Manusafe national executive officer Andrew Whiley has told Workers Online that unions need to look at the idea of rolling all entitlements - from sick leave to annual leave to long service leave - into single industry trust funds.
Under this model, it would be up to individual workers to manage their entitlements and draw from it as they see fit.
"It is up to the labour movement to establish non-profit financial support structures that allow workers to have some kind of real flexibility on their side of the equation," Whiley - on secondment to Manusafe from the Australian Workers Union - says.
"There is a great deal of flexibility for employers now. Why shouldn't there be that increasing flexibility about remuneration?
"Why shouldn't the worker be able to have their own account for sick leave and long service leave and annual leave, or severance pay - and take it with them from job to job?"
Employers Fighting Reality
In an interview with Workers Online, Whiley has also reiterated that there was a standing invitation for employers to join unions in administering the Manusafe scheme.
"A trust fund that operates on open and transparent principles must have a decision making process where everybody that is a stakeholder in one form or another has a seat at the table and has a say," Whiley says.
The Australian Industry Group has launched a mainstream media campaign against Manusafe, with full-page advertisements claiming it will not adequately protect worker entitlements.
Whiley says the big media spend was a sign that the employers are recognising their scare campaign against Manusafe is not working.
"I am not concerned about the heat and light that is coming out of the industrial parties wrestling with each other over this issue," Whiley says. "I am confident in the long term the industry trust fund model has enough positives to it to survive."
Huge Support for Entitlements Push
Meanwhile, it's been revealed that the union push to secure worker entitlements has overwhelming public support with seven out of ten Australian employees saying they should be guaranteed.
The survey of 1000 employees was conducted for Job Futures by the major polling firm of Irving Saulwick & Associates. The JOB futures/Saulwick Employee Sentiment Survey tracks the mood of the Australian workforce on a quarterly basis.
When asked where the money for such a guarantee should come from, nearly half (47 per cent) said it should come from a levy on all employers, and 40 per cent said it should come from the Government's own tax revenue. Only seven per cent said it should come from a levy on wage-earners.
Robert Tickner, Chief Executive of JOB futures, says the results clearly demonstrate that recent cases in which employees have lost their entitlements in company collapses have had a significant impact on employee sentiment across the nation.
In other findings in the report, nearly half the Australian workforce (48 per cent) also said that employees were entitled to re-training and assistance in finding a new job from any money left in the collapsed company. A further quarter of the workforce said this re-training and job assistance should be financed by the Government. A fifth said the employees should pay for it themselves.
For those who are in work, job satisfaction levels continue to be high. One-third (34 per cent) say they are very satisfied with their job, and another 55 per cent say they are reasonably satisfied. These results are consistent with those from the survey conducted in May this year. Only 10 per cent say they are not satisfied.
And an overwhelming majority of employed people - 86 per cent -- say they feel very secure or quite secure in their job. However, casual workers - who tend also to be young - are less likely to say they feel secure (75%).
Employees' sense of job security has remained constant since the previous quarter's survey.
The full survey report will be at http://www.jobfutures.com.au
The Transport Workers Union has flagged the test case to vary NSW Transport Industry State Award to be modeled on an agreement reached with waste giant Connex covering some 650 members.
Under that deal, Connex has agreed to fully protect their workers entitlements through an insurance bond arrangement.
If successful, the new award conditions would rope in all employers in NSW without the need for individual site bargaining.
TWU assistant secretary Wayne Forno told Labor Council delegates the insurance bond would also be pursued in all enterprise agreements as they come up for renegotiation.
"While the preferred model would be through federal legislation our members are not prepared to wait for the election of a Beazley Government to see their entitlement protected," Forno says.
Hawke on Board
Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke was called in to resolve the latest flash-point in workers entitlements - the dispute at MaintTrain which threatens to disrupt rail services in the coming week.
At press time, negotiations were continuing, with the union respecting an agreement not to comment publicly on the progress of the talks.
Hawke was called in to mediate by Transport Minister Carl Scully, who is backing the workers push for entitlement protection.
There are number of other EBA under negotiation where worker entitlements is a major issue, the AMWU says.
Battle Spreads to Queensland
And to the north, about 60 Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) members at a key components supplier to the heavy earthmoving industry, JAWS BUCKETS, walked off the job on Thursday 23.
The walkout was part of their campaign for a new enterprise bargaining agreement, which includes their entitlements being paid into an industry trust fund - Manusafe - income protection insurance and a four per cent annual pay rise.
They have established a picket line outside the facility and will not return to work until at least next Monday, when they are scheduled to meet again to consider the progress of the campaign.
JAWS BUCKETS supplies and repairs buckets for vehicles used in the heavy earthmoving industry, such as excavators and front-end loaders. It is a supplier to manufacturers of these vehicles, such as Hastings Deering, as well as the Brisbane City Council and the Queensland mining industry.
The rally marked the launch of the union movement's campaign, "Corporate Killing: there ought to be a law against it".
In September, a new law will be introduced into Victorian Parliament, creating the crime of Industrial Manslaughter. If the law is passed, an employer, directors and senior officials can be convicted if their behaviour is so grossly negligent that a death or serious injury occurs.
The penalties in the case of Industrial Manslaughter will include $5 million for a company and fines of up $180,000. Directors/senior officers can also face up to two years jail.
"Hundreds of workers die as a result of work related injuries every year, yet it still seems that many employers are slow to learn the health and safety lessons. Employers must be held to account," said Leigh Hubbard, Secretary, Victorian Trades Hall Council.
"We don't pretend this legislation will solve all our workplace safety problems, but it will focus the minds of senior managers."
VTHC also launched a campaign website which urges people to lobby politicians. The site centres on the image and story of Anthony Carrick, an 18-year-old killed on his first day at work in 1998. Jan Carrick, Anthony's mother addressed the rally.
CFMEU southern organiser Joe Brcic was the victim of the attack last Monday, when he visited the Engadine site of JCS Developments in response to an anonymous complaint about sub-standard safety.
Speaking to Labor Council delegates, Brcic recounted how company director John Curtis had verbally abused him and then drove a car at him, pinning him to a wall.
Following the attack workers placed a picket on the site that was later lifted when the matter was brought before the Industrial Relations Commission.
A complaint has also been lodged with the police. Brcic said Curtis is refusing to cooperate with inquiries but he is expected to be summonsed to face charges.
Brcic is facing a counter summons for assault at the instigation of JCS Development over a separate and earlier incident in March. Ferguson says he's confident that Brcic will be cleared.
Brcic - who is expecting a child within days - says the attack follows several attempts to enter the site to speak to workers. This includes being refused access to brief workers during the recent WorkCover campaign.
Not the First Time
CFMEU state secretary Andrew Ferguson says it is not the first run-in the union has had with JCS Developments.
HE says the assault follows an assault last year on CFMEU official David Kelly who was head-butted on a different site of the same builder, and a separate assault on OHS coordinator Brian Miller.
Ferguson says there is widespread non-compliance on the sites with statutory requirements such as payroll tax, group tax, workers compensation and superanuation. There are also concerns about site safety and breaches of environmental laws.
"The safety on the sites is sub-standard and represents a serious threat to the health and safety of not just the workforce but also the members of the public."
The survey of casual workers, mostly aged between 15 and 25, found more than 60% worked while sick, most did not know if they were being paid the legal minimum wage and 47% were never informed of their rights as employees.
The survey was conducted by the Young Christian Workers Association.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the survey confirmed union concerns that employers were increasingly using casual employment to fill long-term positions to avoid obligations including sick leave, holiday pay and job security entitlements.
"Our young people deserve better than the false choice between sub-standard conditions or no job at all. Employers are adults and should take responsibility for making sure their young employees at least know their rights.
"This is the harsh reality of workplace change under John Howard and it will only get worse under the Government's latest plan to exempt small business from existing limits on casual employment," Ms Burrow said.
"Employers should be offering permanent employment to casuals after six months successful service. Treating employees well also helps the business through increased loyalty, productivity and lower turnover and retraining costs."
The ACTU was particularly concerned by the increased casualisation of the labour market over recent months. More than 150,000 full time jobs disappeared in the last four months, with the only jobs growth in part time employment, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
A leaked Federal Cabinet document earlier this month revealed Government plans to make it easier for small business employers to hire more casuals. The Cabinet document said the proposal would be criticised "as exacerbating the so-called trend towards casualisation of the workforce at the expense of permanent positions."
In the first prosecution of a bank brought by a union, former Attorney General Mr Jeff Shaw, QC represented the Finance Sector Union, Commonwealth Bank Officers Section, NSW branch. As Attorney General Mr Shaw introduced the changes which allow unions to bring OH&S prosecutions in NSW.
In a landmark judgement on 20 August 2001, the Chief Industrial Magistrate fined the Bank and recorded a conviction against it, after a serious incident involving a hold up at its Wellington, NSW branch in 1999.
"Union members had become very concerned about their personal safety following a series of violent incidents at other financial institutions in the town," said Peter Presdee, Branch Secretary, Finance Sector Union, Commonwealth Bank Officers Section.
"On their behalf, we informed the Bank and asked it to conduct a risk assessment in order to provide adequate protection for staff."
The Bank failed to respond to the Union's request, and four staff were involved when an armed hold up subsequently took place on 24 August 1999.
The Bank pleaded guilty to the breach of the Act and was fined $25,000.
The Premier's visit, to open the ECCOCEM plant at Port Kembla, was shrouded in secrecy, even the local media were kept in the dark till this morning. Despite the short notice, dozens of Port Kembla workers turned out to greet the Premier.
Arthur Rorris, Secretary of the South Coast Labour Council said,
"We knew from recent experience that the Premier gets nervous about coming to Wollongong, so we put in a request that he meet with a Labour Council delegation."
"Our request was officially declined, unfortunately it appears that the Premier is too busy to meet and hear the concerns of ordinary workers in our region."
"Workers then lined up at the front gate expecting the Premier to arrive this morning only to find out that he sneaked in through the back door again."
"He's acting like a Premier on the run"
Convinced that he was acting suspiciously, a public announcement was made seeking information on a person fitting the following ethnic and political description:
Middle Aged Male, Caucasian, Wears Glasses But is Tunnel Visioned, Last seen Wearing a Dark Suit. Further, it is known that he has a record of crimes against the working class and public education. Officials warn that this man should not be approached by ordinary workers as he has a reputation for quick getaways. Any sighting in the region should be reported to the South Coast Labour Council who will send a negotiating team to attempt to organise a meeting.
The leaked memo written by Mark Henderson, Network Editor should be withdrawn immediately says the Finance Sector Union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance and the Victorian Trades Hall Council.
The FSU is concerned the ABC may have been approached by the banks who are concerned about their image during the ongoing dispute over enterprise bargaining negotiations.
The memo tells journalists that "the main angle on our coverage should be the impact on the public". It is not clear whether the memo was distributed in NSW alone, or across all states and territories.
"The details of the dispute, for example, rates of pay, are very much secondary and our coverage should reflect that."
The memo makes particular reference to industrial action in the banking industry saying: "a dispute in the banking industry should focus on whether banks will be closed." The memo concludes by suggesting that, "if an industrial dispute does not impact on the public we should be immediately considering why we should be covering it."
FSU National Secretary Tony Beck has written to Jonathan Shier, ABC Managing Director seeking an assurance that the memo be withdrawn and that the "banking industry has not influenced the ABC's news reportage criteria."
Mr Beck said the ABC directive appeared to act in favour of powerful sectional interests. "The details of our disputes, pay, service standards, branch closures, community access to retail banking etc are of intense interest to the community and therefore the ABC has an obligation to report them. To treat these issues as secondary, denies the public access to critical information."
Victorian Trades Hall Council Secretary Leigh Hubbard said the memo was an outrageous attempt to limit the way complex disputes are reported by the ABC. "We have had a large number of industrial disputes on recently, particularly in Victoria and I would like to ask ABC management why they see fit to dictate the 'angle' rather than giving the facts and letting readers and viewers make up their own minds."
MEAA, the union representing ABC journalists said the memo was taking a "populist" approach to reporting of industrial issues. Pat O'Donnell, MEAA, Victorian Branch Secretary said: "We expect journalists to act independently
and use their news judgement. This memo interferes with news judgement. We've had a number of disputes recently and I can't think of any where it would not be in the public interest to report the details."
by Mary Yaager
Andrew Ferguson Secretary of the Construction Forestry, Mining and Energy union said " there has been one death a week in the industry lately just last week a construction worker was crushed to death in a mobile cement machine and the week before that a grader backed over a worker killing him instantly"
'This is just unacceptable and while I congratulate the Government on the introduction of these new workplace safety laws. I am concerned about the transitional arrangements for small employers who will just sit on their hands for two years while the death and injury rate soars," Andrew went on to say.
According to Andrew the majority of employers in the Construction Industry are small employers and they are amongst the worst in terms of providing a safe workplace in fact this is where the majority of deaths occur.
The new workplace safety laws will commence on the 1st of September 2001 and will affect the majority of employers in the State
The Minister John Della Bosca said "that in the case of small business (fewer than 20), special provisions have been made to allow them to adjust with the new risk management provisions.",
The CFMEU and unions from other high-risk industries will be calling on the Government not to allow an exemption to apply for these employers.
Despite these concerns, the unions welcome these new laws which are long overdue.
