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Beyond industrial relations

WorkChoices and the reshaping of labour, class and Commonwealth

Bradon Ellem

Introducing WorkChoices

In July 2005, the Howard government secured control of both houses of parliament when the Senators who had been elected in the coalition's triumph at the federal poll in October 2004 prepared to take their seats. No government had had such parliamentary power for a generation. No prime minister was less likely to throw away the opportunities this presented than John Howard for whom industrial relations 'reform' has been an article of faith throughout a lifetime in politics. Whereas the deliberations concerning the first national law to regulate industrial relations (the Conciliation and Arbitration Act passed almost exactly 101 years earlier) had consumed the Commonwealth parliament for years, Howard moved quickly. His government's policy was formally outlined in late May 2005 and on 7 December, WorkChoices, as the legislation was now badged, was passed by parliament after a hurried Senate inquiry and with only minor amendments.

Of course, it is the case that, amid a raft of social, economic and legislative changes, many of the structures and processes developed under the legislation of 1904 had been eroded since the late 1980s, beginning with the introduction of the 'two-tier' wage-fixing system. Does this mean that WorkChoices was a mere continuation of these trends and a corollary of those other policy changes? To answer this question, to decide just how far-reaching are the changes in and consequent upon the legislation, is the core task that this commentary sets itself. To do so, it is necessary to explain and contextualise the new Act.

Labouring under WorkChoices

Despite the government's claims that its policies are about freeing up and simplifying industrial relations, the legislation is long, dense, complex and extremely prescriptive. And for all that, there is still more to WorkChoices than the near 800 pages of the Act itself; there are 400 pages of attendant 'Regulations' released in late March 2006. These regulations provide detail on integral parts of the working of the new regime, including the transition from old to new, the relationship between State and Commonwealth instruments, and the powers handed to the minister to alter laws and, in effect, make new ones by direct regulation.

WorkChoices itself is far-reaching enough. Subject to High Court challenges, it will see a major shift towards a so-called unified industrial relations system, with the corporations power in the Constitution being used to overcome the limitations on the Commonwealth's powers over industrial relations and, therefore, reducing the states' rights in the field of employment regulation. Perhaps 80 per cent of Australian employees are likely to be 'captured' by the Commonwealth, although the coverage will vary from one state to another.

The legislation has reduced the power of old bodies and instruments while empowering new ones. It removes basic entitlements from awards and instead establishes four minimum conditions to be known as 'Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standards'. These cover annual leave, sick leave, unpaid parental leave (including unpaid maternity leave), and maximum (but annualised) working hours. Together with the minimum wage, this set of conditions constitutes the five basic standards of employment - all else is up for grabs. The 'Fair Pay Commission' takes over many of the functions of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC), setting a minimum wage, at intervals not yet known, with an overriding focus on so-called economic impacts. The erosion of the award system is now all but complete: not only will content be further stripped back but no new awards can be made at all.

The 'No Disadvantage Test' for measuring agreements against awards has been removed, replaced by these Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standards. The overall reduction in the total number of 'allowable matters' thus imposes further limits on the ability of the AIRC to arbitrate disputes. Before the Bill appeared, there was much debate over the question of the impact of unfair dismissal laws on small business, with 20 employees widely anticipated to be the benchmark. The government stunned most people by simply making this debate almost irrelevant. Almost all companies are exempted from the unfair dismissal regime; only those with 100 or more employees are covered.

For unions, the regulation and controls have become still more daunting than under the Workplace Relations Act. There are more limitations on the rights of unions to organise and to bargain on behalf of their members. The Act limits access to worksites and imposes further constraints on industrial action and it gives the minister new powers to end bargaining periods and, therefore, 'protected action'. At the same time, WorkChoices allows - and one might say encourages - lockouts. None of the time-consuming, complex and onerous restrictions placed on unions pursuing industrial action apply to employers - an extraordinary situation without parallel in comparable countries.

When it comes to agreement-making, workers and unions also face obstacles. It will continue to be lawful to make signing an individual contract, an Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA), a precondition of employment for 'new starts'. WorkChoices also allows for new types of collective agreements. A 'greenfield agreement' can be made for a 'new undertaking' or a 'new project', not just for a new company. One variant of this beggars belief: an 'employer greenfield agreement' involving neither employees nor unions can be drawn up, lodged, and then imposed on all new employees.

