Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten says he won’t engage in the “fantasy” of a new compact on workplace relations, saying he doesn’t believe Prime Minister Tony Abbott wants to work with unions.
Union heavyweight Paul Howes has called for a “grand compact” between unions and business, saying it was time to put an end to the era of “blood sport” on industrial relations.
Mr Shorten said he supported consensus on workplace relations.
“It’s what I’ve done for 25 years,” the former union leader told ABC radio.
However, he asked: “Do you seriously believe that Tony Abbott is interested in working with trade unions?”
How could Mr Abbott sit down and strike an accord with organisations he wants to have a royal commission into, Mr Shorten asked.
“I’m just not going to engage in some fantasy that Tony Abbott is going to change his spots.”
Later, Mr Howes said he generally didn’t trust the Coalition, but believed it was worth trying to reach a new compact on industrial relations.
“If I upset people then, so be it, but I don’t think there is anything wrong in 2014 for us being mature and sensible about this,” he told Fairfax Radio.
“I think deep down our members would prefer to see businesses and unions working together on agreed outcomes.”
Mr Howes said he believed Mr Abbott was actually quite pragmatic.
“I don’t think Tony Abbott is actually the ideologue that he sometimes paints himself to be,” he said.
“I think he is actually a very pragmatic politician.”