Old-school, bare-knuckled political brawling over industrial relations will soon prove that everything old is new again.
Unions are furious with changes to enterprise bargaining that would allow more agreements that fail the better off overall test.
The battle shapes as the next landmark fight on industrial relations, following in the footsteps of WorkChoices leading up to the 2007 election and the waterfront dispute more than two decades ago.
Labor is hopeful the bargaining changes represent workplace overreach that helped spell the end of John Howard’s 11-year reign.
The coalition is banking on being able to frame the opposition campaign against changes to bargaining as engaging in the politics of division.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus isn’t ruling out industrial action but flagged a modern approach to the fight.
Don’t expect a repeat of the highly successful Your Rights At Work Campaign or the less effective Change The Rules mantra.
“The trade union movement will fight as hard as necessary,” McManus says.
“It’s 2020, so you’ll see a 2020-style campaign.”
Scott Morrison is adamant allowing employers more flexibility will flow to workers.
“What we will do is get people back into jobs, in successful businesses that can pay them better and better in the years ahead,” the prime minister says.
Before the campaign starts in earnest, one of Australia’s most powerful militant unions is set to be broken up with bipartisan support.
Labor supports the government’s bill, which will mean CFMMEU members in the manufacturing, mining and energy divisions leave the construction and maritime arms.
With ties between Anthony Albanese and Victorian construction union boss John Setka already irreparably severed, the ALP didn’t take long to think about backing demerger legislation.
It further isolates the labour movement’s political party from a controversial figure linked to a union that tended to make headlines for the wrong reasons.
The pressure on Albanese had been slowly rising as punches failed to land amid a global pandemic.
The opposition leader may now have found an issue to sink his teeth into during the summer parliamentary recess.
Standing in his way is Morrison’s high approval rating, fuelled by Australia eliminating coronavirus and vaccinations drawing closer.
Whether that provides the political capital to shake off an IR fight will shape the political debate going into 2021.