So, in contemporary industrial relations, we have compulsion described as 'choice' and diktat as 'agreement-making'. The consequent capacity for long-term assaults on unionism requires no further discussion here, nor does the de facto undermining of employees' right to engage in collective bargaining.1

If the legislation fails to 'simplify' the regulation of the employment relationship, the other set of stated aims used by its proponents and apologists merit a brief mention in concluding this section. These assertions turn on the claimed economic benefits of downplaying arbitration and collective bargaining, such as productivity growth and higher labour market participation. To analyse these putative connections is beyond the scope of this commentary, which concentrates on placing WorkChoices in its historical context. However, two points may be made in passing. First, this is an old debate, inspiring a set of questions instantly recognisable to labour historians familiar with the shifting focus of Commonwealth arbitration from the needs-based (male) wage to arguments about 'capacity to pay'. This debate had clear policy implications with the Court and then the AIRC, having long been required to consider the economic impact of wage judgements. To pretend that these impacts were never considered is to mistreat the historical record. Secondly, and in part as a result of these tensions, there is a rich and complex body of literature on the impact of wage levels, arbitration and forms of bargaining on the economy. There is, in short, no consistent and compelling evidence to support the particular claims of this government that a productivity surge is now likely.2 That there has been almost no serious debate around this issue is not only alarming but also leaves one to ask what lies behind WorkChoices. To this, we now turn.

Reshaping regulation

How new is WorkChoices? Answering this question - important for understanding both history and likely futures - requires us to ask more. Does WorkChoices represent a radical shift in industrial relations policy? How ambitious is it?

There are good grounds to see WorkChoices as merely an extension of the national industrial relations policies of the last generation and, most markedly, as a way for the Howard government to overcome the compromises forced on it in the making of the Workplace Relations Act in 1996. Some proponents and opponents of these policies have argued that each of these changes is indeed incremental, that WorkChoices is not a fundamental shift. Some on the left, critical of, or at least disappointed with, Labor's record - especially in the 1990s - say that the groundwork was laid then and that WorkChoices is the latest, and, in some senses, logical form of these developments. At times, government spokespeople say similar things, trying to downplay the significance of their own policy initiatives. Others, and many of their backers, appear to see WorkChoices as flawed and compromised: there should be no tribunals and few laws specifically designed to regulate employment.3 Many historians, partly out of frustration with the 'presentism' of much discussion of government policy, might concur with some of this. After all, what's so new? Bosses have been wanting to bash unions for years. As labour historians, we could trace this kind of anti-unionism and anti-arbitration to the 1920s, if not before. We always took some comfort in the much-repeated story that the last conservative leader to try to trash arbitration, Stanley Melbourne Bruce, not only lost the 1929 election but lost his own seat to a senior union official.

These lines of argument are not without merit but they understate the depth and breadth of the ambitions within and behind WorkChoices. To say that WorkChoices is - or aims for - a fundamental shift in industrial relations is not to say that it lacks precedents or contexts. Such a line of argument would be nonsensical, not least in a history journal. So, yes, there are many developments which now appear to presage WorkChoices. And, importantly, if we look to other parts of Australasia, we can readily find legislative changes that were more far-reaching than the Workplace Relations Act and, in this sense, too appear to be part of the path towards WorkChoices, notably the Employment Contracts Act, 1991 in New Zealand and the Employee Relations Act, 1992 in Victoria. Both of these Acts, passed in the very jurisdictions which had pioneered liberal state intervention in the late nineteenth century, abolished awards and aimed, it seems, to do likewise to unions.4 Similarly, in Western Australia, the Workplace Agreements Act, 1993 radically reshaped agreement-making in favour of individual contracts and had the effect of allowing a rapid growth in entirely unregistered forms of workplace regulation.5 At the national scale, though, WorkChoices is a radically new intervention, albeit one shaped by the reaction of business and lobbyists to legislation in these other places at earlier times.

There are three sets of reasons for believing that WorkChoices marks a fundamental shift in industrial relations policy. The first is a matter of terminology, of how we understand recent changes in industrial relations. The second is to do with the Australian Constitution. The third reason lies in how we explain the changes - and this goes to the very nature of liberalism and the Australian state.

