The Labor Council of NSW - ACIRRT Quality of Working Life survey is the first comprehensive summary of attitudes to working life undertaken. The AQWL index is derived from interviews of 1100 workers carried out nationwide. It will be commissioned every 12 months, to gain an understanding in workplace trends.
Researchers have set the initial index at 7.1. While this has limited meaning as the base year index, we can make the following observations as to the attitudes of those surveyed.
- Issues that trade unions have taken up and campaigned for such as sexual harassment, workplace health and safety and working hours are of significant concern to working people.
- One in five workers were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the following issues: pay levels, the interest in their work, their career prospects, trust for senior management. One in four were dissatisfied with the balance between work and family life and nearly a third were dissatisfied with the level of stress. This points to some serious problems for a sizeable proportion of the working population.
- Younger workers are generally happier than older workers on all major indicators. Dissatisfaction grows as workers age with respect to trust of management, satisfaction with pay, career prospects and amount of work required.
- Higher income earners (earning more than $70,000) are more likely to be dissatisfied with working hours, the balance between work and family and stress levels. Interestingly, high-income earners were only marginally more satisfied than low-income earners.
- The smaller an organization, the happier a worker is likely to be. Workers had a significantly higher level of satisfaction with the recognition they received for their efforts and the trust they felt for senior management.
- Women were generally more satisfied than men, private sector employees were more satisfied than public sector employees and white collar workers were more satisfied than blue collar workers.
- Part-time workers were more satisfied than full-time workers, probably because of different expectations. Similarly, there was no discernable difference between the satisfaction of casual and full-time employees.
Overall, the survey found a general level of satisfaction with working life among the majority of workers, reflecting the trade union movement's success in civilizing the workplace.
Where dissatisfaction occurs, it is largely linked to relationships with management and fellow workers and their ability to carry out their work in a professional manner.
This survey presents a nation of people keen to work and be recognized for their labour, who have no systemic hostility to management, but wish to be treated with the respect they believe they deserve.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says the findings vindicate the trade union movement's strategy is dealing with grass roots issues.
"What this shows is that workers are concerned about the issues inside their own workplace and they want trade unions to be active on the shop floor," Robertson says.
"This is consistent with the Labor Council's push towards a more grass-roots organizing approach to worker representation."
Full details of the study will be released in a research paper by ACIRRT later in the year.
The executive of the NSW Labor Council last night endorsed calls by its Secretary John Robertson for the Howard Government to negotiate an international solution to the crisis.
Robertson described the Howard Government's handling of the crisis to date as "unacceptable and un-Australian".
"The Prime Minister is obviously positioning himself for re-election on the back of the talk-back shock jocks.
"People are being incited by the politics of hatred - no one seems to give a toss where these people go, as long as they don't come here."
"Why hasn't the PM picked up the phone to the Indonesian president - he has been spruiking their new relationship, but he has no shown leadership on this issue?
Robertson says it's up to the union movement to stand up for both the refugees and the Norwegian crew of the Tampa, even if this was not a popular position.
ACTU Backs in Senate vote
Meanwhile, the ACTU has supported the Opposition parties' decision to block legislation that would have given Australia extraordinary powers to turn back ships in distress.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow says Labor, Democrat and Green Party Senators should be congratulated for their principled stand against the retrospective and draconian legislation.
"Prime Minister John Howard's clumsy and heavy-handed treatment of the refugee issue has become an international embarrassment to Australia," Burrow says.
"The Government's actions in relation to the Tampa threaten to undermine humanitarian operations under the International Law of the Sea.
"The international movement of asylum-seekers is a worldwide problem and no decent prime minister would abandon people at sea. We need a solution that meets international and Australian law. The Government's attempts to override all such legal precedents deserve to be defeated by the Senate."
Burrow says Australian law allows for asylum-seekers to argue their case for refugee status.
"Mr Howard should let these people come safely ashore on humanitarian grounds," she says. "Then Mr Howard should sort out his problem with Indonesia."
Support for Shayan
Meanwhile, the Labor Council has also joined the voiced condemning the federal government's detnetion of assylum seekers within Australia.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson said the plight of six-year-old Shayan Bedraie - who faces deportation with his family - highlights the inhumanity of the current policy.
"It is clear that the processes have fallen down," Robertson says.
"We need an effective system that deals with applications wquickly and transparently, not the system that currently exists which more ressembles a maximum security prison."
by Andrew Casey
Norway, with a long and proud seafaring tradition, is flabbergasted by the action of John Howard in denying entry to the Wilhelmsen Line, MV Tampa.
The MV Tampa has on board hundreds of mainly Afghan refugees saved by the Norwegian Captain and crew from a sinking hulk in the seas to our north-west.
On Wednesday and Thursday the MUA's protest activity received positive coverage in Norway's media.
The Norwegian media found out about the MUA's activity thanks to the power of the web - especially links between union websites.
It happened like this:
· The MUA held workplace meetings on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.
