How exactly will Abbott employ one million people?

Jobs, industrial relations and the motor industry were among the gaping holes in the Rudd-Abbott 'imitation' debate, which could have been turned into something real with a few simple questions.

I cannot believe how out of touch with the real world the questioners were in the Rudd-Abbott debate.

The questioners were besotted with the issues that may dominate Canberra but they did not question the leaders on the most important issues for the nation.

For example why was Tony Abbott not asked how he was going to generate one million jobs? That would have led to a discussion about deregulation, the Rudd/Gillard campaign against small enterprise and Abbott’s plan to foster independent contracting. Rudd’s reaction to that Abbott plan would have created a meaningful debate about where we are headed.

And for my part the debate irrelevancy really came home because on the morning of the debate an unemployed 20-year-old came up to me and asked whether Tony Abbott would really create jobs.

And so eight hours before the debate I had to answer on Tony Abbott’s behalf the question no one in Canberra thought to ask him. Yet, in my view, job creation was the question that the debate (and the election) should have been all about.

I told the unemployed person not to blame himself for his predicament given the fact that Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard introduced industrial relations legislation that made it very dangerous for our main employers (small enterprises) to employ people because the legislation made retrenchment too hard after six months.

Unfortunately Tony Abbott cannot change that legislation in the next three years because it would trigger a “work choices” fear campaign that might cost him the election.

So how will Abbott create one million new jobs with that weight in the saddlebag? Abbott's people believe that removing regulation road blocks will encourage employment despite the industrial relations job discouragements. In addition the Abbott camp believes that the way around the IR roadblock is to foster independent contracting. Abbott will reverse the current independent contracting impediments introduced by the Gillard government. Accordingly the first step the unemployed person must take after the election (if Abbott wins) is to get an ABN number and look around for people who will need his or her services. Abbott will then have created his first job – 999,999 to go.

How does Kevin Rudd plan to handle the industrial relations legislation employment roadblock? Would either leader publicly admit the truth that such a roadblock exists? We never found out in the debate. Hopefully if and when the representatives of the Australian community ask the questions in the next debate we will get real questions.

And there are many more worthwhile economic issues that did not get raised. For example the looming shortage of gas in eastern states and what each party planned to do about and the motor industry.

And there was one issue that was raised but which neither side was properly questioned about – the plan for a second Sydney airport.

No one raised the rival and arguably cheaper proposal of a Sydney-Melbourne fast train, which might make a second Sydney airport unnecessary because Melbourne-Sydney traffic growth is why Mascot has run out of space. Two Sydney airports will be such a productivity nightmare that it might force us to follow the rest of the world and go for a fast train and allow the cows back in the second runway tarmac.

There will be an opposing view to this – that’s why we should have real debates not debate imitations.

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