THE industrial relations pendulum has officially started its return swing.Some union thuggery has already heralded a new industrial landscape but it was not until the Gallop Government unveiled its draft legislation that eight years of Liberal reforms started to unwind.Labour Relations Minister John Kobelke has tried to play the middle ground. That would be admirable if it wasn’t so important both for the State and his own party that the current IR environment be maintained.From the State’s point of view, WA has done well to maintain a strong economy.This has been largely due to our mining industry, but productivity is getting better and our future can’t always lie with mining.We need specialist industries in manufacturing and services to thrive, otherwise we will never unshackle ourselves from being a commodity-driven economy.To get manufacturing growth in WA, employers need flexibility in pay and conditions.I am not talking about sweat shops here.Exploiters of labour deserve hard times and they should be exposed for their activities.However, it is not fair that all employers are considered guilty of exploiting their workers before proven innocent. Most workersin WA are happy with payand conditions that few placesin the world can rival.There was little industrial unrest during the Liberal period of Government and the most recent wave of workplace strife was not a genuine groundswell against poor conditions. It was a turf war and power play by union bosses, keen to start using those intimidating muscles again.The best the union movement could come up in their PR war against the bosses was a tradesman paid $100 a week less than some of his co-workers, who allegedly did the same work.I’d like to bet that that man’s employer has a different view about what the same work might entail. The very fact that some people were getting paid more for the “same” job indicates the employer has recognised some level of skill, leadership and other additional usefulness, the very environment which fosters development of individuals who want to get ahead, no matter what job they do. That’s what our community needs.I have nothing against unions but I don’t believe they are qualified to act as industrial policemen.This legislation, if enacted, appears to grant unions this role – allowing them to enter workplaces and inspect employment records.Should parliament be abdicating its responsibility over this important element of our comm-unity and handing such power to a private group?What checks do we have that these private organisations, whose main intent is to increase member-ship and their own power, are acting responsibly?Virtually none, of course.But I am not disappointed with the Labor party. It was only to be expected.They could hardly keep such an important part of the Liberal reforms in place, even though almost everything else seems to have remained untouched.Labor’s problems from this decision will occur next election.Pandering to a few people who many other citizens and many unionists consider thugs will not help them get elected again for two reasons.Firstly, the middle electorate they need to hold no longer see industrial relations with some 19th century viewpoint.Secondly, all of us need jobs and growth. One of the key messages from those Access Ecomonics figures our Treasurer so gleefully waved around is just how important the construction industry is to the health and well being of our economy.I don’t need to remind you which industry is number one on the union hitlist.
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