· Reports of this stoppage were promptly placed on the MUA's website and the NSW Labor Council's Workers Online newsfeed.
· The MUA media release, once spotted on the Workers Online newsfeed, was then logged onto the international union web-site LabourStart.
· LabourStart is also produced in nine other languages - including Norwegian, one of the most popular non-English versions of LabourStart. The editor of Norsk LabourStart was alerted to the MUA media release on the English LabourStart and was asked to put a translation on his site.
· A translated version of the MUA media release was placed onto Norsk LabourStart early Wednesday (Norwegian time). As well a link to the original MUA media release was placed on the top-right hand corner of Norsk LabourStart. You can view it for yourself if you visit: http://www.labourstart.org/no/
· The editor of Norsk LabourStart then informed the Norwegian LO, the peak trade union body in Norway, who put the same story as a lead item on their website. You can view it if you visit: http://www.lonytt.org/lo/web/lo_nettavis_publish.nsf
· The LO's media people then directed local Norwegian media and the local Reuters reporter to the story who reported on the principled activity of the MUA to Norwegian media consumers. You can make out Paddy Crumlin's name ( or more if you understand Norwegian) reading this, the most visited mainstream Norwegian media website, Nettavision: http://www.nettavisen.no/servlets/page?section=3&item=172874
During this process the Norwegian Sailors Union was invited to write a piece for Workers Online about this dispute from Norway's perspective and the perspective of the crew.
They quickly pointed out that the class reality of the global shipping industry was that they had no members on board the Tampa.
While the Captain is Norwegian most of his crew comes from the Third World. In this case mainly Filipino sailors.
You can send messages of solidarity and herograms to the Captain and crew on the Tampa by sending an e-mail to the Wilhelmsen Line. mailto:[email protected]
Labor Council secretary John Robertson has formally written to inquiry head Justice Terry Sheahan, who was due to deliver his report to the NSW Governor on Friday.
Robertson has asked Justice Sheahan to recommend the immediate public release of his findings by Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca.
"Our concern is that the government will sit on the report until the recommendations have been costed by the treasury, the legislation drafted and then present it to us as a fait accompli," Robertson says.
"This is what happened with the first round of reform and clearly contributed to the breakdown in relations with the union movement.
"Ensuring the current round is open and transparent is the necessary first step in negotiating a fair package which is in the interests of injured workers."
Job Security Report Gathers Dust
Robertson says the government's propensity to sit on other reports of relevance to workers rights gives no comfort to the trade union movement.
The findings of a groundbreaking inquiry into the Labour Hire industry by former ACTU President Jennie George has been gathering dust for nearly six months.
And unions are still waiting for the release a Law Reform Commission report into workplace privacy, even though its findings were leaked to the media in may.
"It all very well, to commission reports into issues of significance - its another thing to allow those reports to be properly scrutinised by interested parties," Robertson says.
Electrical Trades Union state secretary Bernie Riordan has sounded the warning, after it was revealed that the emergency generator at Lithgow Hospital was found to be defective after its maintenance was contracted out.
The test of the back-up power supply last week found that both water and oillevels had been ignored by contractors, leaving the back-up energy supply defective.
"Say that occurred at Prince of Wales Hospital in the middle of an emergency operation - the power goes off and you need to rely on they emergency generator. The Lithgow Hospital situation is repeated - there is no power. What happens then? Can you imagine the public outcry and ensuing litigation?
"What we're saying is that in-house employees have a greater level of care than contactors. It's been proven time and time again, " Riordan says
Health Minister Craig Knowles is under fire over his decision to allow the South-East Area Health Service to bundle power supply and maintenance work into a contract with Origin energy - a consortium of Boral and Asset Services
Under the deal, private contractors will take over the maintenance of the hospitals, with 52 maintenance workers out of a secure job.
The workers, members of the ETU, CFMEU, AMWU, Plumbers and HREA are fighting the plans and held a rally at Randwick in protest this week and have imposed work bans on all hospitals across the state.
They are also planning to directly target Minister Knowles by letterboxing his seat of Macquarie Fields and, possibly, the upcoming Auburn by-election.
"The Minister through his inaction, has left the workers no option but to escalate the industrial campaign," Riordan says.
"We are calling on the Minister to exercise some control over the excesses of the bureaucrats that have control over the Department of Health and in particular the South East Sydney Area health Service," he says.
"The Minister appears to be prepared to mortgage the NSW public health system in order to cover up the ineptitude of his own department and his lack of control over these faceless, unaccountable bureaucrats."
Workers inside the ATO have drawn the line after being told this week that a further 1300 permanent and 1600 casual and temporary jobs would go.
To add insult, the workers were told of the cuts in a recorded message from ATO chief Michael Carmody who had already jetted to Noosa for a holiday.
CPSU delegate Greg Miller told Labor Council that after the latest round, 3000 full-time jobs - or 10 per cent of the organization - had been scrapped since May.
