Friday, April 14, 2023

Big business alarm at Labor’s second IR wave

Big business will seek to limit Labor’s planned second wave of workplace relations reforms, warning the changes risk compromising the enterprise bargaining system and bogging the courts down in claims.

Challenging the Albanese government to devise changes that do not put a “handbrake on productivity”, the Business Council of Australia has identified a raft of concerns about the proposals, ­declaring the country cannot ­afford to “leave our feet stuck in the cement of rigid and outdated workplace practices”.

Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott urged the government to provide more policy detail during consultations with stakeholders and to avoid “needless ideological changes that leave Australians worse off”.

After their unsuccessful campaign to thwart passage of the government’s first tranche of workplace law changes, business groups are expressing concern at Labor’s second round, which includes a “same job, same pay” policy cracking down on worker exploitation by labour hire firms.

The government says while there are legitimate uses for labour hire, particularly when companies need a seasonal or surge workforce, workers doing the same job at the same site should get the same pay. The next wave will also include measures to tackle wage theft, the creation of a fair test to determine when a worker can be classified as a casual and a proposed extension of the Fair Work Commission’s powers to ­include employee-like forms of employment, notably gig economy work.

The first tranche’s contentious multi-employer changes come into operation from June while the government wants to legislate the second wave later this year.

In its submission to the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, the Business Council opposes the same job, same pay policy. It says imposing terms and conditions on businesses based on the arrangements of other businesses risks complicating and compromising the enterprise bargaining system.

It seeks to restrict the policy by: applying it to “labour hire” and not other forms of contracting; excluding internal labour hire; limiting the obligation to provide terms and conditions of employment to employees of labour hire providers and not “workers” at large; and confining the policy to monetary base rates of pay and not broader and undefined “conditions”.

It says any amended casual definition should only apply after 12 months of employment, must not have retrospective application, be simple and easy to understand, and there must be protection and certainty for employers who have offered permanent employment to a relevant casual.

On criminalising wage theft, the Business Council says criminal sanctions should only apply to the most serious forms of exploitative conduct, and where the conduct is clear, deliberate and systemic.

It says the commonwealth scheme should cover the field and apply to the exclusion of state wage theft laws; vicarious liability should be strictly confined, and employers who have acted on advice of experts and regulators, such as the Fair Work Ombudsman, should be exempted from the imposition of criminal sanctions.

“There should be a different prosecution path where people have self-identified and proactively looked and audited their payroll for compliance, as an incentive to ensuring ongoing integrity of wage payments,” it says.

In seeking to address the exploitation of gig workers and their dangerous working conditions, the Business Council says the government changes should not hold back the “formation of new business models driven by consumer demand”.

“While there is a large amount of rhetoric, particularly from unions regarding ‘insecure work’, the fact remains that many workers deeply value the flexibility and autonomy afforded to them by non-permanent engagement models,” it says.

“Customers also appreciate the level of control and autonomy they derive from these services, including in the areas of food delivery, ride sharing, aged and disability care, accommodation, and general freelanced services.”

On the proposal for the Fair Work Commission to set minimum rates in road transport, it says: “The BCA does not understand there to be an established link between the payment of certain rates and improved safety outcomes within the industry. As such, there is no proper basis for the FWC to be assigned powers to set minimum rates for contract carriers and other contractors in the road transport industry on the basis of improved safety outcomes.”

Ms Westacott said the government needed to be clear about the problems it was trying to solve. “If we end up with changes that aren’t grounded in serious analysis of the problem, we’ll be making a complex system even more difficult to navigate and even more stuck in old ways of working,” she said.

“At a time of global economic uncertainty … Australia has almost full employment and wages are beginning to strengthen. Every time we want to make a change we should ask ourselves, what are we risking?”


