Monday, November 12, 2007

A tale of two Jims.

"You lose a close friend, I say to you: 'David, I'm sorry that you lost your mate Jim'," Howard said. "But I don't say I apologise for it. I don't accept responsibility for it."

The PM, John Howard, with part of his well practiced lawyer’s humbug trotted out regularly when Aboriginal reconciliation is raised. Dead simple and works a treat too – especially on a compliant press corps. In fact, it works so well that the PM was inclined to wheel it out for the latest interest rate rise.

Calling a press conference he fronted the journos, Costello at his side playing Danny Glover to his Mel Gibson, and somberly intoned that he was “sorry”for the sixth rate rise since the ’04 election. Except that he wasn’t actually sorry. What he failed to inform the press, as well as those of us watching on the TV news grabs, was that he was speaking as an individual – not the Prime Minister. Therefore he wasn’t apologising for the rise, merely expressing sorrow to us Davids out there.

Well, it appears that business may now be called by the moniker David. The business Davids may be the next in line for a non apology. Professor Mark Wooden, from the Melbourne Institute (sounds like a hotbed of socialists that), has taken to the PM with – pardon me – a wooden spoon. He is most upset over the treatment of his mate Jim, the AWA (hereafter Jim) and states that the government’s “fairness test” has “killed” him off:

Mark Wooden says the Prime Minister has killed off Jim - the Howard Government's individual employment contracts - by introducing a fairness test that prevented employers from cutting labour costs.

Professor Wooden, from the Melbourne Institute, said employers were "lining up" before the fairness test started in May because they could legally reduce pay and conditions.

But the advantage vanished, he said, when Mr Howard "rolled over"
to public pressure and guaranteed that penalty rates and other conditions could not be traded away without giving workers compensation.

The “advantage” vanished. Which advantage? Why the one that “legally” allowed employers to “reduce pay and conditions” of course. The one created by the raftof laws – unannounced during the ’04 campaign – that required no such “scuttling” safety net.

And it would appear that employers aren’t aware that Jim (and his advantage) is “dead” as they are still submitting agreements, at least fifty percent of which, would only pass pre “safety net”. Or, to put it in the words of Nick Minchin: the fairness test is having "teething troubles" as employers take time to understand their obligations. The question here is: how many are now in place that contravene this “safety net”, that is, that pre-date May?

Professor Wooden is really quite peeved at the PM’s pandering to popular politics. Not only that, he quite neatly skewers another ideological reason for these laws:

"AWAs are dead - he can say what he likes. You'll still get companies like Rio Tinto going for AWAs, but that will be for reasons other than cutting labour costs. They're using them to get rid of unions."

Ouch! Not in an election campaign Professor! If the good professor is looking for an apology from the PM he’ll have to accept one from the private individual like the rest of us.

The quoted article from the OZ finishes with the following paragraph:

Mr Howard introduced AWAs in his first group of workplace laws in 1997 with a "no disadvantage test" that meant workers could not be worse off than under
minimum awards. This test was abolished under Work Choices last year, then reinstated to some degree by the fairness test in May.

One would do well to remember it. You see, the “fairness test” was not ever required last year. There would be no further changes – they were not needed. The fact is, business does not believe it was needed and, as I’ve said before, you can bet your last dollar the PM doesn’t either. He never has; he stated so many times last year and when the laws were shoveled through Parliament in November ’05.

Should he win this election, I suspect that average working Davids, sometime not too long after – certainly before “well into the term”, will have a little sorrow directed his or her way. It will not be an apology, just an expression of regret or sorrow from a private individual at the passing of another Jim, Jim the “fairness test”.

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Blogger Jacob A. Stam said...

It's a political imperative, Jim, but not as we know it.

Jim... Jim!... Speak to me, Jim...!

12/11/07 5:05 PM  
Blogger Father Park said...

Jim! You can't seriously be thinking of surviving that election out there can you? For God's sake man! You're sending them to their deaths. Do want all those Jims on your conscience?

14/11/07 3:43 PM  

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