The cuts follow a decision by the federal government to cut funding to the ATO by $191 million in its last Federal Budget.
Miller says the cuts are already damaging the ability of ATO officers to provide advice to the community, particularly those still struggling under the weight of the GST.
He says it will also undermine the ATO's ability to ensure that the wealthiest sections of the community meet their tax obligations.
Radio National's Background Briefing will run an expose on the ATO at 9.10am Sunday
The CFEMU construction division raised the suggestion in may at the height of the spate of company collapses leaving workers with unpaid entitlements.
They argued that employers should be forced to identify their legal name on all pay-slips, to prevent Patrick-style asset stripping that leaves workers with unpaid entitlements or without workers compensation insurance.
Under the changes, employers will soon be legally required to include their company name and Australian Business Number on their workers' pay-slips.
NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca says the changes will prevent employers from masking the true identity of the business.
Della Bosca says failure to supply written pay-slips that contain all the information required by the regulation is a criminal offence, carrying a maximum penalty of $2,200 per pay-slip and per offence.
"This new regulation will mean that workers are left in no doubt as to who is actually employing them and it also removes some of the risk associated with business failures and the payment of entitlements," he says.
The regulation will commence on 1 January 2002 to allow employers time to change their payroll systems.
About 100 protestors from union, church and community groups gathered in Sydney's Pitt Street mall outside the grace Brothers department store, one of the outlets that sell Triumph bras.
Legislative Council president Meredith Burgman had planned to burn one of the Triumph bras, until the authorities intervened. Instead she cut the bra into small pieces.
But the stunt still reaped benefits, with national newspaper attention given to the vexed issue of whether or not it was legal to burn a bra.
The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and the Daily Telegraph all ran articles on the bra-burning stand-off, all mentioning the campaign against Triumph.
Triumph was targeted because it refused to cease manufacturing in Burma, despite a recommendation from the International Labour Organisation to cease trade over the military regime's use of slave labour.
Triumph Cancels Talks
Meanwhile, the target of Tuesday's action, Triumph, responded to the protest by immediately cancelling planned talks with the FairWear Alliance.
The actions should ensure that further protests across the country are held as FairWear continue pressure on the Swiss multinational.
"We have decided to give them one month to agree to a meeting - during which time we will continue to distribute the postcards, make the most out of the media coverage we've just had and generally continue to raise awareness about the clothing being made in Burma," FairWear convenor Lisa Wriley says .
"If they continue to avoid dialogue with us we will begin a series of actions and vigils outside retailers in local shopping centres."
For more information, postcards please contact the FairWear office by phone  9380 9091, email [email protected] or check our website www.awatw.org.au/fairwear.
The Australian Industrial Relations Commission found metal unions cannot lawfully take industrial action in pursuit of the Manusafe trust fund or substantially similar trust funds.
In a s127 ruling handed down this afternoon, Justice Paul Munro found that Manusafe did not pertain to the employment relationship and therefore couldn't form part of a claim for inclusion in an enterprise agreement.
But he left the door open for other arrangements to secure employee entitlements, including provisions making them portable, and set out in some detail the form that such arrangements could take.
The head of Manusafe Andrew Whilley says the decision is being examined in details and avenues for appeal are being explored.
"The decision has not ruled out the use of trust fund as a mode to protect workers entitlements," Whilley says..
"It is quite clears that the community support is still behing trust funds as the best vehicle to protect enetitlements."
Victory at Maintrain - A Victory for all Workers
Meanwhile, after nearly 8 weeks on the picket line, in a dispute that management predicted would be over in two days, the victory at Maintrain is a land mark win for all workers.
The struggle at Maintrain was about the right of all workers to have security over their own accruing entitlements rather than being used as an interest free loan used by the boss to prop up his business cash flow.
Like Tri Star and Monroes before, Maintrain has established an essential milestone towards the establishment of an Industry Trust Fund to secure the entitlements of manufacturing workers.
The resolution of the Maintrain dispute established a Bank Guarantee, underpinned by a contract with the State Rail Authority. This Guarantee secures past and future accruing entitlements, together with the establishment of a Trust Fund with employees being the beneficiaries for the placement of future long service leave accruals.
These three disputes - Tri Star, Monroes and Maintrain, together demonstrate the determination of AMWU members to secure what is rightfully their's.
NSW State Secretary, Paul Bastian, said that the AMWU was prepared to take on the fight for its members work shop by work shop until every manufacturing worker knows that their families' financial future is secure.
Electrolux's managing director made the vow while visiting Orange last week to inspect the whitegoods manufacturing plant the company purchased from Email last year.
Workers from the plant had been seeking for the guarantee for more than 12 months, but had been unable to get a definitive response from management.
When both Email and then the new owners shed up to 600 of the 1800 workforce, concerns grew that the plant was slated for closure. And with the manufacturing plant responsible for nearly 30 per cent of Orange's economy, real fears were emerging for the long-term survival of the town.