The Australian Services Union's George Panigiris has raised the concerns over the use of Closed Circuit Television cameras by SRA management.
Panigiris says the 5000 CCTV cameras on SRA property are being used onnits staff for "minor misdemeanors" such as reading the paper and having cups of coffee.
He says this is in direct breach of assurances made to the workers when the technology was introduced.
The ASU has secured Labor Council support in seeking a meeting with the Minister for Transport, Carl Scully, over the issue.
The NSW Teachers Federation is hosting the forum at the Sydney SuperDome on Saturday September 8. It has been funded by a special levy paid by rank and file members - aimed at raising public education as an election issue.
All major political parties have been invited to attend and outline their vision to the estimated 12,500 concerned parents and teachers. While Labor's Kim Beazley, Bob Brown form the Greens and the Democrats' Lyn Allison have all accepted, there's been no answer form the government.
The Teachers Federation's Barry Johnston says he understands the Prime Minister has flicked the invitation to Education Minister David Kemp who is "desperately looking for someone to unload it onto."
For more details of the all-day event contact Penny Gilmour on 9217 2197 or Jenny Diamond on 9217 2164 or check out the Teachers Fed's website at http://www.nswtf.org.au
Week of Recognition for School Staff
Meanwhile, the CPSU will this week launch a national campaign to "recognise" the role of school support staff and public education.
Next Monday the CPSU will launch a national campaign to "recognise" the role of school support staff and public education. This is the first of many annual celebrations.
The keynote speaker will be Ms Jennie George, the immediate past President of the ACTU and an ex-teacher.
David Carey, CPSU Secretary said, "This an occasion where we say loudly and clearly 'Enough is enough-- we will not stand idly by as public education is run down by under funding, outrageous Federal discrimination and while our members bear the toll' "
The CPSU has members employed as support staff in public schools across Australia. The colourful campaign material, posters, stickers and brochures reflect the diversity of roles.
Support staff in schools undertake much more than the administrative functions involved in running the equivalent of a fair sized business. They provide library assistance, prepare the laboratories, assist with the learning of children with disabilities, maintain the premises and help bridge the culture gap with disadvantaged Aboriginal children.
Too often the public gaze is focused on teachers instead of the equally valuable role played by non-teaching staff.
Campaign activities will take place across Australia. In each State the activities will vary to suit the circumstances of the participants.
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association, New South Wales Branch is leading a coalition of workers, retailers, local community and politicians to block Westfield's greedy development application to legally charge workers $240 per year to provide safe parking.
Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association, New South Wales Branch Secretary Greg Donnelly has called on Council to dismiss Westfield's unfair application.
"It is astounding that Westfield seeks to squeeze retail workers for safe parking when they attend work. Westfield is only looking after Westfield in this matter. Retail workers are entitled to safe parking at their workplace."
Referring to previous occasions when the parking operator at Westfield has charged staff $60 per month for parking, in contravention of the existing development consent, Mr Donnelly today said:
"Westfield failed to provide safe parking when illegal fees were imposed at $60 per month in previous years. Westfield made this current application whilst these illegal fees were in place. It is ridiculous to even suggest that a $1 per day legal fee will now address those safety issues, which its higher illegal fee failed to address before.
Safety is an absolute obligation that Westfield, as the proprietor of the complex, should provide without cost to the retail workers engaged there."
Mr Donnelly also stated that the local residents and businesses of Liverpool had as much at stake as the retail workers:
"Our independent research indicates that approximately 43% of retail workers will park on streets rather than pay a fee. Why should local residents and businesses suffer because Westfield seeks to squeeze revenue from retail workers to cover its safety and security obligations?"
Mr Donnelly is highly critical of Westfield's track record at other centres:
"This is little more than a ruse to introduce paid parking for the centre's employees. Westfield has failed to provide free, safe parking in previous years and now seek to Council's approval to provide safety and security at a "nominal" cost.
The SDA is familiar with Westfield's concept of "nominal" cost. Westfield introduced employee parking at a "nominal" cost at Parramatta a decade ago. The original fee was $1 per day. It is now $5.00 per day.
Westfield is not concerned with the planning implications, is not concerned with security and is not concerned with the economic welfare of retail workers. Westfield is concerned about increasing its massive profits even further.
On the 13th August, 2001, Westfield Holdings Limited, with shopping centre assets under management valued at $24.5 billion, announced an after-tax profit for the year to 30th June, 2001, of $169.1 million, up 14.0% on last year's result. (source: www.westfield.com.au)
Westfield's massive profits must be measured against the modest income of retail workers, especially working mothers and young women in the industry who rely upon travelling to work by car. The real agenda is to make those who work in the shopping centre pay a fee to park their car. These are the very people who serve the customers in the shops. They are the same people who help Westfield make their massive profits. This is a case of corporate greed gone wild. It is time for Council to lay this greedy application to rest once and for all.
The SDA will continue to lead the protest against Westfield's greedy paid parking application until it backs off permanently."
Last year, over 100 retail employees from Westfield Liverpool attended a Council meeting to vent their anger at Westfield's latest attempt to secure the "pay to work" scheme. The SDA anticipates that retail workers will once again gather in large numbers this Monday night, 27th August, 2001, to continue their protest when Liverpool Council once more considers Westfield's application.
After 14 months stonewalling, the department has finally released some details of a 3.2 % pay offer to replace the previous agreement, which expired in December 2000.
Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) Deputy President, Malcolm Larsen today described the offer as 'mean-spirited, paltry and offensive'
"This offer is below the inflation rate and average federal public sector increases. It contains no backpay and is considerably less that the 12.9% that Federal MPs have been given since July last year.
"MP's staff have incredibly complex and stressful jobs. They work long hours and in an election period their workload doubles. They deserve a real pay rise," said Mr Larsen.
The union expects to be given more details about the offer when they meet with the Department in Canberra on Monday.
"They will have to come up with something a fair bit better than 3.2% if they want an agreement," warned Mr Larsen.
Country energy responded to the Municipal Employees Union claim for an Award provision of Paid Maternity Leave announcing to the Award Negotiating Committee this week that employees will receive 12 weeks Paid Maternity Leave.
The MEU, which represents workers in the energy industry, made a claim for the inclusion of Paid Maternity Leave provisions while negotiating a new Award for Country Energy members. According to MEU General Secretary Brian Harris this is a progressive step forward for rural workers. "There has been no provision for Paid Maternity Leave for these workers before so this is a fantastic result which puts rural workers ahead of their city counterparts."
MEU Energy Organiser Susan Page who led the negotiations for Paid Maternity Leave believes that this decision proves that Country Energy values the work done by their female employees. "Country Energy obviously knows that it is important to keep skilled employees in the workforce," said Ms Page who applauds Country Energy on their co-operative approach on this issue.
The new Award provisions include 12 weeks paid maternity leave or 24 weeks on half pay and will commence when the Award is ratified.
The MEU is also campaigning for Paid Maternity Leave provisions for local government workers. Brian Harris has urged the Local Government and Shires Association to follow the lead of Country Energy in ensuring that female workers have access to Paid Maternity Leave.
The LHMU Cleaning Union members will stand outside the main gate on Sunday handing out balloons and stickers to tell patrons that Wonderland is not so wonderful to its employees.
" We want Wonderland to give cleaners a fair go. At the moment they are paying their older employees $14.08 an hour and the newer employees $15.61 an hour even though we're all doing the same work," Grace Micalleff, the LHMU Cleaners Union Wonderland delegate said.
Wonderland, set upon 219 hectares of parkland in Eastern Creek, is the largest theme park in the southern hemisphere.
Wonderland's majority owner is a Malaysian company who operate another theme park near Kuala Lumpur.
" The people of western Sydney will back our cause.
" We're asking the 7000 people who come through the gates on Sunday to fly our balloons - saying 'I support the Cleaners' - to show the boss they back the union and the workers.
Boss Won't Listen
" For six months we've been asking the company to pay all 21 cleaners at the same, higher, rate but for six months they have ignored our pleas.
" At first they tried to say the new cleaners were doing a different job from the older cleaners - but we have had a number of meetings with the boss and time after time we've got the evidence to show that their claims are just not right.
" They tried to employ cleaners at the lower rate but found that no one would accept the job - they were forced to advertise the jobs at a higher rate.
" We are now in the situation that 9 cleaners get paid at the $15.61 an hour higher rate and the 12 cleaners who have been working at Wonderland for a longer period are being paid $14.08 an hour.
" We all believe we should be earning the same money," Grace Micalleff said.
Show Your Support
LHMU members and supporters, who can't make it to the Front Gate of Wonderland on Sunday are being asked to back the Wonderland workers - even through their computers.
Members and supporters can tell Wonderland's Front Desk now that they back the cleaners' cause.
E-mail: [email protected]
Don't forget to send a copy of the e-mail to the LHMU organiser for Wonderland, Steve Klaassen.
E-mail: [email protected]
QCU General Secretary Grace Grace said the Award Review Case will be heard across five days before a full bench of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission from September 17-25.
"We anticipate that this test case will set principles for the review of all Queensland state Awards which has to take place before July 1 next year," Ms Grace said.
"The QCU believes this will provide a fair and balanced outcome for workers in Queensland," she said.
"This case will strengthen the award system in Queensland because it is not shackled by the type of legislation under the Howard government," Ms Grace said.
Items in the Award Review case include greater protection for part time workers, relevance of exemption clauses, model clauses, facilitative provisions and dispute procedures.
"We are disappointed that employers are attempting to use this Award Review Process to strip away workers conditions," Ms Grace said.
"Employers should understand that the Peter Beattie Labor government's legislation is vastly different to Howard's 'stripping back' agenda," she said.
"The Award Review case will ensure that Queensland workers under Awards are not disadvantaged by outdated provisions and clauses no longer relevant in today's workforce," Ms Grace said.
This is the first major review of Awards under the new Labor government's Industrial Relations Act.
The Australian Workers Union has raised the concerns, saying the new gazette will be modeled on the federal system - the OSIRIS.
Apart form concerns that not all trade unions are equipped to deal with online services - the AWU cautions that the new system will change the codes and organization of the Gazette.
With the changes due to take place on September 20, the union is calling for a delay on the implementation of the new system to allow for negotiations between the parties.
"The AWU sees the changes which are directed at cost cutting by the NSW Industrial Registry as removing a well liked resource which has met the needs of both unions and employers as a source of industrial advice,' the AWU's state secretary Russ Collison says.
Supporters of Burmese workers will gather on Tuesday at 12.30pm outside Grace Brothers in the Pitt Street Mall to launch the "The Support Breasts Not Dictators" drive.
They will be asking consumers to boycott Triumph bras produced ion Burma - the nation found by the ILO to be in breach of core labour standards for their use of bonded labour.
The protest will centre around a giant bra and the ritual burning of Triumph products.
Triumph and retail outlets like Grace bros that stock its brands are defending their production on Burma on the grounds that they comply with the law and pay above minimum wages.
These defences have been rejected by the TCFUA as "propaganda", organizer Barbara Jensen pointing out that the Burmese law has been imposed by a Military dictatorship and that the on-going trade is in breach of the ILO recommendation.
The rally is being sponsored by the FairWear Alliance of trade union and church groups.
Debtor nations include the Philippines, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Nepal and Ethiopia - with a total debt of $510 million.
"In terms of the debt campaign, CHOGM will be an important opportunity for dialogue between leaders of a large number of indebted nations and those of creditor nations," Jubilee's Thea Ormond says.
Jubilee's plans for CHOGM are to:
- hold a peaceful rally on Saturday October 6.
- host visits from key spokespeople on debt cancellation.
- conduct a postcard and media campaign during the conference
- and hold seminars for government advisers and journalists attending the conference.
The Jubilee organizers are seeking trade union support to meet the costs of tis CHOIGM presence. Those who can contribute should contact Jubilee Australia at mailto:[email protected]
Corporate Power or People's Power?
Meanwhile, Aid/Watch is sponsoring a conference on Transnational Corporations and globalisation at UTS between 27-29 September.
Organizers say the conference will attempt to go beyond the tired pro/anti Globalisation argument and look at how change is impacting on workers lives and how it can be channeled.
"At the conference, participants will assess the impact of TNCs and how they exercise power," the organisers say. "They will compare experiences, build research agendas and develop strategy."
All unions are being encouraged to send a representative to participate in the conference. More details from AidWatch on 9387 5210.
A group of researchers headed by Barbara Pocock of Adelaide University interviewed 53 workers and their families to gauge the effect on them of unreasonable hours of work. The finding is that working long hours corrode community and family life. People are missing important time with children and partners, giving up hobbies and friendships. The full report will be launched in the near future.
So why do people do it? Some do it for money and get caught in the overtime trap. They become accustomed to the higher take home pay and come to rely on the extra hours. But when you consider the high levels of unpaid overtime that Australians work money can't be the primary reason for working long hours. The research shows that a strong factor is 'culture'. Organisations placing a lot of pressure on workers to work beyond standard hours and to come in on rest days. And if you don't comply, expect to be overlooked for promotion, regarded as not committed to the organisation, and made less secure in your job.
Interviewees feel that work has become their life. They find it difficult to foresee a change to their hours regimes believing the long hours culture is so strong that the prospect of individuals having an impact seems remote.
The research concluded that Australians need a regulated standard for hours and the capacity to enforce that collectively if working hours are to be reigned in.
