Will Malcolm Turnbull Support the Burkean Liberal-Conservative Tradition? - See also the Historical and Current Affairs Perspectives section.

The Turnbull government’s ultimate future ideological direction will be determined by its reaction to the recommendations arising from the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption (the Heydon Commission) conducted by former High Court Judge, Dyson Heydon.

Should a Registered Organisations Commission be established and an Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) be reinstated in response to the Heydon Commission’s findings then these outcomes will be indicators that the Turnbull government will follow the socio-political neo-liberal tradition of John Howard instead of the *Burkean conservative which the great Sir Robert Menzies adhered to. This would bode ill for Australia because the Deakin-Fisher-Menzies Tradition which emerged in the wake of the 1890s Economic Depression which has, when adhered to, stood the nation in good stead.

(*Edmund Burke was an eighteenth century Anglo-Irish Whig parliamentarian who was the brilliant intellectual originator of a distinctive liberal-conservative socio-political tradition).

A cornerstone of the Deakin-Fisher-Menzies Tradition is that industrial conciliation and arbitration be provided by state tribunals to facilitate financial remuneration (wages) which accord with human dignity so that an employee can support his or her family. Australia’s arbitration system (which has been in place since the 1900s) by promoting higher wages has crucially bolstered the services sector of the economy which in turn has generated high employment levels.

This bolstering of the domestic sector of the economy was also reinforced under the Deakin-Fisher- Menzies Tradition by trade protection and industry assistance to help generate full employment. The neo-liberal argument that industrial arbitration, protection and industry assistance are economically unviable because Australia needs to be ‘internationally competitive’ is false. This is because Australian prosperity since the development of Merino wool in the early 1800s has been mainly dependent upon the export of primary products.

Australia however has avoided the trap which too many South American nations have fallen into of being overly dependent upon commodity prices because state support (which is distinct from socialism per se)in the form of industry assistance, trade protection and industrial arbitration helped facilitate incredibly high living standards and accompanying social stability.

It may be too late to unwind the clock with regard to re-establishing an Australia which existed before the transition to the neo-liberal economic rationalist policies which the Hawke-Keating governments ushered in after 1983. However, this economic rationalist paradigm has been challenged by the standout achievement of the Rudd-Gillard era (2007 to 2013), the re-establishment of an *arbitral industrial relations system with the passage of the Fair Work Act (FWA) 2009.

(*Under FWA, awards and/or Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs) have to stipulate that compulsory arbitration can occur).

The passage of FWA re-established wage justice for all Australian employees regardless of their skill and this statute also provided satisfactory protection for working conditions, such as penalty rates. Even though union membership unfortunately stands at a relatively low level of approximately fifteen percent of the workforce, Australian trade unions by being parties to either awards or EBAs at the Fair Work Commission (FWC) have ensured that employee interests are effectively represented within the FWA industrial relations (IR) system.

However there is a danger that the Turnbull government will establish a Registered Organisations Commission and/or a reinstated ABCC which denies basic procedural justice. The establishment of a Registered Organisations Commission will undermine the Australian union movement’s capacity to help ensure the effective operation of an IR system which has been crucial in safeguarding satisfactory employee wage levels and entitlements, such as penalty rates.

The Registered Organisation’s Commission: A Work Choices Anti-Union Star Chamber?

The establishment of a Registered Organisations Commission to oversee the operation of trade unions could well become an instrument whereby bureaucratic obstacles are deliberately thrown up so that unions cannot effectively operate within the IR system. The Registered Organisations Commission as a type of Star Chamber could establish and enforce excessively difficult administrative hoops with regard to areas of union activity such as union workplace right of entry, union training standards and qualifying to stand in union elections.

The facilitation of such bureaucratic hurdles on an on-going and proactive basis by operatives of the Registered Organisations Commission could practically render impossible the effective functioning of trade unions within the IR system. The threat which a future Registered Organisations Commission poses to Australia’s IR system is reflected by the fact that it had been the intention of the Howard government to establish such a statutory institution. That that this did not occur under the Howard government was due to priority being given by this administration to securing the passage of the so-called Work Choices legislation in late 2005 whereby the corporations power of the Australian Constitution was utilized to attempt to smash trade unions and employee rights.

Had the Howard government established a Registered Organisations Commission then it would have been more difficult to detect an agenda of undermining the effective operation of trade unions so employee interests could not be effectively represented by unions within the IR system. The consequence of this would have been that over a sustained period of time the employee capacity to access satisfactory wages and working conditions would have eventually been fatally undermined.

Proponents of a Registered Organisations Commission will not admit that it is their real intention to resume a subtle and long term application of a Work Choices agenda to eventually fatally undermine wage levels and working conditions such as penalty rates. To conceal this Work Choices agenda the Abbott government established the Heydon Royal Commission so that the impetus and legitimacy could be given to establish a Registered Organisations Commission which in turn would have the ultimate effect of undermining wages and working conditions by impeding the effective operation of trade unions within the IR system.

The categorization of the Heydon Commission by Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Secretary Dave Oliver as ‘a farce’ was correct to the extent that it had always been the Abbott government’s premeditated agenda to ultimately fatally undermine employee wages and conditions by establishing a Registered Organisations Commission. The Abbott government spun the line that because there were serious instances of misconduct by individual union officials that this warranted the establishment of a Royal Commission.

The spin that is now being given by neo-liberals to the credible findings of probable individual instances of abuse by a relatively small minority of union officials (with instances of possible employer connivance) is that corruption within the Australian union movement that was uncovered was so extensive that warranted the subsequent establishment of a Registered Organisations Commission.
However extensive (or otherwise) the instances of union corruption are, the underlying fact is that it was always the agenda of the previous Abbott government to exploit the Heydon Commission so that the ground work would be set to establish an anti-union Registered Organisations Commission to fatally undermine the effective operation of Australia’s IR system. Even though *Tony Abbott is no longer prime minister he is still prominently advocating the establishment of a Registered Organisations Commission.

(*Tony Abbott is still one of Australia’s most talented political operatives despite his losing the prime minster-ship during the first term of his government. It is clear that Tony Abbott will not leave federal parliament and that Prime Minister Turnbull will not accommodate him by bringing the former prime minster back into cabinet during this parliamentary term. However, should there be a popularly elected Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull he could be subsequently appoint Tony Abbott as Minister for Indigenous Affairs where the latter could leave his mark.

Alternatively, Tony Abbott could still make a profound contribution to Australian politics by securing his appointment as Executive Director of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy (ACM). As ACM Executive Director, Tony Abbott could utilize his superb political skills and personal charisma so that ACM as Australia’s pre-eminent monarchist organisation could effectively lead a ‘No’ case when either an electorally victorious Turnbull government or a Shorten administration hold another referendum to make Australia a republic.

Should a ‘No’ vote prevail in the next referendum on a republic then this would ensure the long term continuance of Australia’s system of constitutional monarchy and allow Tony Abbott to still leave a profoundly positive mark on Australian history even as an ex- prime minister).

Former Prime Minister Abbott’s public advocacy in favour of a Registered Organisations Commission (legislation establishing such an institution was fortunately rejected by the Senate in August 2015) is couched in terms of safeguarding employee interests against a union movement which is supposedly mired in corruption and self-interest. It has also been emphasised by this former prime minister (Tony Abbott) that the establishment of a Registered Organisations Commission will in no way threaten employee working conditions, such as penalty rates.

However, as has been previously outlined in this section of the article, the establishment of a Registered Organisations Commission will have the long term effect of fatally undermining working conditions, including penalty rates. This will be because a Registered Organisation’s Commission will have the capacity to bureaucratically tie unions down so that they cannot effectively represent employee interests within Australia’s IR system.

There is also a potential political dividend for Tony Abbott successfully arguing in favour of the establishment of a Registered Organisations Commission- ensuring that the Turnbull government moves to the neo-liberal Right in accordance with the Howard Tradition. There are neo-liberals amongst the coalition’s strategists who want to entrap the Turnbull government into pursuing a hard right political agenda by the coalition fighting the next federal election on the issue of supposed union corruption by proposing the establishment of a Registered Organisations Commission and a reinstated ABCC.

In the improbable event that a Turnbull government somehow win a federal election in 2016 because it successfully waged an anti-union campaign, then the neo-liberal Right will be able to subsequently fatally politically undermine Malcolm Turnbull by ensuring that he operates within an agenda which is not his natural ideological inclination when it comes to other areas of public policy.

