Modia Minotaur

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Nick Minchin and the HR Nicholls Society

Nick Minchin's little pep talk to the H. R. Nicholls Society prompts a number of things any politician should consider:

1) Whenever you open your mouth, assume that a microphone is on and somebody's recording you (Morris Iemma, Peter Beattie and now, Steve Bracks, take note - or is this becoming the pollie's version of whisper marketing?)

2) Whenever you express an opinion, remember that while you are in government, it will be difficult to argue that the opinion you are expressing about a major government policy is your own, not your government's.

3) With point 1 in mind, remember that playing to the audience before you is one thing; the audience that hears the recording afterwards might not be quite so sympathetic.

Who exactly are the HR Nicholls Society? I had the misfortune of encountering this nasty little mob of economic rationalists while researching a paper on corporate social responsibility last year. After downloading some of their dogma, I not only wanted to delete it from my computer, but thoroughly scrub clean the computer. Or preferably, throw the whole lot away:

From their website:
When, on the 28th August 1986, the Prime Minister, Mr. R.J.L. Hawke, accused the Society of being a group of "political troglodytes and economic lunatics", the Society shot to national prominence and its success was assured!

I'm quite sure they lapped up Nick Minchin's spiel. Though the fact that even Minchin, king of the hard-right rationalists, admitted the fact that WorkChoices has been as popular as a burp in church is intriguing, it remains that even the ultra conservative Nichollsians are dissatisfied with the WorkChoices legislation - and not always because it doesn't go as far as they would like, as Minchin claims. See for example this paper. While it contains all the usual appalling arguments about Australia's minimum wage being so embarrassingly high that rich people occasionally have to be seen on the same streets as the poor, who should be shoved away in their hovels away from decent folk, it also contains passages such as:
The economic justification is limited to generalised assertions that the changes will improve productivity and living standards, with the only support coming from a highly dubious graph that purports to show that those industries with least reliance on awards achieved higher rates of growth in productivity between June 1990 and June 2004. Coincidence is the more likely conclusion.

... which could almost come out of the ACTU songbook. John Howard has this morning denied plans for further changes to IR - but, as Barrie Cassidy pointed out during his daily chat to Virginia Trioli on ABC 702 - this is also the man who denied that the changes already made are radical. On the other hand, Howard would surely be too politically canny to use IR as a platform for his next election, and would realise it would be all too easy for the other side to point out that another win for the Liberal Party would provide a mandate for further reforms.

Given that WorkChoices still hasn't officially been rolled out, though the first widespread job losses at a major Australian employer has taken place, the real battle may have only just begun.

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