Will the sky fall in if hours are cut?
ACIRRT at the University of Sydney are conducting some research that may also assist the claim. They are on the lookout for workplaces where hours have been reduced. They will be investigating effects on profit and productivity where hours have been cut.
Please contact ACIRRT if you are involved with a workplace where hours have been reduced.
Ring Brigid Van Wanrooy, or Justine Evesson at ACIRRT on 02 9351 5625 before October.
Fundraiser for Western Sahara
Featuring Babalu, Metro Flamenco and Soiree...
Babalu... this 8-piece band is one of the most popular Afro-Caribbean acts in Australia at the moment
Metro Flamenco...'the hottest flamenco dance ensemble to appear in Sydney's underground scene'
Other music includes Soiree and there' s a DJ as well...
Money raised will be used to bring a Saharawi woman out to Australia on a speaking tour to help gain support for the struggle of the Saharawi people, who have been living in Refugee Camps since 1975 when Morocco invaded their country. Polisario is the liberation movement fighting for Western Sahara's independence.
Thursday 6 September 8pm Harbourside Brasserie
Tickets: $15, $10 students/concession
Enquires: Stephanie Brennan 9320 0042 or 0411 239934 or Natalie Joughin 8204 7251 or 0425 214618
Organised by the Western Sahara Alliance and the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA)
The Age of Dissent
The Sydney Branch of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History has organised a Conference on Social Protest Movements and the Labour Movement, 1965-1975.
The Conference will be held over the weekend 22-23 September, at the Women's College, University of Sydney. It promises to be a memorable and enjoyable event.
Commemorating the significance of the wide ranging social and political movements, and industrial struggles, of the period, the Conference will focus on Sydney and NSW.
Prominent activists in the major mass movements of the turbulent decade have been gathered by the organisers. The panellists and speakers, some 40 veterans of the period, will explain events, and reflect on their long-term social and political ramifications for Australian society.
The program has been arranged into five sessions with eight panels, providing time for introductory talks, questions/comments from the floor, and discussion between panellists and attendees.
Registration fees are $80 for both days; $45 for one day. Concessions are available at $40 and $25 respectively. Registration includes all-day coffee/tea, substantial buffet lunches, and Saturday evening wine/snacks.
Registration: Dr Beverley Symons, Secretary, Sydney Branch ASSLH, 23/68-74
Liverpool Road, Summer Hill, 2130. Enquiries: (02) 9799.6943 or (02)
SEMINAR ON PRIVATISING DEMOCRACY?
THURSDAY AUGUST 30 at 9.00 AM to 1.00 PM
The Evatt Foundation/Pluto Seminar exploring the changing nature of the state, its relationship with citizens and the crisis in governmental legitimacy, PRIVATISING DEMOCRACY? GOVERNMENT AND THE CRISIS OF CONSENT will be held on Thursday August 30 (9.00 AM to 1.00 PM) at the NSW State Parliament House Theatrette.
Speakers include Murray Goot, David Hill, Margo Kinston, Ghassan Hage, Christopher Sheil.
At the conclusion of the seminar, Barry Jones will launch the Evatt Foundtion book, GLOBALISATION - AUSTRALIAN IMPACTS edited by Christopher Sheil.
Bookings are essential:Telephone: 02 9385 2966 or email: [email protected]
Free the Refugees Solidarity Tour
Friday September 21 - Sunday September 23
GET ON THE BUS!
Join the Refugee Action Collective trip to Woomera Detention Centre in South Australia to protest at the imprisonment of refugees and asylum seekers, as we go into an election where neither of the major parties
offers a decent alternative to the current system of gross human rights violations.
In the tradition of the Freedom Rides, defy the fear and remoteness which divides those of us living in
Australia from those seeking peace and freedom, who would join us.
Buses will be leaving from Melbourne , Sydney, Adelaide, and Canberra, and other places as plans progress.
Sydney people contact Ian, 0417 275 713 for details.
For Melbourne people, the itinerary is as follows:
Friday 21 September:
Leave in the afternoon for a bus ride to Woomera in South Australia.
Saturday 22 September:
Arrive in Woomera for breakfast. Protest, activities, etc at Woomera Detention Centre for the morning, into the afternoon.
Bus to Adelaide in the afternoon. Tentative plans for a public meeting in Adelaide to help build a refugee activist group there, and to discuss the day.
Spend the night in accommodation, which we will be planning in either billets, backpackers etc, or perhaps a church or school hall.
Sunday September 23:
morning rally and speakout in Adelaide, and bus back to Melbourne arriving in the evening.
In the days following the trip we will organise a public meeting or rally to highlight the experience.
Register via email [email protected], or phone
Giada, 0508 538 916
The cost will be $100 waged, $80 unwaged(including accommodation), but we will be fundraising to subsidise.
Volunteers in Melbourne who would like to help organise things, please contact us (see details below), or come to our regular meetings Tuesday 6pm at Trades Hall, cnr Lygon and Victoria Sts.
Refugee Action Collective
0418 347 374
Public meeting:Stop the GATS attack on Public Education
-Fighting the World Trade Organisation's Privatisation Juggernaught.
Wednesday Sept 5th,
1.00pm Carslaw Bldg, room 157
1. Ted Murphy - (NTEU National Assistant Secretary)
2. Paul Dwyer - (Academic, Arts Faculty)
3. International Solidarity Collective (Student)
The NTEU, SRC staff, and some student activists have got together to hold a public meeting about the General Agreement on Trade in Services GATS and its effects on Public Education. GATS is very scary indeed. Basically it is a set of legally binding WTO rules that aim to open up trade in services to the global free market. Multinational corporations are eyeing services as multi billion dollar source of profit. Education, health and water services are thought to be the most lucrative, with education estimated to be $2 trillion dollar global market. Investment houses like Meryll Lynch estimate that public education will be privatised over the next decade. GATS will make sure this happens.
GATS will restrict the ability of national governments to fund and regualte public services. Rules include the requirement for government money to be equally available to public and private institutions. The Liberals have already suggested using the voucher system of funding for education, wherby vouchers are redeemable at public or private institutions. Competitive tendering of public services such as DOCS disability services and employment services are all ways of effectively moving government money into the private sector which GATS will enforce.
Regulation of the service sector including education will also be under attack. The service sector is one of the most regulated sectors on the planet, for good reasons - to ensure quality of service. Qualification requirements, proceedures, technical and environmental standards could be challenged if they are considered to be 'trade restricrtive' or 'more burdensome' than necessary. A deregulated service sector in a competiive environment will effect service users as well as workers.
Over 70% of people said they wanted more funding to public health and education from this years election policies. GATS will see and end to that.
Whether you are a hospital worker, council worker, teacher, postal worker, student or a member of the community who uses a service you should be very concerned about GATS. There is much at stake. The service sector employs 70% of the Australian workforce and is the fastest growing sector in the global economy. The effects of corporatisation and privatsation have already been felt across the service sector. Job losses, increased workplace stress, as well as reduced quality, equity and access to important services have occurred in privatised and deregulated industries such as telecommunications, finance and education. GATS will deepen this process.
Come along and find out more and what we can do to STOP the GATS attack.
For more info on GATS See:
Reverse Garbage Art and Design Competition
As part of their 25th Birthday Celebrations Australia's first Re-use Centre, Reverse Garbage, is running 'Junk Love': an art and design competition. It was created to provide an opportunity for artists and designers working with re-used materials to showcase their work; and to promote awareness of waste avoidance and re-use issues.
Reverse Garbage's General Manager Heidi Freeman says 'We'd like to show everyone the amazing things our customers create. Some of our customers are at the cutting edge of contemporary art and design, and we'd like to see that acknowledged in the broader community. We've also put a lot of work into partnerships with industry, and so would like to demonstrate how this generation of designers is engaging with issues of sustainability.'
The exhibition of finalists in November will offer positive and playful solutions to questions of resource re-use and sustainability; and provides a space for the creation of powerful visions from emerging and established professional and community artists and designers.
'Junk Love' offers two major prizes of $500 each, for Art and Design, and Sustainable Design, as well as a host of smaller prizes in a number of categories including visual art, furniture, toys, and Kids creations.
The opening of the exhibition will also launch Reverse Garbage's 25th Birthday, celebrating 25 years of co-operative resource re-use.
Entries are open now and close on Monday 5th November. Please call Francesca Cathie at Reverse Garbage on 02 9569 3258 for entry details.
On Thursday August 9th 2001, 80 workers at CSX World Terminals on the docks in Brisbane, Australia, are summoned into a meeting with the company's Australian general manager Grant Gilfillan with MUA leaders and human resource and employment officers. They are told that CSX has sold the company's equipment and terminal to their competitor Patrick Stevedores and that the entire workforce will no longer be required. Only weeks before, the workers received letters congragulating them on being the most efficient stevedoring workforce in Australia, with the highest crane rates, and a second berth next door that would increase future contracts and add to their competitiveness.
To many of the workers who transferred from Patrick Stevedores 3 years before, this is a double blow. Despite an historical win in the highest court in the land in which Patrick's was found guilty of unfair dismissal and ordered to reinstate them, a ruthless Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) followed. Workers were forced to either leave, stay on in a brutal work environment where conditions had become severely undermined, or transfer to the more union-friendly company Sealand. In the past year, Sealand has been sold to CSX, and now Patrick's is once again, destroying their livelihoods.To add to the worker's frustration, its an election year, and no-one seems to want an industrial battle so close to an election. Its as if these proud workers are meant to die off quietly..
Do you know of any group dedicated towards lobbying for a more socially acceptable banking system?.
If you do could you let me know?
I would like to join and contribute to such a group.
Love your tool of the week column. Your profiles are not only informative but very entertaining. I enjoyed scribbling over Larry Anthony this week. i am going to print one off as a urinal target. I'm sure there are a lot of welfare recipients out there who would really enjoy doing a lot worse to Larrys face. Please keep up exposing these tools to the ridicule they deserve.
Regarding your historical feature in issue 106: another important source on Indonesian workers in the 1940s and 50s and their links to Australia is the 1997 UNSW PhD thesis by Jan Elliott: Bersatoe Kita Berdiri, Bertjerai Kita Djatoeh [United We Stand, Divided We Fall], Workers and Unions in Jakarta: 1945-1965.
by Peter Lewis
What are the ideas behind the Manusafe scheme?
Basically to fill the quite glaring shortfall that exists in protection of workers' entitlements in Australia at the moment. The issue was ignored by the coalition, from day one despite a string of collapses and failures like CSA mine at Cobar, Oakdale, Woodlawn, Parrish Meats, the list goes on and on. And the government kept wringing their hands and saying nothing could be done.
The Federal Government then only grudgingly brought their existing scheme into existence, particularly after the National Textiles debacle, where Stan Howard the PMs brother was on the board of the company. John used the communities money to bail-out Stan, and pay of National Textiles workers lost entitlements.
After that grubby episode they had to respond. It was only through tremendous pressure from the community supporting the unions campaign that the Howard Government was forced to introduce the current federal EESS Scheme They would still be ignoring the issue if they could.
But their scheme is just not good enough .The shortcomings of that are manifestly clear to everybody. It is funded by the taxpayer, which is wrong in principle. It doesn't deliver 100% of workers' entitlements in the case of a corporate collapse .The payouts a worker can receive are capped at very low level. It is very bureaucratic. You have to wait until the end of the insolvency and wind up process before you may access the money. It doesn't protect entitlements through a transmission of business. And it doesn't have the support of the States, the unions, or the community.
The vacuum has existed, politically, in response to corporate collapses, and on the other hand, the community has seen the number of collapses has go up. The changes to the labour market and the weakening ofindustrial relations legislation and the move to deregulation has seen a tremendous rise in insecurity amongst workers and that has led to the emergence of a view that there has to be a better way to protect entitlements.
Manusafe scheme was born in response to that .The initiative came from the AMWU, and other manufacturing unions. It has been over 21/2 years in development. It was the Unions response to corporate and industrial landscape that had been created over the last four or five years - maybe longer in Australia.
I know Tony Abbott says this is a union controlled fund. Who runs Manusafe?
Tony Abbott has basically tried to imply fairly quickly that any money that goes into Manusafe the unions can access in some way and they can put their hand in the till and take it out and use it for some kind of devious purpose. That is completely wrong. The Minister is deliberately attempting to misrepresent and deceive the Australian population about the structure of Manusafe and its role. What a clown!
Manusafe is an Industry Trust Fund, similar to many other trusts set up to deal with financial matters to the benefit of workers. Its Board, and its Trust Deed and its policy processes are based on a joint decision making model with employer and employee representation. It is not a situation where it is union controlled. It is not designed to be union controlled. It is designed to be run on a cooperative basis, similar to the way that industry superannuation schemes run; similar to the way that many corporate superannuation schemes are run, similar to many cooperative structures that exist in our society.
The question of union control is the usual diversion that has been thrown up by both the Federal Government and some employers to obscure the core issue, fact that they really don't have any long term, viable answer to the question of protecting entitlements.
The industry trust fund model and the very existence of Manusafe, open for business with contributions from individual employers already rolling in is a tremendous affront to them.
They keep saying Manusafes not the answer but where's the alternative? It leaves the government and those employers who won't face up to solving the problem terribly exposed politically.
So, have you invited the employers to be part of this?
