Posted by: Bruce | August 3, 2014

WorkChoices, Liberal’s Terminator — I’ll be back.

The swinging voterEvening, July 31, 2014 and I was sitting, briefly, on the edge of my stuffed political armchair. I flicked through the news but went back to David Speers who hosts the PM Agenda and The Nation on Sky news.

David Speers was talking with one or two people, I didn’t get their names but one guy was pushing the Liberal Governments policy on the unemployed; ie working for the dole, 40 job applications a month and so on. I figure he is a young Lib. MP but will be happy if someone can correct me if I’m wrong.

There were a few things that caught my attention but two were standouts. Firstly, the expectation of young unemployed to apply for 40 jobs every month. That’s some serious thinking fodder for reality.

The second thing was the mention of potential employers, their ability to employ young people and having to pay penalty rates, especially on weekends. Why it would be different to older employees I don’t know.

And then it happened. The ‘W’ Bomb, the ability to negotiate individual contracts between the employer and young unemployed to make a job possible. The MP said this without flinching and David Speers didn’t bat an eyelid. The actual word, WorkChoices, wasn’t used.

WorkChoicesThe conversation moved on but my mind stayed with the resurrection of a WorkChoices component that really worried me; that is, the negotiation of an individual employment contract (especially by the younger unemployed).

Having worked for many years in Industrial Relations and those years spent at the pointy end ie; face to face with employers and employees; I know that negotiation of individual contracts of employment is an area fraught with danger.

Now I liked John Howard as PM whether I voted for him or not, but I’ve never forgotten his spruiking on telly about how good would it be for an 18 year old to negotiate his/her own working conditions. This was at a time of many more job vacancies that now.

What a totally dumb, surprising thing to say. Most adults would have difficulty negotiating their own employment contract; even more so for 18 yr olds. And, when economic conditions change and unemployment replaces full employment, it would be open to an employer to dictate conditions.

It helped Howard and his government to a humiliating election defeat.

Tony Abbott said, before the election, that WorkChoices is dead and buried. A little bit later before the elections, he said he can’t rule out revisiting Industrial Relations but won’t do so during his first term.

I think his talk of mandates is bull and bluff; disappointingly his actions are much the same as any previous governments, he just goes a little more slowly to allow digestion.

What comes next? The ‘W’ bomb but with a different name.

For purposes of illustration, big Arny can be called WorkChoices.

Word for today;     WorkChoices – but wait, there’s more.

More to come;     same blog time, same blog channel



  1. The thought of work choices has been worrying me too, Bruce. It’s seemed to me for a while now that we have come full circle. Unions were created to protect vulnerable workers. It’s unfortunate that the people running them have let the workers down and handed a big stick to mainstream media who are beating them to death. Oh, boy, we voters are stuck between a rock and a hard place.


    • Agreed Mary. What I don’t understand is how quietly these issues seem to float in. Where is the Opposition Leader on this?
      How’s the chill going by the way?


      • I thought at first you meant big chilli, Bruce. Which at the moment would be most appropriate. 🙂


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