The Political Suicide of Reviving Work Choices

It should also be pointed out that should Prime Minister Turnbull fight an election based on establishing a Registered Organisations Commission, that he will probably lose that electoral contest. That is because the memory of the Work Choices industrial framework is still a trauma for too many Australians. Indeed, even though an important reason that Howard lost the 2007 federal election due to internal sabotage so that a subsequent Rudd cipher government would pursue an anti-states agenda, the coalition still could have won that electoral contest if it had not been for Work Choices.

The passage of the Work Choices legislation had such a profoundly negative impact on the Australian electorate that a distinct majority of Australian voters are now inclined toward the Australian Labor Party (ALP). That the ALP did not win an outright majority in the 2010 federal election was due to internal sabotage within the Labor campaign by anti-state right elements. The ALP’s loss in the 2013 federal election was because of public disgust with the disunity which had wracked the Labor side of politics due to the intense leadership division between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.

Despite low levels of opinion poll support for Bill Shorten since his becoming Opposition Leader following the 2013 federal election, Mr. Shorten while Tony Abbott was prime minister stood an excellent prospect of winning the next federal election. This was because a distinct majority of the electorate was inclined toward the ALP due to the underlying hostility that the Liberals had generated as a result of the negative impact of Work Choices.

It would therefore be a grave strategic misjudgement for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to base an election campaign around the issue of supposed trade union corruption and to advocate the establishment of either a Registered Organisations Commission and/or a re-instated ABCC. This is because Bill Shorten possess sufficient political skill to exploit the dynamics of an election campaign based upon trade unionism and associated IR issues (even if concerned with alleged instances of union corruption) to revive memories of Work Choices so that the ALP will win the2016 federal election.

Even though a Shorten government would not pursue an anti-union agenda, neo-liberals within coalition ranks may not necessarily mourn the demise of a Turnbull government. This would particularly be the case for anti-Turnbull Liberals if a Shorten government successfully held a *referendum to recognise local government in the Constitution. Such a constitutional development would ensure that the essential functions which states currently fulfil are transferred to a new regional tier of government which is controlled by self-interested politicians.

(*One of the last major acts of the Gillard government was to authorize a referendum to be held on or after the 14th of September 2013 to recognise local government in the Constitution. Should constitutional recognition ever be granted to local government then a new tier of administration will be created by which will lead to the eventually phasing out of states. To prevent this scenario and also the prospect of internal sabotage within the coalition’s ranks by anti-state elements, the Turnbull government will hopefully rescind this referendum proposal).

To avoid the scenario of Malcolm Turnbull losing the next federal election the Liberals will hopefully focus on the recently unveiled innovation agenda which is actually in keeping with the Deakin-Fisher-Menzies Tradition. Nevertheless, the release of the Heydon Commission’s report has still created the momentum for trade unionism to be a profoundly important issue for contemporary Australian politics. The question is whether the issue of the future direction of trade unionism and the operation of the IR system will become the milestone which politically sinks Malcolm Turnbull by re-raising the spectre of Work Choices?

Fight Instances of Union Corruption without Penalizing Employees

If Malcolm Turnbull really wants to control the issue of IR so that this policy arena does not master him, then the prime minister should consider passing a bill which gives the Employment Minister the power to ban a union official from holding office between five and ten years if their professional conduct is egregious. The safeguard against the government abusing such a power would be that the union official concerned would have the right within fourteen days of the next parliamentary sitting to appeal to the federal parliament to overturn such a ban. Due to cross-bench senators holding the balance of power in the Senate there would be little prospect that a ban against a corrupt union official would pass without bi-partisan support.

It should also be pointed out that that the FWC has the institutional capacity to effectively handle issues of corruption or abuse of process by either trade unions or employers. Officials of the FWC have demonstrated improved administrative effectiveness since the Craig Thompson affair. Furthermore, federal parliamentarians (particularly coalition MPs) can utilize Senate Estimates hearings to carry out enquiries of FWC officials (such as the FWC General Manager) to help ensure that Australia’s peak IR tribunal acts is an effective watchdog.

However, the deeper issue with regard to IR in Australia is not instances of union corruption but whether the Turnbull government will adhere to the Deakin-Fisher-Menzies Tradition by respecting Australia’s brilliant IR system. A sign of goodwill on the Turnbull government’s part with regard to supporting Australia’s IR system would be to safeguard employee working conditions, such as penalty rates. The vitally important and defining issue of penalty rates is glaringly apparent in the light of the Productivity Commission’s recent report on these employee entitlements.

Don’t Penalize Penalty Rates

The Productivity Commission’s recommendations in December 2015 that Sunday penalty rates in the entertainment, hospitality and retail sectors be reduced from double time to time and a half (as is paid on Saturdays) also raises the fundamental issue of the future ideological direction of the Turnbull government. Will the federal government make a submission before the FWC that such a reduction in penalty rates for the entertainment, hospitality and retail sectors be made? Should Canberra support a reduction in penalty rates in this instance then this would indicate that the contemporary Liberal Party is again betraying the Deakin-Fisher-Menzies Tradition toward unfortunately supporting the economic rationalist paradigm of former prime minister, John Howard.

This report of the Productivity Commission reflects the neo-liberal agenda of the preceding Abbott government which had set the terms of reference for the enquiry into penalty rates in the aforementioned sectors. These terms of reference orientated the Productivity Commission’s recommendation toward reducing penalty rates in these instances to time and a half. Superficially it may seem reasonable for such an apparently modest reduction to be made on the basis that new jobs will be opened for people who otherwise might not be able to gain employment.

However there are fundamental philosophical and practical considerations at stake with regard to reducing penalty rates. Firstly, it is a core equity principle that employees who work on weekends be duly compensated on the basis that everyone in society is entitled to rest or be financially compensated for undertaking non- regular hours of work. Australia as a traditionally socio-economically egalitarian nation has made impressive progress since the early twentieth century in connection to achieving a relatively high standard of living due to industrial arbitration, a key cornerstone of which is the provision of penalty rates.

Consequently, those Australians who choose to work non-regular hours have a right to be duly compensated. Indeed there are employees in the entertainment, hospitality and retail sectors who opt to work on weekends on the basis that the extra income they gain can help them make ends meet. Furthermore, extra income derived from penalty rates can often provide wage earners with the financial capacity which they might otherwise not have to enhance the quality of their lives and those of their family members.

There is the specious argument that higher levels of employment will be created by lowering penalty rates. However the probable outcome will be that existing employees will be obliged to work on weekends. Another argument relevant to the contention that the FWC should reduce penalty rates for entertainment, hospitality and retail employees is that the proposed reduction on Sundays – from double time to time and a half- is relatively modest. If this is the case, then why make such a relatively modest reduction if it will have no appreciable impact with regard to allegedly creating new employment opportunities?

The answer to the above hypothetical question is that the previous Abbott government’s agenda of cutting penalty rates in the entertainment, hospitality and retail sectors was to create a precedent so that this outcome could later be extended to other employment sectors. The former Abbott government also may have calculated that it would be easier to reduce weekend penalty rates in the aforementioned sectors on the basis that the relevant *unions- the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA) and United Voice- lack the requisite industrial muscle to defend established employment conditions.

(*These three unions, regardless of their industrial strength, have all skilfully utilized arbitral strategies to effectively represent their members’ interests).

Regardless of the industrial strength of the aforementioned unions there also might have been a belief on the part of the former Abbott government that Australia unionism is generally on the decline which is conductive to adopting ‘salami tactics’ by attacking industrially moderate unions before attempting to undercut more industrially militant industry unions, such as the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU). Indeed, columnists in newspapers such as The Australian have argued that due to low membership density (15%) that the political clout of trade unions is an aberration so that neo-liberal industrial relations reform should be undertaken.

Even though Australian union membership density is unfortunately too low it should not be forgotten that if the Turnbull government were to make a submission before the FWC supporting a reduction in weekend penalty rates, the public reaction will be very negative. It should not be forgotten that despite relatively low union membership density, the Australian union movement still waged a very effective campaign against the Work Choices statute which was crucial to the Howard government’s defeat in 2007. An important reason why this union election campaign was so effective was because of Work Choice’s adverse impact on wages and working conditions (including penalty rates) alienated too much of the electorate from the coalition.

Because the memories of Work Choices are still too deeply seared with too much of the electorate, any perceived or actual attempt by the Turnbull government to undermine penalty rates could very well result in the Australian Labor Party (ALP) winning the next federal election. It should not be forgotten by Liberal Party strategists that a sufficient number of pro-Labor voters at the 2013 federal election shifted from the ALP to deliver victory to the coalition due to their alienation from the disunity within Labor federal ranks. However until Tony Abbott’s deposition in September 2015 there was an intention on the part of these particular pro-ALP swing voters, to return to the Labor fold.

