No Pasaran

So what exactly gets up employers’ goat about union officials visiting workplaces? When this issue is raised, stories are often told about intimidatory behaviour on building sites. But, no such justification has been offered this time. The only actual incident I can recall as having been discussed when this proposal was first advanced was the temerity of Finance Sector Union organisers talking to workers in a bank’s call centre. Supposedly employers are crying out for a stop to this sort of thing. As the economy heads south, and the twin deficits rear, the Government’s only idea of micro-economic reform and productivity growth appears to be more restrictive IR laws…

Whatever happened to the fine liberal principle of “freedom of association”?

The Federal Government employs a grand total of four Industrial Inspectors to ensure that employers comply with federal awards. In Queensland law, union officials have a right to inspect wages records. This is a useful deterrent to illegal employment practices.

The real justification for using the Corporations power in this manner to over-ride state law appears to be this –

If passed, the Bill would be the Howard Government’s first step towards a hostile federal takeover of state industrial relations systems.
Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said yesterday the Bill was “a way in which we can bring about more harmony within the industrial relations system within the bounds of our constitutional powers.”

Harmony is an odd choice of words in this context. And what about that other foundational value of the Liberal Party, federalism?

ELSEWHERE: Red Peter has supplied in comments a link to an excellent article in the New York Review of Books which paints a picture of what a workplace without unions looks like.

About Mark Bahnisch

Mark Bahnisch is a sociologist and is the founder of this blog. He has an undergraduate degree in history and politics from UQ, and postgraduate qualifications in sociology, industrial relations and political economy from Griffith and QUT. He has recently been awarded his PhD through the Humanities Program at QUT. Mark's full bio is on this page.
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Robert
2022 years ago

Howard has never been a principled federalist. Greg Craven told me a story about his time working for Jeff Kennett. Because his interest is constitutional law, Howard came to him for advice about overcoming constitutional difficulties in taking over the industrial relations system. Craven (who is a principled States-rightser) wouldn’t have a bar of it.

Spiros
Spiros
2022 years ago

“And what about that other foundational value of the Liberal Party, federalism?”

It’s been trumped by a deeper foundational value, the desire to do over state Labor Governments.

Howard’s meddling in the states’ affairs will cease as soon as there is a Liberal state government. This could happen as soon as early next year in Western Australia.

Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton
2022 years ago

In a survey article I wrote on the Liberal Party at the time of its 50th anniversary (ie 10 years ago) I struggled to find theoretical defences of federalism. The usual arguments about local diversity and competitive jurisdictions were almost entirely absent. Historically, I think it was more of a case of the Labor Party being centralist than the Liberals being federalist. With Labor in power in every state the Liberals are now a centralist party; this is a response to political conditions than any great change of philosophy.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

firstly Howard has never been a federalist ( and never been a delegator either indeed he is the greatest micro-manager we have had as PM).
Secondly if the union movement is in decline which it is why is this needed?

Indeed just who has asked for this measure as I don’t know of any employer organisation who has and it hasn’t emerged on any focus group either party has done either!

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

Homer, although the union movement in general is in decline, there are some industries where it still wields great power – the construction industry for a start. I suspect that these remaining pockets of union power are the real target.

Cameron Riley
2022 years ago

The Australian federal government has been anti-federalist since its inception. The Westminster system comes from the British system which is incredibly centralised, no states in Britain. The Australian Constitution is also a wet noodle, and the federal government has been trying to crash through it for a century now.

Lang and Lyons going at it was anti-federalism, Curtin getting the federal government to get first cut of the income tax pie was anti-federalism, Howard enacting a GST that is a tax for the states is anti-federalism. Governments are supposed to tax only for what they need to maintain themselves, not for other governments! It is the state’s responsibility to raise the funds it needs, not the federal governments.

Howard said in an interview a couple of years ago that if Australia was done again they would not have the states. This is British Westminsterism, rather than Washington federalism. All the major federal parties support that type of British Westminsterism. Liberal, Labor, Democrats and Greens support the abolition of the states. Our entire federal government is anti-federalist.

The federal government has coveted the state’s responsibilities since it began in 1901, and have been warring on the states for just as long.

Red Peter
Red Peter
2022 years ago

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/17647

Is this what we can look forward to?

**if you can’t be bothered with the whole article just scroll down to part 3.**

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Cheer, Red Peter – great article. I’ve put up a link to it in the post.