One of the challenges that writers face is the experience that when you write something, and then read it back to yourself, you realise that it is utter s**t and all your work has been for nought. Such a thing happens quite often. What makes it worse, however, is the fact that writers often appreciate the deficiencies in their work, often understand the flaws once pointed out, and yet can not work out why, nor can work out what, precisely, is wrong with your piece overall. This happens to me quite often, to be honest. On so many nights I write something, feel quite proud of it, and then read it back to myself, and realise that it is drivel so poor that it is unacceptable to publish even by my own (very) low standards.
There are, of course, numerous workarounds to this. I oft impose upon anyone I know who is unfortunate enough to be online at that time to glance through my articles before publication and offer constructive criticism (I suspect there are quite a few people online right now who have placed me upon ‘invisible’ because of this!) The problem with such a method, however, is that many persons from who I ask for assistance, claiming to be friends of mine, remain overly-reluctant to be properly critical (something, it would seem, that springs out of some misplaced feeling of ‘niceness’ they would seem to feel towards my “feelings”).
My usual procedure in such cases is simply to delete my ramblings and start anew the next day, or, at the least, save them in that “to be finishied later” file that is now taking up most of my hard drive.
But today I thought I would try something different. Rather than simply filing away something s**t, find below an article I wrote this evening that I am genuinely ashamed of. It is an article which I know falls flat on every level. Yet I can not put my figure upon why. I know without doubt that this sux, yet I do not know the reason. For sure something is wrong – the structure, just to begin, seems considerably wonky, but what is the real story? Why is it not working? Normally, I would simply delete and start anew. But this time – you tell me!
So I turn it over to you, dear readers. I assume most of you do not hold any form of loyalty bonds that would ensure you be nice to me, and as such are free to speak without restraint. What is wrong with this shockinly appaling blog post below, and how can I improve upon it? I did, after all, try to write something, and the fact it turned out badly is…well.. something I can not account for. So, do help me out 🙂
Do so, and I shall forever be in your debt. Let the piece begin!
“Many liberals hoped that with control of the Senate, Howard would move towards significant deregulation of the labour marke .Their hopes have been dashed. A golden opportunity has been lost for want of moral clarity and political courage“
It is those you love that hurt you the most. How true this is in all our lives. Yet in no sphere is it more true than the political one.
As industrial relations (note to the silly and most-uneducated (tautology?) Americans who read this: IR = labour market) heats up as the prime election issue in Australia, let me say this: not only should we, as those of the center-right, not be nostalgic about the WorkChoices regime, but rather, we should recognise and accept that no greater hurt was inflicted upon Australian conservatives than that particularly odious piece of legislation. Legislation that, in the popular press, has now become synonymous with conservative values. Legislation that cost the Coalition the 2007 election. Yet legislation that, at its core, was at odds with everything we believed in and set our movement back by decades.
I do not dispute WorkChoices well intentioned. I do not dispute that IR reform was needed. But what was done, with little forethought, and even less political acumen, ought never be forgotten. And, going into the 2010 election, removing ourselves from the toxic WorkChoices baggage was always essential.
Yesterday, Tony Abbott announced that a Coalition Government, if elected, shall not bring back WorkChoices. I unequivocally support this. Because WorkChoices did not only destroy the Coalition at the last election, it also destroyed conservative values. IR reform is desperately needed in Australia. Our economy is crying out for modernisation, whilst Labor seems desperate to drag us back to a 1950’s regime. I certainly support radical IR reform (and am somewhat disappointed with the Coalitions stance on this matter). Yet WorkChoices is not a way forward. Why? Because WorkChoices was not conservative.
It didn’t have to be that way. When the legislation was first mooted, it promised a “flexible, simple and fair system”, to replace the joke our IR system was. We were promised it would re-introduce the market, and replace our ridiculously bureaucratic structure, with thousands of minimum wages depending on your specific occupation (for instance) with a simple and fair system.
And then we saw the legislation. And it was nothing of the sort. Thousands of pages of re-regulation (whereas the initial 1904 Conciliation and Arbitration Act was a mere 34 pages, its 2005 descendant toped 700, with a further 3731 explanatory notes lasting for 500 pages, not even including regulations. My printer ran out of ink twice trying to print the damn thing!), where de-regulation was needed. Conservative groups balked. When a motion was put forward to the Federal Council of the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation (a body generally considered the most ‘right’ of all Liberal Party affiliates) in support of WorkChoices, it lost by over 100 votes to –literally – only two votes in favour. The HR Nicholls Society, the vanguard of free labour markets in Australia also attacked the legislation, its President saying it was “very much to Australia’s detriment”.
How did it come to this?
I had intended to initially write about the minute details of the legislation – indeed had written up a few thousand words on the topic – before I realised this was unnecessary. After all, much of the Act has been repealed, so what’s the point?
Rather, I simply wish to state that WorkChoices was a significant departure from over a century of political and constitutional thought by the ‘right’, and constituted an abandonment of the traditional Liberal values of Federalism and decentralisation. Ultimately, rather than deregulating the labor market, it simply re-regulated it in its own manner. And as much fun as creating a legal framework to f**k over Unions may be, it can not justify an overall betrayal of our principles.
I assume I do not need to go into how the WorkChoices regime, by stripping away the IR power of the states through and interpretation of the Corporation clause that could be described as dubious at best, goes against Liberal values, nor shall I go into how it gave the Federal Government powers to determine what company Directors could “eat for lunch”, or gave the Minister the power to literally fly around the country to settle disputes; power that the Kremlin would have been in awe of. I take this as a given.
Rather, I just wish to belt everyone over the head with the fact that, despite the rhetoric of the Government, WorkChoices, rather than being a deregulation of the market, was little more than re-regulation. There was, after all, no change to the practice of government bodies telling an employer what he could pay his employee (note the contrast to the reform processes in New Zealand in the early 1990’s, which saw the wholesale abolition of existing collective institutions, and their replacement with new regulatory structures giving preference to individual contracting.) To the contrary, by trying to construct a system to shut out unions, whilst simultaneously not losing votes by appearing cruel, the changes make the whole system even more complex, with the introduction of new bodies, and new sources of standards, and, despite the Government’s rhetorical emphasis on reducing complexity and duplication, that simply added to the degree of regulatory complexity that has always characterised the Australian system.
The thing that the architects of WorkChoices didn’t realise was that, fundamentally, it is freedom which encourages real entrepreneurship, and sustains economic growth. WorkChoices failed in this regard. It is worth remembering that when, upon introducing the legislation, John Howard stated that the proposals are “not radical” and that Australia’s labour market will still be more regulated that its British and NZ counterparts he was doubtlessly correct. The Act was little more than a further layering of regulation, with the introduction of new bodies, and new sources of standards. Despite the Government’s rhetorical emphasis on reducing complexity and duplication, WorkChoices ought never be viewed as anything other than adding to the degree of regulatory complexity that has always characterised the Australian system.
Tony Abbott is right to declare WorkChoices dead and buried. Because what is needed is true reform. Reform to stop thousands of Australians being unemployed due to nonsensical minimum-wage regimes. Reform to allow an employer and employee to agree on a contract, without a government arbitrator interfering. Reform that will once again restore to the states their constitutional prerogatives.
Julia Gillard keeps talking about moving Australia Forward. Might I suggest we all take this opportunity to ensure that, rather than regressing to a 1950’s IR regime, we actually do so. But, in doing so, remember, as desperately as IR reform is needed, WorkChoices was never the answer.
I wish to very, very much stress that these are my own personal views, and do not reflect the opinion of the HR Nicholls Society, of which I am a member of the Board of Management.