There is an open invitation for the major employer group the AiG, to take up seats on the Board of Manusafe. There is also an open invitation to individual, larger employers within the manufacturing sector to take up seats as well, and that invitation is going to remain open because in the long term that is the best way for the fund to operate.
A trust fund that operates on open and transparent principles must have a decision making process where everybody that is a stakeholder in one form or another has a seat at the table and has a say. And I see nothing wrong with that. I think that is a good, solid model to design these things around.
And I am reminded of the survey released by TMP a few weeks ago that showed 2/3rds of Managers thought that trust funds were the best way to protect entitlements.
Can you understand the argument from the employers which says, if you take away our up front capital it means that we have got less money to operate on, which means that we are less successful, which means there are fewer jobs for the workers?
There are several aspects of that argument. Firstly, in the broad sense, that can be applied to any input cost on an employment process, be it the payment of wages, be it the payment of income tax, be it the payment of licence fees, be it the payment of anything.
One could argue that in a competitive environment if a business can't meet the cost of operation, including making a reasonable provision for liabilities it really shouldn't be in business. That is a philosophical view that some people could take. But in terms of the nuts and bolts, in the long term, putting money into a trust fund will reduce the liabilities that exist on a company's balance sheet, which helps make it easier for a company to attract investment.
And we feel that there is some financial benefit for contributing into Manusafe. That hasn't come out so far in the debate because of the atmospherics and the very determined effort, particularly by the Federal Government, to muddy the waters entirely. They can't argue on anything else except to try and scare employers that somehow you will go broke if you join up to Manusafe.
That is the only line they have got left in this whole workers' entitlement question, because they haven't been able to come up with an effective political response, and the events of the last couple of weeks, particularly the TriStar dispute, has shown that quite clearly community support is behind workers fighting to protect whats theirs, and that in the absence of a political solution which people see is a viable one, and one that they are not paying for out of their own pocket, they are going to support the industry trust fund model.
It's a simple concept, the responsibility rests where it belongs with the employer, and support for trust funds as a way to protect entitlements is growing.
Obviously Manusafe has been the center of many high profile disputes. How many firms do you have on board at the moment?
We have a number of firms on board at the moment, and we have an even larger number that are prepared to sign up but I'm not going to reveal them on the record at the moment because of the campaign that is being run to stifle Manusafe and the pressures that are being placed on companies that are at the starting line not to sign up.
Presuming this gets off the ground, it is going to have a large bank of money which obviously will turn some degree of profit if you invest it in a fairly competent way. What are your plans with that money that comes into the scheme?
Under the Trust Deed of the scheme, any fund earnings must go back to the contributors. Fund earnings are either remitted to individual employees who have accounts in Manusafe, or to their employers who make a contribution into Manusafe. So we are trying to make sure that those people that are putting their money in, whether they are an employer or an employee, benefit from the earnings of the fund. It is not a situation where, despite the sloganeering that is running around, it is some kind of slush fund for unions or employers or anything else. The decision has been made. The Trust Deed is quite clear - all fund earnings will be used to benefit participating employers and employees.
What about other entitlements? One of the issues with a casualised workforce is problems like for instance, very few people stay in a job long enough to have long service leave. If you look at the building industry. They have got a mobile long service leave fund. Is that a sort of entitlement that you would like to bring into Manusafe as it evolves?
Certainly this particular area is one that the labour movement as a whole must address. Whether we like it or not the nature of employment has changed dramatically in the last decade. Workers are much more mobile. There is a huge increase in casual situations; fixed term contracts; moving from employer to employer. And some of the structures and conditions that the union movement fought so hard to establish are still predicated along the old notions of one or two employers over the course of a working life.
So there is now a very mobile workforce - there is tremendous change within the workforce. It is up to the labour movement to establish more non-profit financial support structures and that allow workers to have some kind of real flexibility on their side of the employment equation .Why shouldn't a worker be able to have their own account for sick leave and long service leave and annual leave, or severance pay - and take it with them from job to job?
Portability of entitlements in one form or another is where the labour movement now has an opportunity to develop a long term response. So maybe we should be adapting some of our entitlement structures - building on the success of not for profit examples that already exist primarily to benefit workers. Manusafe is capable of evolving in many directions.
Labor federally has promised an insurance based scheme, surely that is a threat to Manusafe?
Not at all. The Labor Party scheme has at its heart the philosophy that workers should be able to get 100 per cent of their entitlements if they are lost, and that is a vast improvement on the Coalition for a start. Secondly, the Labor scheme is also predicated basically on the employers paying the cost of covering the entitlements - and again that is an improvement on the Coalition's scheme where they want the community - ordinary workers - to pay for other companies going belly up. So, their starting points are immeasurably better.
Secondly, the Opposition Shadow Minister has made quite clear that if the national entitlement insurance scheme comes into being with Labor in power, then there will be room for trust funds. And there are existing trust funds now for long service and severance in a number of industries. So there is no reason why they can't coexist.
But why would an employer choose to pay one per cent rather than 0.1 per cent?
Under the labor model an employer still has to make normal provision for entitlements as well as pay the levy. And many workers will want to negotiate a situation where they can see their entitlements protected in a trust fund as as they accrue. They are not going to sit on their hands and just wait. And any national insurance scheme is not going to be set up overnight, it will require a far amount of work to establish.
So there is a lot more water to go under the bridge including an election yet before that national insurance option actually gets up.
What seems to be happening in several of the se industrial disputes is that the Manusafe option is put up as the preferred claim and then a deal is cut that they go with an insurance bond. Are you concerned that your scheme is being used as almost an ambit in some of these negotiations?
Most of your readers will know that no gains have ever been made without a fair number of battles and a fair number of struggles and the very first time that workers put up the claim of an annual leave, or loading, superannuation or long service leave, or penalty rates, or any of those other things, they didn't necessarily win them.
I think what we have seen after the TriStar dispute is that mostly workers are voting with their feet, and they are starting to take the issue up irrespective of the particular outcome at Tristar , and are saying, we want our entitlements protected and we think an industry trust fund is the best way to do it.
So, I am not concerned about the heat and sparks coming out of the industrial parties wrestling with each other over this issue. I am confident in the long term the industry trust fund model has enough positives to it to survive.
Noel: All of these things you are saying are classic neo-liberal arguments that have been put forward for the last 10 or 15 years about what needs to be done. There needs to be more competition. We need to break up the monopolies. We need to privatise. Blah, blah, blah. It hasn't delivered a better outcome for most people though. It's delivered a good outcome for a lot of businesses and people who have got a stake in there, but it hasn't delivered a good outcome for workers. It's increased insecurity; there's lower real wages; there is all those issues that we have been talking about right through, and I am extremely cynical and skeptical about all those things. They have not delivered in the way that has been promised. All those things have been put in place and maybe BHP did have its problems and maybe Smorgens has become more competitive - you can put all that anecdotal evidence forward but what does the big picture tell us?
Sean: I think that the fundamental problem in that model is that security has been placed in the enterprise, not in community structures.
Noel: What has happened has been a complete abandonment of responsibility by government and by the democratic processes that are meant to be there. That whole free market approach means there has been power translated both in an economic and political sense, out to people who do not have the interests of workers at heart.
Sean: I would agree with you on a commercial basis, and I would agree that's what has ended up happening in government. I don't think that, per se, means that for the future we decide that we are not going to change, because I would have to say that my view is that there is not really a choice for us. I think the choice for us, is how can we make the change work for us better, and I agree that there is a lot of work, we can do this better. Now fundamentally, I think our sense of security has to be vested in our community infrastructures, not in individual enterprise, and that's why I think things like long service leave being a superannuation entitlement, rather than being invested in a company that might go broke, is really important.
Michael: Noel, I just want to pick up on your point where you said that it's no different to the neo-liberalist argument. It's a really valid criticism. It's one that's going to come up, so it might be worth expanding a bit..
Noel: It's a slavishness to a new orthodoxy and it's not actually paying the results that we've been promised. And it's so important to stop and say at a macro level - this ain't working. Go down to a micro level and say, yeah, you need to be more competitive, or this enterprise is doing much, much better. But if you look at the over all results in that general approach, is it working for most workers? And the thing that is really disturbing is that there is a complete abandonment of responsibility by the political process.
Michael: If it is different from the neo-liberalists, why is it different? I think the commonality between your argument and neo-liberalist argument is where we are going. What's happening. Globalisation. Internationalism. Both we, and the neo-liberalists are saying that's where we are heading. I guess the real difference between what Sean has put forward and what the neo-liberalists argue is how that transition is managed. It's the social contract that underpins that transition, rather than the transition itself. If the transition is inevitable and I suppose we can debate the inevitability or otherwise of it, then ....
Noel: Well, the word "inevitability" is something that scares me about the whole of this debate. It is that it is allowed to carry on no matter what the consequences are, because everyone thinks it's inevitable.
Michael: Or there's the other way of going, and saying "it is inevitable", it's going to happen, let's not ignore it anymore, let's face up to it and if that's going to be the case, how do we make it acceptable?
Noel: Well let's at least have a genuine debate about it. What really scares me when you have these sort of debates, there is an incredible repression about challenging it. You are a dinosaur - you're an old Marxist - if you challenge these new shibboleths of the neo-liberal age. I just think if you say I oppose the break up, the privatisation of Telstra or whatever, people come back with these arguments about well, it's inevitable, this is the way globalisation is going. All it just leads to is an incredibly sterile debate that is actually in favour of those trends that make it inevitable.
Michael: The problem is the debates on the Left have been quite sterile.
Noel: It's not a question of being on the Left.
Michael: My problem is that I think that there has been a crisis in progressive politics in dealing with the information age, because I think the neo-liberalists were very well placed for the emerging age of global capital, and I think probably the progressive side of politics was very badly placed. What we want to try and do with this book is to try and reclaim that agenda, but by doing so I think what we have to do is to give some intellectual rigour to the left/progressive side of politics. But to do that we have to acknowledge where the neo-libertarians were right and accurately state where they were wrong. And I think they were absolutely wrong in the way they wanted to manage the transition, which was f... you, you've lost your job, it's going offshore, and that has led to the breakdown of the social contract and the emergence of One Nation, Pauline Hanson's movement, the crisis in government that we've got at the moment.
Noel: Yes I agree with those things you have just said, but there are other things as well. There is still a persistence of elements of power from the past that still go into the present. It's true that there is a change in the nature of work and in the nature of the workplace, but power hasn't changed that much. If you look at those realities for workers - that their real wages have gone down and their insecurities are there - Why is that? There are power relationships involved in all those changes - not just technical changes.
Sean: But I have to say Noel that the stats would say that overall wealth has gone up. The real problem is distribution of wealth in this country. And that's an important stat because in a sense these neo-liberal changes have delivered something, which is an increase in total social wealth, but the way it's been implemented has ended up being a much greater concentration of that wealth. What I'm concerned about is getting the best of both worlds.
Michael: People who have slipped into the information age have done very well, it's the people still locked in the industrial age that have actually not done well at all.
Sean: I genuinely believe it's possible to continue and to increase the total wealth - putting aside the issue of environmental sustainability which is a concern of mine separately. But I don't think that's necessarily exclusive to this issue - whilst also ensuring a reasonable and much fairer distribution of that wealth. And that is for me what the problem is about. Not that the changes haven't delivered wealth, but rather we have done them in a way that has marginalised a whole group of people and marginalised further a whole group of people who are already marginalised.
Michael: Particularly in certain regions, the unemployed, and those that are locked into the Tayloristic industrial age.
Noel: But the other issue is, was there another alternative in the way that that done. It was always the neo-liberal argument from the beginning. We've got a crisis and there is no other alternative except to do it this way - and that is a point that is very thinly debated.
Sean: I have to say, Noel, the proof of the pudding is the difference between the New Zealand economy and the Australian economy. Which is a relative difference, because the Australian economy is still pretty neo-liberal but not as neo-liberal as the New Zealand economy was and the end result was the NZ economy went right down the OECD ladder consistently right through ......
Noel: And is now struggling to try and get back there.
Michael: Because they didn't manage their transition properly.
Noel: And they also didn't deliver. That neo-liberal agenda in its purest form - which is what it was - you wouldn't have got it in a purer form in the Western world than what you got in New Zealand - didn't deliver. Their economy shrunk for about the first seven or eight years of that experiment and they slid down the OECD ladder.
Michael: There's two debates. The transition itself: Is it worth making? And is there another way of doing it?
Sean: I suppose I'm putting a case to you that I still think yes the transition and the transitions are in fact essential and I think the internet age is only going to heighten that transition.
The critical issue for us becomes how to work towards a fairer distribution of that wealth. That fair distribution is in two places. One is within countries like ours but it's also internationally. In other words, its globally as well. It's a concern to me for example, that at the moment I think Africa is the continent that's going to be slowest to be able to take up this revolution. And I don't think, by the way, that it is very hard to do something about that. Especially, with some of the technological advances and you will find that a whole lot of people in silicon valley who were quite keen on the idea of helping Africa take a leap beyond the industrial age because our wealth really is linked to theirs anyway in the long run. The basic principle behind this which I have to say I do subscribe to now, is that there is a kind of a mentor about creating wealth.
Michael: As opposed to economic nationalism, mercantilism. The failure of Japan's economy is the ultimate proof that mercantilism didn't work, that economic nationalism is a complete failure, that wealth is a collective thing. Wealth is created by spreading it around and the more evenly we can distribute wealth the greater that wealth can be for everyone.
