Contributed by Jim Hayes
One of the key architects of the Howard government’s WorckChoices is now a senior adviser, to the prime minister on employment and participation, industrial relations, small business and vocational education and training.
Before this Hendy worked as chief advisor on budget and macroeconomic policy. There is a close relationship with the prime minister and the new appointment means a thorough cementing in neoliberalism as the foundation of the new industrial relations regime.
As chief of staff for Howard industrial relations minister Peter Reith, he helped draft the WorkChoices legislation that reduced the rights of workers to negotiate collectively, brought in individual contracts in place of collective agreements and seriously limited the legal capacity of unions to represent their members. Industry wide industrial action was outlawed. Hendy had been head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI). The plan for WorkChoices was really put together here and then handed over to the politicians.
He head of the ACCI, he also published a paper calling for the cutting of pensions and family payments, and increasing the retirement age to 70. Policies that have now been taken up by the Turnbull government.
In giving policy advice, Hendy serves as a link between the major corporations and the government. This adds credibility to the charge that the corporations write the government’s policy.
Dr Peter Hendy will play a key role in reshaping the new industrial relations policy.
The Fair Work Commission’s cut to penalty rates only days ago, may well be the first installment. As WorkChoices 2 begins to take shape and make itself felt, unions are likely to be forced into responding. Perhaps a new union and community alliance will emerge.
There are already signs of restlessness, based on the expected crunch. And the mood is getting more militant. The recent victory at Carlton and United in Melbourne has given a sense that attacks on wages, conditions and the right to choose to be a member of a union can be fought against successfully.
The most significant importance of the Carlton and United dispute is that it showed that unions can work together and that a powerful nationwide movement can be built.