Dean Smith

ARchive

A Personal View

Choosing workers over unions

April 29, 2016

Even before next week’s Federal Budget is delivered in Canberra, it’s quickly becoming clear that the coming election will present voters with a choice between two starkly different choices.

Since the last election, the Coalition Government has placed job creation for Australians at the centre of its economic agenda.

The recognition that Australia’s economy was undergoing a transition was the imperative that drove our determination to secure free trade agreements with key Asian economies – China, Japan and Korea – in the Government’s first term.

Mirroring our own situation, each of these nations is undertaking the economic pivot from production activity towards becoming services-based economies.

This means Asia’s middle class is rapidly expanding in both size and purchasing power – and herein lies the real opportunity for Australian exporters.

The growing ranks of middle-class consumers will be looking to spend their higher incomes on better educational opportunities for their children, on improved healthcare, on high-quality agricultural produce and to travel further afield than has previously been possible.

In each of these instances, Western Australia’s exporters stand to benefit from this improved market access.
However, there is a threat to this.

Labor’s attitude towards the free trade agreements negotiated by the Coalition Government can be characterised as ambivalent at best.

Labor had two terms in office to negotiate these agreements. For a substantial period, it was led by self-proclaimed China expert Kevin Rudd. Yet, nothing happened.

This is not a coincidence. Labor’s lukewarm attitude towards free trade is driven by a hard-core economic xenophobia which lurks within the party’s union base.

The Labor Party cannot survive without the cash funnelled to it by the trade union movement. Thus, the interests of the unions will always come first for Bill Shorten.

Any idea that the unions’ interests and the interests of workers are automatically aligned is a flawed one.
Nowhere was this better demonstrated than with last week’s debate surrounding the abolition of Bill Shorten’s misnamed Road Safety Review Tribunal.

That tribunal has nothing to do with promoting driver safety. It was established at the behest of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) as a means of punishing independent owner-drivers, who wanted nothing more than to run their own businesses, free of the TWU’s tentacles.

Given a choice between backing individual enterprise and backing a union, Bill Shorten chose the latter – because that is always his instinct. I published an opinion piece on this subject in The Australian Financial Review last week. You can read it by clicking
here.

It’s this same attitude which informs Labor’s approach to the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Given the mountain of evidence presented at the Royal Commission of corruption, intimidation and thuggery within the ranks of the CFMEU, the working lives of over one million Australians employed in the construction sector would be greatly improved by having a strong watchdog in place to police rogue behaviour.

But again, the Labor Party has sided with the union bosses instead of the workers and has blocked the re-establishment of the ABCC.  As a result, Australians will head to a double dissolution election on 2 July.

The choice confronting Australians will be a stark one.

The Coalition Government is continuing to deliver on its clear economic plan that will allow us to take advantage of opportunities in a changing global economy, and experience further employment growth.

In contrast, our Labor opponents are saddled with the economic rhetoric and outlook of a bygone era, and are completely captive to the narrow sectional interests of a shrinking union movement.