Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Labor has no IR mandate

Kevin Andrews points out that at the recent election the ALP scored 43.38% of the vote and the Coalition 41.78%. Over 5 million people voted to return the John Howard Government. Many of them were workers who have benefited from a prosperous economy and from improved employment possibilities in labour markets.

While in power the ALP voted over 40 times to reject changes to employment-destroying 'unfair dismissal' laws that the Coalition had repeatedly promised to implement.

Julia Gillard can huff and puff all she likes - even threaten a double dissolution of parliament - but Labor has no mandate to implement its IR agenda. It has the right to bring this legislation to the parliament where it can be debated but no mandate to enforce its introduction. The debate needs to centre on whether or not the proposed changes will encourage economic growth and employment or not. There are reasonable arguments they will make things worse.

Update: Brendon Nelson has given the lot away - WorkChoices is dead he claims. He even praised Rudd's determination to restore unfair dismissal laws for small firms - a measure that will certainly destroy jobs. A disappointing capitulation that will not win the Coalition parties friends.


Spiros said...

Harry, you are being disingenuous in citing primary votes, and you know it. Labor won the election with 52.7% of the TPP vote, and repealing Workchoices was front and centre of their campaign. In 2004 the Liberals didn't say anything about Workchoices in that election, and introduced it opportunistically after they won control of the senate.

Of course, they may oppose the Government's IR laws in the Senate. But I don't tihnk they will, notwithstanding what the backbencher Kevin Andrews has to say. (Backbenchers say all sorts of stuff.) They got beaten up badly by Workchoices at the last election. Unless they've got a deathwish, they won't want it to happen again.

The sensible Liberals have realised they have to wipe the slate clean and present themselves as a fresh team with fresh ideas. This means breaking with the past. Do you really think they want to fight John Howard's battles again and again?

One should never underestimate the stupidity of the Liberal Party. but it's unlikely. And even if they do, come July 1, the Government will do a deal with the Greens and Xenophon and/or Fielding to get their legislation through anyway. And that's if they don't do a deal with Barnaby Joyce beforehand, which is always on the cards.

P.A. Coplay said...

However, as far as we can tell the ALP is proposing to go back before Workchoices and undo the Workplace Relations Act.

1. AWAs were introduced in the WRA - undoing Workchoices would just place restrictions on them.

2. On Sunrise this morning it was suggested (by a workplace lawyer) that the policy of the ALP was to return to the pre-WRA no-disadvantage test i.e. award as safety net for all components, not just on average.

Even if the ALP has a mandate for undoing Workchoices, the same argument would say they have no mandate to undo the Workplace Relations Act as these changes were approved at least twice by the electorate

Bring Back CL's blog said...

I am kinda curious here.

Does the ALP have a mandate to do anything?

In 2004 Howard directly answered a question from the black Dwarf on this where he actually said he wouldn't use any ccommonwealth powers with regard to the labour market.

Lo and behold and with a majority in the Senate that is exactly what he does.

So Harry is suporting a measure that never haaad any support in an election campaign agianst one that did!

What spiros said about 2pp figures

Anonymous said...

This argument about 'mandate' is nonsense. To pass legislation you need seats (votes) in the Parliament. If the ALP doesn't have enough votes it can't pass the law. The ALP can use the fact that it won the election as an argument to sway senators but after that it's got nothing. So 'mandate' may have moral authority, but so what?

Talk of a double dissolution is good fun and all, but will they really do it? Unlikely, all the weirdos have an oppourtunity to get elected into the Senate.

I suspect that a workable and sensible IR system can be hammered out, so long as the coalition don't go stupid.

Sinclair Davidson
ps. okay - how do you post in the new format?

Francis Xavier Holden said...

Harry - sometimes you are funny.

On that breakup of the votes reasoning I think it would show that Kim Beazley should have been running the country a while back - even though he didn't win government.

The government is formed by the lower house. You don't even need a majority in the election. You can govern by forming a tight coalition, as the libs did with the Nationals or an adhoc coalition as Bracks did on his first term.

Generally if you win by a big-ish number of seats in the lower house it's better as you can inform the upper house that you have a fair claim to get stuff through without too much humbug.

If you also went to the electorate with a clear policy, like say getting rid of Workchoices, then you usually claim a "mandate" to get your reforms through the upper house without too much narky spoiling by the defeated party.

Mandate is a bit strong in my view but its the word everyone uses and understands.

Don't forget in every election theres a fair mob of people who vote "rusted on" but agree its time for a change. Lots I know voted Lib but are happy to see Rudd and Julia running the place. Not all coldly rational I know - but thats how it works in real life.

Workchoices was / is a bloody schemmozzle Harry. I don't know if you have had to use it or administer it. I don't know of an employer, big end of town or SME, who thinks its any good(except Hugh Morgan and his ilk).

I'm talking about business people who aren't bleeding heart lefties, but those who like to make a profit, have maximum flexability about dealing with employees and who don't want to be bogged down in stupid red tape. Workchoices is a great big mess.

Notice I haven't even mentioned workchoices and employees.

Francis Xavier Holden said...

harry - your comment logging in has got me completely bamboozled. Its as complicted as Workchoices

Slim said...

Harry - now you're just being silly.

