By Craig Donaldson
It’s almost election time again. Huzzah!
Business has expressed some serious concerns about Labor’s industrial relations policy, with a few very large companies personally letting Kevin Rudd know how they feel. On the other hand, business has not been overtly happy with all the red tape and confusion around the introduction of WorkChoices either. In fact, many companies (see page one stories) are still taking a wait-and-see approach with the Federal Government’s industrial relations reforms.
John Howard has made his reform mark, especially in his current term of office. Between WorkChoices, the lock, stock, and barrel sale of Telstra (including the vital infrastructure which provides the level playing field for healthy competition – dumb idea) as well as the unpopular war in Iraq, Howard is an astute and experienced operator. He has certainly had his hands full, but the economy is booming (thanks largely to Australia’s natural resources) and life is good for most Australians.
But they are still a pretty stoic mob. They don’t like too much change too fast, and this could be the Federal Government’s undoing. Unions have been very effective in their campaign against WorkChoices. The media have also highlighted many of the less than glowing cases where bosses have taken advantage of workers through the flexibility that comes with increased use of Australian Workplace Agreements. There seems to be a grassroots dislike of WorkChoices as a result of some of these rather unsavoury cases.
Kevin Rudd is a more viable candidate than any of his most recent predecessors, and seems to have his head screwed on a bit better. If history is anything to go by, the Australian electorate generally doesn’t let a government have any more than a few terms in office. Budget sweeteners aside, the cost of living in Australia has gone up considerably over the Federal Government’s four terms in office, and Australia has one of the highest (and most obscene) taxation rates in the world. Sun, beaches and BBQs will only go so far for a more jaded younger generation.
Every dog has his day. If Kevin Rudd plays his cards right and if current election polls are anything to go by, he may well have his soon.