But a community-based campaign to keep the plant in Orange, run by local unions with the support of the NSW Labor Council helped turned the tide. This included a rally through the streets of Orange which galvanised public support.
Australian Workers Union delegate Robert George this week officially thanked the Labor Council and its affiliates on behalf of the people of the region.
George says the strength of the campaign was that the workers themselves took charge of it from strategic planning to implementation.
AWA state president Mick Maddern said he was convinced that without the organising campaign and rally, the factory would have been closed.
Maddern says the Labor Council organising model of involving local communities in campaigns should become the framework for campaigns in other rural centres.
The industry award case was instigated by the CPSU who recently secured redundancy entitlements for One.Tel workers following the company's spectacular demise.
The Industrial Relations Commission decision handed down in Sydney today has been welcomed by telecommunications workers. It delivers the prospect of an industry-wide safety net for the first time.
CPSU National Secretary, Wendy Caird said, "This is an important step in delivering real improvements for people in this new industry. The One.Tel experience demonstrated clearly how vulnerable these workers are. It also demonstrated how unions like the CPSU can make a positive difference."
"This decision recognises the groundswell of support for unions amongst employees in companies such as Vodafone, Primus, Orange and AAPT," added Ms Caird.
As a first priority, unions will move quickly to gain an interim redundancy award for the whole industry, to protect workers caught in One.Tel style collapses. Following this, unions will commence negotiations for a comprehensive industry award.
ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said the small business amendment Bill would remove legal rights from half the Australian workforce, or more than three million employees of businesses with less than 20 staff.
"Small businesses are struggling because of John Howard's GST and the slowdown its forced on the economy. Now John Howard is trying to recover ground by taking away the rights of small business employees. Under these laws, John Howard is saying that these employees can be sacked and have no protection.
"These laws would unfairly discriminate against half the workforce. Why should employees have fewer legal rights and protections just because they work in small business? John Howard and Employment Minister Tony Abbott don't care about the employment conditions and job security of these working families," Mr Combet said.
"Former Employment Minister Peter Reith tried to bring in these changes and they were rejected by Parliament because they are unfair. Now Tony Abbott is serving them up again as a political stunt.
"Small business people and working families need a Government with new ideas to solve real problems, not this second-hand piece of union-bashing."
Mr Combet said the Workplace Relations and Other Legislation Amendment (Small Business and Other Measures) Bill 2001 discriminated against small business employees by:
· allowing sub-standard individual contracts to apply without review by any independent umpire, including the Industrial Relations Commission and the Office of the Employee Advocate;
· banning unfair dismissal claims;
· exempting many businesses from awards and commission hearings; and
· preventing union representatives from visiting many businesses
More than 100 centre staff packed Liverpool Council chambers on Monday night to cheer the unanimous Council rejection of Westfield's parking fee application.
The decision follows an 18 month campaign by the Union to defeat Westfield's development application to introduce a "nominal" daily parking fee for the centre's workers.
Council Unanimously Backs Retail Workers
In rejecting the fee, Council described the proposed staff parking fee as "obscene" and lacking common sense.
New South Wales SDA Branch Secretary Greg Donnelly congratulated Liverpool City Councillors for their fair and just decision.
"We are delighted at Council's decision. It was the only sensible choice available. The Councillors clearly recognised that the application was all about revenue and not safety.
It should send a clear message to Westfield. The wages of retail workers are not a bargaining chip to be traded for onsite security.
The Councillors have appreciated the folly of imposing parking fees on working mothers and young women, so prominent in our industry, who rely upon their vehicle for transport to and from work."
In an important development for the SDA's campaign, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), representing retail employers, joined with the Union to recommend that Council reject Westfield's application.
Acknowledging the important support of the ARA, Mr Donnelly noted, "This confirms what the SDA has always said - only Westfield benefits from paid staff parking. The ARA is entitled to be concerned about the flow on effect to wages, Occupational Health and Safety and Workers Compensation.
The ARA has also identified the very real risk of "double dipping" where Westfield's tenants already pay for the provision of security as a term of their lease only for Westfield to seek to levy employees for the same service."
SDA Leads Groundswell Of Opposition
Identifying the important contribution of a coalition of interests, Mr Donnelly said today,
"The SDA is proud to have led a groundswell of workers, employers and community interests against this unnecessary application and calls on Westfield to respect Council's decision to the benefit of everyone and lay this matter to rest once and for all."
Hornsby and Burwood On The Radar
The decision not only protects the existing entitlement to free, safe parking for all retail workers at Westfield Liverpool but also provides a launching pad for the Union to resume its campaign in other affected centres.
The issue will hot up over the coming months as the SDA targets Westfield's Hornsby and Burwood shopping centres.
Mr Donnelly said today, "Our members continue to be unfairly targeted at other Westfield centres in the Sydney metropolitan area.
The stark injustice is clearly demonstrated at Burwood where customers are provided with free parking with any purchase whilst the workers, who often purchase their lunch, groceries and other goods and services at the centre, are whacked with a $4 fee every day they park at work.
