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Bishop defends 'dead' WorkChoices

Posted November 28, 2007 14:49:00
Updated November 28, 2007 14:59:00

Julie Bishop speaks to the media.

Julie Bishop speaks to the media in Perth about her plans to run for the deputy leadership of the Federal Liberal Party. (ABC: Phillip Nyakpo)

Federal Liberal MP Julie Bishop, who is vying for the deputy leadership position, has defended the outgoing Coalition government's WorkChoices legislation.

The controversial legislation has been cited as a reason for the Coalition's crushing election defeat, and former workplace relations minister Joe Hockey says Labor now has a mandate to rip it up.

Mr Hockey said the laws "went too deep" but were introduced with "the best intentions".

"As I said yesterday and I've said since election day, WorkChoices is dead, and there is an overwhelming mandate for the Labor Party's policy of tearing up WorkChoices," he said.

But Ms Bishop says the new Labor Government should not throw out all of the reforms made under the Coalition.

"We haven't seen the precise detail of the ALP policy. That's not known. So when their legislation is drafted it might for example contain major flaws that would have a negative impact on business, on our mining sector," she said.

"So we've got to be very careful to identify and expose any flaws in their legislation."

Tags: business-economics-and-finance, industrial-relations, government-and-politics, elections, federal-state-issues, liberal-party, federal-election-2007, australia

Comments (55)

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  • LJJ:

    28 Nov 2007 5:17:55pm

    Bishop will continue to gain more popularity, the more The ALP ignores the West

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  • Greg:

    28 Nov 2007 5:15:56pm

    The Coalition clearly needs to shift left on certain issues if they want to win favour with the electorate. Workchoices went too far and alienated all those battlers who had voted for Howard in the past. But those who are having a go at Julie Bishop for wanting to review the Labor Party's workplace relations reform don't understand our system of Government properly. It is not the job of the opposition party to rubber stamp everything that the ruling party wants to pass. An effective opposition must constructively review proposed legislation and not just OK it in order to gain the favour of the electorate. The Senate is a house of review and let's not forget that even though the Labor party was elected by a majority of Australians, a majority of Australians did not elect a Labor majority in the Senate.

    In saying all this, if the Coalition fails to allow some very important changes to Worchoices that give some rights back to the worker it will only hurt them at the next poll. They need to find a balance and this is what Bishop is saying. I think she'd be a fantastic opposition leader.

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  • WA Person:

    28 Nov 2007 5:04:07pm

    I wonder whether this Julie Bishop has ever had to work for a living, or, whether she has always lived in an ivory tower.

    Still, she is maintaining the policy of some of the other prominent anti-liberals; "who cares what the people want - we will tell them what they want and how it will be.".

    The vote was clear - the people of Australia voted to eliminate the NoWorkChoices legislation of the dictatorship.

    Now, it is time for this sorry bunch of losers, to move on from their autocracy that was rejected by the people.

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  • Anna:

    28 Nov 2007 4:59:32pm

    ... because Liberal party policies have served you all so well?
    The Prime Minister lost his seat because of these party policies. Given that the Liberals are not in government anywhere maybe it's time people like Julie Bishop stopped talking for a while and started listening . The majority of Australian voters are trying to tell the Liberals something. I thought that after Saturday night, they might have got the message.

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  • Bill:

    28 Nov 2007 4:57:14pm

    Looks like Ms Bishop is yet another Minister who hasn't quite come to grips with Saturday's sudden loss of relevance. Have to love politics, especially the old saying, "one day a rooster, the next day a feather-duster".

    The former Cabinet would all be feeling the media interest in them rapidly evaporating and it would no doubt be rather uncomfortable. Adapting to the lack of staff and the severing of access to departmental resources is probably even worse.

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      • Jenni:

        28 Nov 2007 5:02:30pm

        Your labor party buddy's still don't have the majority in the Senate.
        So lets see what rolls out there.
        And before you get all high and mighty the Labor Party did not support any of the Libs core election promises so don't expect it to be a walkover in the senate.
        Have a nice day with that in mind.