Sean: Well, the big change though in economics in the last few years - which not everyone accepts - is that you are not dealing with finite resources. Wealth isn't a finite thing. But in fact, it's a product of imagination.
Michael: It's particularly easy now to see when the real value added is the imagination anyway. It was harder to see when what was primarily being traded were goods and commodities whereas now what is being traded is primarily services. It's easy to see that there is no limit to those resources.
Noel: You said you can't argue with the fact the proof of the pudding has been an increase in wealth. There has been a growth figure. But the argument for me there is to have an analysis of why is that so. Is it because of all those changes that have been made - like increased competition or whatever, or have they just leveraged on the technology changes that have come about. Could those technological changes have led to an increase of wealth being harnessed in a different way? Or could you actually have done it - for me it's not just a left perspective - but just this idea about privatisation and things like that. These have always been mechanisms of how you redistribute wealth. By having a reasonable state sector involvement in the economy and having a public service and a strong involvement in the economy and having a good union movement, have been two of the big ways that you have redistributed wealth. That's the debate that you have to address without in some way being pejorative and saying 'that's a dinosaur argument'. Was there another way, where you could have held on to those redistributed mechanisms but still leveraged the technological changes that in to increase the wealth? I think it's a pretty unexplored sort of line thought.
Michael: Or do you need to review the risk of the mechanisms themselves? Are you going to say, this is how we spread wealth around in the past. And let's face it, the industrial age didn't actually spread wealth around very well at all. In fact it tended to coagulate wealth into the capital class and you tended to have this under class...
Sean: That's not strictly speaking correct because there's a pretty massive bourgeois class in the western world now - middle class - and that in fact is an outcome of the distribution of wealth. I think the debate is not that it hasn't been distributed, but rather could it have been done sooner or something like that.
Michael: I think you can say that in the industrial age wealth didn't tend to flow down to the bottom very well at all. OK you had a growing middle class, but you had a third of the population in the middle class and basically two-thirds of the population who were an under class, who were the working class.
Sean: ... in the early stages of the industrial revolution. Which is going to happen with the information revolution too unfortunately. This is what we have got to fight against. The only thing it will be in a shorter period. But I think you also have to say that in the latter part of the industrial revolution in western countries it became a two-thirds: thirds. Someone earning $50,000 or $40,000 a year now is in material terms earning a lot more than their father earned 20 or 30 years ago. In terms of purchasing power and in terms of relative wealth, a lot more. And the per capita income in western countries is far, far higher, even taking into account quality of life issues, than it was a generation ago.
Michael: And a range of basic things like food and basic lifestyle products are cheaper.
Sean: A wide range of things. Now, why it is useful to think about this in terms of the next age which we are entering into? It is because the real value, the real change to that wealth has come from different kinds of applications and imagination. Now, the application and imagination initially was reorganising forms of work - like Henry Ford, Taylorists treating people as pieces in a game.
Michael: Like a machine.
Sean: Although I must say, remember that Henry Ford actually guaranteed his staff a good wage. So, we've got to remember that about Ford.
Michael: He had to compensate that they had a boring job.
Noel: No. He put purchasing power in their pockets.
Sean: He had a view which he had to pay people so they could buy his cars. It was an economic view. A damn good idea.
Micahel: But that was at the start of the Industrial Age.
Sean: No. We are talking about 1906. This is 100 years into the industrial age. This is the beginning of the mature phase. What I'm saying is that the wealth that we've got has been added by imagination. A lot of that wealth has been generated from individual products. Like the usage of cars, putting aside the environmental disaster they have been. But the usage of your crops. People's ability to live off their own products. The spread of that sort of wealth.
Now in the new age you are going to get a lot more of that because: (a) there's a bigger market, and (b) there's a lot more tools available to individuals to apply their own imagination. If that works well it could mean an exponential growth in wealth, if you accept the theory that wealth flows from the successful application of the technology.
Michael: That really then goes to the whole theory of individualism. Because where you've got people all locked together in step - and I guess in the traditional industrial age the collectivist model is... people were very treated similarly and there was an enormous sense of collectiveness across the workplace. People did the same job in the same way.
Sean: Which is a temporary hiatus to history, which lasted 150 to 200 years. Prior to that people were crafts people.
Michael: In the information age people are going to go back to having an individual job. People are all going to do things their own way.
Sean: That's right. We are going to become intellectual craftspersons.
Michael: So they are going to become in one sense more individualistic. Because they are doing work differently, they are leading their lives differently. They've got a car rather than public transport.
Sean: They can choose to work at home, work at the office, do a range of things.
Michael: And because they are more unique, they are more of an individual, then they are more likely to come up with a unique idea. And so their imagination grows. But does that necessarily mean that they lose their sense of collectivism? Do they still have collective needs?
Noel: I'd question this idea that brilliant ideas come from individuals. I think they come from groups. They come from teamwork. People spark off each other and an idea grows.
Michael: I think they are coming from individuals synergising.
Noel: People come together and you get more of a brainstorm than you do on your own.
Michael: That's true, but if you have got a unique group of people who all live different kinds of lives and come from different cultures and backgrounds, then you are going to get much more interesting ideas than you are than if you take a bunch of people who all do the same thing.
Noel: There's merit in that. The value of diversity.
Michael: But diversity is increasing. People are becoming more unique, but I don't necessarily accept that statement that individualism is growing, because I still think that people have enormous collective needs. OK our lives are all changing. This is why industrial awards don't work as well as they used to. Awards worked really well in an age when everyone had a very similar kind of job. You neatly fitted into that Clerk Grade 3. You had the same kind of job and the same kind of work patterns. You worked 9 to 5.
In the information age everyone is going to have their own unique pattern of work; their own way of doing things. It will suit them, so you can't lock everyone into that one-size-fits-all industrial age model. But that doesn't mean they don't still have collective needs. In fact, maybe my collective needs which were met because I could identify with every other Clerk Grade 3 in the world. That was a collective need that was met in that way. I have got to find a much more imaginative and different ways of meeting that collective need. Which means I still think in a world full of individuals, you still need unions, but the unions role has to change. They have to recognise and allow for the individual.
I think unions at the moment risk repressing the capacity for individual expression. I think at the moment some unions want to retain people, lock everyone into being a Clerk Grade 3, and what unions have to do is change their whole mindset. They have to allow that to say, we don't want you to be a Clerk Grade 3, we want you be able to express yourself individually. But at the moment I think there is a tendency in unions to try and stop that ...
Noel: It is not just unions. It is the whole of the left wing thought.
Sean: And a lot of right wing thought. Institutional thought.
Michael: Let's say conservative thought.
Sean: Of left and right. That's true - that's institutional thinking.
Michael: The old left and the old right I think are the same. I see them both as conservative. There is a new mode of progressives that maybe come from elements of the old right - maybe are progressive nowadays.
And I think maybe the fact that Sean is in this room, contributing to this book - and he's an employer - he's a boss - he's on the other side of the fence. I think you can find conservatives in the old left and the old right, and I think you can find progressives in the old left and the old right too. I think there's a re-shaping of the political paradigm.
Noel: Coming from the Left I definitely accept that there is a kernel of truth in a whole lot of things that the Right have been coming out with. I am a very severe critic of the neo-liberal agenda and there are lots of areas where people call me a dinosaur, but I always listen to what the Right say, because what they do, is quite cleverly identify the kernel of dissatisfaction that there is out there within society and in the workplace and then hijack it for their own agenda.
Michael: Exactly. And what we have to do is we have to find out where they are right and accept that they are right and then work out where they are wrong and nail them all.
Noel: They identify the dissatisfaction really well. It's the agenda they use it for. So we have got to go back and concede that there is dissatisfaction there - and it is quite often with us. It is quite often with the union or a political party or whatever. And we have to deal with it.
This is a transcript of a discussion involving the ACTU's Noel Hester, Social Change Online's director Sean Kidney and Labor Council's Michael Gadiel
I could find nothing wrong in anything that John Howard said in his speech today. In fact I think he can justly claim that those of us who were cynical about his 1998 ACOSS Congress Speech were wrong. Mutual obligations
was controversial as an idea then but I think it is now well accepted as a pre-condition for a new chance for many people who have been left behind in our society.
All this points to John Howard's skill as a politician but also to his commitment to a set of ideas that he has sometimes pressed against the grain of this sector. The other idea that I think one has to say that John Howard
was right about was his idea that a social coalition is at least potentially more flexible and responsive than say a government monopoly over social welfare services.
However it is clear, as John Howard also acknowledged today, that "there are too many out of work, too many people who are disadvantaged". I think it can be argued, and Jamie Gallbraith who visited Australia last week,
certainly argued this way, that inequality has grown in Australia because of the economic policies of the last few years and of the last few decades.
There certainly is I think a failure at a macro-economic level, and the reluctance of successive governments to pursue a policy of full employment, underlines this and of course this means that the whole fabric of social welfare becomes a highly pressurized environment.
The problem of large scale unemployment has particular significance for Australia's social welfare system because most of our cash based support systems are premised on the idea of full employment. The dole, pensions, disabilities, health and safety payments are all designed around the idea of full employment and the fact that these payments and support would be a temporary means of support.
You don't need to be an economist or a demographer to understand what happens when we have an uninterrupted period of nearly 30 years of over 5% unemployment. What has happened is that upwards of a million Australians have become increasingly disadvantaged and out of touch with the world of work.
They have become isolated in particular regions and communities, and from Cunnamulla to Claymore we are now dealing with a US underclass phenomenon and a massive effort is needed to repair the personal, family and community damage that has been done.
John Howard is right I think to say that a social coalition is the best way to address these problems. I think contrary to an argument I had with Eva Cox last week, this is not about getting government off the hook, rather it is about trying to make government resources more fluid and potentially more adhesive to business and community initiatives. Yes this does pose a problem for the CPSU and those who represent the CES, and it is a problem for those who work in the community sector that were used to delivering a relatively stable set of services in a predictable and standard way; but this is plainly not what is needed. Our situation makes it a necessity for there to be fluid resources that can be deployed in a whole variety of ways to those in need.
But the great flaw in the government strategy is that John Howard believes that after we have set the charitable sector, the business sector and the government sector free to work together, things are going to come back to some sort of golden post war period consensus. The evidence I think is plainly that we can never so easily return to the prosperity of the 1950s, so what we have is I think a correct strategy with a retrospective and retrogressive vision of the future. So the question is: what can we expect this new social coalition of community, business and government to deliver?
What will the job network, mutual responsibility, the strengthening funding and communities program, the Australian working together program, the national homeless persons strategy, the national suicide prevention strategy
deliver, and I think the answer is, they will deliver what the old system of wage earner payments delivered and that is "temporary relief".
It may be more flexible, more appropriate, but it is temporary relief just the same. The thing is there is no net gain without a new vision of how we deploy and
use the social coalition and the more fluid social resources that we now have at our disposal.
I think the vision that we have to move forward to is the idea of moving from a social wage to a social enterprise state. The Howard government has gone part of the way in a historical transition of Australians social welfare system, but it has stalled at the crucial moment.
The problem is that so too have the Labour Party and particularly the left of the Labor party, and here I come back to my argument with Eva Cox, on the idea that about whether without a programmatic, state based support system we cannot have a satisfactory social welfare system. Australia has never relied on such a system.
We have always relied on a constellation of private actors including union, government, private business and community organisations to deliver our social support systems. In the past, unions and employers were supposed to deliver a living wage for all workers, which would in turn protect every Australian family and they did a fairly good job for most of this century. But times have changed dramatically.
Our problem is that a real living wage is no longer accessible for a large population of Australians. To combat this, we have to move towards a social enterprise state. In other words we have to use the billions of dollars of social wage funding to create a serious of social initiatives that themselves create long term jobs and opportunities within the target groups that such services are designed to help.
I am talking about transforming health investments into health and job investments. I am talking about creating disability cooperatives that create jobs and opportunities and enterprises for the families of those who have disabilities and for people with disabilities. I am talking about using social spending to invest in the tacit skills of caring and nurturing that mother and parents have. I am
talking about turning the repair program for public housing estates into long-term job opportunities within those estates. I am talking about turning kindergarten, primary and secondary schools, TAFE and universities into business incubators that offer "just in time" training, not just
certificates or degree that simply act as a ticket to get one of the limited number of jobs available.
In other words, in all of these areas I am talking about using social welfare dollars to create new value. Just as in the private sector, a private entrepreneur surveys a community, identifies a need, develops a product and builds an enterprise around it, I am saying we need to create social welfare value chains that create opportunities for higher levels of remuneration, higher skills, self esteem and greater community participation.
The difference between this vision, and the John Howard vision, is that John is still ala 1950s waiting for the market to deliver the opportunities for the disadvantaged. My contention is that even if Australia were to move to a stable period of record economic growth it would take fifty years for the inequality of the last 30 years to be eliminated. So it not just a matter of "could we" it is a matter of "we must do these things". To Eva Cox who frets about the fact that people like Mark Latham, Noel Pearson and I are misunderstanding the dysfunction of communities and placing too much emphasis on a series of social entrepreneurs, I say again there is no alternative but to invest in the power of people and communities to utilize a more fluid set of social investments, and allow them to solve their own problems. Neither Noel, nor Mark nor I, as Eva seems to suggest, are naïve about these things, about the enormous amount of work that need to be done to turn a passive social wage investment into something that creates value, jobs and opportunities, but we see that is what has to be done, and that it why it is relatively easy for me to praise John Howard's social coalition as a step in the right direction.