The Liverpool decision is a stepping stone to securing free, safe parking for all retail workers."
"For some weeks now there has been leaks and strong rumours circulating that Tony Abbott is about to make up to 10 sympathetic appointments to the Industrial Relations Commission in an effort to stack it before the election," Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations Arch Bevis said.
"Such a blatant partisan act would be an absolute abuse of convention in the run up to the election. Until now the Howard Government has cut resources to the Commission and treated it with contempt.
"The rumoured appointments due to be made in the next four or five weeks are reminiscent of the actions of Peter Reith, who made several appointments only weeks before being shifted from the industrial relations portfolio.
"In the interests of ensuring the integrity of the independent umpire, Tony Abbott should give an undertaking that he will not make any appointments to the industrial commission this close to the caretaker period that immediately precedes the federal election.
"Any appointments at this stage will be widely seen for what they are - an abuse of convention and a partisan attack on the independence of the independent umpire," said Mr Bevis.
Stop work meetings were this week held at St George, St Vincents and Wollongong Hospitals, all of which are experiencing staff shortages.
The NSW Nurses are pushing for an across the board increase in wages to meet the growing crisis in staffing numbers in the state's health system.
NSWNA General Secretary, Sandra Moait, said the St George Hospital is creaking under the strain of the nurse shortage confronting NSW and as a result has a lot of closed beds.
"It currently only has 530 beds open, even though it has a capacity of 650 beds and normally operates at around 580 beds. It was also unable to open its 32-bed 'winter' ward this year, because it could not get the nurses to staff it.
"Even with so many beds closed the hospital still has around 40 nursing positions vacant and, like a lot of other hospitals around the State, it is forced to use large amounts of overtime to cover many shifts.
Meanwhile, nearly 90 of St Vincent's 860 full-time-equivalent (FTE) nurse positions are currently being covered by casual or agency nurses or overtime.
"Nurses around the State, are perplexed about why the State Government is just sitting back and doing nothing to improve nurses pay - especially at this time of serious shortages, when we are having trouble enticing nurses to stay in or come back to the profession," Moait says.
The campaign continues.
When the police didn't take any action the company said they would get the theme park's security guards to haul them away - but management were warned not to do that.
" It really was a case of the Keystone cops.
" The management just didn't know how to react when the cleaners showed the power that comes through unity, as they took their first ever industrial action ," Steve Klaassen, LHMU Cleaners Union organiser said.
" Wonderland said we were trespassing so they called out the police and threatened to get them to arrest all the cleaners who were protesting outside the park's gates.
" But when the police arrived they told management we were not trespassing and there would be no arrests .
" Wonderland then called in their own security guards. This time we called the police," Steve Klaassen said.
" The security guards and management were warned that if they touched the cleaners they could be charged with wrongful imprisonment.
" The company was gob-smacked.
" We were handing out balloons saying 'I support the Cleaners'.
" The company tried to undermine our balloon protest by handing out - for free -
the balloons they normally sell at $10 a pop to the kids.
" It was laughable."
On the day after the protest Wonderland told the cleaners that if they take part in further industrial action, they will be sacked!
" Every cleaner has been given a first and final warning over taking action yesterday," Steve Klaassen said.
Twelve cleaners are paid at $14.08 an hour while nine cleaners are paid at $15.61 an hour.
The pay difference came about because Wonderland found they couldn't attract workers at the lower rate.
" They were advertising the jobs at the lower rate, but no one applied. They were forced to advertise the jobs at a higher rate.
" We are now in the situation that 9 new cleaners get paid at the $15.61 an hour higher rate and the 12 cleaners who have been working at Wonderland for a much longer period are being paid $14.08 an hour.
" Our members believe it is only fair that all the cleaners are paid equally.
" At the end of the day people are doing the same work for different pay."
LHMU members and supporters have been asked to back the Wonderland workers - even through their computers.
Members and supporters have been told they can tell Wonderland's Front Desk that they back the cleaners' cause.
Send an E-mail to mailto:[email protected]
Please send any copies of the e-mail to Steve Klaassen.
Read earlier stories about the Wonderland dispute
Wonderland threatens to sue its cleaners click here to read.
No wonder Wonderland workers unhappy click here to read.
The Australian Workers Union is leading the push to amend section 19 of the NSW Industrial relations Act, which currently requires awards to be reviewed and brought up to date.
AWU secretary Russ Collison says that now this painstaking process has been completed, awards can be easily brought up to date by order of the Commission.
"The AWU requests that Labor Council at future State Wage Cases seek the making of general orders in relation to adjustments to rates and allowances," he says.
"This will avoid the problems that have arisen to delay in making applications by broad-based unions such as the AWU which have responsibility for a massive number of State awards.".
Specifically the AWU seeks:
- in future State Wage cases the NSW Government should support the making of general orders to adjust rates and allowances in awards, and
- amend section 19 of the Industrial Relations Act that the Commission has responsibility for reviewing all awards every three eyars.
