Page 4806 - Week 15 - Wednesday, 14 December 2005

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I think that Stephen Smith, a rising star up on the hill, one of the few up there who are generally pretty sensible, has learnt from some of the errors of his prediction in 1995. He said in the House of Representatives on 17 October 1995:

The Howard model is quite simple. It is all about lower wages; it is about worse conditions; it is about a massive rise in industrial disputation; it is about the abolition of safety nets; and it is about pushing down or abolishing minimum standards. As a worker, you may have lots of doubts about the things you might lose, but you can be absolutely sure of one thing: John Howard will reduce your living standards.

How wrong he was proven. Wouldn’t you think, after making all these wild assumptions, that they would be treading more warily now, that they would be saying, “Gee, we got it wrong there. This is all on the record and we have been made to look pretty foolish. Australia has prospered like it never has before in history, and we are still going to trot out the same scare”? Senator Mark Bishop said then:

The bill before the Senate will result in lower wages and conditions in a range of industries.

The quotes go on and on. Senator Kim Carr said then:

… we see this bill as being obnoxious, insidious and fundamentally hostile to the interests of working people in this country.

That is the sort of parlance that Mr Gentleman has trotted out time and again as we have discussed this legislation which, in fact, is not even before this Assembly. Senator Chris Evans said:

It systematically dismantles any protection against the power of the employer in the relationship by undermining collective bargaining, restricting the rights and roles of trade unions—

that is what it is all about, looking after union officials—

emasculating the role of the Industrial Relations Commission and shrouding the agreement process in secrecy.

That is the sort of panic that was instilled in Labor representatives in their fairly futile attempt to alarm the people of Australia about industrial reform. I cannot speak on this matter without referencing our home-grown senator, Kate Lundy. What did she have to say in the Senate on 6 November 1996? She said:

… what the bill really means is much lower pay without extra jobs.

Senator Lundy was proven wrong. In another speech she said:

If there is one signal that is patently clear in this particular bill it is the fact that this government is all about breaking the trade unions and destroying their ability to collectively bargain on behalf of the people they represent.

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