They used to use the language of flexibility, they used to use the language of productivity but what it was really about was stripping away pay and conditions and that’s what Turnbull is back to doing.’
 
‘Distraction’ from stimulus
 
Shadow IR spokesman Michael Keenan accused Gillard of using the issue as a ‘distraction’ to take the focus away from ‘the massive waste and reckless spending in their school stimulus plan’.
 
Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey said Turnbull has simply said that the Coalition will be considering how effective Labor's workplace laws are working in the lead up to the next election.
 
‘What Malcolm Turnbull said was we're going to look at that, as we should, and if there's a way to improve productivity and if those contracts aren't working then we reserve the right to go to an election with an industrial relations policy that is going to build productivity,’ he said.
 
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