Now in this latest period, in thinking about what the idea of a social enterprise state or an enabling state really means we have all arrived on something that is of critical importance and that is this curious concept of "social entrepreneurship". We have all supported, and looked on with great interest at Andrew Mawson's Community Action Network, in the UK, because what Andrew seem to have done is create a kind of hot house for innovative community leaders, that involves training, education, sharing ideas, peer support, mentoring, workshoping... We have sought to emulate CAN with the idea of an Australian Social Entrepreneurs Network (SEN) and we have now had two conferences, one with a group of 600 in Sydney and another with a smaller hard core group of 120 in Maleny.
My purpose for being involved in this group is that I want to establish as many social enterprises as possible that use the social wage and the social coalition to create value and to allow people to get back into "the real economy". For me SEN is one of the ways that we can create a pathway to a new more appropriate social wage for our times, a social enterprise state.
But I want to conclude by saying that this concept of social entrepreneurship has profound implications for how you do business at mission Australia. If you accept John Howard's vision then I think what Mission Australia's role is about simply delivering greater levels of pastoral care in the community. The vision I am talking about is about creating a set of enterprises that will sustain a million people at our customarily high Australian standard of living and that will supplement, a hopefully more responsible macro-economic strategy at national and global
levels in the future. That is the challenge I leave you with, it is a challenge that I believe is every bit as profound as the great challenge of Lord Beveridge at the end of the World War II.
"Our task is to create a new social enterprise state which leaves no hand idle, no challenge of our disadvantaged communities unmet and no epidemic of either drugs, grog, or ill health untreated."
Speech to Mission Australia, National Conference, Rydges Hotel, Canberra, Monday, 6th August, 2001
by Zoe Reynolds
The fourth largest port in the US and a linchpin for the South's global economy. Ships once brought more captive Africans here than to any other American city. The only thing stronger than racism in South Carolina is the hatred of unions and the attendant fear that workers might choose class solidarity over skin.
Union troubles with the state began on January 19, 2000. A ship from the Danish Nordana Shipping Lines pulled into the port. Nineteen scabs on slave wages were mustered to unload it. On three of Nordana's prior visits the union had picketed without police interference.
This time 600 battle dressed troops surrounded the dock, decamped outside the union hall, patrolled the waters by boat, flew overhead in helicopters, mobilised armoured vehicles and horse units, armed themselves with rubber bullets, beat their batons against their riot shields and waited, waited in the rain for something to happen. And after midnight something did.
Overhead the helicopters droned. People were pushing. Word passed back that guys up front were being clubbed.
William Boogy McPherson, a white clerk heard a cop say "We'll beat the hell out of you niggers."
McPherson¹s not sure when workers started picking up rocks to hurl, but he remembers union leader Ken Riley running from the union hall before being cracked in the head with a baton, receiving a gash that required 12 stitches. It was then that things got ugly. Workers fought back and some were clubbed mercilessly. Police were beating them, shooting at them and dispensing tear gas.
"They gonna kill us, man," McPherson remembers someone crying out, "They gonna kill us".
That night five men were arrested ‹ four black and one white. Action by the International Transport Worker's Federation stopped Nordana Line employing non union labour, but the threat of prison still hangs over the five, who are facing felony rioting charges punishable by up to five years in prison. They are Kenneth Jefferson, Elijah Ford, Peter Washington Jr, Ricky Simmons and Jason Edgerton, members of the International Longshoremen¹s Association.
The opening date of the trial has not been announced, but is expected to be in October or November. On the day longshore workers in 16 countries and along the Pacific Coast have pledged to silence the ports.
From Audacity on Trial (abridged), by JoAnn Wypijewski, The Nation, 6/8/01 www.thenation.com
An MUA delegation led by National Secretary Paddy Crumlin attended the ILWU solidarity conference in LA, USA in July and pledged support for the Charleston 5. Whether at Liverpool in 1995, Patrick in 1998 or Charleston 2001, international dockworkers and wharfies must stand shoulder to shoulder against this international offensive against us, Crumlin said
For petitions, solidarity actions & reports
We miss you Phil
I am staying with ex CFMEU official Lucho Villazon, his wife Lilliana and their angelic children Gabriella (10), Diego (8) and baby Josephina, just three months. Lucho and family remain active in the Chilean Communist Party and had to get out fast in 1973 when the coup happened. They had 8 years in Australia before returning and fortunately for me have great memories of Oz. They have treated me incredibly well- embarressingly well I realised when I twigged they were all sleeping in one bed for the weekend to make space for me!!I owe them big time.
The only touristy thing I've done here was Saturday when I visited the Casa de Moneda, what was the Presidential Palace until 1973. Its the building Allende died in when his own airforce bombed it during the coup. Its all been cleared up now but didn't do much for me-the gloved policemen guarding it just reminded me of all those docos I saw in the 1980s about Fascist Chile.
After that Lucho took me to the Casa del Pueblo ("House of the People"), the Santiago HQ of the Communist party. Bare walls attested to a lack of money. the Party was almost destroyed under Pinochet and rebuilding has been slow.
I met some leaders of a new push within the party to move away from its Stalinist heritage and create a new left kind of rainbow alliance movement.
They told me they were in negotiations with the (underground) Gay movement to form a left/gay ticket to contest Santiago municipal elections. They had made significant progress and had plans to widen their alliance to include the disabled movement, ethnic minorities and, bizarrely enough, dwarfs(!) I checked the word 3 times and they definitely said dwarfs.
(I asked Lucho outside and he said no, there was not a higher proportion of dwarfs in Santiago vis a vis elsewhere. If I get a satisfactory answer as to why they are doing this I will let you know!!!)
We talked about the anti globalisation movement. The comrades felt that this embryonic movement is spot on at identifying the number one problem in the world today (rampant corporate dominance) but less good at articulating an alternative.
A fair cop I thought, but probably a criticism which could be extended to the left generally.
Interestingly, the comrades names all betrayed a heavy Soviet influence. I was talking to a Tatiana and a Vladimir- obviously they were children of communists too.
Saturday night we had a fantastic BBQ and I had a chance to meet some good friends of Luchos and Lillianas, Ricardo* and Erica.
Ricardo was underground when the Fascists were in charge. He was active in the armed wing of the Communist Party, deployed in an Urban resistence unit.
One look at Ricardo and this past was self evident. He looked and talked hard. Very hard. Harder than I have seen for quite a while.
Lucho was cagey about what actual active service Ricardo saw, saying only that he carried an AK47 regularly for several years and was part of a unit which blew up strategic targets in Santiago.
We talked politics over many bottles of Chilean Red well into the night.
Today Lucho took me to the commemoration of the 89th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Chile.
The ceremony was in the old (pre 1973) Parliament House. Perhaps 400 turned out on another freezing morning, many older comrades but also a good smattering of youth.
Inside the Chamber we sat around in what were the seats of the deputies.
The chamber was decked out with party flags, Cuban flags and photos of martyred leaders and masked fighters from the Fascist days. I imagined Ricardo was one of them.
I got a quick intro and polite applause and was honoured to briefly meet the General Secretary afterwards.
The ceremony itself was really great, a good mix of old and new. The youth wing leader spoke first, and folky music was interspersed through proceedings, provided by a ponytailed guy with acoustic guitar.
The main speaker hit all the right notes, ridiculing the Chilean Governments current TV campaign "Just think Positive". With unemployment hitting 20% the concept is clearly rediculous and those assembled bayed with derision as the speaker mocked the value of thinking positive when the working class in Chile was clearly doing it real tough.
We finished up with an emotional singing of "the Internationale" which had many of those present in tears. The horror these people lived through for their beliefs beggars description and I mentally took my hat of to them, they are clearly still punching on and not too set in their ways to experiment with coalitions which probably would have had them expelled 20 years ago.
It really was a grand experience to sit in on the ceremony. A more decent, genuinely friendly and interesting group of people you would be struggling to find anywhere.
On the way out of the chamber afterwards several different party journals were being sold by hawkers. I reflected on the obsession leftists have everywhere with producing journals. I half expected to see a pimply faced zealot like we have at home thrusting a Green Left Weekly into my hands. (Actually that's unfair on the Chilean comrades to compare them to our trots, but it is amazing how left parties beget newspapers!)
This afternoon we visited a gigantic mall. It was PACKED with people but almost no one was in the actual shops, shopping. I queried this and Lucho said this was the (now dominant) consumer culture at its worst-"people come here even when they have no money to buy".
* Ricardo's name has been changed to protect his identity
by Neale Towart
Race & Unions
A White Australia Policy was the centerpiece of Australian policy for three-quarters of last century. Trade unions and the ALP were seen as major forces getting it implemented as a protection for the Australian worker and manufacturing.
A new generation of labour historians has been having a fresh look at unions and "non-white" labour and finding that there is more to this story. A number of papers presented at the National Labour History Conference in Canberra (Easter this year) showed the way.
Jerome Small went back to 1873 in Clunes on the Victorian goldfields. He took another look at what seemed to be a classic case of anti-Chinese feeling and found that the "riots" were pretty much caused by employer and middle class agitation in Clunes, and the actions by the workers opposing the import of Chinese miners was actually possibly supported by Chinese miners in nearby Ballarat and Creswick.
The Clunes workers acted to prevent the mine owners bringing in Chinese workers to break their strike (one of the first of its kind and a step to establishing the Miners Union) by forcing coaches bringing the workers into Clunes to turn around.
The mine owners were Melbourne Club material, and no Chinese workers were actually in Clunes, in contrast to Ballarat and Creswick.
The owners tried to get the miners to accept a new contract with longer hours and more shifts, in the poor air of the Clunes mine.
The strikers formed a Miners' Assn and got the town Mayor, Mr Blanchard to be the President. Blanchard had been a miner but was now a fruit shop owner and was at the time setting up a new venture with the mine manager!!
The strike continued for some time until the attempt to bring in the workers. The miners got a tip off that the police were going to escort the Chinese workers in the early hours. Meetings were held and resolved to stop the coaches.
The major speakers and movers at the meeting, which generated a lot of anti-Chinese rhetoric, turn out to have been Blanchard, a municipal rates collector and a Member of the Legislative Assembly. No striking miners spoke although they were the ones who have been painted as being most opposed to Chinese workers and Chinese people in particular.
That Chinese and European miners did work together is evidenced from records and illustrations showing the same at Ballarat, and that probably some Chinese people were the ones to let the Clunes strikers know of the approach of the strikebreakers.
Small concludes that the Government, the police, the press, colonial politicians, capitalists and small town shopkeepers fostered division between European and Chinese miners. The miners shared a social landscape that built bonds of solidarity, a threat to the middle and ruling classes in the areas.
Small studied the micro-scale to emphasis class conflict in a small context. Phil Griffiths took a broader look by studying the colonial presses but largely confirmed the points made. He pointed out that a look at documents of the era show that the move for anti-Chinese laws came from ruling class politicians and rich newspaper proprietors. In the move towards an Australian nationalism the White Australia idea was a neat ideological framework that helped preserve Empire links and structures against the rising tide of class warfare that would link workers from different ethnic backgrounds.
Julia Martinez, this years' winner of the Labour History essay prize for this year (co-sponsored by the Labor Council) also squarely addresses this issue. She has looked hard at work done in Darwin from 1911 to 1937. Martinez shows how the relationship between the North Australian Workers' Union and 'coloured' waterside workers was altered and improved by left-wing ideology and by personal experiences within the local multi-ethnic community.
Unions and the ALP clearly supported and championed the White Australia policy, as writers such as McQueen and Markus have shown. Unions pushed the re-elected Fisher government to re-institute bans on Japanese workers in 1914, for example, at a time when war hysteria was on. However, she notes that Quinlan and Lever-Tracy argue that the hysteria in labour ranks was challenged from within. Individual unionists questioned white Australia on moral grounds. The left saw the notion of a 'common humanity' as the proper basis for a new nation, not a 'pure white' fortress.
The AWU in Darwin is the focus of Martinez's research, and the switch in attitudes by workers to coloured labour, largely brought about by IWW campaigning and agitation. This got off to a bad start when an IWW supporter actually organized some Chinese and 'coloured' workers to work on the wharves when the AWU had decided to fight against Asiatics landing cargo at Port Darwin.
The executive kicked the waterside worker members of the AWU out of that union after these members went on strike. Then the IWW stepped in and organised the workers and got AWU wages for them. Tom Barker, secretary of the IWW, disagreed with the Darwin action, but he did get a pretty garbled version of the story.
Throughout the war there was much hatred in Darwin AWU ranks for "foreign workers", seen as competition for the Brits and Australians.
Martinez shows that there was support from other Darwin residents for Chinese workers, despite the ongoing union prejudice against them.
By 1917, cracks in the union views were showing, as TAFF's poetry and its change of tone showed. His early gem included the lines:
Some people are determined
The N.T. shall be black,
And would, if they were able,
Give all white men the sack.
Such men deserve a flogging,
They're enemies to their race.
I wonder how in wartime
They dare to show their face.
By 1917 he was writing:
'Shake hands,' he said, and smiled at me,
Who'd drive all colour out -
But this dear child has caused me to
Turn to the right about.