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  • GAS:

    28 Nov 2007 4:54:29pm

    Those people who think Workchoices went too far should remember that the only certain thing Rudd said is that he would abolish it. Rudd did not give any detail about what he would replace Workcover with and has no mandate for the detail. We are yet to see if he goes too far the other way, especially if Gillard wants to pay back the bosses.
    Neither Workchoices or Rudd's system is without merit or fault.
    Bishop is right to want to review it.

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  • Greg h:

    28 Nov 2007 4:48:05pm

    People should be offered choice, not everyone should be forced on a EBA and many people actually like their AWA's and the flexibilty it offers. That is freedom of the individual and thats where the Liberal party comes in, Congrats to Bishop for sticking to party policies.

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  • RvS:

    28 Nov 2007 4:26:41pm

    It all revolves around "unfair dismissals"

    This concept has been rorted for years and must stop.

    I had an occasion where one of my staff had stolen a large sum from my business in NSW. The union stooge at the industrial relations arbitration hearing actually stated that I should take the thief back! How ridiculous was that?

    So I say to all of those who think that employers should be fair game and that stealing from them is ok, how about a concept of "unfair resignation'

    If it is ok to sue for "unfair dismissal" maybe it is possible for employers to ask for the time and money spent training and mollycoddling staff should be repaid if these staff leave before an agreed time frame in the event of an "unfair resignation".

    Life is a two way street.

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      • gazza:

        28 Nov 2007 4:47:29pm

        I agree RVS
        I think that you are correct, any system that is put in place should represent both employers and employees in a fair and unbiased fashion.
        Workchoices was unfair because employees did not have any realistic means to appeal decisions that impacted them directly.
        I hope that the workplaces replacement legislation will be fairer for everyone.

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          • James:

            28 Nov 2007 5:00:34pm

            Oh my God! Constructive commentary and debate regarding WorkChoice/whatever-the-new-ALP-IR-system-is-to-be-called!
            I think I might fall off my chair!

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  • Stoo:

    28 Nov 2007 4:21:54pm

    Well done Julie Bishop.
    You've advocated checking Labor's repeal legislation rather than pass it at face value.
    A strong democracy needs a strong opposition, the coalition is certainly not that. It could become one though by following your example

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  • MG:

    28 Nov 2007 4:12:41pm

    I think this is fair enough from Julie Bishop.
    Not to say hardly surprising - government in exile etc..

    However, she's in opposition now so why not do what oppositions are supposed to do?

    From what I have seen of our new PM I do not think he is one to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If WorkChoices ever had a baby in it, I think he'd find the little fella.

    cheers everybody

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  • Labor Voter:

    28 Nov 2007 4:03:24pm

    Well, she's right. There is need for further IR reform. It should be simple for a business to get rid of a poor employee, but they should be given the opportunity to lift their game. It shouldn't be an exploitable loophole to shed staff without notice or restructure without a redundancy payout. Flexibility is also nice but it will almost always result in exploitation of vulnerable people and the erosion of things like annual and long-service leave, which are important for our society. WorkChoices was just too ideologically driven and contemptuous of low-income workers. I think a lot of the dislike for WorkChoices was due to the manner in which it was forced upon us as well as the apparent intention of disadvantaging those on lower incomes.

    Howard likes to boast that he's a fighter, and that's why WorkChoices failed. He thinks he's still in the 60's fighting the "Reds under the bed", or that he's Margaret Thatcher locked in an epic struggle with the Unions. He got control of the Senate and decided it was time to give those commies a good kick in the guts. Not realising that there are no commies anymore, he missed and kicked the Howard Battlers instead, who turned round and kicked him back on November 24. Instead he should of found out what people are willing to forgo and what compensation/safety-net they want in return.

    * Truly small, not < 100 employees. Preferably based on turnover and number of equivalent full-time employees.

