Yesterday, I made some critical comments on the Press Club address by Prime Minister Rudd, Mark 2. Today even in the Fairfax press it is difficult to find praise: The Age does not even run an editorial on the address. By coincidence the Financial Review has published a letter I sent its Letters Ed before Rudd’s address (see below) and which happens to focus on the main theme promulgated by Rudd viz the need to lift productivity. As I pointed out in my critique of his address, his suggestion that the Fair Work Act “represents a reasonable balance for the future” indicates that, if re-elected, there would be continued difficulties in reversing the lamentable productivity performance under Labor.
But there is also a major problem with the Coalition’s policy of continuing the Fair Work arrangements during its first term. My letter suggests a way to change that policy without attracting undue critical reactions – after all even the biased journalists who report on workplace relations would find it difficult to defend the destructive unionism that has occurred under Fair Work and the need for an immediate review. The Coalition has available a large amount of data on destructive productivity behaviour by unions, including that revealed at the recent HR Nicholls conference. But, unless it uses that data to good effect, most of the media will let it fly over the shoulder. Labours cost unless Abbott rushes reform (Letter published in AFR, 12 July 2013) Alan Mitchell suggests it is vital that, in his first term, Tony Abbott build the case for industrial relations reform (“Abbott’s other road to IR reform”, 10 July). But the now enormous number of examples of union actions restricting productivity under the Fair Work Commission surely provide a basis for starting reform in the first term. It is not widely realised that the level of multi-factor productivity is now lower that it was 14 years ago. Many of examples of restrictive union behaviour were revealed at the recent conference of the HR Nicholls Society and these and other analyses explain the increasing deterioration in the performance of the labour market under Labor. These include a much slower growth in employment and the drastic situation in labour costs revealed by OECD data. They show Australian unit labour costs have risen, relative to those in other countries, by more than 35 per cent since the introduction of the Fair Work Act. Such developments provide a basis for Abbott to now indicate that, on election, he will institute an immediate review of what can be done to restore Australia’s labour market to a competitive position with others.Des Moore is the Director of the Institute for Private Enterprise, and a member of the HR Nicholls Society Board of Management