If Howard can claim he had mandate to introduce WorkChoices after the 2004 election then certainly Rudd can claim an IR mandate - having the policy front and centre for a year and a large 2PP vote.

But it is the silly season!

P. F. Politics said...


"Generally if you win by a big-ish number of seats in the lower house it's better as you can inform the upper house that you have a fair claim to get stuff through without too much humbug.

If you also went to the electorate with a clear policy, like say getting rid of Workchoices, then you usually claim a "mandate" to get your reforms through the upper house without too much narky spoiling by the defeated party."

I remember the labour party and greens respecting the liberal mandate for the GST just as you describe it :)

Seriously, talk of mandates is just part of putting pressure on the coalition to allow labour to put this through.

Francis Xavier Holden said...

p.f - I don't recall Libs going to electorate pledging GST. In fact I seem to remember one JWH explicitly rejecting introducing a GST.

FWIW I always supported a GST even back when PJK was sounding it out.

What I don't support is all the bullshit and paper work associated with BAS returns - but thats another story and bitch about imposts on small business.

P.F. Politics said...


My memory is that they did say before the election they were going to bring in a GST (and specifically remember specific people saying at the time they voted Liberal in the lower house and Democrat in the Senate to put a check on how the GST was to be introduced) though if you can show otherwise, am happy to be shown wrong. I think the former PM's statement was well before this (or at least one election before)

My guess (though you probably know better than me on this) is that an exemption-free GST would have been easier for small business as it would have just been a tax on revenue - all parties (though some more than others) were guilty of complicating it.


Peregrine said...

On Kevin Andrews' logic, how many votes would a party need to claim a mandate? Howard never ever had a mandate to introduce any policy directly except the GST, which was the centrepiece of the 1998 election.

He certainly did not mention the scope of his proposed changes in 2004. To say that the Libs put up legislation re unfair dismissals laws forty times is also disingenuous, as the workchoices package with its reductions in conditions and aggregation of power by the Commonwealth was never put to the people or the parliament.

How much modelling has been done on these supposed economic risks posed by repealing workchoices? I seem to recall the only work has been Liberal spin using false assumptions about Labor policy, not a reasoned analysis based on the actual package.

Labor ran on five very clear policy points: repealing workchoices, withdrawing forces from (Southern) Iraq, action on climate change (i.e. 60% target by 2050), giving every child access to computers and fixing the health system within two years (and, no, I'm not entirely sure what that means) or putting the matter of federal control of funding to a referendum. That is a far greater level of transparency than Howard ever offered. Hence if anyone has a mandate, Rudd does because he bothered to tell us what he actually wanted to do before the election.

On the issue that the Coalition control the Senate: Labor won in the House of Reps with both the largest primary vote and largest preferential vote. It won the half-senate election. I suspect given workchoices if anyone could ask to take back their vote, it may just have been some of the people who elected Lib/Nat senators in 2004!

hc said...

I am not sure what's happened to the comments thing. It works fine for me. You should be able to sign in with a Blogger identity, anonymously (if you do please attach an identifier) or using a nickname.

This post seems to have evoked some anxieties. A healthy restorative for unhealthy triumphalism.

I strongly support the Coalition exerting its numbers in the Senate to reject the foolish Labor IR reforms including restoration of the award system as an all-encompassing safety net.

Let the Labor Party argue its case. That's all I am saying. No baloney about having a 'mandate'.

I concur with c.a.p.

BTW, fxh, talking about pre-election promises. When I am going to get the promised guide to buying a decent stereo-system?

Spiros said...

"Let the Labor Party argue its case"

They did that during the election campaign, and the results speak for themselves.

But as I said before, if the Liberals think it's smart politics to keep fighting a battle which led to them getting ripped s new one, let them do it, over and over and over. It's their funeral.

Anonymous said...

I agree with spiros. Labor does have a full maddate, er mandate to fully enact its policies and it’s silly of Harry to suggest otherwise.

I fully support Labor's desire to re-regulate the labour market (note not labor, Spiros) and other assorted goodies.

There is no good reason to stop them especially after people voted for these policies.

Labor should be allowed to do what it wants. Let Labor have everything including the kitchen sink and once things go pear shaped it only itself to blame.

Can't wait.... as recessions are beautiful things as you can buy assets at cents in the dollar.

Spiros said...

There you go Harry. JC sees things with greater clarity than you, which says a lot.

By the way, it's "the Government", not "the Labor Party", in this context.

JC, we didn't have a recession before March 2006 when Workchoices was enacted, and we won't have one when it is repealed.

If you want to go bottom fishing for assets get yourself some Centro shares.

hc said...

Spiros, I am posting on Centro and bottom fishing soon.

Anonymous said...

JC, we didn't have a recession before March 2006 when Workchoices was enacted, and we won't have one when it is repealed.

If you want to go bottom fishing for assets get yourself some Centro shares.

We will have a recession in the next 3 years. A humdinger of one.

Why buy centro when you don't know that the hell is going on in the firm. Debt eventually kills you.

Bring Back CL's blog said...

it is a bit hard to argue that the Government had a mandate for the GST in 1998.

They did not command a majority of the votes and in the Senate it was their worst performance since Victor Trumper was batting.