The Labor Council is seeking the support of NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca on the issue.
by Andrew Casey
The old nine-storey head office is on the corner of Pitt St and Martin Place.
This building was the model for the green tin savings boxes the Commonwealth handed out for over 70 years to generations of Australian school children.
" The era of the green tin money boxes have passed," Sonia Minutillo, the Executive Vice President of the LHMU Cleaners Union said.
" The era of banks providing a friendly face and a service to customers has also passed.
" And an era of banks treating all their workers, especially long term workers, with some civility has long passed away.
" Our members went on a snap strike on Thursday night at the old building,, at 120 Pitt St, demanding to be treated with a little bit more respect."
LHMU Cleaning Union members leafleted the other workers, and passers-by in Pitt St, on Thursday and Friday explaining the issues and calling for support.
"The bank has decided to change cleaning contractors but no one has told the workers what will happen to them," Sonia Minutillo said.
"The custom and practice in this industry is that when a cleaning contract changes the existing workforce is given the first offer of a job. It hasn't happened this time.
"Long term employees have been refused ongoing employment for no reason.
"This is hardly fair," Sonia said.
Show your support for the members of the LHMU Cleaners Union by ringing the Commonwealth Bank's managing agent, Jones Lang Le Salle, and the Commonwealth Bank's HR people.
At Jones Lang Le Salle contact Kylie Thorton ( 9220 8409) or Paul Nelson ( 9220 8438)
At the Commonwealth Bank ring Angelica on 9378 3265.
by Veronica Apap
The Western Sahara Alliance and the Australia Western Sahara Association (AWSA), are holding a musical fundraiser for the liberation of Western Sahara. There will be Flamenco and Afro- Caribbean acts as well as a DJ.
"We're raising money to bring a woman out from the refugee camps on a speaking tour," says Stephanie Brennan who is organising the event.
Up to 180 000 people have been living in refugee camps for 25 years since Morocco invaded Western Sahara. Polisario is the liberation movement fighting for their independence.
She says that the problems in West Sahara are similar to those experienced by East Timor. "Australians should get involved because it's the East Timor of Africa. They face imminent danger from Morocco. People have been tortured, raped, murdered and detained by the Moroccans," she says.
The fact that people so far away from the problem care is very significant to the West Saharawi's. "It moves them to tears to know that they haven't been forgotten by the western world," says Brennan.
Delivering their pure guitar driven pop rock, successful Sydney band STELLA ONE ELEVEN will headline the night. Local singer songwriter and actor PETER FENTON will perform brand new material joined by DAVID LANE who will offer his keyboard prowess. Of course a new music initiative wouldn't be complete without some developing talent, Wobbly Radio is proud to introduce the pop hook laden locals LAZY SUSAN and Brisbane based duo GORGEOUS who recently released their debut self titled album.
Of Wobbly Radio, Cindy Ryan lead singer and guitarist from Stella One Eleven said,
"This is a great initiative particularly for emerging acts. With the exception of Triple J and community stations the quota of new Australian music on radio is very small in comparison to the swag of international hits that get aired. We are happy to support this event because the Wobbly Radio site is there to help the local music scene flourish and that's a real positive."
Wobbly Radio's emphasis is to introduce young acts and also display established acts to a wider audience. The site allows new or existing artists to upload their own MP3's, which are then added to the Wobbly play-list. The site also displays a photo and biography on each act to offer a complete package.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson said,
"This is a way the trade union movement can promote Australian culture and also give support to the music industry. We'd also like to think that Wobbly will create goodwill amongst younger people who might look at what we have to offer them when they are at work."
Each week the latest Australian releases will be streamed to global online listeners, with feature albums, a featured MP3 of the week and special themed programs. MP3's and music programs distributed through wobblyradio.com are not downloadable, so there's no way the artist's music can be captured or pirated.
So if you're an Australian Music fan or an emerging band looking for some free online exposure be sure you check out the new all Australian music site wobblyradio.com Musicians can send their CD and hard copies of biographies and photographs to: Wobbly Radio, NSW Labor Council, Level 10, 377-383 Sussex St Sydney NSW 2000. Or simply follow the links on the site or email MP3s and info to [email protected]
The Wobbly Radio launch celebrates Australian Music so we invite you to come down and enjoy a great night out with some of our finest talent. Wobbly Radio launches on Saturday September 22 - Newtown RSL with STELLA ONE ELEVEN, PETER FENTON and two new emerging acts LAZY SUSAN and GORGEOUS to kick off the night.
Tickets are at the bargain price of $10.00 and are available at the door on the night, doors open at 8.00pm. Please note Newtown RSL requires all patrons to provide photo ID on entry to the club.