Turning first to terminology. Part of the problem lies in the common use of the word 'deregulation' - by people on all sides of the debate - to describe the trajectory of industrial relations (and economic) policy. For our purposes, the problem is that the word conflates two quite distinct processes and disguises others. Over a decade ago, reviewing the early stages of the shift from tribunal regulation in Australia, Buchanan and Callus argued that the word deregulation was unhelpful because all workplaces and employment relationships are necessarily regulated in some way or another. The only question is 'how to regulate the labour market'.6

Buchanan and Callus drew on the work of the British scholar Flanders to show that there are two types of rules governing work: external and internal.7 External regulation is, in some way, underwritten by social norms, and historically has been primarily driven by employees and their organisations seeking to develop common standards but also, as Buchanan and Callus point out, by the state.8 Internal regulation arises from workplace-specific actions by employees and unions too, but in this case the main driver has been management as it seeks to control labour through changes in strategy and work organisation.9 It is plain that the intention of WorkChoices is to continue to privilege internal regulation, that is to say, to privilege enhanced managerial control over external regulation and collective forms of employee representation.10

We must still ask: what's new? Where the Workplace Relations Act and more markedly still WorkChoices differ from previous policy agendas is in the forms which this regulation takes. For, if we unpack the word deregulation still further, we can see that it conflates two processes which are really quite distinct: the first is the scale at which the employment relationship is regulated; and the second is the agents involved in these processes. Under Labor's Accord there began a process of changing the scale of regulation. This was decentralisation from national or industry levels to the enterprise level. (Incidentally this was not novel; contrary to much that is said, Australian industrial relations was not necessarily or consistently centralised before then.) The change since 1996 has been a second and quite distinct one - the de-collectivisation of industrial relations, circumscribing the role of unions as agents of representation and bargaining. WorkChoices aims both to decentralise and de-collectivise the regulation of work.11

Next we turn to the issue of the constitutional underpinnings of WorkChoices, and why they matter. As all students of industrial relations know - or should know - the Constitution afforded the Commonwealth, a limited and indirect power over the regulation of work. The sole explicit reference to industrial relations lies in the much-quoted Section 51 (xxxv): that parliament may only make laws with respect to 'conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State'. The Constitutional power was limited: plainly, the intention was that local disputes - the great majority - would not be referred to the new Commonwealth. Equally importantly, the 'labour power' was indirect: the Constitution did not say that parliament could make laws directly 'with respect to industrial relations', far less wages and conditions. The wording was quite clear: Parliament only had power to make laws for 'conciliation and arbitration' with respect to industrial relations. In effect, it was required to establish tribunals (in 1904 the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration) to regulate the employment relationship - and any such bodies would themselves be limited in their scope.

Commonwealth arbitration expanded, albeit unevenly, across the twentieth century through a range of mechanisms such as the creation of ambit logs-of-claim, 'paper disputes' and 'roping-in awards', the growth of federally-registered unions and broader judicial interpretations of the meanings of the 'prevention' as well as the 'settlement' of disputes and the meaning of an industrial dispute itself. Conservative critics of arbitration and centralism like to parody these developments or portray them as somehow subversive of the Constitution, but what they were really about was creating a way for labour regulation to work reasonably smoothly while a national polity, a national economy and perhaps a national moral economy emerged. Despite these developments, it was only relatively recently that governments found ways around the limitations of the labour power, apart from using national security provisions in time of war. The external affairs power, allowing treaty-making, was used to try to enforce (some of) the international conventions on employment issues to which Commonwealth governments had become signatories. The corporations power, allowing law-making for the regulation of many aspects of the activities of incorporated bodies, was used, among other things, to facilitate the spread of non-union enterprise bargaining. It is this power which now underpins much of WorkChoices.12

Once again, we could ask what is new about this. There is a subtle but immensely significant change involved, for the corporations power is now to be used not as an adjunct to the labour power but more or less instead of it. And why? Because the labour power is necessarily collective in form - union-based in effect - and this does not sit well with the new conservatives in and behind the coalition parties; and because the corporations power can be used to cut down states' rights in a way which, as has just been explained, the labour power cannot. 13

This brings us to the core issue of the scope of intended change. Through the Constitutional mechanisms it uses, WorkChoices' ambitions are laid bare: nothing less than the destruction of the collectivism in labour law and practice which most states in market economies have relied upon since at least World War II, and a centralisation of power quite at odds with the traditions of liberalism - and Liberalism - in Australia. WorkChoices, as McCallum has argued, privileges corporations law over labour law: 'this will inevitably lead to the corporatisation of Australian labour law' in the coming years.14 This is because these laws are designed to deal with the needs of corporations: arguably employees are merely of secondary importance here. Of course, under labour law, they are central, whatever we may think of tribunal decisions about particular disputes from time to time. Nor are government intentions to 'corporatise' the employment relationship exhausted by WorkChoices. The government plans to undermine collective labour law still further through its proposed Independent Contractors Act this year by redefining employees as so-called independent contractors. Some have hinted that this would rival or even outstrip the changes made thus far.15