Viewpoint oppression ratcheting up

In a recent TV appearance on Channel 10’s The Project, comedian Reuben Kaye made a tasteless joke about Jesus Christ that upset many who watched it. While co-host Sarah Harris laughed along with the studio audience, the following night she joined in a straight-faced apology for ‘the particular offence and hurt that (the joke) caused our Muslim, but especially our Christian viewers’. Many complainants saw it as insincere.

To be fair, it was an in-joke which would have appealed to LGBTIQ+ viewers and their supporters.

In an open, pluralistic and resilient society, bad taste jokes are part of the cut and thrust, and in the eye of the beholder. But in today’s uncompromising world, ‘snowflakes’ take refuge in social media anonymity to amplify attention and seek retribution. It’s why Reuben Kaye doesn’t crack tasteless jokes about the Prophet Mohammed. Christians however are a soft target.

Former Wallaby star Israel Folau learnt the hard way. He was sacked for posting religiously inspired, anti-gay comments. A Pentecostal pastor, he lamented, ‘Upholding my religious beliefs should not prevent my ability to work or play for my club and country.’ He’s right, but it did.

Former prime minister Scott Morrison supported Folau saying, ‘If you are not free to believe, what are you free to do in this country?’ It’s a good question which, as prime minister, he ignored. How could he have missed the growing censorship and double standards developing under his watch? By failing to address historical revisionism and the weaponising of offence, he facilitated a process which left Australians less free and less self-confident as a nation.

What was once an unshakeable belief in the British Judeo-Christian traditions of tolerance and freedom of thought and expression, has become a relic of a bygone era. It means younger generations are largely oblivious to the critical role those values played in the rise of human rights, humanitarian charity and the abolition of slavery. Or how they inspired the eighteenth century ‘Age of Reason’, notable for its rigorous scientific political and philosophical discourse and important advances in science and medicine.

In 2017 enough of that ethos remained for 62 percent of voters to support marriage equality giving federal parliament the confidence to pass it into law. However, five years on and, despite a noisy campaign estimated to have cost half a billion dollars, only 24,000 people or, 30 per cent of those living in same sex relationships, have married. Disappointingly, the goodwill expressed by voters towards the LGBTIQ+ community has not been reciprocated.

In fact, Kaye and his ilk remain ‘in revolt against the ever-narrowing views of an increasingly conservative world’. They are a hostile chorus who maintain that the values of liberty, tolerance and rational inquiry are not the birthright of a single culture. Without offering a superior alternative they mock Australian values and see the Bible and Jesus Christ as tokens of a civilisation they disown. To them, even the term ‘Western Civilisation’ is an oxymoron.

They promote this fallacy in the knowledge that should they practise homosexuality in the Middle East or Russia they would be imprisoned. Or, if they lived in Xi Jinping’s China, they would have to deal with societal prejudices, censorship, intimidation and, at times, detention by police.

Indeed, it’s no secret that China treats minorities appallingly. It ranks 106th out of 153 countries in the global gender gap rankings and Human Rights Watch called on Beijing to protect people of colour from blatant discrimination. Religious minorities are so abused the practice is increasingly being characterised as genocide.

Aided by social and legacy media and, adopting collective amnesia, Marxist-Leninist Red Guard imitators bully traditionalists, demanding they renounce the ‘Four Olds’ – old customs, old culture, old habits and old ideas. They are intent on a cultural revolution, which they repackage as the ‘Great Reset’, and woe betide those who fail to kowtow.

Monash University’s MBA course is a first mover. ‘White, attractive, upper or middle class and highly literate’ students must take a ‘privilege walk’ and undergo oppression training to ‘challenge the violence of leadership by confronting the hegemony of imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist and patriarchal ideologies’.

This is straight out of Mao Zedong’s playbook. Mao believed education empowered the dominant classes and Monash University wants future business leaders suitably schooled on the environment and corporate social responsibility. Emphasis is on diversity, equity and inclusion; profits and risk-management, be damned.

