Katina Curtis: IR win for Government may turn out to be a Christmas trap

Headshot of Katina Curtis
Katina CurtisThe West Australian
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Andrew McKellar.
Camera IconAustralian Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Andrew McKellar. Credit: ABC

There were many “Merry Christmases” bandied around during Thursday’s debate on industrial relations.

Some of them were genuine. Others, like those from Michaelia Cash talking of employers hit by the changes, dripped with sarcasm.

The Government’s surprise end-of-year deal to pass a chunk of the changes – crucially, including a crackdown on labour hire – has infuriated businesses who were sure they had crossbenchers firmly in their corner.

It gives Labor a win to end the year after a dismal few weeks.

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But at what cost?

Big business and the resources sector are ready to unleash hell on the Government over the next 18 months.

“One of the things the Government has to consider in this is does it really want to trash the relationship with the business community, does it want to really put that at risk … over payback to unions?” Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry head Andrew McKellar said.

Business organisations led by the Minerals Council of Australia have already spent millions of dollars on advertising in a bid to defeat the laws.

That won’t stop just because the labour hire legislation has passed.

Labor holds government by a slim majority and it won’t take much to tip that over.

Many of those on the frontbench were around in the Gillard era when the mining tax campaign spent big and got results.

Miners may hold less social capital in parts of the country a decade on but they still are vital in the states Labor most needs electorally: WA and Queensland.

It may be the prospect of minority government does not scare Labor, given Anthony Albanese and Tony Burke have proven they can deal with the crossbench to achieve their agenda.

But that too is a gamble the crossbenchers – who hold largely traditional Liberal seats – would stick with them if they felt the tide had turned.

Something to ponder over Christmas.

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