They cannot talk about it yet but the Liberals still carry a torch for IR reform

Published in The Age, 12 October 2010

Ben Schneiders


    ... last Thursday night a packed Collins Street function spoke volumes of how much industrial relations (IR) still matters to the Liberal Party. And how much they'd like to change the current system, if they could.

    The dinner was to honour retiring HR Nicholls Society president Ray Evans, one of four founders of the Society in the 1980s along with Peter Costello. Its famous union-busting legal cases, such as Dollar Sweets, quickly drew attention and notoriety and prime minister Bob Hawke even described them as "political troglodytes and economic lunatics" at the time ....

    Former Western Mining chief executive Hugh Morgan, in paying tribute to the departing Evans, told the gathering that a review of the Society's early papers "reads of an Australia that is almost unrecognisable today"....

    President Adam Bisits told the function that the advocacy of the society and Evans, who Bisits replaced in April, "has been heeded" because key parts of the old system had been killed off. He highlighted compulsory arbitration, "inflation fuelling" centrally fixed awards, and "monopoly union registration" as issues that since 1992 had been "buried or cremated by voluminous Liberal and Labor legislation".

    How much credit the HR Nicholls Society can take for all that change is open to debate---although it is clear that it played an important role in changing the intellectual climate....

    Even in his farewell speech the battle still raged for Evans, who opposed WorkChoices for having too much regulation.

Schneiders' full article may be viewed online here.