The final pointer to the breadth of the intended changes is that WorkChoices is embedded in a series of other re-orderings of society and politics in Australia. The key to this lies in the tensions around the commonly observed transition of ideology and political practice, from the liberalism which was expressed through the creation of arbitration and much of the Keynesian 'post-war settlement', to contemporary neo-liberalism where, in the name of market efficiency, the objectives of management are considered paramount and where 'free market' ideals appear to be hegemonic. The same logic drives the 'welfare-to-work' initiatives which are thoroughgoing in themselves and which will have marked effects under WorkChoices in creating a pool of low-wage labour.16 However, this transformation in liberalism and the state is paradoxical. Governments in Australia talk of the free market, deregulation, and now choice, but they act in highly interventionist and prescriptive ways. As this process began in Australia, its shape was nicely captured by Bell and Head, who posited that we were witnessing 'state intervention in the name of market forces'.17

The paradoxes abound: as this government sets out to individualise the employment relationship, it does so by centralising power over the Australian states, and indeed the citizen. It seeks a so-called national system, as we have shown, not through unifying the traditional industrial laws but by subordinating them to corporation laws.18 WorkChoices and its Constitutional basis turn 'on its head the history of a party which since its inception 60 years ago has typically been the champion of 'states' rights''.19

Just how WorkChoices plays out will depend on many things, from High Court decisions, to state politics, and on economic performance in and beyond Australia. The orientations, strategies and opportunities that employers, managers, workers and unions have and make will be decisive. In the ambitions and the aims of the legislation lies a historical break, however matters turn out.

Reshaping society

To grapple properly with the historical departures that are involved in the legislation, it is necessary to acknowledge that the regulation of industrial relations is, so to speak, about 'more than industrial relations' - and it was ever thus.

The industrial relations policies to which arbitration was central were bound up in the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia itself. The government is fond of saying that what remained of this set of arrangements, even after the Workplace Relations Act, was obviously outmoded. They claim this was so in two senses: first, that as all other markets and policies have been 'deregulated', the labour market should be no exception; and second, that work and workers have changed utterly in the last century.

The first claim can be disposed of quickly, resting as it does on a specious, if common, argument which sees labour markets as equivalents to other markets, despite labour power being vested in human beings. Its analytical and empirical bases, such as they are, lie in the questionable claims, already discussed, that a so-called deregulated labour market is a more efficient one. The second claim, about changes in the nature of work, would not in itself be contested by labour historians but raises important points for a historical evaluation of WorkChoices. The wage-fixing principles of the arbitral systems were based on, and confirmed, the assumption that the typical worker in this new Commonwealth was understood as a received fact of nature: he was a he. He would be paid a 'fair and reasonable' wage on the assumption that he was, or would become, the breadwinner for a family.20

Few questioned the gender politics of these arrangements. Most of the feminists of the day accepted the prevailing middle-class view that a woman's place was in the home; they accepted the 'separate spheres', but the feminist distinctiveness lay in using that argument to point to the importance of the domestic sphere and to link it to the public sphere by organising for votes for women and extolling temperance. Nonetheless, women were plainly second-class citizens. In a memorable summary of this state of affairs, Lake has suggested that arbitration 'was locking men into breadwinning just as surely as Â… confirming women in dependency'.21

Similarly, few questioned the class alignments that emerged after the 1890s or, more accurately, those who wanted to do so, could not. As Macintyre puts it, 'forms of political representation made it possible for an electoral majority to intervene in industrial relations and impede capital from taking full rewards for its [industrial] victory' of the 1890s.22 For their part, most of the craft unions which organised the skilled male workers supported, in effect, a compact which excluded cheap female labour and which, through the 'family wage', might allow a man to become a boss, a 'master' in his own right.

