COMMENT

As we head towards the end of the year, we can start to join a few dots as to why things are politically the way they are.

Why despite the economy, business confidence has remained so abysmally low.

How do you explain 3.9 per cent unemployment against the backdrop that business thinks the world is going to end?

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What is it they are seeing the rest of us aren't?

Labour law reform is the answer: most of what they feared is about to come true.
Yes it is watered down, but not a lot.

New Zealand First can be thanked for providing some common sense, but you have to wonder if they shouldn't have, couldn't have, gone a bit further.

There is no hiding the simple truth this Government is pro-union, Labour especially, and there is no hiding that the labour law reforms boost the power and presence in the workplace of the union movement.

Most of us see unions for what they are, opportunists with a tired old act.

In Victorian England when the 9-year-olds were up the chimneys or down the mines they needed collective protection.

Fast forward 150 years and some of those at the low-wage end of the bargain - the cleaners, the aged-care workers, those who do the thankless tasks in the wee small hours - still need help from a voice greater than their own.

But the bulk of the union business these days has evolved into an industry where agitation and a constant peddling of the belief that life is miserable and the wages are even worse, is needed to keep the subs coming in.

This is why we have seen so much industrial action this year; the Labour party is their ticket to a re-emergence.

The worst of the changes are the pan-industry agreements, the ability of a union to cut a deal across an entire industry and in doing so remove the individual employer's ability to fund, run and decide the direction of their own business.

This was quite rightly the business community's greatest fear.

If you're a forestry worker, the unions decide your pay, not your employer.

And if you're an employer, what you can afford becomes irrelevant, as the decision is taken out of your hands.

If there are too many of these agreements, and they affect too many industries, and the industrial action becomes too common, too aggressive, too disruptive, then it's at this point the Government might start to wish they'd never gone down this track. Because that's the great sadness of all of this - we have been down this track before, and we didn't like it.

We got rid of it because it became farcical, we thought this particular approach to industrial relations went out with the likes of Jim Knox, Ken Douglas and Pat Kelly.

But back to the dots. Labour might like to ask itself why National, despite Simon, is on 46 per cent.

Then Labour might like to look at its agenda, Michael Cullen about to deliver the details of a new capital gains tax. A KiwiBuild programme that is suffering severe reputational and fiscal issues. A budget that just last week it was revealed was badly overspent.

An ongoing series of strikes and stop works driven by demands for increases so large many are laughable. A sense that ineptness, bad decision-making and poor governance isn't dealt to (Iain Lees-Galloway I am looking at you).

And now an industrial upheaval from a failed bygone era.

That is an anathema to most ordinary new Zealanders who've relished a decade of economic prosperity built on hard work, return on hard work, and an industrial freedom to be judged on your abilities, not a collective sop to cover the backsides of the weakest link.

A solid inherited economy is really all that's saved the Government this year.

But if they care to join the dots they will see increasingly clearly, that the polls are softening, the storm clouds are looming and the industrial reforms feared by so many might just turn out to be their biggest mistake.