To kick myself I felt inclined
For what I'd done and said.
Equality for all we want -
All bitterness is dead.
Martinez suggests that the reason why the apparently deepest racism was broken down was because White Australia did not provide any guide to how to live in an already multicultural society. Individual experience of living alongside people from different cultures was the best guide to showing the lie of the "filth and disease" so often ascribed to non-white people. The Communist members of the North Australian Workers Union (formed in 1927 and the AWU itself refused to have anything to do with it) were key people in the opposition to White Australia. The AWU itself changed its attitude considerably and its original organizer, Harold Nelson, after moving into politics as the ALP member for the Northern Territory, lobbied for rights for "half-castes" and for the rights of long term Chinese and Malay residents.
Small's account of the Victorian goldfields of the 1870s makes the same point. Working alongside and living alongside Chinese employees of corporate miners ensured deep bonds of class solidarity, which employers tried to weaken by appealing to racial prejudices. Self education work in Darwin over a sustained period enabled workers to overcome this antagonism.
Official union and ALP policies, developed in Sydney and Melbourne far removed from workers on the ground, were strongly anti-Chinese in particular (but also anti anyone not British). Workers on the ground soon developed a different point of view.
The change in Darwin between 1911 and 1937 saw moderate Laborites swing behind IWW and Communist views, with an emphasis on inclusion. This was in marked contrast to the days of 1896 when a Chinese Workers Union was refused affiliation to the Victorian Trades Hall Council. Even this was not clear-cut as the Furniture Trades Union did support the Chinese workers.
As Raymond Evans has expressed it "white employers seized upon the racism of exploitation for their own advantage" but unfortunately "white workers echoed the racism of exclusion, largely to their ultimate detriment."
Not all white workers fit this pattern. Racism was constructed, and blanket condemnation of unions and unionists deprives them of any agency in their individual circumstances.
Julia Martinez. Questioning 'White Australia'" Unionism and 'Coloured Labour, 1911-37; in; Labour History, no. 76, May 1999
Raymond Evans. Keeping Australia Clean White; in; A Most Valuable Acquisition: a People's History of Australia since 1788 edited by Verity Burgmann and Jenny Lee. (Fitzroy: McPhee Gribble, 1988)
Humphrey McQueen. A New Britannia: an argument concerning the social origins of Australian radicalism and nationalism. Revised edition. (Ringwood: Penguin, 1986)
Jerome Small. Unions and anti-Chinese agitation on the Victorian goldfields: The Clunes riot of 1873; paper presented at the seventh national Labour History Conference at ANU, April 19-21 2001
Phil Griffiths. The Ruling Class and Chinese Exclusion, 1875-1888; Paper to the seventh national Labour History Conference at ANU, April 19-21, 2001
Several other papers presented at the conference covered similar themes including Sarah Gregson's on anti-unionism in Broken Hill (attempts by the RSL and the Nationalist Party to break union domination of the town by exploiting racial differences; Julia Martinez on Internationalism and the Indian Seamen's Union and Drew Cottle on the temporary rapprochement between the Chinese Seamen's Union and the Seamen's Union of Australia.
Visit the ASU
During July 2001, one of the most significant conferences on Regulation and Reform took place in Sydney, with attendees including Politicians from Australia, Africa, America, West Indies, UK including the House of Lords and Commons, it showed that Parliaments throughout the World are starting to consider the implications of Regulatory Reform for services in our society.
Sydney based Australian Services Union, Assistant National Secretary, Greg McLean, through his work on Utility Regulatory Reform represented Trade Unionists from around the World through the Public Services International. Greg reported to Workers Online "that standing on the floor of the NSW Parliament, both Assembly and Legislative Councils, including a stint in the speaker's chair, provided an opportunity to campaign further for Unions to have a voice in the Regulatory Reform Debate and Public Services including electricity and water utilities".
.The conference provided a first hand opportunity for access to Politicians and the odd senior bureaucrats to remind them of the need to consult with the Trade Union Movement and Community Groups when introducing regulation over a variety of spheres that in turn reflect the standard of living that society maintains.
"Seeing first hand the reform process and negotiating the electricity reform issues, as I did from the Prime Minister's round table almost 10 years ago, down to the standard of the energy reform initiatives currently underway in Australia, I have longed believed that regulation can play a significant role, if not critical, in determining outcomes of society. Whilst there has been much work done in NSW on regulatory reform, in particular by the Independent Pricing Advisory Regulation Tribunal, it is only now that we are seeing States such as Victoria look more closely to the role that regulatory reform can provide in ensuring a service, at the right price, and provision to society".
Governments that have believed "that the market will fix it" need only look to the Californian experience and closer to home South Australia. The World is full of many examples where Parliaments must regulate for a fair share for society, open themselves up to public scrutiny, create deregulatory framework and ensure citizens get fair play on the playing field that is increasingly being shared by Government Authorities and the private sector. The full publications of papers presented at the conference will be made available in the near future on the NSW Government's Parliamentary website covering the Regulatory Conference.
Greg would be interested in hearing from Union Officials in Australia and globally that are interested in the Regulation Reform Debate. Greg can be contacted at: mailto:[email protected] .
by The Chaser
Ms Sharon Smith, 22, of Glebe, is a regular reader of left wing publications. She said she thought there was still room in the market for another Marxist-Leninist newspaper that didn't "sell out as much."
The newspaper would be less Trotskyist than the Socialist Alternative, less Maoist than the Green Left Weekly, less militant than the Socialist Worker, less Stalinist than the CPA Miltant but more Marxist-Leninist than Vanguard.
Like all left-wing newspapers, the new publication would still be pitched at middle-class university students and represent itself as being the only way of understanding the world.
Ms Smith said that she didn't feel existing left-wing newspapers indulged enough in scathing critiques of other left-wing newspapers. "Ideally, the new newspaper will engage almost exclusively in esoteric internal debate on semantic points of Marx-Leninist theory," she said. "I'm surprised anyone bothers reading the Green Left Weekly in light of their Stalinist application of Stagist theory. It's a total sellout."
Moves made by the Menzies Government to reduce women's wages stirred the campaign for equal pay among trade union circles in Victoria - notably in the Liquor Trades Union which had large numbers of female members employed in circumstances which left them open to exploitation by employers. Pressures of this sort, together with the climate produced by the ILO recommendation, persuaded the ACTU Congress meeting held in Sydney in September 1953 to carry the following resolutions:
That this Congress calls on the Federal and State Governments to legislate for the provision of equal pay for the sexes in all occupations and, in the first instance, to grant equal pay to their own employees.
We call upon the ACTU to establish Equal Pay Committees to undertake the task of campaigning for legislation and to arouse the interest of male and female workers in the demand for equal pay; such committees to be co-ordinated on a national basis by the Executive of the ACTU.
With the lower wages paid to women, Kath found it necessary to enlighten men in the trade unions who found it easier to oppose women entering their industry than to support equal pay even though such a move would prevent women being used against them.
Kath set her mind on becoming a delegate of her union to the Trades Hall Council, the structure with the power to make important decisions. The THC met every Thursday evening, a commitment she willingly undertook, knowing that if she was going to succeed in mobilising all the unions, getting onto the THC was the first step. Achieving this goal depended entirely on Jim Coull, then Secretary of her union.
Jim Coull was an old Scottish socialist who did not belong to the CPA. Kath had a constant 'battle with Jim'. He was a 'supreme bureaucrat and chauvinist' while at the same time being a 'terrific orator'. He often spoke at the Yarra Bank, an open-air forum held regularly on a Sunday afternoon in Melbourne situated by the Yarra River, where speakers from various political parties, religious groups and faith healers were able to expound their theories and philosophies. Jim was known to be capable of 'mesmerising and/or entertaining' his audience for two hours 'talking a lot of bull'. With his broad Scottish accent he often had the listeners 'roaring with laughter', but 'his depth of understanding of trade unionism was sadly lacking'. His obvious study of adjectives, and his great ability with invective, gave him the skills 'to tear any opposition to ribbons' if they dared oppose or heckle him.
Kath had to work under this man's authority 'and he could be ruthless, he was a smart operator'; nevertheless, he supported her in her determination to be on the THC and she was duly elected to this body in 1954. Kath was now able to have a direct influence on the entire representation of the Victorian trade union movement, which assembled weekly at the THC meetings.
Kath was to have many heated disagreements with Jim over the years but, when speaking of these incidents with friends, without minimising the seriousness of her arguments, she always managed to present a tolerant and sometimes humorous side to the narration.
Average attendance at THC meetings was 150 males and about ten females. Most of the women delegates in attendance were selected by their unions to be supportive when votes were taken but they added little to the discussion. Most women found the atmosphere of union meetings alienating. Kath wasn't overawed or intimidated by the heavy male presence or atmosphere. Her experience over the many years of involvement in political parties, and dealings with hotel managers on the job, had given her the strength to address meetings with confidence.
The type of workplaces Kath was responsible for in her job had a high turnover of staff making any attempt at unionising difficult. She would no sooner enrol a woman into the union when, within months, the employee had left the job. By establishing good shop stewards, Kath was successful in winning absolute support from the women working in the cafeterias at Coles and Myers, both having been difficult places to organise. 'Women members of the LTU remembered the dedicated service Kath gave over the years and indicated their gratitude for her support in time of need'.
There can be no doubt that being a 'first-class' organising, successful in recruiting members and able to deal with the problems confronted on the job, made Kath's job reasonably secure. Despite the fact that she stood up to Jim Coull and argued over what she considered to be important issues he did not dismiss her; he had a deep respect for Kath even though at times he thought she was on about a lot of 'froth and bubble'. Ultimately, Kath went on to become a delegate from her union to the ACTU Congress. Only those attending the ACTU Congress or Conferences would know of Kath's contributions when present. Knowing what men were like in politics and the unions, I suspect that while the men were supposedly listening, they were not really hearing what she said.
From here on, Kath continued with a consistent campaign of talking, lobbying, cajoling and coercion for the proposed Equal Pay Committee to be established. Much of this lobbying took place at a personal level, at the faction meetings prior to the THC meetings, and in the meetings.
In November of 1954 a special meeting of women union members held at the Trades Hall in Melbourne resolved to approach the THC requesting the THC establish an Equal Pay Committee (EP Committee) in keeping with the decision made by the ACTU Congress of 1953. In March 1955 the Executive of the THC called a meeting of unions with women members, which resolved to set up the desired committee.
In all, it took two years of discussions, consultations and meetings after the initial ACTU Congress decision in 1953 before the THC EP Committee sent a circular to all affiliated unions in 1955 notifying them that the EP Committee had been established.
The years of effort Kath expended in getting the THC EP Committee up and running were acknowledged by the unanimous decision of the THC when electing her to the honorary position of Secretary/Organiser of the THC EP Committee. Yes, it was another unpaid job for a woman, but a very important strategic position, and one, which Kath with her experience was able to utilise to the utmost degree.
Those elected to the committee were: Messrs. G Hayes, Boot Trades; D. MacSween, Clothing Trades; A. Williams, Electrical Trades; G. Collaretti, Hospital Employees' Federation; W. Steel, Federated Clerks'; and Mrs K Williams, Liquor Trades Union. Kath was the only woman on the committee and the only communist.
The THC EP Committee aimed to carry out ACTU policy by all possible means: using leaflets, meetings, press, radio and election campaigns appealing for moral and financial assistance to help carry on the campaign for equal pay. The Committee did not waste any time before getting into action. At the impending ACTU Congress, it was decided to consult with state governments to enact equal pay legislation and for State and Labor Councils to establish EP Committees. It was also decided to convene a conference of unions with women members to be held in March 1956. The circular went on to stress the importance of the work in view of the attacks being made on women's wages, and the use being made of women as cheap labour which depressed general wage levels. As well, it stated: 'We would be pleased to send a speaker to your next Committee of Management or General Meeting to put the case to your membership'. The circular was signed by Mrs K. Williams, Hon. Secretary.
Extracted from KATH WILLIAMS: THE UNIONS AND THE FIGHT FOR EQUAL PAY by Zelda D'Aprano Spinifex Press 2001
Labor Council's Alison Peters
Much has been said since details of the Australian Catholic University (ACU) Enterprise Agreement became public. There was the usual rant from employer groups about how expensive it would be if all employers had to provide it. The Minister for Workplace Relations, Tony Abbott used the agreement to justify the Coalition Government's gutting of the award system. There was doom and gloom about what it would mean for the employment prospects of women of child bearing age. At least some commentators saw the agreement as a move in the right direction and were pleased to see at last some public debate given the virtual silence on the issue over the years.
In light of all this talk what does the ACU deal really mean for women workers? What are the implications for the union movement?
Paid maternity leave is beneficial from a number of viewpoints. It ensures that a woman has some financial security after the birth of her child to ensure she is able to properly look after the health of her new born and herself at this critical time. Paid maternity leave also goes some way to ensuring income equality for women who continue to bear the prime responsibility for caring for babies. As research suggests that women lose approximately $160,000 on average in life time earnings because of the time they are out of the paid workforce looking after their children (a figure which increases with the number of children each woman has) it certainly doesn't cover a woman's lost income but it is a start.
