IN the leadup to last year's federal election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison campaigned on the idea that a Labor win would give the union movement so much power that ACTU secretary Sally McManus would be "a board member, figuratively" on every company in the country.
It was not meant as a compliment.
Fast-forward 11 months, and Mr Morrison is now thanking Ms McManus for the ACTU's cooperation with the government and major employer groups on coronavirus crisis measures relating to the workplace.
"There are no more unions or bosses, Mr Morrison said this week. "There are just Australians now. That is all that matters."
What you need to know now:
It remains to be seen whether the prime minister has had a damascene conversion on industrial relations, or whether hostilities will resume whenever life in Australia returns to a post-coronavirus version of normal.
Last year, Mr Morrison asked his Attorney General and Industrial Relations Minister, Christian Porter, to conduct a review of our IR system, looking especially for "impediments to shared gains for employers and employees".
The review has been paused while the government concentrates on coronavirus management.
In the meantime, the COVID-19 crisis is being grabbed by various anti-union voices to push for another round of labour market deregulation.
Accepting a need for "flexible" working arrangements during the crisis must not result in weakened protections for those employees who still have them.
In a similar vein, those who say Australia would have been better prepared for coronavirus had it kept its old-economy manufacturing sector are ignoring the benefits that removing our tariff walls and embracing global trade have brought to the nation.
It is true that coronavirus has led to product shortages, but no sensible economy tries to make everything it needs, and then stockpile it in quantity, in case something goes wrong, somewhere, at some time, by some means.
Still, there is little doubt that coronavirus will result in some permanent changes in the way we operate as a nation, and as a planet.
The longer COVID-19 remains a global issue, the greater the economic impact will be.
After years of calling for politicians to "get out of the way", the corporate world is discovering that the so-called "dead hand of government" can be helpful after all.
This is not a time for ambit claims, from any sector of society.
We are all in this together.
In the news this week:
- Toohey's News, The Podcast Episode 04: Newcastle Knights coach Adam O'Brien
- Appeal over serious Lake Macquarie crash that left two in critical condition
- Mobile phone detection camera spotted at Broadmeadow
- Month-long operation to remove containers lost from the YM Efficiency off Hunter coast to begin this weekend