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Keating/Kelty Wages Axis Undermines Hawke

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108/91 May 2, 1991


Wages policy now provides new ideological substance to the old Hawke/Keating leadership rivalry.

Yesterday, Mr Keating said that the Industrial Relations Commission had "not much" place in the Government's new wages policy. Today, Mr Hawke indicated that the IRC is the key to breaking the waterfront deadlock and, therefore, to the

credibility of the Government's entire reform programme.

"If you can't run wages, then you can't run the country"

parrotted Government Ministers at the last election. Right now, the Government has two very different but equally unworkable wages policies.

Messrs Keating and Kelty envisage a system of enterprise bullying where they pick a wage target and impose it on employers on an industry-by-industry basis.

Mr Hawke, by contrast, still hankers for the fully centralised wages system in which he made his name.

Meanwhile, as the Keating/Kelty system is established, the Prime Minister traverses the country as a one-man industrial

troubleshooter. Not only does he look faintly ridiculous but, by conducting one-off industry negotiations he has been made to conform to the model set by his rival.

Just as the ACTU refused to give Bill Hayden the Accord he needed in 1982, today's ACTU leadership is making life difficult for an ALP Leader they want to see replaced.

Now, every galah in every pet shop talks of nothing but the ALP leadership. Is Hawke tough enough to sack Keating? Is Keating tough enough to challenge Hawke openly?

But every day that the leadership issue remains unresolved is another day's distraction from the real task of addressing our economic crisis. If Mr Hawke lacks the courage to sack Mr

Keating, Mr Keating must summon the courage to challenge Mr Hawke.

Australia can no longer afford this clash of mighty egos, which new goes to the very heart of wages policy and the Government's overall economic strategy.

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