Now that Malcolm Turnbull is prime minister, there is a distinct possibility that these previously pro-ALP voters might stay with the Liberals at the next federal election should the new government not make a submission before the FWC supporting a reduction in penalty rates. It would be even better if the Turnbull government actually voiced support for contemporary weekend penalty rates because this would send a signal to wage earners that it is not too dangerous for them to support a federal coalition government or even to vote for the Liberal Party in the Senate!

Respecting the Liberal Party’s Menzies Tradition

There should also be an appreciation within Liberal Party ranks that it is in keeping with their party’s pre-Howard traditions to support arbitration which encompasses accepting the legitimacy of penalty rates and of trade unions as the Liberal Party’s founder Sir Robert Menzies did. Before Sir Robert Menzies founded the Liberal Party in 1944 he spoke in 1942 about the ‘forgotten people’. These were small businessmen, house wives and middle class families whose interests were not necessarily represented by either big business or trade unions.

It was in the interests of the ‘forgotten people’ that Sir Robert Menzies in the late 1940s opposed the Chifley government’s attempt to nationalize the banks and to unnecessarily maintain petrol rationing. The clear policy stances which Sir Robert Menzies adopted in relation to these issues were crucial to the Liberals despite an overwhelming ALP parliamentary majority by successfully appealing to the ‘forgotten people’.

Malcolm Turnbull on becoming prime minister (September 2015) cited his admiration for Sir Robert Menzies and his support for the principle of ‘freedom’ and it was entirely appropriate for him to have done this. However it will not be a violation of the Menzies tradition for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to support industrial arbitration and to recognise the legitimacy of trade unions to collectively represent the interests of employees.

Sir Robert Menzies desire for the ‘forgotten people’s’ to be represented by the Liberal Party was partly derived from his appreciation that unions had effectively represented the interests of wage earners on a collective basis. Therefore it did not necessarily follow that because Sir Robert Menzies wanted the ‘forgotten people’s interests to be promoted, he correspondingly desired that the employment conditions and rights of wage earners to be undermined.

This acceptance, if not support, on Sir Robert Menzies part of Australian trade unions was not an aberration but rather this was integral to the political tradition on the non-ALP side of politics. It should not be forgotten that it was the Protectionist Party leader and then prime minister, Sir Alfred Deakin, in alliance with the then ALP leader, the great Andrew Fisher, pioneered the passage of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, 1904 (the 1904 Act). This landmark statute established an industrial relations arbitral framework which became a practical reality with the establishment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court (the Commission) in 1907 and this tribunal’s establishing a minimum wage with the landmark Harvester Judgement of that year.

That the Protectionist Party had gained impetus as a political formation as a result of 1890s Depression due to the collapse in international wool prices. This 1890s economic downturn was worse for Australia then the 1930s Great Depression and the socio-political ramifications of this first mentioned depression were probably more profound.

Ironically, it was the business communities in the then six Australian colonies which realized that industrial arbitration by generating higher wages could pull Australia was to pull out of economic depression. This appreciation by the business community was derived from past Australian colonial economic history between the early 1800s and the 1850s where there had been a nexus between the value gained from primary products, such as wool and gold, and the consequent generation of goods and services creating a domestic base for economic prosperity and higher employment levels.

Therefore the socio-political tradition in the Australian colonies (which federated in 1901) was that the benefits derived from primary products would not be vested with a narrow oligarchy but instead that the aim of public policy would be to promote full employment and relatively high wages, even for so-called ‘unskilled’ employees. It was in this context that industrial arbitration was to become so integral to Australia achieving a high living standards and social equity.

Furthermore, Australia’s economic and political leaders also appreciated that the wealth derived from primary resources should be invested by financial institutions to stimulate and consolidate domestic areas of the Australian economy such as manufacturing. The strength of Australia’s financial sector, which can be traced back to the foundation of the Bank of New South Wales in 1817, was another key factor (beside industrial arbitration) which explained this nation’s high standard of living in the twentieth century following the 1890s Depression.

Whitlamism Facilitates Economic Rationalism

It was with the election of the Whitlam ALP federal government in December 1972 which saw Australian public policy transition away from supporting a strong employment generating domestic sector. The Whitlam government introduced an across the board twenty-five per cent tariff cut in July 1973 which rapidly and very adversely affected the domestic manufacturing sector. The surprising neo-liberal orientation of this Labor government toward public policy was also manifested by the transformation of the Tariff Board into the Australian Industries Commission (AIC), which is now the economic rationalist inclined Productivity Commission.

Economic rationalism was renewed with the election in March 1983 of the Hawke Labor government. Under Prime Minister Bob Hawke and his treasurer, Paul Keating, there was the floating of the Australia dollar and the removal of exchange controls. These neo-liberal reforms helped lead to a ballooning of Australia’s public foreign debt. To service this high level of foreign debt in the late 1980s and into the mid-1990s there was the infliction of a high interest rate regime which was so destructive to small business and full-time employment generation.

Also destructive to employment growth were tariff cuts which undermined the manufacturing sector. An act of pure economic lunacy was committed by the Hawke government in 1991 by cutting tariffs in the middle of a recession! Indeed between 1990 and 1994 approximately a quarter of a million manufacturing jobs were lost in a recession, which according to Treasurer Paul Keating Australia, ‘had to have’.

For all the mastery which Keating possessed with regarding to understanding the technical aspects of the economic/financial system this treasurer and his prime minister seemed oblivious to the macro consequences of their actions on the ground with a steep decline in full-time employment along with massive foreign debt levels and a burgeoning current account trade deficit.

Accompanying this economic vandalism, industrial relations reform was undertaken, the ultimate impact of which was to undermine industrial arbitration. The Hawke government’s Industrial Relations Act 1988 had positive dimension to it in that enterprise bargaining was facilitated. However, this statute also enshrined the de-unionising process of union amalgamation.

Consequently, Australian union membership density plummeted from forty –five per cent in 1990 to fewer than twenty per cent by the 2000s with the current rate now standing at fifteen per cent of the Australian workforce being unionised!

The de-unionising resulting from union amalgamation was caused by employees exiting unions because they did not feel an attachment to the new industry amalgamated unions as they previously did toward the craft based unions which they had once belonged to. If there is ever to be union renewal in Australia then trade unions should establish rank and file consultative committees based on specific craft/work functions so that greater union democracy is promoted.

Furthermore, the institutional arbitral supports which Julia Gillard as Employment Relations Minister in 2009 revived with the passage of the FWA statute would endow consultative committees based on specific craft/work functions with the capacity to effectively represent their members regardless of their inherent industrial bargaining power.

The Defensive Approach to Union Purpose: Strategies for Australian Union Renewal

Having craft based approach to trade unionism accords with the Defensive Approach to union purpose which emerged out of the Wisconsin School of Industrial Relations in the 1900s. The Defensive Approach to union purpose correctly maintains that employees feel a sense of psychological attachment to their unions when they are craft based.

There is also the practical dividend of unions as craft based organisations being able to better represent and service their members because they are smaller which provide their officials with a greater capacity to better focus on their members’ concerns. Furthermore, having craft-based trade unions also promotes union democracy because it is easier for rank and file members to have input into a smaller organisation due to its size.

It is probably however now impossible for Australia’s amalgamated industry unions to ‘unscramble the egg’ with regard to undertaking de-amalgamation. Indeed, there have also been instances where employee associations, distinct from being trade unions, such as the Emergency Medical Services Protection Association and the Nurses Professional Association of Queensland have been recently registered. However the existence se of such ‘employee associations’ might actually serve to undermine established and successful trade unions (such as the Australian Nurses Federation) instead of promoting unionisation per se in a broader context.

For established trade unions to avoid the scenario of new ‘employee associations’ undermining them, contemporary moderate industry trade unions (such as the AWU) on the union right can establish rank and file elected committees which are craft/work function based. Such committees could be convened by a full-time union organiser who is appointed based on him or her representing a particular craft/work function within the state branch of an industry union.

Such advisory committees (which would in effect be union sub-branches) could have three elected rank and file executive members who meet on a monthly basis. All union members who belong to the particular craft/work function would also be entitled to attend such monthly meetings, place their concerns on a meeting agenda and vote on motions to be sent to the governing union state or national executive. The value of having such monthly meetings is that they could generate union activity between these monthly meetings which promote union effectiveness.

A monthly newsletter or group email (with attached minutes of these rank and file craft based committees) could be sent out to union members who are represented by the advisory committee. This would not only serve as an effective means of communication to rank and file members of a particular craft/ work function but also create a scenario whereby more effective representation and servicing of members could be undertaken by paid union officials engaged respectively in industrial, service and administrative work.

