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United against WorkChoices

The Australian Labor party used the Howard government's unpopular workplace reforms to reunite its electoral coalition

By David Ritter   December 2007

Every general election represents a contest over the national narrative. In Australia, John Howard’s Liberal-National coalition government was defeated in an argument over ideas about the nation. But Kevin Rudd’s Labor party managed to move the struggle over national identity away from cultural concerns and reframe it in economic terms—specifically workers’ rights. Equality was married to fraternity in a single phrase that came to dominate the campaign: “Australian working families.” Facing a government that had presided over high growth and employment, Labor retook the political heights of Australian nationalism through an emphasis on rights at work.

Since the 1970s, Labor…

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