All that is real is relevant, and all that is relevant is real

From the weekend’s Australian Financial Review:

The president of the Australian Hotels Association, Bill Healey, said every Australian employer was paying for the sins of an unscrupulous few and a highly effective union campaign that got in before society could have a “critical debate” about the “relevance of penalty rates in a 24/7 world”. [Tracy Ong, “Bewildered employers caught in AWA spotlight”]

What does he mean, ‘relevance’? ‘Relevance’ has a substantial entry in the Australian political lexicon, generally in the sense that said political force is ‘irrelevant’, in other words ineffectual, and therefore exertions to rebut its arguments are superfluous. In some ways it’s an admirably materialist epithet.

But applied to a convention of industrial relations? What does ‘relevance’ even mean here, besides the fact that hoteliers would prefer not to pay penalty rates? Healey seems to be making a rather Hegelian argument, that reality has already abolished penalty rates but the actual contracts have yet to catch up. Therefore ‘society’ must ratify relevance by holding a ‘critical debate’.

Published in: on 25 September, 2007 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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