Moderate industry trade unions, such as the AWU, will need to adopt new strategies as advocated above, should the Turnbull government pursue an Abbott agenda of being anti-union. There is also the prospect that should a left-wing ALP federal government in the future be elected under the leadership of Anthony Albanese the left-wing industry unions, such as the CFMEU, will engage in demarcation disputes to fatally undermine the AWU.

Having rank and file craft/work function based advisory committees offers moderate trade unions, such as the AWU, the means of generating member loyalty while also reaching out to employees who are not currently unionised. Should the Turnbull government turn out to be a neo-liberal regime or should there be a predominately left-wing Albanese led ALP federal government, then it will be imperative for moderate unions (such as the AWU) to gain increased rank and file commitment by having advisory *committees based on a craft or a work function.

(*Having union state committees based upon work functions would be important for unions such as the AWU who have members who do not possess a particular craft per se).

Furthermore, a defining aspect of a union being moderate could and should be that they are craft/work function based in accordance with the Defensive Approach to union purpose. Therefore, moderate trade unions, such as the AWU, by focusing upon the various crafts/work functions within their coverage can gain a competitive advantage over left-wing industry unions such as the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU). The AMWU as a Marxist inspired trade union focuses organising on a macro industry basis at selected worksites where it has access to union members as opposed to representing their members on a particular craft/work function basis.

Similarly, the construction division of the CFMEU primarily represents members who work at large worksites where skyscrapers are built at the expence of representing building workers employed in residential house construction which is a sector which is appalling under-unionised. Moderate trade unions, such as the AWU, therefore have the potential to apply the principles of the Defensive Approach to reach out to predominately non-unionised sectors which have been neglected by left-wing industry unions which do not have a craft/work function focus.

Strategies for Australian Union Renewal: The Organising Union Model

This advocacy of an intensified craft/work function focus by moderate trade unions can also be utilized with regard to the application of the union organising model (the organising model). The organising model is an originally American conceptualized approach to union strategy which aims to promote union activation as a means of harnessing rank and file support for union organising. This union strategy was formally endorsed by the ACTU in the early 1990s.

It was envisaged by the leadership of Australian trade unions that the organising model would be applied with a focus on establishing workplace delegate structures so that there would be a workplace based infrastructure whereby rank and file members could crucially support union organising in addition to (or even substantially without) the input of paid union officials, such as organisers.

Accordingly, it was envisaged by the leadership of Australia’s union movement that the organising model would be applied by union organisations providing specialized training to union rank and file work-place delegates. Indeed, a determinant of the extent to which the organising model has been successfully applied has often been measured by the quality of the workplace delegate training which has been provided.

However, the still relatively low level of Australian union membership density indicates that the organising model has not yet generated sufficient union renewal. This is arguably because the Australian union movement is still paying the painful price of having undertaken the fundamentally de-unionising process of union amalgamation. The expected dividend of the Australian union movement being able to successfully re-adapt to the disaster of union amalgamation by applying the principles of the organising model to achieve increased union rank and file engagement has not yet transpired.
Nevertheless, it would be wrong for the Australian union movement to give up on the organising model. This model can still be applied to achieve union renewal by having a focus on the craft/work function of a particular union’s membership coverage. Therefore, if workplace delegate training in accordance with the organising model is to be undertaken, endow such training with a focus on union members’ craft/work function so that rank and file commitment will be generated.

Furthermore, union rank and file members would be more inclined toward supporting union organising activities if workplace delegate structures were more clearly undertaken and structured upon a craft/work function basis. By union state branches establishing rank and file advisory craft/work function based committees, the application of the organising model could be enhanced so that the expectations of success which was originally envisaged when this strategy was formally endorsed by the Australian union movement could actually come to fruition.

There has been a left-wing critique of the organising model which suggests that the involvement of union officials in applying this strategy diminishes union democracy by undermining the role of rank and file members implementing the model. Alternatively, the organising model has actually been criticised from a relatively conservative perspective by some rank and file union members on the basis that it is unfair that they assume increased responsibility for workplace organising when this should be the role of usually higher paid union organisers.

The Managerial Rationale of Applying the Organising Union Model

These differing criticisms regarding the application of the organising model could be countered by implementing a *managerial rationale with regard to implementing the organising model. This rationale envisages substantial input by union officials in relation to applying the organising model, with a particular emphasis on non-industrial servicing.

(*A ‘managerial rationale’ for applying the organising model does not mean that the interests of the employer will predominate. Rather this term- the ‘managerial rationale’ denotes that there will be the substantial input of paid union officials in assisting rank and file union members implement the organising model without compromising the quality of informal union democracy ).

However the application of the organising model according to a managerial rationale does not necessarily entail a diminution of union democracy. This is because paid union officials (such as union organisers) would apply a managerial rationale by respecting the concerns of rank and file members which would be conveyed by their participation in the application of the organising model.

Consequently, there is scope to generate more focused activity by paid union officials by their ascertaining what rank and file concerns actually are. Gaps with regard to rank and file union members applying the organising model because of their work commitments would be countered by union officials moving into the void to ensure that union effectiveness is still achieved. Overall, union democracy need not be compromised by the input of paid union officials according to the managerial rationale of applying the organising model so long as they are respecting rank and file’s workplace concerns.

The scope for rank and file concerns to be respected when applying the organising model according to the managerial rationale would also be enhanced by moderate trade union state branches having elected advisory craft/work function based committees. These committees could serve as a means of having mini-trade unions without undermining the integrity of the industry trade union under which they operate.

Overcoming The De-Unionising Ramifications of Union Amalgamation

Currently however the Australian union movement must still contend with the de-unionising consequences of the amalgamation process. However, the major positive dividend which the Australian union movement gained from union amalgamation followed from the onset of compulsory superannuation in the 1980s. Compulsory superannuation may have been a financial windfall for the newly formed industry unions. However the industrial price of union amalgamation has still been too high due to the massive loss in trade union membership.

The policy of trade union amalgamation was essentially driven by the hard-left of the Australian union movement and the ALP on the erroneous basis that there would be a union concentration of power. Although it was a mis-assumption that union amalgamation would lead to enhanced union industrial and political power, the accompanying onset of compulsory superannuation was nevertheless a financial boon for industry unions.

However, trade unions should avoid the scenario of having millions of dollars in investments and accompanying resources if they have relatively low levels of membership. This is because the fundamental purpose of trade unions should be to effectively represent their members instead of becoming organisations which have ‘chiefs but no Indians’.

A disturbing, if not sinister aspect of the introduction of union amalgamation and *compulsory superannuation was that these policies were undertaken due to a political deal between the neo-liberal Hawke-Keating government and the hard left of the union movement. This deal was that the ALP left would accept the neo-liberal economic policies of the federal government in return for the facilitation of union amalgamation and compulsory superannuation.

(*The proposal of federal Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer that employees covered by union EBAs should have the choice to select their superannuation fund in preference to the applicable union superannuation fund has merit. However this freedom of choice should not be applied to strategically undermine union superannuation funds, some of which are excellent. Nor should union representation on existing superannuation boards be scaled down because union representatives can provide very effective expertise.

If there is to be freedom of choice with regard to superannuation in EBAs, allow there to be an escape clause for employees to select another superannuation fund while still allowing the applicable union superannuation fund to be the default selection unless otherwise specified by the individual employee).

The Howard Tradition: Undermining Liberal Party Principles

This cynical policy mix helped the Hawke –Keating government pursue its neo-liberal agenda despite the overall decline in living standards. Also crucial to the pursuit of this economic rationalist policy approach was the implicit and explicit ideology. John Howard, who served as Opposition Leader between 1985 and 1989 and 1995 and 1996, gave to the Hawke-Keating government’s economic rationalist policies. Howard, who had been federal treasurer in the Fraser government (1975 to 1983) between 1977 and 1983, was the ideological successor to the Free Trade Party leader, George Reid, who was prime minister between 1904 and 1905.

Reid’s opposition toward Deakin was not just based on the issue of tariffs but also with regard to industrial arbitration. It was the passage of the 1904 Act which facilitated the socio-political triumph of Deakin over Reid which was both reflected by and reinforced by succeeding non-ALP leaders between the late 1900s and 1930s, such as Sir Joseph Cook, *Billy Hughes and Joseph Lyons supporting industrial arbitration. It should also be pointed out that these aforementioned leaders had once been luminaries in the ALP but had crossed over to the non-Labor side of politics without losing their pro-union *orientation.

(*Billy Hughes as a former prime minister and backbencher had crossed the floor with a group of his supporters within the then ruling Nationalist Party in 1929 to defeat the Bruce government’s attempt to legislate against industrial arbitration).

