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Matthew Toll, "Australian Neo-Liberals Let Their Agenda Slip"

Mathew G.H Toll writes:

"Australian Neo-Liberals Let Their Agenda Slip"

Matthew G.H. Toll

Senator Nick Minchin, leading member of the Australian federal government has been taped during a private meeting advocating further industrial relations reform if the liberal party is re-elected into another term.

"The fact is the great majority of Australians do not support what we are doing on industrial relations, they violently disagree," said Senator Minchin to HR Nicholls Society, a far-right wing group intent of the dissolution of the current IR system in favour a ‘flexible system’. Amounting to an IR system where workers rights effectively mean ‘take it or leave it’, lowering minimum wages and conditions.Minchin admits the average Australian ‘violently disagree’ with current IR reforms. which will remove such safety nets as unfair dismissal and further undermine unions and collective agreements. He further comments that "we do need to seek a mandate from the Australian people at the next election for another wave of industrial relations reform".

Howard was quick to dismiss the possibility of further IR changes. Furthermore Minchin publicly said that his statements regarding IR reform are personal views and do not represent the current thinking within the government. Opposition parties have not accepted this line of reasoning. Stephen Smith the Labor IR spokesman told ABC radio-

"Nick Minchin is the number three person in the government, he's the leader of the government in the Senate and what he's saying is before the government has even bedded down its unfair and extreme current round of industrial relations changes, it's planning a third wave,"

Smith continued- "It's quite clear he's gone to a meeting of people who he regards as friends and colleagues and he's told them the truth."

Labour leader Kim Beazley said of Minchin's comments - "We see from Senator Minchin that the Government intends to go through another round of IR changes to utterly create dictatorships in the workforce and workplace, against the interests of the average Australian,"

While Howard and Minchin have consistently held the line that the government has no plan for further IR, Environment Minister Ian Campbell has stated "I have said that more economic reform is something that is an absolute given".

Green’s senator Bob Brown views the latest revelations as a further indication of the liberal governments aim of introducing American style corporatism commenting, "The big corporations they want to remove all safeguards for workers in this country and this Government is saying, 'Stick with us - that's the direction we're headed'."

The question remains though, can the major opposition parties to the liberal government transcend the economic contradictions of corporate globalisation? Forcing competitors in the global market to reduce cost to remain competitive with other competitors requires that labour cost be reduced as much as possible. This contradicts the idea of maintaining current conditions for workers in Australia. Thus the problem of sustaining and improving workers rights and conditions are not just a local effort but a global struggle.