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  • L - Dennistone, Bennelong:

    28 Nov 2007 4:03:18pm

    You worry me Julie Bishop!
    Malcolm has attempted to articulate his position. You are still wearing your pro-work choices hat. If you have not heard the eastern seaboard loud and clear, speak to Joe Hockey when you got a minute.
    Malcolm has also made his position clear on aboriginal reconciliation. All those year under Richard Court ........must be real hard to jettison the baggage.
    What has young Christopher have to say other than of his intentions?

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  • Jamie:

    28 Nov 2007 4:02:37pm

    Congratulations Julie Bishop. She is at least standing up for the West Australians who overwhemingly voted in favour of the Coalitions IR policies. Shame on the rest of the Coalition MP's who have effectively slapped the people of the only Liberal state in the face.

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  • Drew:

    28 Nov 2007 4:02:20pm

    Julie's world will never change - she represents the mega rich in Perth's leafy western suburbs. Her constituents include merchant bankers, mining entrepreneurs & corporate lawyers.
    And for that reason she'll miss the cut!

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      • L - Dennistone, Bennelong:

        28 Nov 2007 4:30:16pm

        Thanks for illustrating to other the bloggers Julie's real agenda.

        She must be out of her mind thinking she represents the women of Australia whilst she supports Work choices.
        Her attempt to sell history lessons to kiddies under Howard was bad enough, but to represent balance and equal employment conditions for women through work choices clearly indicates that she has a pretty skewed view of "Work life balance for women"

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  • stirling voter:

    28 Nov 2007 3:51:58pm

    The WA liberals seem to feel arrogant enough to ignore the 50% of WA voters who did NOT vote for them. Notice how Michael Keenan got elected on local issues but has now come out supporting Workchoices. Julie Bishop has the typical Cottesloe blinkers on - she has just never seen real life. As for Michael Keenan - another puppet for big business.

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      • RvS:

        28 Nov 2007 4:17:13pm

        What about the other 50% who did vote vote Liberal?

        However you look at it, there has to be a balance.

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  • Redfella:

    28 Nov 2007 3:45:48pm

    Call me shallow but I no longer need to cringe when this smiling peanut comes on the telly attached to science and education portfolios...

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  • Emm:

    28 Nov 2007 3:45:33pm

    It seems Julie has the same belligerence that Richard Alston took to his political grave. I wonder if it's in the eyes??

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  • Terry:

    28 Nov 2007 3:44:15pm

    A few weeks ago six friends were at my home. Inevitably the conversation turned to Work Choices. Not one of the six had been adversly affected by the legislation.

    Yet each and every one knew at least one person who had been ripped off by work choices.

    Enough for me to vote Labor. After all, this is supposed to be the land of the "Fair Go" Not "I'm all right Jack"

    Incidentally I've spent over half of my working life in the West Australian mining industry.

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  • Mark:

    28 Nov 2007 3:44:07pm

    Good on you Julie Bishop, you are almost standing alone in the liberal party. I cannot believe the number of Liberal Pollies that are not showing any backbone or committment to their previous policies. As a Liberal voter I gave my mandate and endorsement to them to stand up for what they apparently believed in. What a disappointment so far, our former workplace relations minister doesnt seem to support what his Ministry stood for anymore and I believe should now resign and leave the party rather than looking after his own self interests. Good luck Julie and I hope they make you Deputy Leader as the party will need strong leadership and committment.

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  • Phillip:

    28 Nov 2007 3:43:07pm

    Is this the same Julie Bishop who as Education Minister said that in all her trips around the country she had not seen any evidence of a shortage of computers in schools? I think it must be a bit dark where Julie has her head.