Sir Robert Menzies and his successors as Liberal Party leaders up to and including Malcolm Fraser -despite his at times anti-union rhetoric- similarly supported industrial arbitration, a fixed exchange rate, tariff protection and industry assistance. Consequently, John Howard – who opposed these aforementioned public policies - was an ideological aberration within the context of then Liberal Party orthodoxy.

Howard might not have eventually won his policy triumph of moving the Liberal Party into an economic rationalist/neo-liberal policy paradigm had his leadership rival Andrew Peacock (who served as federal Opposition Leader between 1983 and 1985 and from 1989 to 1990) not vacated the ideological policy agenda to Howard by declaring himself to be ‘damp, i.e. economically ‘dry’ (economic rationalist) but socially progressive.

The Fatal Consequences of Undermining Ian Mc Phee

A major mistake which Peacock made in terms of safeguarding the Liberal Party’s pro-industrial arbitration tradition was to shift Ian Macphee from the shadow ministerial portfolio of Employment and Industrial Relations to Foreign Affairs following the December 1984 federal election. This transfer of Ian Mac Phee’s shadow ministerial responsibility was a strategic and tactical mistake on Peacock’s part because this allowed Howard as Shadow Treasurer to undermine the Liberal Party’s traditional support for industrial arbitration.

The policy ascendancy which Howard consequently gained from underutilizing Ian Mac Phee was an important reason why the Liberal Partyroom in September 1985 refused to remove the Shadow Treasurer (Howard) as Liberal Party deputy-leader. This refusal resulted in Peacock’s resignation as Liberal Party leader and Howard almost by default being elected his successor as Opposition Leader.
Due to Howard’s economic rationalism he was destined to be a political failure as Opposition Leader in the 1980s. The Australian electorate was crying out for an alternative to the economic rationalism of Hawke and Keating in the 1980s but too many voters could not support Howard due to his economically and industrially ‘dry’ policies. These policies gave credence to the ALP scare campaign during the 1987 election campaign that the coalition would introduce a Goods and Services Tax (GST).

The Liberal Party’s subsequent return to Peacock in May 1989 did not result in election victory for the coalition in March of the following year because too much of the electorate was sceptical of what this recycled Opposition Leader actually stood for. Had Peacock aligned himself more closely with Ian Mc Phee with regard to policy formation by endorsing industrial arbitration and industry assistance, then he may have won the March 1990 federal election which was narrowly lost by the Liberals.

The election of Dr. John Hewson as the new Opposition Leader following the 1990 election setback actually set the scene for the coalition’s devastating electoral defeat in 1993 because of Hewson’s extreme economic rationalism. The 1990 selection of Hewson as Liberal leader did not end the problem of the Howard-Peacock rivalry because the real underlying issue for the coalition was not addressed: the Liberal Party’s support for economic rationalism. Indeed, there was a justifiable fear that the coalition in government would be even more economically dry than the Hawke-Keating government, particularly with regard to industrial relations.

The groundwork for the Liberal Party’s lurch to the neo-liberal right which would see the coalition also lose the 1990 and 1993 federal elections was pre-set by Liberal Party rank and file members in the Victorian federal seat of *Goldstein deposing Ian Mac Phee as its local member in 1989. Ian Mac Phee’s effective political demise in 1989 vitally helped pave the way for Howard’s policy ascendancy in the 1990s despite having been deposed as Opposition Leader that year. For although Ian Mac Phee was never a prime ministerial aspirant he was in effect the custodian of the Menzies tradition so that his exit from the Australian political scene cleared the way for Howard to undermine what had been a cornerstone of Australian liberalism- support for industrial arbitration and conciliation.

(*The Democratic Labor Party (DLP) unfortunately preferenced against Ian Mac Phee in the July 1987 federal election. Although this senior Liberal was not in accord with the DLP with regard to particular social issues it was a mistake for a labour party, such as the DLP, to try to undermine someone who had been such a stalwart supporter of industrial arbitration).

Even though Andrew Peacock was staunchly supported by the so-called ‘wets’, whose spiritual leader was Ian Mac Phee, had the Liberals won the 1990 federal election a subsequent Peacock government probably would have been economically rationalist. This was because economic rationalists (‘dries’) at the instigation of Liberal Party stalwart and prominent Melbourne businessmen John Elliot had shifted enough Howard supporters to the Peacock camps in 1989 on the basis that a Peacock government would pursue economic rationalist policies, particularly with regard to undermining arbitration.

Consequently Peacock was not able to win the 1990 federal election because he could not articulate public policies which were opposed to economic rationalism. Similarly and subsequently for Dr. John Hewson it was impossible for him to credibly attack the Keating government’s economic rationalism because he was essentially in accord with this ideological direction. As a result the Liberals lost the 1993 federal election to a widely reviled government.

The Liberals’ 1993 federal election defeat was this party’s greatest political setback since its foundation in 1944 and should have been a wake-up call to jettison economic rationalism. However the Liberals recalled Howard as their leader in January 1995 out of a sense of political desperation because they needed some-one with the necessary stature to harness widespread public disillusionment with the Keating government.

The Howard Government’s Mixed Grill

Howard shrewdly tapped into public discontent by campaigning under the slogan of ‘For All of Us’ to win the March 1996 federal election in a landslide. This election slogan conveyed that the Liberals in government would move beyond economic rationalism to govern in the interests of everyone. For there were segments of Australian society during the Hawke-Keating era which had been left behind by economic rationalism, such as those who were precariously employed due to government policies facilitating de-industrialization.

Although the Howard-Costello government (1996 to 2007) was also to be essentially economically rationalist this administration did have its major successes. This government’s main positive achievements were to pay off Australia’s massive public foreign debt and to return the budget to surplus. These outcomes (which the preceding Hawke and Keating governments had stubbornly refused to even attempt) were considerably aided by the massive revenue boost which came with the successful introduction of a ten per cent GST in 1999 which contrary to expectations was not regressive.

However, as the Howard administration was an economic rationalist government and this was reflected by its aggressive assault on employee rights which ultimately culminated with the introduction of Work Choices in 2005. With regard to industrial relations John Howard had long being a proponent of ‘flexibility’ but had qualified this advocacy by declaring that no employee who entered into an individual employment contract would be worse off because an award safety net would be retained.

The neo-liberal cornerstone of Howard’s industrial relations agenda was the introduction of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) under the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (the WRA). This legislation still retained an award safety net for AWAs but there was nevertheless scope for employees to receive less (or even better) pay and conditions than under an EBA. The overall intention behind the introduction of AWAs was to undermine the collective bargaining stream of the Australian industrial relations system. Ironically it had been the Keating ALP government which had challenged union viability with regard to collective bargaining by introducing non-union EBAs under the Industrial Relations Reform Act 1993.

Hansonism: The Backlash against Economic Rationalism

This continuity between the Hawke-Keating and the Howard-Costello eras with regard to operating within an economic rationalist paradigm helped give rise to the extremist One Nation Party which was founded in April 1997. The impetus for the emergence of this party was due to the prominence given by the media to its founder Pauline Hanson who had won the safe ALP Queensland seat of Oxley in the March 1996 federal election after being dis-endorsed by the Liberal Party for publicly attacking Aboriginal welfare.

Had it not been for the One Nation Party garnering over nine hundred thousand votes in the October 1998 federal election, the ALP (which garnered fifty-one per cent of the two-party preferred vote) would have won that election. Although the One Nation Party siphoned off crucial votes which might have clinched victory for the ALP in the 1998 federal election, it was ironically Labor Party preferences that prevented Hanson’s party from winning a swag of federal seats from the National Party.

The major parties preferencing each other against the One Nation Party ensured that that this party only won one Queensland senate seat in the 1998 federal election. Without a parliamentary platform for Pauline Hanson, the One Nation Party went into serious decline which was epitomized by internecine internal bickering. Due to this organisational disintegration of the One Nation Party between 1998 and 2001 its former support base was ‘up for grabs’.

Prime Minister Howard was able to appropriate enough of the former One Nation Party vote to win the November 2001 federal election by ‘dog whistling’ to the xenophobic fears of one-time supporters of this party. This ‘dog whistling’ was undertaken with regard to the ‘Children Overboard Affair’ of August 2001 and the Tampa incident of October that year where the federal government cynically stalked fears of refugees so that enough former One Nation voters opted for the coalition parties.

Howard’s Political Hubris

This October 2001 electoral victory was probably the greatest political triumph of John Howard’s career because a majority of voters were up until the Children Overboard and Tampa affairs were inclined toward the ALP. The economic prosperity which came Australia’s way following the 2001 coalition election victory due to the government’s successes in reaping a GST revenue windfall, paying off the public foreign debt and returning the budget to surplus set the scene for the coalition to win the October 2004 *federal election.