MAKING THE TOOLS FOR ACTIVISM: A HANDS ON WORKSHOP AT REVERSE GARBAGE
Learn the secrets to a good protest action - come and hear from the Fair Wear creative arts team about making spectacular props, banners and other creative tools for protest events. And gets your hands dirty making stuff - free material provided by Reverse Garbage!
Join us with preparation for our latest campaign on the No Sweatshop Label. We're targeting a major Sydney retailer (can't say who but "there's no other store"...) to ask why big brands are still refusing to support the No Sweatshop Label. Everyone's welcome.
Where: Reverse Garbage, Addison Rd Community Centre, Marrickville
Transport: Catch the 426 or 428 bus to Addison Rd, Marrickville
When: Saturday, 1st September 2pm - 4pm
What the critics have said:
"This activity is a must for people who want to be more creative." Anonymous.
"This activity is a must for people who already consider themselves to be creative." Anonymous.
"This activity is a must for anyone that doesn't fit into the two previous categories." Anonymous.
For more info, email [email protected] or phone (02) 9380 9091.
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)
CORPORATE POWER OR PEOPLE'S POWER? TNCs AND GLOBALISATION
27, 28, 29 September 2001Asia-Pacific Research Network and AID/WATCH University of Technology Sydney, Harris St, Sydney, Australia
In recent years corporations have gained remarkable power. Many have gone transnational in the search for lower costs and bigger markets. In response, governments have removed economic barriers, and Transnational Corporations (TNCs) have led the way in the new world of corporate globalisation. Today more than one third of the world's private assets are owned by TNCs. One third of all international trade occurs within individual TNCs. Across the globe, a range of campaigns and movements are challenging the power of TNCs.
The conference is aimed at strengthening this challenge. Participants assess the impact of TNCs, and how they exercise power. They compare experiences, build research agendas and develop strategy.
Keynotes include: Sharon Beder, Wollongong University; Doug Cameron, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union; Tony Clarke, Polaris Institute (Canada); Jacqui Katona, Aboriginal Activist; Moses Havini, Bougainville Freedom Movement; Rafael Mariano, BAYAN (the Philippines); Kavaljit Singh, Public Interest Research Centre (India); Tony Tujan, Ibon Foundation (the Philippines).
Cost: $200, $100 Cconcession (includes lunches and coffees/teas) Day rates and further concessions are available on request.
How to register: Visit the APRN website: www.aprnet.org, or the Aid/Watch site, www.aidwatch.org.au, and follow the links for the APRN's third annual conference;
by Zoe Reynolds
The trade union body has delivered a letter to the Australian High Commission advising it that it was in clear breach of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, and the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees - even before it took military action that could leave it open to a charge of committing an act of war.
The ITF has also repeated its urgent warning that the Australian Government's action risks setting a dangerous precedent that could fatally undermine all future rescues at sea. Effectively making ships' captains responsible for deciding whether they can go to the assistance of vessels in distress and who is a genuine asylum seeker endangers the existing system, by which seafarers must help in emergencies and then allow the relevant national authorities to decide on questions of immigration, it says.
The ITF also warned the Australian Government that: 'the unwanted and unrequested occupation of the sovereign territory of Norway - a friendly country - by Australian soldiers is dangerously irresponsible. It is difficult to see how this, let alone any use of troops or a frigate to turn around the Tampa, is anything less than a technical act of war. Were it to have been carried out on the high seas, rather than in territorial waters, there would be a good case to be made for calling it piracy.'
David Cockroft, General Secretary of the ITF, commented today: "There is a legal case and there is a moral one too. Like it or not Australia must abide by its humanitarian duty and accept these migrants. Until then it is endangering everyone on board the Tampa - including the innocent crew members whose only mistake appears to have been to respond responsibly and promptly to an Australian call for assistance.
"Deploying camouflaged, body-armoured commandos to deal with a few hundred dehydrated civilians is using a very large sledge hammer to crack a nut - though I've never seen a sledgehammer armed with silenced sub-machine guns before. "
He concluded: "It's true that Australia has been handed something of a poisoned chalice by Indonesia, but the difference is that Australia is a responsible maritime state that has signed these treaties and Indonesia isn't - as is shown by its appalling behaviour and all too evident failure to police its waters and tackle the horrible trade in human lives."
The unions to which the Tampa crew belongs and the Maritime Union of Australia (which has branded the use of troops to board the Tampa "a deplorable invasion") are affiliated to the ITF.
A copy of the ITF letter to the PM is available at the mua website - http:mua.tcp.net.au
For more information contact ITF press officer, Sam Dawson, direct line: + 44 (0)20 7940 9260. E-mail: [email protected]
INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT WORKERS' FEDERATION - ITF: HEAD OFFICE, ITF House, 49 - 60 Borough Road, London SE1 1DS,Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7403 2733, Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7375 7871, Email: [email protected] Web-page: www.itf.org.uk
Disgracefully, shamefully and immorally, we are refusing entry to 438 mainly Afghani asylum seekers. All this is part of the Campaign to Re-Elect the PM.