The University of Melbourne, has also joined the revolution. ‘After consultation with related parties’ it revised its free speech policy with a new gender affirmation protocol along with self-contradictory guidelines for the appropriate exercise of freedom of speech. Teaching feminism courses must say nothing that could cause offence to transgendered students.

In a push to ‘dismantle privilege’, a student workshop moved ‘white males’ and those who look like ‘Liberal voters’, be forbidden from speaking during class. Of course they believe in free speech but, ‘It’s about giving space to people who don’t feel included on university campuses because of things like gender, language (and) queerness’.

There was a time, when all Australian universities claimed to preserve, defend and promote, academic freedom in the conduct of their affairs. Students were free, without fear or favour, to engage in critical enquiry, scholarly endeavour and public discourse. No more.

As George Orwell wrote, the aim of culture wars, ‘is to deny and obliterate (the people’s) own understanding of their history’. Like former prime minister Paul Keating, who draws moral equivalence or casts doubts on evidence which highlights the brutality of the West’s adversaries. It’s as though blinded by ideology or hate he sees his fellow Australians as pawns in an historical process. Reuben Kaye is feted as an effective culture warrior, more for naivety than his credulity. Playing to the politics of envy will always attract an audience.

Plato argued that the inevitable next step in political evolution after democracy is tyranny.

Perhaps he was right? ?


Australia’s ‘green energy’ chimera

The government has asked the Joint Committee on Trade and Investment Growth to inquire into ‘Australia’s transition to a green energy superpower’. It wants ideas on how to accelerate growth in sectors covering renewable energy, batteries, electric vehicles, and so on.

The inquiry attracted 125 submissions. A few submissions, like that of the Australian Environment Foundation (AEF), pointed out that the proposal rests on the case for reducing human-induced emissions of carbon dioxide but that there is no scientific proof that this would have any significant effect on our climate. And, the non-Western world is not going down that same path, with the consequence that the de-carbonising economic suicide into which the West is sleepwalking, can have no global effect.

But most submissions, including those from industry, advise the government on how to fund projects that cannot and will never stand up on their own merits.

For example, the Electric Vehicle Council calls on, ‘Governments [to] further support domestic industry development by providing guaranteed demand through bulk EV orders across government vehicle fleets and introducing programs that incentivise the use of local content.’ It also predictably seeks, ‘…further debt and equity financing to innovative projects to accelerate the clean energy transition.’

The Clean Energy Investor Group calls for the continuation of the subsidies to windmills beyond their cut-off date of 2030. By that time subsidy-seekers had previously assured us that this infant industry would have become the cheapest supply source. CSIRO claims this is already a reality even though wind/solar still needs the support of regulatory subsidies – subsidies that in 2020 amounted to $7 billion a year and which have been increased by the recently enacted Safeguard Mechanism.

The Advanced Materials and Battery Council claims Australia is already making huge gains in new technologies but warns, ‘Governments need to move fast to avoid losing these companies and opportunities to those more determined to develop national battery supply chains elsewhere.’

The Australian Aluminium Council seeks to get on the National Critical Minerals Strategy gravy train and makes the vacuous statement, ‘Providing electricity is supplied consistently, with firm power, and at internationally competitive prices, aluminium smelting can be run on renewable electricity.’ DUH!

The Australian Hydrogen Council claims members are going great guns in this pie-in-the-sky technology but just want the government to mandate targets ‘to develop markets for hydrogen across a range of sectors’. In addition, the council wants ‘investment attraction mechanisms in the vein of the US Inflation Reduction Act including fiscal or other incentives to draw foreign capital to Australia’.

The Green Energy Superpower proposal is that we continue to tax fossil fuels and subsidise their replacement with wind, solar, batteries, and eventually hydrogen (even though nuclear technology is the only one that might equal fossil fuels in cheapness activists avoid the energy ‘N-word’).