(*The public’s unease about the then ALP leader Mark Latham’s suitability to be prime minister was also an important factor in the coalition winning the 2004 federal election).

However, John Howard’s hubris following the coalition’s 2004 election victory ensured that his government between 2004 and 2007 was the most sinister in Australian history. This was due to the government’s passage of the so-called Work Choices legislation in December 2005 which removed the award safety net and fatally restricted the bargaining scope of employees and trade unions. Work Choices constituted a repudiation on Howard’s part of his previous promise that employees would never be worse off under an industrial relations system he introduced.

The other aspect of Howard’s 2004 to 2007 agenda which was sinister was his anti-state rights policies. Ironically, it was Howard’s attempts to undermine the position of states which vitally contributed to his political demise in 2007. This was because anti-state elements within the coalition sabotaged Howard’s re-election in 2007 so that an ALP cipher government led by a politically weak Kevin Rudd would instead undertake the groundwork of paving the way for regionalisation by which Australian states would be fatally undermined.

To ensure that there was no-one of sufficient stature within the Liberal Party who would oppose the onset of regionalisation under a Rudd cipher government, anti-states elements within the coalition tried to con Treasurer Peter Costello into taking the prime ministership by deposing Howard on the eve of the 2007 election. It was the intention of these anti-state elements within the coalition that Costello would lead the Liberals to defeat so that he would be politically eliminated. However, Costello shrewdly refused to take this bait so it was Howard who led the coalition to a pre-destined defeat due to internal sabotage within the 2007 Liberal election campaign.

The Liberals Grapple with Opposition

Realizing that it would be untenable for him to lead a party whose senior members had recently tried to engineer his political demise, Peter Costello wisely declined to stand for Liberal leader in 2007 so that Dr. Brendan Nelson was narrowly elected Opposition Leader against Malcolm Turnbull. Dr. Nelson was too politically weak to be an obstacle to stand in the way of the Rudd government introducing regionalisation. However Dr. Nelson’s poll numbers were so appallingly low that he gave way in September 2008 to Malcolm Turnbull as Opposition Leader, who nevertheless only narrowly won election as Liberal Party leader.

Malcolm Turnbull as Opposition Leader was however strongly pro-state rights so that he was deposed in a surgically precise leadership coup in early December 2009. The coordination between Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Senator Nick Minchin which ensured Malcolm Turnbull’s deposition as Opposition Leader was impressive. Although Malcolm Turnbull was ostensibly deposed because of his support for an Emissions Trading Scheme *(ETS) the real motivation behind this coup on the part of the plotters was to ensure that Tony Abbott as Opposition Leader would keep Prime Minister Rudd on the straight and narrow with regard to dismembering Australian states.

(*The December 2009 leadership coup against Malcolm Turnbull was cynically sinister because he had already received the necessary authority from his partyroom to negotiate an ETS with the government. Nevertheless, a driving factor behind the leadership coup was the plotter’s false contention, which they used as a pretext, that Malcolm Turnbull had ridden roughshod over his party to support the government backed ETS. Furthermore, there was never any public backlash against the hypercritical Greens Party for subsequently inexplicably using their balance of power position in the Senate to vote down the ETS in 2010).

To help ensure an anti-states agenda a National Press Club debate was held in March 2010 between Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott on the issue of funding for the hospitals sector. Abbott essentially played dead in this debate so that Prime Minister Rudd won a resounding victory. However, the momentum that Kevin Rudd gained from this debate ‘victory’ was to provide impetus for the so-called Hospitals Agreement in May 2010 where the five ALP state premiers signed over control of their hospitals to the Commonwealth. Crucially this so-called Hospitals Agreement also clawed back a substantial component of the GST revenue from the states to Canberra to supposedly fund the hospitals sector.

The Rudd Prime Ministership: The Acute Dangers of Cipher Government

The real reason that the so-called Hospitals Agreement was signed was not to end the blame game with regard to the effective administration of public hospitals but to undermine the viability of states by removing a key responsibility and major spending item from them. Had the Rudd government continued, it is plausible that there could have been a ‘Schools Agreement’ whereby responsibility and revenue for education would have been appropriated by Canberra from the states.

The Rudd administration as a cipher government for centralist interests may have continued had it not been for some appalling public policies and the government dysfunction which wracked Canberra under Prime Minister Rudd. Although Kevin Rudd had run hard in the 2007 election campaign as a self-proclaimed ‘fiscal conservative’ his government soon squandered hundreds of millions of dollars on school infrastructures, which included new computers, in the so-called Building the Education Revolution (BER).

The excesses of the BER soon paled into comparative insignificance when the Rudd government squandered the federal budget surplus and plunged the nation into a massive public foreign debt by undertaking unnecessary stimulus packages after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit in October 2008. The GFC raised problems with regard to the credit worthiness of financial institutions rather than an issue of deflated consumer demand. Consequently because Australia was essentially insulated from the GFC due to the prudential controls which Peter Costello had previously put in place, the massive stimulus packages were unnecessary.

Prime Minister Rudd as a political leader without a broad powerbase should have cultivated personal and profession links with Peter Costello when he was a backbencher between late 2007 and late 2009. The former federal treasurer could have provided the Rudd government with informal technical advice of how to handle the GFC without Australia’s fiscal position being unduly massively undermined.
With regard to taking outside advice, Prime Minister Rudd and Treasurer Wayne Swan should not have heeded the counsel of figures associated with BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Xstrata that a super-profits mining tax be adopted. This was because the original Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) provided the three aforementioned mining companies with a means by which they could utilize their massive economies of scale and strategic connections to the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) to minimize their taxes with regard to declared profits.

Relatively smaller mining companies, such as Fortescue Metals, lacked this capacity to conceal their profits so that under an MRRT they would have been squeezed out of the market. This consequently would have given the PRC a massive competitive advantage, if not monopoly, when it came to Australia’s trading arrangements in relation to the mining sector.

That the Rudd government was making a range of disastrous public policy encompassing federal-state relations and taxation in the mining sector was testament to this essentially being a ‘cipher government’. This term meant that a range of political interests- ranging from anti-state elements within the major political parties to the PRC aligned parts of the mining sector - were able to exploit Prime Minister Rudd’s leadership weaknesses to advance their respective policy agendas.

Kevin Rudd might have got away with leading a cipher government had not the chaos and dysfunction which he was generating also threatened the ALP federal parliamentary backbench. Due to the massive excesses of the BER a scenario emerged which would have allowed the then Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner to have politically destroyed Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and subsequently push Kevin Rudd aside as prime minister. In the process of politically destroying Julia Gillard,*Lindsay Tanner would have had to have implicated a swag of sitting ALP parliamentarians whose electorates had being in receipt of the BER funds.

(*Lindsay Tanner to have ensured his prime ministerial succession needed to secure Liberal Party preferences against the Greens in his inner city federal seat of Melbourne. Had this Finance Minister been able to politically destroy Julia Gillard he might have received these Liberal Party preferences. As it was, Tanner’s failure to politically destroy Julia Gillard and subsequently succeed to the prime ministership to undertake the dismemberment of Australia states resulted in his not recontesting his seat at the 2010 federal election because Liberal Party preferences were consequently going to the Greens.

It would be a terrible mistake on the part of the now Turnbull led Liberals to direct their preferences to the Greens in ALP inner city seats because this will lead to a political polarization which will ultimately undermine the current political moderation of the Liberal Party).

To prevent an eventual Tanner prime ministerial succession by him undertaking an expose of BER mis-spending, a cross-factional spread of ALP backbenchers, led by junior ministers such as Bill Shorten (who was then Parliamentary Secretary for Disability and Children’s Services) instigated a change of prime ministers from Kevin Rudd to Julia Gillard in June 2010. This sudden leadership change caught most of the public by surprise but within the Canberra public service Kevin Rudd’s removal as prime minister was greeted with palpable relief.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard: Government with Competence and Compassion

The Gillard government (June 2010 to June 2013) was an administration of competence and compassion. This was manifested by this government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the *Gonski education funding model. However, it would have been better had the Gillard government first focused upon paying off Australia’s massive public foreign debt and returning the budget to surplus before initiating these aforementioned initiatives.

(*The Turnbull government has been fiscally responsible by ending the Gonski education funding model. The rationale for this action has been justified on the correct premise that the impact of the NAPLAN tests has provided the basis to improve teaching skill so students regardless of their socio-economic background can fulfil their potential. Hopefully in the future when Australia’s fiscal position has recovered it will be possible to later re-introduce the Gonski education funding model).