There's a benefit for business with evidence that paid maternity leave is a major factor in women returning to work thus reducing turnover costs. It helps employers attract and keep staff. Finally there is the public policy argument that it is the right thing to do in supporting families and has long term benefits for society. For the economists this argument can be put like this: paid maternity leave is an investment that will guarantee the supply of future workers - factors of production if you like - and even more importantly consumers which keeps the whole demand and supply thing going. I personally prefer the argument that it's the right thing to do.
Whatever the rationale for paid maternity leave there is no doubt that the ACU provisions are outstanding. However, these provisions because they are so exceptional also serve to highlight how badly Australian women workers fare compared to their sisters internationally. Australia, along with the USA and New Zealand are the only developed countries that do not provide some universal system of paid maternity leave in line with the ILO Convention standard. New Zealand are however, considering legislation that will see them join other developed and many developing countries which have adopted schemes that meet ILO provisions for paid maternity entitlements for working women.
One of the most frustrating things for me listening to media reports about the ACU agreement were comments suggesting that the Federal public sector standard of 12 weeks was the norm. Lets be clear about this - in Australia the legal standard for women who have worked with their employer for 12 months is 12 months unpaid leave. When it comes to paid maternity leave just over a third of women get some payment varying in most cases between 1 and 12 weeks. In federal enterprise agreements the most common period of paid maternity leave is a mere 2 weeks and in NSW agreements it is 6 weeks. Both are well short of the International Labor Organisation (ILO) convention standard of a minimum of 14 weeks.
The point remains that in Australia that for every women worker who has access to some paid maternity leave (however paltry that is) two do not.
It is also the case that a move to enterprise bargaining has not delivered significant improvements in recent years. Only 7.5% of federally registered agreements contain provisions for paid maternity leave. In NSW the figure is 3.1%. In 2000 only 6.2% of federal agreements had a provision for paid maternity leave which was a drop from 9.8% in 1998. The figures in NSW average between 4.5% and 5.5% in the last four years. This reflects research that shows other family friendly measures such as carer's leave and part time work also do not feature highly in enterprise agreements. This clearly demonstrates that paid maternity leave (and other family friendly initiatives) is not an issue in enterprise bargaining. It is just not on the agenda. So much for Tony Abbott's view that the Coalition's system of leaving things to individual workplaces delivers better family friendly work practices. It also doesn't say much for unions who either don't put it on the table or allow it to drop during negotiations.
Unions have started to address how we can extend paid maternity leave to the two thirds of working women who currently don't have access to this entitlement as well as lift the standard entitlement to at least that contained in the ILO Convention. The ACTU has made paid maternity leave one of its priority campaigns and individual unions such as the NTEU, CPSU (both involved with the ACU agreement) and the MEU here in NSW working hard on winning paid maternity leave in the workplace or in industrial tribunals.
This is great but more needs to be done (and by more than a handful of unions) and we need to recognise that an industry by industry and workplace by workplace approach will take a long time and may still leave gaps. Looking at the employers' reaction to the ACU agreement unions running such traditional industrial campaigns will also face significant opposition from employers. The union movement must also recognise that many women work in industries or occupations where unions are not strong and where the work is increasingly precarious.
These are not reasons for not continuing to organise and campaign in workplaces to achieve paid maternity leave but we must look more broadly than that. We must campaign politically and with the broader community to ensure that Governments (both state and federal) do their bit to extend paid maternity entitlements to all women workers. As a first step we need to be lobbying the Federal Government to investigate the costs of providing paid maternity leave in line with the ILO Convention and how this might be achieved (levy on employers, social security, taxation or a combination of these etc). This was a recommendation made by Susan Halliday in the "Pregnant and Productive" report and is supported by the current Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Pru Goward. This research is vital to help us argue our case for a national scheme applying to all women workers. In the lead up to a federal election we should be getting commitments from all the parties and all the candidates that they will support such an investigation. Some might even be willing to support action to ensure Australia meets the terms of the ILO Convention!
The Union movement should be under no illusion that achieving paid maternity leave will solve all of our problems. It is only one facet of a much broader picture that allows women (and men) to balance their work and family responsibilities. Issues such as child care, before and after school care, flexibility and control over working hours, carer's leave, job security etc are equally important to parents or those who care for relatives or friends. Unions must also turn our attention to these - sooner rather than later - if we are to live up to our aim of achieving fair and safe workplaces for all of our members.
Yes, he was the captain who left the Poms a target of 311 on the final day, that's accepted. But surely, that was a matter for congratulation rather than criticism.
Gilchrist's decision was a natural continuation of the trend set by injured skipper Steve Waugh and Waugh, in a few short years, has changed the nature of Test cricket for the better.
By dint of a relentlessly positive approach Waugh has brought about a regeneration of interest in the five-day version of the game. So thorough has been his influence that long-accepted wisdoms and even some careers have perished along the way.
Michael Atherton is a likely case in point. England does not possess a more admirable competitor and the doughty Lancastrian has been cruelly served by umpiring standards in this series.
Atherton is not yet a cricketer of the past but only because the rest of the cricket playing world is still a decade behind the Aussies.
No longer is it acceptable to toss away 25 percent of each day's play by going into your shell and turning down scoring opportunities half an hour before every lunch, tea or stumps adjournment and nor should it be.
No longer, in an age of real professionalism, is it acceptable for bowlers to proudly have no idea how to hold a bat, nor for batsmen or quick bowler to have to be hidden in the field.
Night watchmen and endless hours of tieing up an end have been have been given the raised finger.
Certainly, the policy has had its reverses. India last year and Leeds last week being the most recent examples.
They are minor reverses, however, in a ledger that boasts over 20 Test victories since Waugh took the helm.
And, while little consolation for Australia, three of the Waugh-era defeats have been engineered by sensational individual innings, knocks that have left the game in better heart for having been played.
Brian Lara smashed 153 against the odds in Barbados, then VVS Laxman produced a 281 that will live forever in the minds of all priveleged to have seen it. Last week Mark Butcher, as unlikely a hero as you would want to see, moved into their company.
Cricket is a strange game and that is more than just a cliché.
Few sports make provision for constant and thorough-going dominance to be undone by one contribution of sheer brilliance. In none of our rugby codes is it possible to be comprehensively outplayed for 80 percent of a match and still turn the tables in the final 16 minutes.
It can be frustrating for those on the receiving end but it remains one of the sport's charms.
Back to Gilchrist, let's examine the facts at his disposal when he pulled out on the fourth afternoon.
1) Australia was 3-0 up in a series in which its opponents had failed, in six attempts, to register 300 runs.
2) The wicket was playing tricks, some balls keeping low while others soared above a leaping wicketkeeper.
3) In his armoury he possessed arguably the best spinner of all time, not to mention two of the best four or five quick bowlers in the game, and an up-and-comer of raw speed.
4) The weather forecast pointed to more of the disruptions that had had the contestants on and off the Headingley surface.
In those circumstances Gilchrist, or any other captain for that matter, would have been extraordinarily negative if he had opted to bat on.
One critic argued, with some justification, it wasn't so much the declaration, as the constant pressing forward in the field, that revealed Gilchrist's inexperience. Well, to be fair, inexperience is something most first-up skippers are entitled to a bit of.
That critic argued that histories greatest generals has based their strategies on mixtures of attack, defence and holding measures.
True enough, but while war has long relied for its survival on commercial sponsorship it is not, generally, quite as dependent on attracting paying spectators.
The Victorian Government is currently in the process of introducing laws to create the crime of "Industrial Manslaughter". The Opposition Liberal/National Coalition is set to block the legislation in the Upper House (in which they have the numbers). As a part of the Victorian Trades Hall Council's campaign to stop the Libs blocking the legislation they have set up an online campaign site. Located at http://www.vthc.org.au/anthonycarrick it is named after Anthony Carrick who died on the job at the age of 18 and on his first day of work.
What's a Nurse Worth?
To keep up to date with the campaign by the NSW Nurses Association for fair treatment by the Carr Government check out the NA's site located at http://www.nswnurses.asn.au. To see how the campaign in Victoria by the Australian Nursing Federation (Victoria) for some action about staffing shortages by the Bracks Government check out http://www.anfvic.asn.au.
Union Pride Online
The AFL-CIO (America's ACTU) is hosting an online Labor Day Festival. The site located at http://laborday.aflcio.org is in its "countdown" format until 28 August when it will come alive (in true American style) with a festival celebrating unions and solidarity between working people.
Thai Workers Online
This website, produced in Thailand but aimed at the international community highlights current workers struggles in Thailand. Located at http://www.thailabour.org the site has lots of information on current campaigns in Thailand and allows supporters internationally to help out. Two thumbs up.
Campaigning for Public Assets
Following the re-election of Tony Blair in the UK, his Labour government launched a round of nation-wide privatizations bring the union movement into conflict with a Labour government (sound familiar?). Unison (the UK's Public Sector Union) has been leading the fight against privatization. To find out on how their campaign is going check out their website located at http://www.unison.org.uk.
It was a ploy that had all the subtlety of some his soul mate's work in turning literary classics into popular dross. Think the Bible, think TS Eliot, think a podgy little pollie under pressure for his mismanagement of the health portfolio flailing around manically looking for something to fire at the enemy. After all, when you have no ammo, you throw whatever is lying around him.
Wooldridge had been copping a hammering in Federal Parliament all week over his neglect of the public health system, throwing buckets of money to advertising agencies to promote private health cover, while Medicare withered on the vine. It's an obvious weak spot for Howard and one that Labor has in their sights. So when comments Beazley made to the ALP Caucus and distilled to the press through the ritualized Chinese whispers of official spokespeople was misreported by those who failed to seek clarification from the Big Fella's office, Wooldridge saw a way out.
He leapt onto Beazley with all the restraint of a poodle on heat. You see, Kim had told Caucus about the troubles his daughter had faced in receiving treatment for appendicitis. This was not a line Beazley ran in the media - but within the Caucus. It is a version of events that Beazley's daughter has now backed. But when the hospital defended its performance - while conceding lengthy delays were 'normal', Wooldridge turned this into a Beazley lie. More bizarrely he used Kim's daughter to accuse Kim of using his daughter. With all the mock indignation of a man facing the political gallows, Wooldridge was the one who made Hannah the story.
This is the sort of logic that appeals to composers of light musicals - dramatic, illogical and destined to end in farce. It is also the sort of fare that grips the nation's media - and young Hannah was soon catapulted onto the front-page. All the media ran the yarn, but from differing angles. The SMH ran the "Daughter Defends Beazley' line, acceptoing her version of events. The bullish Daily Telegraph in contrast went in boots and all - "Keystone Kim" swallowing Wooldridge's line that it was all a stuff-up.
Wooldridge will probably see this as proof of his own ability to play the media like song. But while he might look into the mirror and see a maestro, those who have anything to do with him can only see a runt of a man whose idea of negotiation is to attempt to browbeat people into submission.
All of which would just make him a regular Tool, until you take a deeper look. Because when you look at Wooldridg's career as a body of work a more sinister pattern emerges. The stuff-ups, the blow-ups, the bust-ups and dust-ups read like a Lloyd-Webber anthology. Here's the line-up:
There's the old favourite Cats(cans). Loose-lips give way to the biggest secret in town. Wooldridge lets slip details to a group of radiologists of changed tax arrangements for the purchase of MRI devices. This leads to a run on the sale of the equipment before the announcement of the changes, giving the select group of specialists a massive tax boon at the expense of the general public. Wooldridge shrugs it off as tax relief for the needy. .
Then there's the dramatic Evita The story of powerful women and the man they trample. Wooldridge plays the doormat, a man who shakes when confronted by an adversary in stilettos. It's said that when he passes opposite number Jenny Macklin he trembles. When he confronts AMA chief Kerryn Phelps he is overcome with apoplexy. When his boss forced him to dine with Phelps he doesn't realize he's on the menu. The Short Man Syndrome in all its pathetic glory.
And who could forget the ground-breaking Jesus Christ Superstar where Wooldridge let's his God complex run free? There is his legendary decision to personally call a constituent who had raised issues of concerns - leaving an abusive message with said constituent's spouse to the effect that said constituent was a dickhead. But if you need further evidence look no forward than Wooldridge's own website - http://www.wooldridge.aust.com.au where he shares his childhood photos - perhaps the only federal MP to find this fluff worth sharing with the world. This is a man who fully expects to rise on the third day.
Finally, the the old favourite Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat where Wooldridge works his way through his not inconsiderable wine cellar. As Matt Price wrote so eloquently when describing his parliamentary performance in this week's Australian: Wooldridge is a wine buff. When he arrived at the dispatch box and soberly began defending the Government's record, his complexion resembled an unremarkable dry Riesling. But soon the Health Minister's cheeks had progressed through fruity chardonnay to pink champagne. Before long, his face was a fresh Beaujolais on its way to an overripe merlot, and by the time Wooldridge had finally vented his spleen at Labor he was a full-blown, if slightly bitter burgundy Just like the musical!
You get the drift? The parallels are too stark to be coincidence. Andrew Lloyd Webber is an irritating little Tory with a penchant for melodrama. Michael Wooldridge is an irritating little Tory with a penchant for melodrama. Devoid of inspiration, Wooldridge relies on Lloyd Webber to chart his every move. And currently he's waiting for the next West End production for guidance on where to go now. For our part we can only hope it's the musical version of "The Weakest Link" - starring our own Health Minister as the one who takes the Walk of Shame.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005