Regrettable outcomes have followed from the continued pursuit of a green energy superpower goal with its landscape-defiling windmills, solar farms, and a trebling of transmission lines to carry this intermittent energy. These facilities are planned to quadruple. Wind turbines are lethal for bird life when it gets too close and their land-hunger knocks out native animals. Concerns about threatened species in part led Apple to abandon its purchase of power generated by Windlab, Andrew Forrest’s proposed Queensland project. Added to the renewables conversation is the underlying environmental problem of the disposal of toxic wind turbines and solar panels at the end of their relatively short lives.

The failure of wind/solar installations to supply low-cost and reliable energy was illustrated by the collapse of the $22 billion Forrest/Cannon-Brookes Sun Cable project in the Northern Territory, which fortunately had only minor taxpayer support.

Green hydrogen is ear-marked as a future area of promise and its carpet baggers have attracted considerable government subsidies. At present, even its aspirational costs leave it 4-5 times more expensive than coal-based power, while considerable transport problems remain. And if at some future time green hydrogen were to become economical, that would be achieved by competition and profit-seeking creating the technological breakthroughs.

Australia has an ignominious history of terrifyingly expensive failures in seeking to have the governments play an entrepreneurial role. These include monstrous fiascos like the $70 billion broadband rollout.

We have also traversed the government-planned green innovation path trodden many times already. This wasted up to $20 billion on converting Snowy Hydro into a pump storage facility. Previous governmental plans to improve on private sector enterprise brought a blade factory in Victoria, which was to be the centre of a vast global supply chain taking advantage of government-stimulated growth of windmills; it collapsed within six months. Then there was the failed Ross Garnaut/Kevin Rudd geothermal venture in South Australia and, as the Spectator Australia catalogues, numerous programs to harness wave power.

Australia’s pursuit of the chimera of a ‘green energy superpower’ is part of a process under which, for the first time in human history, the Western world is using subsidies to replace the cheapest available and reliable sources of the energy by a more expensive and less reliable sources. The pursuit is accompanied by much collateral damage to the environment.

We have arrogated politics to a commercial role it can never play. Parliamentary inquiries will not only fail to discover the elixir that kickstarts new industries but, in holding out prospects for free government money, they distract entrepreneurs from seeking market-based solutions to profitable future breakthroughs.


The politics of social class are now reversed: The affluent are now Leftist and the workers are now conservative

In the recent US midterms (and the just-held Wisconsin Supreme Court vacancy election), the Democrats massively outspent the Republicans, in some races by as much as six times more than the Republicans spent. Add in the indirect expenditures and the Democrat spending advantage may have been larger. I’ve been saying it in these pages for some time but the simple truth is that (in general terms) wealthy people now vote left. This is true in the US, in Britain, in Canada and here. Moreover, in the US the richest of the rich give huge money to the Democrats. Let’s be honest; Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Tim Cooke, Mark Zuckerberg, Jamie Dimon, yes Warren Buffet and a host of non-celebrity capitalists are functional Democrats. (I leave to one side the pernicious effect Bill Gates had in pushing lockdown authoritarianism and other woeful aspects of the pandemic years.) Put differently, George Soros has lots of company on the political left.

Or ask yourself whether you think Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Entertainment, Big Law, Big Energy and Finance align more with the political Right or the political Left these days. It’s not even close, is it? Every fad originating with the hard left of the Democrat party seems eventually to make its way into the corporate boardroom, first in the US and then around the rest of the anglosphere. Certainly all these Bigs seem to have quietly signed on with Biden. You can bet they’ll be going all in to stop the Republicans from winning in 2024.

