This article examines the industrial relations issues that have attracted most time and attention of employers and their associations during 2012, as well as the public, policy-directed rhetoric in which they have engaged. A first element is representative and institutional, in a year of substantial change in senior association personnel. Accordingly, we examine associations' engagement in the Fair Work Act Review and Modern Awards Review. At the company level, we examine important instances of employers' own industrial relations activism as well as their responses to labour shortages in the resources sector. We also briefly discuss recent dramatic job cuts in public sector employment. Throughout the year, through their public rhetoric, the heads of some of Australia's largest companies have led an incessant, vociferous attack on the federal Labor government. Industrial relations have increasingly become a central plank in this attack. Some of this appears to have a policy basis but it is overwhelmed by a backward-looking desire for a more anti-union, anti-collective bargaining legislative regime. Calls for maximising managerial prerogative appear within a loud but misplaced assertion that productivity improvement requires regressive changes to industrial law.