Nevertheless, the Gillard government still achieved a major, if relatively unnoticed, impact on public policy by scrapping the Hospitals Agreement to return control of public hospitals to the states along with the GST revenue which had been clawed back under that agreement. Therefore Prime Minister Gillard substantially undermined the raison d’être which anti-state elements within both the coalition parties and the ALP had had for engineering Kevin Rudd’s election in 2007- the fatal undermining of Australian states.

The political price that Prime Minister Gillard had to pay for scrapping the Hospitals Agreement was to introduce a Carbon Tax. Indeed, because anti-state elements within both the ALP and the coalition parties were in a position to engineer the August 2010 election result, Prime Minister Gillard on the eve of that poll, was coerced into publicly announcing that a government which she led would never introduce a carbon tax. By announcing a solemn promise which she was then subsequently forced to break, Prime Minister Gillard’s political position was to eventually become untenable.

Due to political collusion between anti-states elements within the two major parties, the result of the 2010 election was a hung federal parliament. By breaking her promise that a carbon tax would never be introduced Prime Minister Gillard was able to secure her short to medium term political survival but sadly, at the cost of her ultimate political demise.

Tony Abbott’s constant refrain that the carbon tax was ‘a bad tax based on a lie’ helped ensure that if Julia Gillard was prime minister at the time of the 2013 federal election Labor would have suffered its ever electoral result. To avoid this electoral rout, the ALP federal parliamentary caucus (with Julia Gillard’s probable covert compliance) engineered Kevin Rudd’s brief return to the prime ministership to mitigate the party’s losses in the September 2013 poll defeat to Tony Abbott.

The Abbott Government: The Howard Tradition Revived

Although the Abbott government returned Australia to the Howard Tradition of economic rationalism this government did have its successes. These included the Abbott government scrapping the carbon tax and the dud Resource Super Profits Tax (the successor to the MRRT). The negotiation of a range of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) – which with the possible exception of the Australia-China FTA- were also positive achievements of the Abbott government. This government also had a realistic appreciation of the financial disaster which Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan’s2008/2009 stimulus packages had bequeathed to Australia.

However, the Abbott government neo-liberal policies of blocking welfare payments for six months for young job seekers and introducing a Medicare co-payment were unconscionable. The Abbott government’s termination of support for domestic car manufacturing was also detrimental to Australia and a culmination of the economic rationalism of the Hawke/Keating and Howard/Costello eras.

Furthermore, the Abbott government also had a concealed Work Choices industrial relations agenda as manifested by its intention to eventually establish a Registered Organisations Commission to place bureaucratic obstacles in the way of trade unions so that they could not effectively operate within the IR system.

The public unease about the Abbott government’s neo-liberal direction bolstered the inclination of a majority of the electorate to vote for the ALP so that the coalition was destined to an almost pre-destined election defeat. This orientation toward the ALP had arisen as an adverse reaction to the Howard government’s introduction of Work Choices so that it would have been political suicide for the Liberals under Abbott’s leadership to have fought the 2016 federal election based on industrial relations issues.

It was to overcome the pro-ALP orientation of a majority of the electorate based on their fears of a revived Work Choices and the subsequent poll defeat that the Abbott government was leading the coalition toward, that a majority of the federal parliamentary Liberals made Malcolm Turnbull prime minister in September 2015. The question therefore is whether Malcolm Turnbull will move his party away from the economical rationalist paradigm of the Howard Tradition?

The Turnbull government’s release of an innovation statement is a promising indication that there will be a return to the Deakin-Fisher-Menzies Tradition. This aforementioned socio-political tradition was one which seeks to generate services within the economy in pursuit of the objective of full employment.

Why Training is Key to Achieving Innovation Policy Success

It would also be keeping with the Deakin-Fisher-Menzies Tradition if the Turnbull government revamped government training policy so that so-called job provider agencies received a subsidy from the government for actually finding jobs for applicants instead of receiving government funding for its clients merely being registered with Centre Link. To vitally assist job provider agencies with their function and in keeping with the Turnbull government‘s innovation agenda these agencies should also fulfil an enhanced training role.

Government benchmarks and funding could be provided for specially qualified trainers being placed in job centres to provide training in areas such as operating databases. The more that there is a link between training and available job placement the better. Job Centres should also forge strategic links with TAFE colleges so that training can be provided to unemployed people so that there will be an enhanced tangible link between training and subsequent job placement.

It would be better still if private industry with government assistance was more actively involved in undertaking training at job agencies so that the prospects of successful job placement would be substantially boosted. Job provider agencies in keeping with the *Turnbull government’s innovation agenda will hopefully, with government assistance, fulfil a more proactive training function.

(*The Turnbull government’s innovation agenda has a positive focus on utilising technology to facilitate the starting of businesses which is in keeping with the Deakin-Fisher-Menzies Tradition).

Of course, there will be neo-liberal critics who will deride an enhanced government role in the provision of training to facilitate employment generation as ‘rent-seeking’. However the Deakin-Fisher-Menzies Tradition is one which regards state involvement in boosting employment as beneficial. Perhaps it is the neo-liberal aversion to boosting the levels of full-time employment which motivates their opposition to the state helping facilitate this outcome.

The Nexus between Labour Oversupply and Precarious Employment

Neo-liberals are often hostile to higher full employment levels because lower full employment levels bolster an employer’s managerial prerogative to introduce employment conditions which are more ‘flexible’ with consequently lower pay levels. An important contributor to ‘flexibility’ when it comes to employment is that there is an oversupply of jobs. Despite the supposed social conservatism of the Howard and Abbott governments there was a fixation on boosting the so-called participation rate when it came to female employment.

This focus on increased female employment ‘participation’ was seemingly progressive but the actual impact has been to force too many women into semi-skilled or unskilled jobs which are relatively low paid. Indeed, the money that is earned from compelling too many females into the workforce has been such that the income earned has too often had to go to pay for expensive childcare.

To advocate a lowering of the so-called female participation rate is more often than not derided as ‘sexist’ or ‘misogynist ‘. However the brilliant British sociologist Dr. Catherine Harkim has effectively debunked the notion that lowering female participation in the work force is necessarily sexist by reference to the concept of ‘preference theory’ which she devised.

Preference theory maintains that most women, particularly women who have partners and/or have children, do not have a universal desire to necessarily be in the workforce. According to Dr. Harkim’s preference theory, women fall within three categories of ‘home centred’, ‘work centred’ and a combination of these two preferences. For the home centred woman, it does not matter how badly money is needed, she will want to stay at home and not enter the workforce. Alternatively, the ‘work centred’ woman will always want to go into the workforce even if there is no monetary need to.

Dr. Harkim’s research is ground breaking because she maintains that a majority of women fall within a combination of being home and work centred. This is probably the case in Australia and as such government family policy should respect this probable reality. *Women, or more to the point, mothers should not be forced into the workforce for relatively low pay which is more often than not consumed by high child care costs.

(*The policy of giving families the option of one of the parents staying at home can also encompass the father staying at home with his wife/partner going to work. Alternatively, one of the two parents in a same sex union can go to work while the other stays at home to look after the children).

Furthermore, it is better for the positive development of children that they are raised as much as possible by one of their two parents staying at home. Therefore public policy in Australia should be orientated toward government assistance being provided so that one of the parents has the option of staying at home to look after their children or at least not having to work exorbitant hours.

Because it will be a mother in most cases who will opt to stay home to raise the children it should be emphasised that such a public policy direction is not sexist in that it seeks to discourage women from entering the workforce. Due to the onset of the increased availability of education, changed social attitudes and contraception women can now freely enter the workforce. However many in women in Australia do want to stay at home to look after their children and they should be provided with the financial means to do so by way primarily of government taxation policy.

Achieving Full Employment via Income Splitting

Australian government taxation policy should adopt the French model of income splitting where a couple receives a substantial tax return because the income that one or both of them earn is taxed as a combined unit. The adoption of income splitting would reduce the revenue obtained by the government. This diminution of public revenue would be off-set by allowing one member of the couple (in either a marriage or a de facto partnership) to remain at home. This in turn would open more jobs in the workforce and therefore lower social security costs due to the increased availability of jobs.

An income splitting tax regime by creating more jobs will increase the scope for employees who have so-called ‘non-skilled’ or so-called ‘semi-skilled’ jobs to be employed on a full time basis. This development would entail a shift in Australian employment patterns away from casual and part-time employment toward full-time employment in occupations such as cleaning. These so-called ‘unskilled’ employees would therefore have a greater chance of gaining full-time employment or more predictable hours of work if a split income tax policy was adopted.

