Work Choices ‘dead with a chance of resurrection’

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has signed a mock death certificate declaring Work Choices dead, but has refused to rule out any future changes to industrial relations laws if elected.

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Mr Abbott declared Work Choices dead on Saturday even before Prime Minister Julia Gillard called the August 21 poll.

On the campaign trail in Melbourne on Monday, he signed a symbolic pact during an interview on Fairfax Radio to underline his point.

“Work Choices is dead, it’s buried, it’s cremated,” Mr Abbott said.

But Mr Abbott also refused to rule out any future changes to the government’s industrial laws, the Fair Work legislation.

“Obviously I can’t give an absolute guarantee about every single aspect of workplace relations legislation,” Mr Abbott said.

The previous Howard government introduced Work Choices and claimed its deregulation of workplace relations improved employment levels, but unions said it disadvantaged workers.

Ms Gillard said the camouflage that Mr Abbott tried to create around the issue hadn’t even lasted two days.

“It’s abundantly clear that if Mr Abbott became prime minister the worst aspects of Work Choices would be back,” she told reporters in Townsville.

Workplace Relations Minister Simon Crean and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner also sustained the attack against the opposition leader.

“This is a person who has been using weasel words all his life, I believe he’s using weasel words now when he says he’s not going to change the (Fair Work) legislation,” Mr Crean told ABC Television.

A suggestion by opposition workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz that the coalition might “tweak” current laws, needed assessment, he said.

The coalition could modify unfair dismissal provisions because it was covered by an unlegislated code.

Mr Tanner said Mr Abbott was cut from the same cloth as former prime minister John Howard who presided over Work Choices.

“I think that it’s pretty clear that is where they’ll head,” he told ABC Radio.

“They might be a little bit sneakier about it than they were last time but nonetheless I think it’s clear that’s what they stand for and that’s what they want to do.”

Trade unions joined the Labor chorus against Mr Abbott saying he was flip-flopping on the issue.

“Tony Abbott wants to bring back as much of Work Choices as he can get away with,” ACTU president Ged Kearney said.