It is a standard response for a political opposition when there’s a problem – the government ought to do something about it. So Tony Abbott’s comments yesterday on the industrial problems at Qantas were predictable.

From the Opposition Leader’s website:

Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Today Show, Channel Nine

Posted on Friday, 28 October 2011

Subjects: Qantas dispute; …

KARL STEFANOVIC:

Good morning to you Tony. Let’s start with the airports around the country this morning. They’re expecting more chaos today as three unions take action against Qantas. Both the New South Wales and Victorian premiers, as you know, are demanding the Prime Minister intervene. Has it got to the point where she should?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well look, this is happening Karl under the Government’s workplace relations laws. I think it is time for the Prime Minister to prove that her laws are consistent with a degree of protection for the travelling public. Yes, this is getting worse and worse and I think it is time for the Prime Minister to get active.

KARL STEFANOVIC:

What do you think she can do about it though? It’s a difficult one to sort out.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well I’m not saying that it’s easy. No one ever says that workplace relations is easy but this is the kind of thing that didn’t happen under the former government. Under the former government, workplace disputes sank to record lows. This is happening on the Prime Minister’s watch; it’s her responsibility and she should do something.

Well that was all well and good when it was thought that the government was not planning to actually do anything. Things changed today when Qantas grounded its flights. While the government felt forced now to act, so too did a significant part of the Liberal Party, with former Howard industrial relations minister Peter Reith as its chief spruiker, come out and say that there should be no intervention by the government.

Mr Reith was quick to repeat the views he expressed yesterday when asked on Sky News for a comment on Tony Abbott’s views. “A lot of people say there’s a dispute so let’s get the government to fix it,”  Mr Reith said then. “Quite frankly that is old thinking and it doesn’t work. It’s an idea that we abandoned for a very good reason. I think most Australians now understand that when it comes to a dispute the government is not the solution, it’s the problem.”

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