The government and its urgers have cleverly played with this history. They point to the massive changes in the gender division of labour and in contemporary tensions around work and family to argue that awards, arbitration and even collective enterprise agreements are inflexible and rigid and particularly hurtful to women. That Australia remains only one of two OECD countries without paid maternity leave and childcare is scarce and expensive are, of course, issues which are overlooked in that analysis.23 Not only do government arguments obscure the real problems which women face - of contemporary labour market access and equity - they also play with the long practice of opposition to the patriarchal and exclusivist aspects in arbitration's history. It was precisely the sorts of individuals and organisations now pilloried by the government and employer groups as defenders of this 'old-fashioned' scheme and as members of the 'IR Club' who were the leading critics and opponents of these gendered arrangements as the twentieth century wore on - that is, feminist scholars and pressure groups, some left-wing unions and any number of political activists.

When we turn to the changing class alignments informing industrial relations and WorkChoices, the government is no less disingenuous - but it is also here that we see some of the truly ambitious components of the Howard agenda. One of the keys to the remaking of industrial relations policy in the recent past lies in a class re-alignment; not so much between classes as within them. As the alliances and policies around tariff protection and labour market regulation - so central to the making of arbitration in 1904 - have broken down, the power and politics of different sectors of capital have re-aligned. Major employers in heartlands of the so-called old economy, notably mining, are thoroughly antagonistic to organised labour and to external labour market regulation. The management strategies pursued by Peko Wallsend which led to the Robe River dispute in 1986 now appear to have been the harbingers of what has become the norm, at least in the rapidly growing metalliferous sector. In the 'new economy', bank and finance capital lead the way in shedding staff and isolating unions. Employer associations which were once at least union-tolerant are no longer benign; law firms and anti-union consultants rule the roost.

In short, there has been a major shift in the politics of the class forces driving industrial relations change. John Howard needs no pushing in any case; he has of course nurtured ambitions of root and branch change for practically his whole political life. Beware of politicians who stick to their word!

However, there is still more to this reworking of history and to the ambition behind WorkChoices. For while this re-alignment of class forces takes place, Howard articulates something which in some respects does recall the world of the craftsmen aspiring to the status of master. He has spoken of what he sees as a new kind of employee in Australia, one for whom WorkChoices is liberating; but more than this, one to whom the complexities and uncertainties of modern work are not threats but are full of promise. In a speech in July 2005, he echoed, as Hall points out, Menzies' call to the 'forgotten people', moving quickly from the familiar economic arguments for change to talk about something far more interesting and revealing.24 He spoke of the 'enterprise worker', an employee with 'an attitude of mind' quite distinct from the past, one for whom the focus is on the long term, on linking 'initiative, performance and reward'. These men and women will transform work and society, creating and signalling the end of 'traditional' industrial relations.25 Ambitious indeed - all the more so when the promotion of so-called independent contracting is added to the mix.

WorkChoices is no less ambitious than the policies which melded together in the early part of the twentieth century; it is no less intertwined with other areas of policy and law. The introduction of arbitration in 1904 was inseparable from immigration and population policy and, in effect, was a family policy. Immigration was designed to build a 'white Australia', rendering invisible the original inhabitants and keeping Asian workers (and their products) beyond the borders. The importance of these connections can hardly be overstated. Throughout the early years of the twentieth century, there were Royal Commissions and inquiries into labour shortages, birth rates and women's work. Nor were men exempt from state concern: policy makers worried about manhood, impotency and 'seminal loss'; parenthood became a national duty; avoiding fatherhood was 'unmanly'.26 Today, WorkChoices is about much more than industrial relations, though that would be radical enough. It is at once a dramatic reflection of changes in Australian society, and an attempt to reshape still further not only the regulation of employment but also class and power in Australia.


Drawing this together, it becomes apparent that there are inevitable historical continuities in the making and the form of WorkChoices but the new legislation also represents a thoroughgoing attempt to rework the regulation of the employment relationship - and more besides.

The context in which WorkChoices has emerged is both a break from, and resonant with, the past. Social norms, family structures and the shape of labour markets are, of course, different from a century ago. There are, however, continuities: questions about the place of a small economy in a global setting were and remain important; questions about the training and growth of a skilled labour force, and questions of family and immigration were and remain important. What is quite different is the outcome: from these arguments a century ago emerged a Commonwealth. The new nation's claims to be a 'paradise', a 'social laboratory', have long been subject to critical re-evaluation, not least in the pages of Labour History. Nonetheless, the idea that wages should be 'fair and reasonable', that collective bargaining should be sanctioned by law, were central to the very making of the nation. In WorkChoices, all this is gone: amid the rhetoric of choice, individuals are left alone to settle their working conditions. To achieve this reshaping of industrial relations, the actual practice of government is, in the name of choice, to centralise power and enhance the authority of the corporation.

