9 December 2020

Bernard Keane and Glen Dyer [$]: “In a clear triumph of right-wing ideology and business self-interest over economic growth and the advice of the Reserve Bank, the government intends to directly undermine wages growth by locking in what will amount to a ‘worse off overall’ test for the next two years for workers. That’s the proper name for Christian ‘Public Bar’ Porter’s proposal to allow businesses to cut wages in enterprise agreements based on a vague ‘public interest test’ — with workers knowing they can be pushed back to award minimums if they fail to agree to them. While references to Workchoices and its return have been a dime a dozen for the past twelve years, this proposal is straight from that ill-starred Howard government reform program that saw wages cut and labour productivity slump. … What level of wages growth is low enough for the government? It’s nearly down to 1% now. Does it want zero wages growth? Does it want negative wages growth? … It is workers and households that have been the heroes of the recovery. While business has hidden in its bunker, Australians have endured lockdown, complied with often draconian restrictions on their freedom, then emerged to get back to work and start spending in exactly the way the government has urged them to. Their reward for that? Workchoices 2.0, designed to undermine their wages and further tilt the industrial relations playing field in favour of employers. It’s vicious, ideological and idiotically self-defeating.”