While not retreating from my earlier accusations of systematic bias in the main Murdoch press, let me now strongly commend The Australians Mike Steketee for his column in todays edition of the paper. He takes on the business lobby for telling big fibs in their advertisements on workplace reform and being totally hypocritical in claiming their ads are non-political. I suggest you all read Steketees opinion piece.
I expressed similar sentiments to Steketee in a letter I wrote to several newspapers a few days ago. Only one published the Canberra Times (22/8/07). It read as follows:
Start of my first letter
The Business Coalition for Workplace Reform has advertisements appearing in daily newspapers. They are clearly intended to mischievously deceive the reader in the lead up to the federal election. The advertisement warns that if workplace reforms are scrapped, interest rates would rise by 1.4 percentage points. The impression it is trying to convey is that that such an interest rate effect would result from any rollback of the Howard Governments Work Choices. In fact, the independent economic research which the business groups commissioned from Econtech sought to estimate the interest rate effects of scrapping the workplace liberalization reforms of not only the Howard Government, which the ALP may partly or wholly unwind, but also those reforms (in many ways more important) initiated by the Keating Government, which the ALP has no intention of reversing.
The public policy debate on IR reform will be derailed if business groups add further to the mountain of misinformation that already exists.
End of first letter
This first letter was criticized by Tom Waring in the Canberra Times and I have now responded to him as follows.
Start of second letter
In an earlier letter I said that the modeling commissioned by business groups wrongly assumed Labor would abandon all Keating s reforms. Tom Waring (no accord in place 22/7/07)), dismisses my reassuring letter and warns of a return to the traditional, disruptive union era that existed before Keating.
I am neither a member of the ALP nor have any special access to any of their leaders. But Julia Gillard has made it clear that, while the workers safety net and the right to freedom of association will be stronger than under Howard, unions will be more shackled than they were under Keating:
– the strike action will be more severely restricted;
– bargaining will have to be at the enterprise level: pattern bargaining will not be allowed;
– employees who do not like unions will be free to make collective agreements with their employers without any involvement of unions or to embrace individual common law contracts;
– many of the Howard government workplace reforms, such as the tight control over trade union finances and many of the building industry reforms, will be partly or wholly retained; and
– unions will not be able to enter business premises without a permit and prior notice.
In short, if my understanding is correct, trade unions will almost certainly be very much weaker under Rudd than they were under Keating.
End of second letter
I do not deny that the Unions have been stretching the truth too but they represent the narrow interests of workers. Business should have regard for all its diverse shareholders, including workers or people with children who are workers or (like the Industry Super Funds) groups representing workers. If one believes the opinion polls, many of these working class shareholders may be very concerned about the impact of WorkChoices on the quality of life in their workplace and on the wider community. They (or their superannuation trustees) might be happy to forego a potential dividend or capital gain from WorkChoices for the sake of the wider good as they see it.
In the UK any corporate involvement in politics, including donations to political parties, requires shareholder approval. A similar law is badly needed in Australia. And in the meantime, isnt there an ethical obligation on our large corporations to at least consult shareholders?
And if they dont consult, isnt there an ethical obligation to make sure they tell the truth and nothing but the truth? The Business lobby ought to be ashamed of themselves.