It would be in keeping with the Liberal Party’s traditions to adopt an income splitting policy because this party under Menzies was orientated toward promoting high levels of employment. Indeed, the Liberal Party probably would not have been founded in 1944 without the support of the pro-family Australian Women’s National League (AWNL). The AWNL, which had links going back to the Protectionist Party, supported policies such as Child Endowment, which by providing financial justice to housewives enabled them to stay at home if they so chose.

Emancipatory Feminism

The impact of the AWNL’s public policy approach accorded with the long established Emancipatory Approach to feminism which is distinctly at odds with the women’s liberation movement or Women’s Liberation (Liberation Feminism) which first emerged in the 1960s. This second approach to feminism was (and is) hostile toward women having the option of staying at home and has an associated belief that women are not really independent unless they have their own income. The problem with this mindset of Liberation Feminism is that too many women have been forced into the workforce due to be ultimately exploited by employers paying relatively low wages because there was an oversupply in a particular job sector.

Emancipatory Feminism by contrast seeks to give women who choose to stay at home the option to do so by ensuring that they receive adequate government financial assistance to do so. The Liberation Feminist argument that women are not really independent unless they receive an independent income from being in the workforce is incorrect. What really grates with Liberation Feminists is that policies such as Child Endowment recognise that women can fulfil the role of being a mother which they (i.e. Liberation Feminists) regard as disempowering.

The AWNL’s positive impact on public policy was reflected by full employment being achieved during the Menzies era and lasting until the advent of the Whitlam government in the early 1970s. Perhaps an important reason why the AWNL’s policy paradigm of Emancipatory Feminism did not keep up with the times was because this organisation was so successfully integrated into the Liberal Party that its distinctive policies disappeared into the ether.

Had the AWNL remained a more distinctive organisation this would have provided opposition from within the Liberal Party to the New Right policies which John Howard espoused and to the economic rationalist direction of Hawke/Keating ALP government. The weakness of Emancipatory Feminism within the Liberal Party was reflected by the fact that women who were pre-selected usually being chosen to contest either safe ALP or marginal House of Representatives seats. An important reason why the former AWNL failed to engineer more women entering into parliament was because too many of its previous members who held executive positions in Liberal Party branches were home centred despite their often impressive political activism.

The influx of female federal Liberal parliamentarians following the coalition’s landslide 1996 election victory was reflective of women being able to gain Liberal Party pre-selection for marginal seats as opposed to safe blue ribbon seats. Accordingly, when the numbers in parliament between the two sides even up, the number of female Liberal Party parliamentarians decreases.

However, Prime Minister Turnbull has demonstrated a pro-woman orientation by appointing a substantially higher number of female cabinet ministers. While this is a positive development, it would be a pity if female Liberal Party MPs adopted a work centred approach to preference theory because applying elements of a home centred approach -by adopting a split income tax policy - would help lift many Australians out of precarious employment.

Why Malcolm Turnbull Cannot Afford to Fail

Adopting a split income taxation policy could cost the federal government a considerable amount of revenue which currently cannot be squandered if the Rudd/ Swan millstone of debt and deficit is to eventually be overcome. Indeed, if Australia’s generous and effective welfare policies are to be maintained then a way will have to be found to pay off Australia’s massive public foreign debt and deficit. A failure by the Turnbull government to overcome this Swan/Rudd legacy could create a fatal trap where Australia has to pay too high a social price by cutting public welfare to avoid the nation going broke. Ultimately, if the Turnbull government is to demonstrate that it is qualitatively distinct from its predecessors, then overcoming the legacy of debt and deficit is a must.

The Turnbull government can overcome the disastrous fiscal position which it inherited while gaining the necessary revenue base to apply income splitting by expanding the application of the GST to currently non-taxed areas of consumption such as food. Expanding the reach of the GST as distinct from increasing its rate from ten per cent offers a viable means by which the necessary revenue can be raised without this indirect tax becoming *regressive.

(*South Africa is a nation where the rate of its Value Added Tax (VAT) has been so much increased so that this tax has been both regressive and economically detrimental).

Alternatively however, if the Turnbull government will not introduce income splitting, then the advice of former Treasurer Peter Costello should be taken that spending be rigorously reined in so that government debt and deficit can eventually be eliminated. By adopting this approach, Prime Minister Turnbull will be able to honestly go to the Australian people in 2016 ruling out either an increase in the GST rate or an expansion of this tax’s applicability.

The chances of the coalition winning the 2016 federal election would also increase if the Liberal Party’s Federal Director Tony Nutt has sufficient control over his party’s apparatus to ensure that there is no internal sabotage in the 2016 campaign as there was in 2007. The chances of this scenario eventuating will probably increase if an election was held in the first quarter of 2016 so that anti-state rights elements within the coalition cannot gain the time necessary to fatally undermine the Turnbull government.

The scope to maintain internal unity within the Liberal Party would similarly be bolstered by Prime Minister Turnbull ensuring that the New South Wales federal MPs Craig Kelly, Angus Taylor and Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells are protected with regard to their pre-selections. These MPs are talented people in their own right who would reciprocate the favour by helping ensure that factional conservatives within the Liberal Party do not attempt to sabotage the 2016 federal campaign.

The coalition’s prospects of winning the 2016 federal election would also expand by the Liberals reaching a preferencing arrangement with the South Australian based *Nick Xenophon Team (NXT). The NXT party could well determine the overall 2016 federal election outcome because its preferences will be crucial in a swag of South Australian House of Representative seats.

(*Social Action Australia usually supports the DLP in Senate elections but advocates a vote for the NXT while the John Mulholland wing of the DLP is not registered with the federal and state electoral commissions).

Furthermore, it would not go astray for the Liberals to preference the NXT in the 2016 federal election so that this party subsequently wins the balance of power in the Senate. The *NXT would be a fiscally and socially responsible with the Senate balance of power. This would reinforce a moderate course by an electorally successful Turnbull government, which could encompass a possible return to state industry assistance.

(*The NXT will probably re-launch if it is successful in the 2016 federal election by later adopting a new name).

This NXT party has credibility in South Australia because of Senator Nick Xenophon’s denunciation of the former Abbott administration’s decision to end government support for the Australian car industry. South Australia is a state which has suffered from high unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, due to the economic vandalism not only of the former Abbott government but also of the Hawke/Keating governments and the Howard/Costello governments which can be traced back to the Whitlam government. The economic rationalism of these aforementioned governments undermined South Australia’s substantial manufacturing sector.

Hopefully however, the Turnbull government will reverse the impact of so-called economic rationalism not only in South Australia but for the whole of the nation. A break with economic rationalism by the Turnbull government can be manifested by respecting Julia Gillard’s major positive public policy achievement, when as *deputy prime minister in 2009, she revived a modified form of arbitration by securing the passage of the FWA legislation.

(*Julia Gillard was the true heir to the great Andrew Fisher and was undoubtedly Australia’s most effective deputy prime minister, followed closely by Sir John Mc Ewan).

An arbitral approach to industrial relations has been a secret to Australia achieving high living standards and to the social cohesion which was associated with the Deakin-Fisher-Menzies Tradition. Prime Minister Turnbull can demonstrate that he is qualitatively distinct from the Abbott government which was mired in the neo-liberalism of the Howard Tradition-(which Ian Mc Phee valiantly opposed) that was actually at odds with the Liberal Party’s founding principles.

It should be pointed out that Social Action Australia is orientated toward the election of ALP governments. However an election victory of a Shorten federal Labor government probably will not advance Australia’s genuine national interest. This is because Bill Shorten is the political and spiritual successor to the economic rationalist Bob Hawke and as such would lead another so-called ‘reformist government’.

The major ‘reform’ of a Shorten government will probably be to create a new regional tier of government to eventually replace states. Such a development would lead to the establishment of a new self-seeking oligarchy which would so quickly entrench itself that the nation would find it impossible to disband. Furthermore, there is little prospect that a Shorten government will address the legacy of debt and deficit which was bequeathed by the Rudd government. Indeed, a Shorten government would probably be even more determined than the Rudd government in pursuing an anti-states agenda.

By contrast an electorally successful Turnbull government can safeguard the on-going viability of Australian states, which would be aided by rescinding the current referendum proposal that local government be recognised in the Australian Constitution. The Turnbull government could manifest a pro-states orientation by negotiating a ‘win-win’ GST agreement with the states to ensure that they all receive a satisfactory amount of GST revenue.

Finally, it is the Turnbull government’s unveiling of an innovation agenda which not only creates the scope for a successful future but also respects the past by adhering to the Deakin-Fisher-Menzies Tradition of seeking to facilitate full employment and to harness the nation’s resources to achieve a high standard of living and social cohesion.