What WorkChoices means for labour, for organised labour, is problematical indeed given such a massive re-alignment of class and state power and ideology. For if the aims of the new Act are as ambitious as they seem, if it is the greatest re-working of employment regulation Australia has seen, then a concomitant re-ordering of the union movement may be necessary - all this after at least a decade under siege. Maybe the darkest hour is right before the dawn.


Bradon Ellem is an Associate Professor in Work and Organisational Studies in the University of Sydney. "Beyond Industrial Relations: WorkChoices and the Reshaping of Labour, Class and the Commonwealth" is reproduced with kind permission from Labour History, no. 90, May 2006, pp. 211-220. Labour History is an internationally recognised journal published twice a year by the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History. You can subscribe using the Society's secure website.



1. This summary, which is by no means exhaustive, draws on The Hon. Kevin Andrews, 'A New Workplace Relations System: A Plan for a Modern Workplace', press release, 26 May, 2005; Australian Government, WorkChoices: A Simpler, Fairer, National Workplace Relations System for Australia, 2005; Group of 150 Australian Industrial Relations, Labour Market, and Legal Academics, 'Research Evidence About the Effects of the 'Work Choices' Bill', A Submission to the Senate Inquiry into the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Bill 2005, November 2005; Chris Briggs and John Buchanan, WorkChoices: Overview and Likely Implications, Australian Centre for Industrial Relations Research and Training, University of Sydney, 2005; Andrew Stewart with Elizabeth Priest, The Work Choices Legislation: An Overview, 2006 at; Chris Briggs and John Buchanan, 'Work, Commerce and the Law', A New Australian Model?', Australian Economic Review, no. 38, 2005, pp. 182-91.

2. For recent overviews of this, especially around the question of productivity, see Keith Hancock and Sue Richardson 'Economic and Social Effects', in J. Isaac and S. Macintyre (eds), The New Province for Law and Order: 100 Years of Australian Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004, pp. 139-206; John Burgess, 'The Federal Arbitration System and Australian Economic Performance', Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 46 no. 4, December 2004, pp. 413-29; Keith Hancock, 'Wage Determination and the Twentieth Century Australian Economy', in J. Isaac and R. D. Lansbury (eds), Labour Market Deregulation: Rewriting the Rules, The Federation Press, Leichhardt, 2005, pp. 182-90; David Peetz, 'Hollow Shells: The Link Between Individual Contracting and Productivity Growth', Journal of Australian Political Economy, no. 56, December 2005, pp. 32-55; David Peetz, Brave New Workplace: How Individual Contracts are Changing Our Jobs, Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest, 2006, especially Ch. 3.

3. The H.R. Nicholls Society remains perhaps the strongest proponent of this line of attack. See the papers from their 20th anniversary conference 'Starting All Over Again', March 2006;

4. Gordon Anderson, 'Individualising the Employment Relationship in New Zealand: An Analysis of Legal Developments', in S. Deery and R. Mitchell, Employment Relations, Individualisation and Union Exclusion: An International Study, The Federation Press, Leichhardt, 1999, pp. 204-26; M. Pittard, 'Victorian Industrial Relations: From Deregulation to Devolution', in D. Nolan (ed.), The Australasian Labour Law Reforms: Australia and New Zealand at the End of the Twentieth Century, The Federation Press, Leichhardt, 1998, pp. 172-89.

5. N. L. Wallace-Bruce, 'Of Waves and Ripples: Reform of Employee Relations Law in Western Australia', in D. Nolan (ed.), The Australasian Labour Law Reforms: Australia and New Zealand at the End of the Twentieth Century, The Federation Press, Leichhardt, 1998, pp. 190-206; B. Ford, 'Changing the Dynamics of Bargaining: Individualisation and Employment Agreements in Western Australia', in S. Deery and R. Mitchell (eds), Employment Relations: Individualisation and Union Exclusion, The Federation Press, Leichhardt, 1999, pp. 88-114; P. Todd, D. Caspersz and M. Sutherland, 'Out with the Individual Agreements, in With Collective BargainingÂ… Did Someone Forget to Tell the Employers?, Employers' Responses to the Changes in Western Australia's Regulatory Framework', in M. Barry and P. Brosnan (eds), New Economies: New Industrial Relations, Refereed Proceedings of the 18th AIRAANZ Conference, 2004.

