Nov 142006

 “We will not interpret this decision as being any sort of constitutionally green light to legislate to the hilt,” John Howard on the High Court ruling dismissing the States and Union case against the use of Corporations powers by the Commonwealth. –ABC News

 Just as he promised that his government would not act with hubris and arrogance when handed the majority in the Senate at the 2004 election. Nothing this Prime Minister says can be taken as granted. If it suits him politically, he will use this divisive precedent to act against the Labor states. Today’s High Court decision on the validity of the Workchoices legislation is a landmark ruling which places doubts on the longevity of the Federalism our constitutional founders put into place in 1901. A summation of the High Court decision is found here.

I think it goes without saying that the crafting of Workchoices for legality in the face of this Labor/Union challenge took precedence over the actual functionality of the legislation. This stands out rather broadly with yesterday’s amendment to the legislation, again heavily in favour of business and employers. Credit where it’s due, I suppose. Clearly, the government knew it would face legal challenges and prepared its way carefully. However, being constitutionally valid does not automatically equate to being socially fair and acceptable. Something Workchoices is most definitely not.

A battle lost, but the war will go on, as Union spokespersons and ACTU Secretary Greg Combet have alluded to as much following today’s decision. For Labor, especially in the States which have upcoming elections, the fight against this legislation and the Howard government now becomes that much harder, but more important. The only way to perform a ‘Lazarus’ on egalitarianism in relation to workplace fairness and employee rights is to dismiss the Howard government in 2007.

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