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  • time4change:

    28 Nov 2007 3:35:46pm

    the biggest flaws will be the left overs from the Howard-Liberal years. With * skill shortages from incompetent economic management - leading to wage pressure and higher inflation; * out of control person debt levels from the Liberals lack of understanding of how to run a country and not understanding the real cost of living; * the gross disparity with their fiscal policy - increase tax cuts to the rich - means the rich afford more expensive houses while the poor fail to keep up and bear the brunt of interest rate rises; * nelgigent infrastructure investment - leading to the massive reduction in productivity and under-utilisation of the china mineral boom;

    and this is only the starters - before you get into their lack of understanding about the costs of not doing enough about global warming and embracing new economies.

    Thankfully, we now have a labor government to move Australia out of the 1950's and head to the future.

    The ALP government fixed the country after the Liberals last devestating turn in government in the 1970's-1980s, now its time they do it again.

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  • Lu:

    28 Nov 2007 3:30:19pm

    Workchoices did go too far. Admittedly small business needs assistance with unfair dismissal laws ( i have seen some instances of employees being malicious and underhanded in their use of the system) but there does need to be a fair bottom line. I work on a contract and am lucky enough to have a wonderful employer who does indeed look after staff very well but not all of us are fortunate enough to be in such a situation. I hope that Labor gets it right.

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  • Jeremy:

    28 Nov 2007 3:26:33pm

    It seems amazing that the Senate is only becoming a house of review now that the Coalition doesn't have dominance of both houses.

    Maybe if the review process had been used, WorkChoices would not have gone "too deep" in the first place.

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      • Chris:

        28 Nov 2007 4:41:12pm


        Don't you remember the "mandate" the country gave the previous government on the GST, and the "house of review "watering it down - after the "mandate" was given to the government by the people.

        Cuts both ways methinks

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  • Mick:

    28 Nov 2007 3:22:46pm

    And this is all the more reason why Julie Bishop should fly from the Liberal nest like all the others.

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  • gazza:

    28 Nov 2007 3:21:44pm

    The Coalition paid no attention to the existing body of legislation and best practice and simply replaced it with their own IR laws.
    There was no consultation, simply a few men imposing their belief system on a country.
    It was done with a religious zeal without regard for possible consequences.
    This is not good government, especially in a democracy.
    The people need to know the detail, and the only way that can happen is if their elected representatives ask the questions and get answers.
    The IR laws were introduced, then rushed through without the opportunity for any debate of consequence, hence no opportunity for improvement and modification.
    Howard and his associates had years to get this right, but in the end it seems as though they took their first draft and used that.
    How arrogant is that ?
    They didn't even think that they could be mistaken.
    They should have consulted the Australian People.
    There was no mandate (a much overused word in this context) because the issue was never raised when the coalition was electioneering.
    Ms Bishop defending workchoices is irrelevant in any case as last weekend showed that Australians disliked both the implementation and detail of the coalition IR laws.
    Go back to your constituents Ms Bishop and tell us what their opinion is, instead of trotting out the party polemic.

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  • Tim B:

    28 Nov 2007 3:20:33pm

    Maybe Julie Bishop needs to take another look at what just happened on Saturday night?

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      • Andrew:

        28 Nov 2007 3:54:02pm

        I agree....sadly Ms Bishop is about as clueless as trhe rest of her colleagues......the liberals just don't get it - that simple

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  • Andrea:

    28 Nov 2007 3:20:21pm

    If this is the thinking from a woman vying for the position of Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party I feel sorry for the Libs. She's clearly learned nothing from the weekend landslide and the Libs will be in opposition for a very long time. At least Joe Hockey and some other senior Libs do "get it"

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  • tom:

    28 Nov 2007 3:19:49pm

    Im sure labor won't want any of the coalitions reform that seems quite obvious from their commentry via the media.

    As for a mandate... there was only some 2.1% difference in the primary vote between the two parties, not what i'd call an overwhealming majority of citizens. Sure they might control more seats, but the overall population seems fairly even.

    I hope the coalition shows the new government that its not all fun word games and that they will need to put a lot of effort into their legislation to make sure it is competitive, supports the aging population by keeping unemployment low and doesn't lead to dramatic inflation.

