AWA: Australian Whacks ALP?
As last week's Insiders noted (I know, I know, I'm not up to date but my uni assignment on OPEC beckoned ... dammit), The Australian's attack on Kim Beazley's decision to make the axing of AWAs a central platform for the next election has been extraordinary. Crikey has suggested that the motive comes straight from the top - Rupert Murdoch himself - which would be ironic given that most of his workers are now employed on the much-maligned contracts.
This sort of clear bias only lends heat to the debate on cross media ownership reforms (which, according to the aforementioned Murdoch, do not go far enough). It also emphasises the importance of the ABC as an independent, non-biased (yes, Richard Alston, it is) news source that does not need to follow an agenda or work according to financial impetus.
As Laurie Oakes notes (hardly a bastion of the hard Left is old Laurie), Beazley's decision brought clarifity to the industrial relations debate and got the government on the run on an issue of genuine - and well-founded - concern to many people. As ABC political commentator Jim Middleton suggested, a vote for Labor will be a vote against AWAs. However, I think it will be important for Beazley to announce soon what he intends to replace AWAs with. The problem he faces is similar to that faced by the NSW Government which is on one hand fighting a heated battle against WorkChoices and on the other, making a concerted effort to woo the business sector. Though, as Beazley points out, it's wrong to assume that business is inherently AWA. The only danger is in influential bodies like Australian Business Ltd beginning a smear campaign (they have already announced a series of WorkChoices `education' seminars). But, then again, a concerted effort by Big Business to derail Labor could lend fuel on Labor's essential argument - the balance has been tipped to the fat cats, not to the worker.
It's interesting to note that following Beazley's announcement, the NSW Nationals leader Andrew Stoner has climbed aboard, decrying the removal of the no-disadvantage test (something he apparently was not aware of previously) and describing Kevin Andrews as `a dickhead'. Stoner is on Hansard describing opposition to WorkChoices as `scaremongering' that could cost `untold thousands of jobs' in rural Australia. It turns out he was merely misinformed. Perhaps he only reads The Oz ...