6. J. Buchanan and R. Callus, 'Efficiency and Equity at Work: The Need for Labour Market Reform in Australia', Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 35, no. 4, December 1993, p. 521, original emphasis.

7. A. Flanders, Management and Unions: The Theory and Reform of Industrial Relations, Faber and Faber, London, 1975; first published 1969, p. 90; Buchanan and Callus, 'Efficiency and Equity at Work'.

8. Flanders, Management and Unions, pp. 90-91; Buchanan and Callus,'Efficiency and Equity at Work', p. 520.

9. Flanders, Management and Unions, pp. 91-92.

10. A wealth of data has been collected in recent years on the impact of the Workplace Relations Act and its antecedents. Much of this is collected in a special issue of the Journal of Australian Political Economy: Whose Choices? Analysis of Current Industrial Relations 'Reforms' , no. 56, December 2005.

11. See R. Cooper, 'Deregulation of the Labour Market: The Impact Upon Collective Organisation', in J. Isaac and R. Lansbury (eds), Labour Market Deregulation: Rewriting the Rules, The Federation Press, Leichhardt, 2006, pp. 93-106; and B. Ellem, M. Baird, R. Cooper and R. Lansbury, ''WorkChoices': Myth-Making at Work', Journal of Australian Political Economy, no. 56, December 2005, pp. 13-31, for a longer discussion of these matters.

12. B. Creighton and A. Stewart, Labour Law, 4th edn, The Federation Press, Leichhardt, 2005; on the corporations power in particular, see R. McCallum, 'The Australian Constitution and the Shaping of our Federal and State Labour Laws', Paper presented to the Industrial Relations Society of New South Wales 46th Annual Convention: Beyond the Centenaries, Rethinking Labour Relations, May 2005.

13. This argument is developed from a reading of McCallum, 'The Australian Constitution and the Shaping of our Federal and State Labour Laws'.

14. Ibid.

15. Briggs and Buchanan, 'Work, Commerce and the Law'.

16. For a comprehensive critique of the development of welfare-to-work in North America and Europe see J. Peck, Workfare States, The Guilford Press, New York, 2001.

17. S. Bell. and B. Head, 'Australia's Political Economy: Critical Themes and Issues', in B. Head and S. Bell (eds), State, Economy and Public Policy in Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1994, p. 21; for a more recent and fuller discussion of this issue, see M. Baird, B. Ellem and C. Wright, 'Why the States Matter in Industrial Relations: An Overview of the State Systems', Australian Review of Public Administration, September 2005 at

18. Baird et al, 'Why the States Matter'.

19. Ibid.

20. Both points are nicely dealt with in J. Isaac, 'The Deregulation of the Australian Labour Market', in J. Isaac and R. D. Lansbury (eds), Labour Market Deregulation: Rewriting the Rules, The Federation Press, Leichhardt, 2005, pp. 1-14.

21. M. Lake, 'The Politics of Respectability: Identifying the Masculinist Context', Historical Studies, vol. 22 no. 86, 1986, p. 130; see also E. Ryan and A. Conlon, Gentle Invaders: Australian Women at Work, Penguin, Ringwood, 1975; S. Macintyre, Winners and Losers: The Pursuit of Social Justice in Australian History, Allen and Unwin, Sydney , 1985.

22. S. Macintyre, 'Labour, Capital and Arbitration', in B. Head (ed.), State and Economy in Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1983, p. 105.

23. For a much more acute reading of the work-life issue than the government's take, see B. Pocock, The Work-Life Collision, The Federation Press, Leichhardt, 2003, and for an assessment of paid maternity leave see M. Baird, 'Orientations to Paid Maternity Leave: Understanding the Australian Debate', Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 46, no. 3, September 2004, pp. 259-74.

24. See R. Hall, 'Introduction', in Journal of Industrial Relations, vol. 48, no. 2, June 2006, forthcoming.

25. J. Howard, 'Workplace Relations Reform: The Next Logical Step', Address to the Sydney Institute, 11 July 2005, downloaded from

26. Lake 'The Politics of Respectability', p. 130; see also D. Walker. 'Continence for a Nation: Seminal Loss and National Vigour', Labour History, no. 48, May, 1985, pp. 1-14; J. Eveline, 'Feminism, Racism and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century Australia', in P. Crawford and P. Maddern (eds), Women as Australian Citizens, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2001, pp. 141-52.


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