    Ill find it quite amusing however if the coalition blocks their legislation RE: IR till july, Might take the gusto out of the labor dance.

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      • DP:

        28 Nov 2007 3:36:25pm


        The Coalition didn't seem too worried about mandates when they introduced WorkChoices in the first place. Sure, it might have been hidden deep in the very fine print of their policy but it sure wasn't clearly enunciated to the electorate.

        Conversely, Labour fought this campaign on a clear direction to abolish/modify WorkChoices. And they won.

        If that isn't a mandate, what is?

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          • Neal:

            28 Nov 2007 4:22:48pm

            DP I agree with you, the Labor party fought the election on the platform of abolishing workchoices. They did not clearly state how or with what though. This is my problem with them.

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      • Conservative:

        28 Nov 2007 3:41:22pm

        I largely agree with Tom. the task for Labor is to move FORWARD from workchoices, not to go back. The removal of unfaire dismissal laws is critical for small business when they have suffered by being abused by poor workers with no redress. However, workchoices gives all the clout to the employer. I think the task will be how to get a workable medium on this particular issue and for all businesses, not just the small ones. As the CEO of a large company workchoices meant zero to me. However, some ability to deal with recalcitrant workers would be good, but there must be protection against abuse by emplyers too.

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      • Cameron:

        28 Nov 2007 3:46:04pm

        If the Senate were to insist on blocking Labor's changes we could well end up with a double dissolution.

        I don't think the Coalition's in any shape to contest another bout at the polls now, are they? If anything, this could get the Labor dance into full swing!

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          • James:

            28 Nov 2007 4:03:39pm

            A double dissolution actually takes quite a bit of effort to organise. The legislation has to be knocked back three times first, which takes quite a bit of doing. As you say, it also opens the possibility of further electoral woes for the Coalition. Which means that unless the Libs/Nats smell blood they're unlike to force the issue (bear in mind, it would only take one rebellious senator to vote in favour in order for the legislation to pass).
            On the other hand, double dissolutions are notoriously fickle beasts. With the smaller quota required to get a seat (since the number of seats up for grabs doubles) means that minor parties and independents have a far better chance of getting up. Which doesn't necessarily help the ALP. And, for that matter, any election opens up the possibility of an unpredictable event, like the Coalition clawing back part of their vote.
            Conclusion: a double dissolution is very unlikely unless the Coalition thinks they'll win the ensuing election.

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      • al:

        28 Nov 2007 4:09:44pm

        "As for a mandate... there was only some 2.1% difference in the primary vote between the two parties"

        You're counting the National votes in with the Liberals -- it's only fair to count the Green votes in with Labor, as they would be to the left of Labor on IR issues as with most other matters. That takes the gap out to nearly 10%.

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      • jono:

        28 Nov 2007 4:47:53pm

        Actually, 47% of voting Australians voted for the Coalition and 53% voted for Labor. You have to include preferences.

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  • Jimmy:

    28 Nov 2007 3:19:45pm

    Yes Julie - You have got to be seen to represent some business interests over there if they are to continue to give you money. Somehow I think there is little incentive for them to do so left.

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  • matthew C:

    28 Nov 2007 3:16:13pm

    News Flash Julie! Australia does not revolve around the WA mining industry. Saturday was a mandate to abolish AWA's

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      • wmc:

        28 Nov 2007 3:55:27pm

        Newsflash matthew C, Australia mightn't revolve around the WA mining industry but its economy does. Having worked in that industry, I can personally attest to the benefits enjoyed by workers and employers as a result of its de-unionisation via introduction of AWAs.

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          • drew:

            28 Nov 2007 4:12:37pm

            newsflash wmc,
            mining workplaces with collective agreements are more productive than workplaces with AWAs.

            Also the wage disparity between the workers and top level management in mining companies with workers on AWAs is a national record.

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  • Robert:

    28 Nov 2007 3:11:29pm

    Based on Ms Bishop's defence of workchoices, I would like to change my prediction of labor dominance from 3 to 4 terms.

