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Industrial relations: Keating intervention irrelevant

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IR 049/93


It is totally irrelevant whether or not the Prime Minister intervenes in the industrial relations negotiations between his Minister (and court favourite) Laurie Brereton and the ACTU.

By agreeing to the destruction of the secondary boycott law protecting small business the government has already capitulated to the unions.

All that remains is to determine whether the surrender is unconditional or if the government salvages a modicum of self-respect through an artificial face-saving deal with the ACTU.

The sell-out on secondary boycotts will place unions above the law. They will have a licence to engage in damaging, destructive conduct, particularly to the detriment of small businesses, denied to other sections of the community.

There is little wonder, therefore, that all sections of the business community have united in condemning this blatant political payback by the government.

The argument between the unions and Mr Brereton is an argument about degree, not about substance. It is an argument as to how far the government will go in preserving the unions' monopoly on the bargaining process.

Laurie Brereton's original proposal would have, in practice, denied genuine workplace bargaining to non-unionists. The ACTU response was to preserve both the reality as well as the appearance of that monopoly.

They are now arguing about whether or not the appearance of the monopoly will be preserved. They agreed long ago that the reality of that monopoly should never have been in doubt.

That is why a Keating intervention is quite irrelevant.