WorkChoices, worst choices Abbott’s SPC

1921Ardmona Fruit Products Co-Op Ltd. opens for business.

1921 Ardmona Fruit Products Co-Op Ltd. opens for business.

As Tony’s chances go up, workers’ hopes will go down.  Source:  The Daily Telegraph, July 2012

IN a sure-fire sign that the Liberals have grown incredibly cocky about their electoral prospects at the next federal election, Tony Abbott has once again raised the spectre of WorkChoices.

Despite Tony Abbott’s promise during the 2010 federal election that WorkChoices was “dead, buried, cremated”, “the spirit of WorkChoices rose from the dead again…”.  The pledge back in 2012 was that “if elected”, Tony Abbott would enact laws allowing “greater flexibility for employers“, and promised that he “won’t stop there“.

Only a few days later, Abbott – and the desciption at the time was “bizarrely” declared – that he, Tony Abbott, was the best friend of the Australian worker but that “right now we have got a flexibility problem, we have got a militancy problem, we have got a productivity problem.”

This was, and of course, continues to be absolute rubbish. Compared with decades past there is very, very little industrial unrest in Australia.  Australians continue to work some of the longest hours, with the least job security of any industrialised nation.

Back in 2012, Tony Abbott’s “technique” was described thus:  Does this ring any loud bells?

Once again, Abbott is resorting to his favourite technique, create a problem where one doesn’t exist (“militant unions”), repeat it ad nauseam (“we must stop militant unions”), and hope the public falls for it (“I will stop militant unions”).

After an intial philosophical attack against SPC, and a somewhat snide remarkDavid Gonski ‘is not going to let down the workers of SPC Ardmona’, says PM Tony Abbott – it became exactly the opposite, an attack on the workers and their conditions.

STRUGGLING fruit canner SPC Ardmona today undermined the Government’s blistering attack on its apparently generous working conditions.

Senior government officials had claimed the workforce had nine weeks’ leave a year. The company said the actual figure was 20 days.

The Government said the workers were paid a loading on top of overtime. The company said almost zero overtime is paid. An agreement for cashing in sick leave ended in 2012.

According to the Government the workers received a generous wet allowance. In fact, no wet allowance was paid in 2012.

Dr Stone said it made no sense for the government to support a Tasmanian fish farmer, Huon Aquaculture, by spending $3.5 million in public money to upgrade machinery while rejecting SPC Ardmona’s bid.

She said the government had sought to widen its attack on unions at SPC Ardmona after unrelated reports of corruption in the building industry.

”This seemed to be a convenient way to draw a line in the sand to accuse this company [SPC] of being destroyed by unions and outrageous wages,” she said.

Specific details of the “extraordinary working conditions” which Tony Abbott would have us believe that SPC workers enjoy are:

. . . on Tuesday released financial details and information on its agreement with the AMWU that refuted nearly all of Mr Abbott’s claims. It said the wet allowance, worth just 58¢ an hour, was not paid at all last year. It also said total allowances paid to workers were just $116,427 in 2013; or less than 0.1 per cent of its cost of goods for the year.

It said there was little overtime at SPC Ardmona, and the company had in 2012 reduced redundancy provisions and stopped sick leave from being cashed out.

On Monday, Joe Hockey said that, drought assistance was already available to farmers and declared ”the age of entitlement is over and the age of personal responsibility has begun”.

Perhaps Hockey has missed something, that although climatic conditions are always challenging for rural communities, the company’s current difficulties have nothing whatsoever to do with drought.  From SPC’s Managing Director Peter Kelly:

“Mr Kelly says the major culprit behind SPC’s difficulties is the sustained high Australian dollar, which has led to a flood of cheap imported canned fruit and a “decimation” of the company’s export markets.

“The serious problems that have beset SPCA have not been because of labour costs and certainly not from the allowances, a fact borne out by the Productivity Commission’s recent analysis,” he said.

Returning to Abbott’s “technique”:  create a problem where one doesn’t exist (“militant unions”), repeat it ad nauseam (“we must stop militant unions”), and hope the public falls for it (“I will stop militant unions”).  If it seems nonsensical how a request from SPC could suddenly morph into an attack on a 58 cent per hour wet allowance, here is the answer:  create a problem where one doesn’t exist.

