Business Council extends olive branch to Labor
Australia's premier business lobby group is confident of working with the newly-elected Labor Government, despite bankrolling an anti-union advertising campaign.
The Business Council of Australia (BCA) has now distanced itself from the campaign theme that dominated John Howard's pitch to voters, admitting Labor now has a clear mandate to overturn WorkChoices and abolish Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs).
The BCA and other lobby groups such as the Australian Industry Group and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) are now preparing to discuss the new industrial relations era with Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd and his deputy Julia Gillard.
But BCA newly-appointed president Greig Gailey denies the anti-trade union campaign, which warned of the return of union thugs under a Labor government, was politically motivated.
"The Government has a clear mandate and I think the issue for us in industrial relations now is how do we make the new system work," he said.
"We did not run a political campaign, we ran an issues campaign and I think we're entitled to have a view on what should and shouldn't be incorporated into policy."
Mr Gailey also said he did not believe the election of the Rudd government meant the return of union dominance to the workplace.
"I am absolutely confident we will continue to work effectively with trade unions."
The Australian Industry Group, which did not participate in the anti-union campaign and remained neutral, indicated the advertising had overstepped the mark.
Chief executive Heather Ridout said some of the advertising was unhelpful and did not depict the full story on the relationship between trade unions and business.
"All union officials are not thugs. Some of them certainly have been and they've been pretty well identified during the long campaign we've had about unions," she said.
"I think the whole emotion that went around on WorkChoices was very political and didn't necessarily have a lot to do with good workplace regulation."
Mr Gailey said despite the concerns during the election campaign about the power of union leaders, he was not worried about the government dominated by newly-elected union identities such as Bill Shorten and Greg Combet.
"We've worked successfully with Labor governments in the past and I don't see any issues in terms of the people who will be part and parcel of of that government and that we won't be able to work with them," he said.
"We'll have disagreements, but we've had disagreements with the Coalition and that's part and parcel of life."
Mr Gailey would not be drawn on the shock decision by the former treasurer Peter Costello not to contest the liberal leadership, but expressed concerns about a rudderless opposition.
"We believe strong government requires a strong and effective opposition and we would hope that (the Coalition) arrive at a solution that provides just that."