    Thank you.

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  • James A:

    28 Nov 2007 3:11:17pm

    Workchoices doesn't work. There is a real 'black market' in jobs in this country that Workchoices didn't fix. It just sucked more people into the black hole by encouraging big business to practice the same tactics.

    What small business in particular will do is just go back to cash in hand, casuals, and forcing people to 'sub-contract'. This is where they get prospective employees to form their own "business" via ABN's where they then pay the employee's "company". In this way they can force people to accept less than minimum wage. (One restaurant I know pays employees $8.50 an hour this way - minimum wage is $13 an hour.)

    In today's global economy, ever increasingly workers cost very little. In today's 'pure economic' times, conditions and awards are increasingly yesterday's luxuries. We are in a race to the middle, where the economic principles of supply and demand with relation to labour are going global and will eventually make things 'fair'. Automation will also further even up the ante (and you can bet the robots will have a better union than us).

    A government that ignores this risks completely and utterly
    destroying their country. The focus must be on skills, skills and more skills, because skilled people are going to be more in demand than unskilled workers. This is where Howard failed, and why Rudd's education revolution must be more intelligent, more focused and more funded.

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  • Neal:

    28 Nov 2007 3:08:37pm

    This is the thing, Labor have a mandate to rip up WorkChoices, but almost none of the general public have any idea on how WorkChoices actually functions. Labor ran a scare campaign on this issue just like the Coalition did on the unions. What they did not do was actively campaign to address their alternative to WorkChoices. I think Joe Hockey is playing his cards right on this issue. Let Labor come up with something better or die trying.

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      • Jon P:

        28 Nov 2007 3:45:57pm

        Clearly our friend Neal has never had to work for a living. We already had a better system than workchoices. It was based on Collective Bargaining, controlled by the independent umpire, the IRC and allowed decent, hard working people a fair go.
        With attitudes like this it is not hard to see why the Co-alition just had to go!

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  • Alex:

    28 Nov 2007 3:07:30pm

    yess lets save workchoices keep towing this line libs and i can see labors elections adds in 2010/11.. just shows how out of touch they are.. and complaining she hasnt seen labors workchoices detaisl.. umm hrmm what about the libs work choices details before the last election.. oh wait there was none! what a hypocrite

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  • Tc:

    28 Nov 2007 3:07:11pm

    I don't think they will ever learn that the people have given their verdict on WorkChoices. Move on Ms Bishop.

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  • John Mendoza:

    28 Nov 2007 3:07:09pm

    And so Julie Bishop believes Work Choices was good legislation and should be retained - clearly she has lost touch with reality. Even Peter Rieth's old mate, Peter Hendy, says it went too far and the so called the fairness test was flawed. To have nearly 50% of all AWAs fail the fairness test shows Julie Bishop has a strange idea of good legislation. It was a bureaucratic disaster.

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      • Anna:

        28 Nov 2007 4:33:55pm

        The Prime Minister lost his seat because of his Coalition government's woeful and embarrassingly self serving governance. Let me say that again, THE PRIME MINISTER LOST HIS SEAT!

        My god, doesn't that make every sensible person in the country shudder at the sheer horror and enormity of that?!

        And that happened for a reason, Julie Bishop. Desist from this disgraceful self interest and start to govern for all people in your electorate and you might end up being a decent sort of politician who can effect change without causing grief and mayhem as your lotl did with the aberration of Workchoices. Julie Bishop and other coalition government refugees would be well advised not say too much for a while and rather, consider the mess that they have created and that others have to sort out.

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          • Chris:

            28 Nov 2007 5:14:27pm

            Of course Julia Bishop is pro Work choices. She had 3.6 billion dollars worth of funding that she was going to withhold from the states unless they introduced performance based pay for teachers. She also wanted every teacher on an AWA by 2010. Teachers already on AWAs are worse off and can be instantly dismissed.

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