If Tony Abbott thought to entertain the idea that this issue could be the commencement of his undeniable fervent wish to introduce a future clone of WorkChoices, perhaps “succeed” where his mentor John Howard failed, then he has made an unimpressive start to his campaign by attacking the workers of SPC Ardmona and the town of Shepparton.

Photo:  SPC Ardmona - Our Rich History

Photo: SPC Ardmona – Our Rich History

35 comments on “WorkChoices, worst choices Abbott’s SPC

  1. How Abbott is getting away with this attack on workers rights beggars belief. I nearly choked on my lunch when I heard him say, there is nothing wrong with higher wages as long as there is more productivity. This moron doesn’t live in the real world.

    I said months ago should Abbott be elected sooner or later there will be violence on the streets, nothing I have seen, has changed my mind. If the union movement caves in this time like they did with the Whitlam dismissal, it is over for the Labor cause.

    The leadership of the Labor party had better get their arse holes and brains wired together tight, or we are in for a world of trouble with this government.

  2. “Crime and Corruption in the Unions.”

    The last royal commission found there were more corrupt CEO’s of companies than unions. Funny that.

  3. Abbott made another step towards WorkChoices just the other day when he announced there would be (yet another) commission into penalty rates and conditions with the aim of getting rid of them.

    How Abbott is getting around appearing to not break his promise on never bringing in WorkChoices is to attack a piece at a time and then amend the FairWork Australia Act until it is no different to WorkChoices.

    He even demanded that a company change its EBAs so they would be similar to Howard’s Workplace agreements.

    Anybody who supports this terrible and worst of all PMs has rocks in their heads for in the end they will be screwed by him just as everyone else will be. But this has never stopped those who deer hunt with Jesus.

  4. Conservatives will always be able to find half the working class to beat up on the other half. Always have always will. A percentage of the Ardmona workers would support Abbott, Go figure.

  5. I agree with @ phil.. there will be blood on the streets…”Rabbott-the-Hun” will be happy with that as he thrives on confrontation but he will leave this nation in ruins.

  6. Abbott is calling a Royal Commission on Unions but this is why he won’t call one on corrupt businesses who far worse than any union.

    Donor Annual Return – 2012-13
    Steve Nolan Constructions P/L

    PO Box 435
    Donations made to:
    Name Address Date Value
    Liberal Party of Australia PO Box 6004
    KINGSTON ACT 2604 16 Oct 2012 $50,000.00
    Liberal Party of Australia, NSW Division Locked Bag 2
    KINGS CROSS NSW 1340 11 Dec 2012 $50,000.00
    Liberal Party of Australia, NSW Division Locked Bag 2
    KINGS CROSS NSW 1340 27 Feb 2013 $50,000.00
    Liberal Party of Australia, NSW Division Locked Bag 2
    KINGS CROSS NSW 1340 21 Jun 2013 $50,000.00

    Nolan has engaged in corrupt business practices and has left construction workers, the ones Abbott is gunning for but said were his friends, unpaid and owes $30 million to workers and contractors.

    But like all his other donors that got him elected on falsehoods and lies Abbott will ignore or reward these corrupt people why hurting and condemning honest and hard working people.

    You want to see what fascism looks like now, look at Newman every time he appears in the media. You want at what fascism looks like in the near future, look at Tony Abbott every time he appears in the media.

  7. VOYAGER – Brisbane – Sydney @ February 6, 2014 @ 2:41 pm.
    It is as stupid to say there is no corruption in Unions, as it is to say the same with Corporations, Political Parties, Religious Organisations and even ourselves. Yes that means you and if you deny it, well more on you.
    No one is blameless in this World as it wont let you survive that way. Innocence is devoured. Shows what a vicious creature we are.
    As a wise man said once, he who is without Sin, cast the first stone. Seems Abbott cast this one without regard for wisdom of, “Live by the sword, die by the sword.”
    He’s lot are setting up a repeat of that which brought about the French Revolution. He is a fool to think it cannot happen again even if he doesn’t know any History, his Minders should. Arrogance tends to foolishness.
    Still all for the scenario Voyager, or do you wish to avoid it? Sane people avoid War, as it is the last refuge of the Scoundrel.