But let’s just consider Australia. Already some of the big corporates are coming out for a Yes as regards the Voice. Take Coles. Even now they have a poster up in Cairns taking the Yes side. Isn’t that incredibly virtuous of this company, using shareholders’ money (not the board members’ personal money or the CEO’s but shareholders’) to push for a Yes vote on an issue that is party political and that will be a close run thing, at best, for the affirmative case? Can you even imagine a big corporation 50 or 60 years ago taking a side in a constitutional referendum that split the political parties? Yet today this is apparently perfectly fine, certainly no different to, say, Zuckerberg aligning with the Biden administration on, well, near on everything. Or Disney spending shareholders’ money to attack Ron DeSantis over legislation that forbade sex education for children aged six to eight. Disney jumped in bed with the hard Left that called this law the ‘Don’t Say Gay Bill’ though there is no distinction at all about the sort of sex education being disallowed; it was all banned. (DeSantis, at least, pushed back against these woke corporates and took away the special Disney legal exemptions from normal zoning and tax laws which hurt enough that the new Disney CEO Bob Iger last week called them anti-business. Gee Bob, if you’re going to take explicit sides on political issues then being anti-your-political-opponents means being anti-business, doesn’t it?)

Those of us who are conservatives need to realise that the winning conservative coalition today is very different to what it was 50 years ago. We are now the party not just of small business but of the lower-middle and working classes. (Good! For one thing they don’t wallow in insufferable, unendurable virtue-signalling.) We conservatives are now the party of the suburbs. Just as Boris did in 2019 and Trump did in 2016, we can put together winning coalitions of voters who want cheap energy, some backbone on culture issues, protected borders, lower mass immigration and some Thatcher-like husbandry when it comes to the budget (the last of these clearly being more honoured in the breach than the observance, or in the manifesto more than in the execution).

But designing Liberal party policies for the Teal seats is a sure loser. Do that and you lose big chunks of the rest of your conservative coalition in the many more seats that matter. And then you lose big time in WA, SA, Victoria, NSW, nationally.

So ignore the Teal seats. If the economy implodes – a far from implausible possibility with this current Labor team at the helm – then the rich folk in the Teal seats will come back to Team Libs regardless of the non-woke, non-Green policies the party has adopted because these virtue-signalling Teal voters draw the line at losing too much of the moolah, dough, swag, green stuff. If that happens, fine. But making policies explicitly to save Josh Frydenberg’s old seat was plain stupid.

Here’s what follows. For one thing, I like what US Republican Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri said to a big corporate type who was complaining about some Biden administration regulations that were taking money out of the pockets of the corporate class. I paraphrase, but Hawley’s response amounted to this: ‘You’re against us Republicans on all the crucially important culture stuff and protecting the borders and non-activist judges and on free speech issues but now you want us to help you on economic stuff. I agree with you, by the way, on your free market economic positions but why would I lift a finger to help you? You’ve made your bed. Go and lie in it.’

That is exactly my view. If Labor stupidly starts raiding the superannuation accounts and nest eggs of these big corporate types who are spending shareholder monies to push a Yes on this incredibly divisive and horrible-for-Australia Voice referendum, I cannot think of a single digit on either of my hands that I would lift to help them. Stupidly bad policy to attack super? You bet it is. Worth helping these corporates who basically hate our social and cultural and pro-democracy views? Nope. I’m with Senator Hawley.

Meantime here in Australia there is something all of us voters can do who think that this Voice proposal deals in malicious group rights (based on race or whatever you wish to call it), will undermine democratic decision-making, will lead to rent-seeking, will deliver the exact opposite of reconciliation (just look at the name calling galore from the Yes camp already), the list goes on.

We can inconvenience ourselves enough to avoid the corporates who are taking sides in this debate. Coles is out for me. If Woolworths goes down the same road then it’s IGA. You have to put your money where your mouth is a little, readers. And get ready for all sorts of charities to come out in favour of the Voice (since it’s more virtue-signalling that’s cheap and easy for the people who run them).

Well, they ultimately need charitable donations. Don’t give them a penny of your money. And if any university comes out in favour, write to the vice-chancellor and say that you are stopping all donations to your alma mater.

Remember, for the virtue-signalling lefty elites money still talks. DeSantis has the right idea. We only have our tiny spending but we can choose where it goes.




No comments: