Employers fight to preserve their power

Business groups are preparing a $12 million-plus ad campaign in defence of the Howard government’s IR laws. John Howard has repeatedly called on business to campaign in support of the laws.

The campaign is driven by the Business Council of Australia (BCA) and the Australian Chamber of Commerce (ACC), who have contributed $5.5 million between them. The BCA is led by Michael Chaney, who is closely aligned with the Liberal Party. The ACC is headed by Peter Hendy, former chief of staff for Peter Reith, famous for his balaclavas and dogs approach to industrial relations.

The Minerals Council of Australia has pledged up to $2 million and the Master Builders Association has committed $3 million.

Documents obtained by Lamp show that 28 other industry and business groups are being targeted to support the campaign.

The advertising campaign is being coordinated by Mark Textor, John Howard’s personal pollster and his business partner Lynton Crosby, a former Liberal Party campaign director who masterminded several of John Howard’s election campaigns.

Dirty tricks campaign looms over election

The Herald also exposed another piece of synchronised activity between the Howard government and its business supporters when it revealed that both the Department of Workplace Relations and the Australian Chamber of Commerce had commissioned separate ‘economic modelling’ designed to paint a grim economic outlook if Labor was elected in this year’s federal election.

Independent economists were scathing of the terms of reference for both pieces of research, saying they were seeking ‘skewed and biased analyses’ to be used to make specious debating points in the run-up to the election.

SMH economist Ross Gittens said the tenders for the research were ‘a classic example of the abuse of economic modelling for propaganda purposes’.

‘It’s of doubtful legitimacy to use taxpayers’ money to pay for such a blatantly party political exercise,’ he said.

A former senior public servant, Paddy Gourley, writing in The Canberra Times, accused the Minister for Workplace Relations Joe Hockey of commissioning an ‘expert-for-hire to provide political bullets’.

‘It seems Hockey is in the market for ammunition to distort the arguments – the very thing of which he accuses those agin [against] the Government’s chameleon-like Lamp laws.’

Public’s right to know contrary to the public interest!

The Howard government has refused to release public opinion surveys it commissioned about Lamp, requested by Lamp under Freedom of Information laws, because it says that releasing the material is contrary to the public interest.

This is consistent with similar attempts to gain access to analyses of the impact of AWAs on workers that were previously blocked by the government.

The Department of Workplace Relations said the survey results will be made public later in the year when the election is out of the way.
The government paid more than $2 million to research company Colmar Brunton to survey its advertising campaigns spruiking Lamp.

AWAs will go under Labor

Despite intense pressure from the Howard government, business and large sections of the media, Kevin Rudd has confirmed that he will implement the policy adopted by the ALP Conference in April that guarantees the abolition of AWAs.

‘Mr Howard’s gone too far with his unfair IR laws,’ he told the Daily Telegraph.

‘The core part of his laws are his unfair AWAs. Labor’s position is clear-cut; not only do we oppose AWAs, we give an absolute guarantee we will get rid of his unfair AWAs.’

Rudd flagged the need for sensible transitional arrangements that give businesses and employees certainty. These transitional arrangements would be announced before the election.