  8. 6 months of mayhem conducted by the MAD Monk, Not totally unexpected But it still amazing in his Gall to try and get away with it , Lets be “Fair Dinkum ” a phrase you like to use to show the workers you are Just one Of the boys , Utter bullshit once again Tony Just another sleazy lying Manouvre , Go back under your Rock and take Voyager with you

  9. Min, thanks for a great piece, exposing the Abbott’s true IR agenda.

    I have to admit to having a sense of deja vu as I heard the union bashing start up again. 😦 and when Abbott and his cronies started taking potshots at the workers and their conditions at SPC, it confirmed to me that “Serf choices” is just around the corner 😯

    I touched on this and other Right wing stupidity in my last post “LNP, they just never learn!” 😉

    Cheers 😀

  10. No problems really, as our PM promised (prior to being elected) that he would create 2million jobs — so there will be plenty to go round. The good people of SPC should not therefore have anything to worry about (I don’t believe this but the PM will no doubt keep his word being the God-fearing man that he is).

  11. Abbott is creating mass unemployment, and at the same time he is spending taxpayers money on his own comforts.

    Mr Abbott had spent more than $120,000 refurbishing the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence in Kirribilli, which included a $13,000 rug for the living room.

  12. Strobedriver, Abbott certainly did make that many people sacked so far? Gosh he better get a hurry on or else the only increase in employment necessary will be for Centrelink staff.

  13. Strobedriver and Carol I think it’s Crikey and some other Fact Checker who have already blown that out of the water. He has absolutely no way of making his one million target in the first five years let alone two million in a decade.

    That was calculated before he started closing down major employers in this country in favour of big business but relatively small number employers, and of course his continuous clandestine sackings and closing of whole departments that’s still going on. Departments by the way that overwhelmingly look after environment and those in need in our society. Those areas that look after the wealthy and Abbott himself have been boosted.

    Talking of closing down areas that look after Australia’s environment, Abbott has been reported in international news services as the worst environmental leader in the OECD. They were not kind to him at all.

    It’s unbelievable how much Abbott has trashed Australia’s good reputation in so many areas in such a short time. I think a trashing that will eventually come to bite him and this country.

    Then there is this insult to the Australian people.

    For a PM that’s has been going on about waste for so long and needing to save he is certainly a very expensive PM to run. Gillard’s office was over $200,000 to run in her first six months. Abbott, Over $500,000 and going up.

    No surprise to us of course as we have published the extraordinary figures of the cost of running his office when he was LOTO, a cost many magnitudes more than that of the PM. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of his and his fellow party members who systematically rorted the public purse and still are doing it.

  14. Möbius, I don’t think the international condemnation will bother Abbott at all. He’ll just assume that the rest of the world is wrong and they’ll eventually see how good he is.

  15. Work Choices Dead?

    We thought those dreadful laws
    Had truly been cremated.
    Abbott, to applause,
    Very clearly stated
    On Election Eve
    That Act so hated,
    We could really believe,
    Was now just ashes.
    But secretly he dreamed
    Of how he would regain
    That ceded ground.
    Then empowered again
    Work Choices could rebound
    From their dead ashes.

  16. Obviously SPC ARdmona should be shut. It uses irrigated fruit in production which of course mens water doesn’t get to the fish or birds. It uses brown coal electricity which is poisoning our kids. These people are murderers. They deserve to lose their jobs. Ecological vandals.

  17. The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

    John Kenneth Galbraith

  18. “@phil – I almost choked on my Fruit Loops when I heard that Tony Abbott wanted to abolish the “shiny tin” allowance. He just doesn’t understand.”

    Forget the issue, where have you been village idiot I have missed you?

  19. Patricia, wonderful pome. 🙂

    An interesting article from Waleed Aly yesterday..his opinion seemed to suggest that the strategy is for the Libs to vacate the issue of workplace relations entirely..for the timebeing that is.

    1. Set the scene: companies are going broke – it’s all the fault of penalty rates, allowances and weak-kneed companies who pay these to their workers.

    2. Vacate the field but keep reinforcing the message that greedy workers and lily-livered employers are sending the country broke.

    3. Send in the calvary – clearly companies cannot (sigh) manage things by themselves, therefore it takes a strong and hairy-chested government to do what they are unable to do themselves.

    Result: WorkChoices Mark II and Mark III.

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