Abbott takes IR off election agenda

Mr Abbott confidently jogged into the Hilton Hotel ballroom in Brisbane to a standing ovation and delivered a pre-election speech to about 350 people attending the Queensland Liberal National Party (LNP) convention.


Work Choices laws were one of the key reasons the Howard government lost the 2007 poll.

Labor has been using industrial relations as a key weapon against the coalition.

But in a speech to the LNP in Queensland on Saturday morning, Mr Abbott said a coalition government will work within the existing workplace laws introduced by Labor.

“An incoming coalition government will seek to make Labor’s individual flexibility agreements more flexible and seek to reduce the burdens on small business but we will do so within Labor’s existing legislation,” he said.

“Labor’s Fair Work Act is far from perfect but it deserves a fair go.

“Yesterday the shadow cabinet backed my recommendation that an incoming coalition government would not seek to change the Fair Work Act at least for the three years of the next term of parliament.”

A coalition government will retain Fair Work Australia and the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The controversial Australian Building and Construction Commission will stay too – but under existing laws.

If the coalition decides further legislation is needed, it will seek a mandate at the 2013 election to bring in its own changes.

Mr Abbott said he had learnt the lessons of the past.

“Politicians might not always like the people’s verdict but they have to respect it and learn from it,” he will say.

“If there was one policy on which the coalition lost the last election, it was workplace relations.”

“On workplace relations policy, the coalition trashed its own brand and has to re-establish trust.

“Trust will only be restored by demonstrating, over time, that the coalition again has the steady hands in which people’s job security and pay and conditions can once more safely rest.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is due to visit the Governor-General Quentin Bryce in Canberra at 10.30am (AEST) to seek an election on August 21 or 28.

“We are ready to govern,” Mr Abbott told the convention.

Mr Abbott said Queensland voters “know all about dud Labor governments”, comparing the leadership handover from Peter Beattie to Anna Bligh, to that of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

“They waste money and they maladminister programs … then when it all gets too hard they change the leader,” he said.

“But they don’t change the policies and they don’t change their ways.

“They change the leader and the problems get worse.

“The problem is not the leader – the problem is Labor.

“The people of Queensland have been conned before … and now they are about to see a government con them at a federal level but they won’t be conned again.”

He said the past three weeks had been “chaotic” for the federal Labor government, since factional warlords “executed” Mr Rudd.

“There’s been the mining tax fix based on a succession of lies, there’s been the boat people fix that got lost somewhere in the Timor Sea and there’s been the economic credibility fix that was hijacked by Kevin Rudd courtesy of questions from Laurie Oakes at the Press Club,” he said.