Abbott wavering on IR laws, says Gillard

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is wavering on the future of Australia’s industrial relations laws, showing workers cannot trust an Abbott-led government, Prime Minister Julia Gillard says.

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Speaking at a farewell for outgoing ACTU president Sharan Burrow in Melbourne on Tuesday night, Ms Gillard said Mr Abbott had promised not to change workplace relations laws but has also indicated existing laws may be tinkered with by a coalition government.

Referring to the handwritten guarantee to maintain existing IR laws that he wrote in a Melbourne radio studio on Monday, Ms Gillard said: “Tony Abbott’s promises not to bring back Work Choices are worth nothing more than the scrap of paper he took from Neil Mitchell’s studio.

“Tony Abbott needs to explain to the Australian people, without resorting to legal niceties and weasel words, his plans.

“He has to spell out how he plans to honour his promise to business groups to bring back individual contracts, to strip away protections from unfair dismissals and also honour the promises he made yesterday in the midst of an election campaign.

“We know. We know he wants to honour the promises he made to business groups.”

She said the Liberal party had “form” on industrial relations legislation.

“They covered up their plans to introduce Work Choices and then, in government, they introduced it,” she said.

“And now they are covering up their plans to take us back to the very worst elements of Work Choices.”

Labor and the union movement faced a tough fight to ensure the workplace relations system was left unchanged.

“Friends, the Australian fair go is to go forward with us and Tony Abbott must be turned back.”

Ms Burrow is leaving the ACTU to become the first female to head the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), based in Brussels.

She was farewelled by more than 500 people at a function at the Melbourne Museum.