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Costello calls for pillars of IR system to “come tumbling down”

Nick G.

A recent address by former Treasurer Peter Costello to the right-wing H.R. Nicholls Society is a timely reminder that the ruling class continually discusses it tactics against the working class.

Costello, a founding member of the Society, was speaking at a meeting in Melbourne on February 8.

Titling his talk “The Importance of Ideas”, Costello argues that the Industrial Relations system is failing in its duty to promote “economic prosperity” and that it must be changed.

He refers to the resignation late last month, in protest against these” failings”, of former Vice President of the Fair Work Commission, Graeme Watson.  He bemoans the fact that Watson’s resignation has been largely ignored.

Watson, he says, “wanted to use his resignation as an opportunity to highlight flaws of the system. He gave it his best shake. He thought, like Samson in the Bible, he would shake the pillars of the system and bring it down on the heads of the Philistines.” 

He harks back to the glory days of the H.R. Nicholls Society and the way its ideas helped shape the reactionary onslaught of the 1980’s against workers’ rights in disputes like Dollar Sweets, Mudginberri and the Wide Comb shearing dispute.

The Society has to get organised again and create the groundwork for another major onslaught.

“To change things requires a diagnosis of the problem and then hard work to cultivate an appetite to change it,” he said.

The Industrial Relations system that he accuses of failing to “make our economy more productive, … to improve economic growth, … to develop economic prosperity” is largely held up by 5 pillars Employees, Employers, Award System, Fair Work Commission and the  Government.

He wants the H.R. Nicholls Society and like-minded employer-sponsored think tanks to bring down the pillars consisting of employees, FWC and the award system, leaving the employers and the Government a free hand to “promote economic development in Australia” and “(enhance) the drivers of productivity growth”.

“Unionism is a feature of the 20th Century. It will not be a feature of the 21st Century,” he says hopefully.

Workers need to know what creeps like Costello have in store for them.

What they were advocating for in the 80’s was what was being written into legislation in the 2000’s, and here we have them again asking for the complete destruction of any worker protection or regulation.

They have their agenda and Costello calls on them to be clear about it, to embrace it enthusiastically and pursue it with vigour.

We, the workers of Australia, have our agenda, and we must likewise be clear about it, embrace it enthusiastically and pursue it with vigour.

The full text of Costello’s address can be read here:  


Costello calls for pillars of IR system to “come tumbling down”
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Costello calls for pillars of IR system to “come tumbling down”
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