Claims by the former Minister responsible for ‘Work Choices’, Joe Hockey, that his Liberal Cabinet colleagues did not understand that workers would be worse off by the Liberals’ Work Choices laws are simply not believable, say unions.

Right from the start former Prime Minister John Howard and his senior Ministers refused to guarantee that no worker would be worse off under Work Choices.

Prior to the introduction of Work Choices, the former Prime Minister specifically referred to a situation in which a young worker (Billy) applying for their first job would lose award conditions such as penalty rates, overtime pay and public holiday pay without compensation.

The case of ‘Billy’ was also highlighted in an official information booklet that formed part of the Howard Government’s first attempt in a taxpayer-funded advertising campaign to blatantly mislead the Australian public over the impact of Work Choices.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“This is a case of the Liberals trying to rewrite history and cover up their real intentions. Mr Hockey’s claim, to be aired on ABC TV’s 4 Corners program tonight, is another attempt to mislead the Australian people.

“John Howard spent years refusing to guarantee that workers would not be worse off because he knew and the Coalition Cabinet knew that the clear intention of the laws was that big business would benefit at the expense of employees.

“Work Choices was a favour for the Liberals’ friends in big business and the Liberals were not listening to community concerns over cuts to workers’ job conditions and take home pay.

“The Liberals still are not listening to the community — otherwise they would not be blocking the Rudd Government’s ban to dismantle Work Choices and ban new Australian Workplace Agreements’ (AWAs),” said Ms Burrow.

ABC TV 7.30 Report 10/10/2005:

KERRY O’BRIEN: Isn’t it true, Mr Howard, that Billy, or anybody coming from one job to another, could be confronted with an individual contract that loses all of these conditions, with no particular guarantee of substantial remuneration in return for it, whether they have an agent or not, that the agent isn’t necessarily going to change the mind of an employer who’s determined to enforce it and that they have the choice of either accepting the contract or not getting the job?

JOHN HOWARD: Yes, but you’re talking about somebody who is coming from one job to another. Right now, and under any industrial relations system, people consider changing jobs. They make an assessment according to what they’re offered and if they’re offered something which is better, then they’ll take it. If they’re not offered something that is better, they may not take it.