And the ALP's response? To agree with the Government. The fools. Having let loose the dogs of racism, the ALP will be unable to restrain them. Once you accept attacks on "others", all "outsiders" are at risk.
This racism against refugees will escalate to racism against those already in Australia who are "different" - be they different cultures, different skin colours, different languages. Aborigines will be the first target but recent immigrants, especially those from Asia and the Middle East, will also suffer at the hands of the rednecks. Anti-semitism will become more open and aggressive.
Then there will be an onslaught against those with "different" sexual orientations. And of course those with different politics - socialists, communists, anarchists and trade unionists - will become another target.
Trade unions are particularly under threat. Racism weakens the working class's ability to defend itself. First it actually pits worker against worker in the workplace, making it harder for workers to unite against the bosses. Second racism is an ideological tool that glues the working class to nationalism and the bosses' system. The ideology expressed in the aphorism that "we are all Australians together" becomes a more powerful glue when the unwritten message is that we are one nation, one people standing strong against "outsiders".
This ideological and divisive component of racism creates a climate where the bosses will be tempted to launch assaults on jobs, wages and conditions, using racism as part of the argument to divide workers. The fight against racism is the fight for jobs and conditions.
The social gains of the last thirty years - abortion rights, women in the workplace, childcare - will suffer greater attacks as the reactionaries become more emboldened over their success on refugees.
Shame, Labor, shame for what you have done.
And what political benefit is there for Beazley in supporting Howard? None.
The ALP won't win the racist vote. Worse, Labor will alienate their anti-racist members and supporters. Some of those people at least will now look to support political groups like Socialist Alliance and the Greens against the new Hansonites in the ALP.
You don't fight racism by capitulating to it. The way to respond to wedge politics is to stand on your principle, not sell out to it.
To understand the hypocrisy of both the government and the ALP, there may well soon be a "flood" of refugees into Australia. But they will be white, rich, English speaking Zimbabwean farmers. And they will come by plane - in many cases their own.
Will we turn them back? No. Government members have already expressed support for allowing white Zimbabwean farmers into Australia.
This difference in treatment is racism. It infects our society. The Australian nation was built on genocide and nurtured on racism. The support for the Government's actions by large numbers of talkback radio callers shows that we have not escaped our history - we are just repeating it.
For that reason, and given the historic failure of Labor on this issue, it is incumbent on the left in all its various guises to unite against the racist threat within.
In particular the trade unions cannot stand idly by. The danger is great. All trade unionists must unite to fight against this evil and anti-working class ideology. It only benefits the bosses if we are divided along irrelevant lines like the colour of our skin. We must organise in our unions against racism. And we must organise politically, outside the hansonite ALP.
In the 1960s the majority of Australians supported the war against the Vietnamese. The left built a massive campaign against that criminal war and Australian society changed its mind. We can do the same today.
Let the refugees land.
John Passant- John Passant is a Canberra writer and member of the newly formed Socialist Alliance. Socialist Alliance will run candidates in the forthcoming federal election.
I am a solicitor practising in the field of personal injury litigation which includes workers compensation. As a result of the Carr Government's approach to this field of law and the steps it has taken to reduce workers entitlements, I have been struggling to keep alive in private practice as have a number of my colleagues. What amazes me the most is that despite having this position I feel entirely powerless in the face of these developments not only for my own career but also for the workers this legislation is intending to deprive.
I would urge the Labour Council to remain alive and jubilent in its stance against the Carr Government's agenda. You are not only fighting for the benefactors of the legislation, but my own profession and the dependants of the workers which this legislation was pioneered to protect.
At the Press Club on Thursday, I was made aware of this website called Online Opinion which publishes speeches, etc to invigorate debate.
The following link is a piece written by Tony Abbott about the future of unionism and why trade unions are to blame.
We obviously need some pro-union material put up on this site. I have signed up to free email updates to ensure we are aware if this happens again. I guess it's important to have positive union messages in every medium and every situation if we can.
I was told they have about 12,000 hits their site and they could not define their audience. Regardless, we should keep an eye on it.
Was the Peter Botsman article intended for the satire section or did he really suggest turning kindergarten and primary schools into "business incubators" that offer training to get one of the limited number of jobs available?
Conscience of the Nation once more.
Australian Maritime Unionists, by their demand for succor for those in peril on the sea on the Norwegian ship MV Tampa. Whether sheep skins for Russia, no pig iron for Japan or Indonesian independence. Maritime unions have never shirked humanitarian responsibility. What a ridiculous situation Howard and Beasley's decision has placed all Australians, we are all diminished.
The Lords Prayer preceded the Prime Ministers statement on the human tragedy unfolding off Christmas Island. The silence of church leaders, our new Governor General included is deafening, it is impossible to ignore that such silence is racially based, Muslims are not part of our flock. Such hypocrisy will not be lost on our Northern neighbors.
Perhaps Parliaments opening with the Lords Prayer could be replaced by Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World".
There is no political mileage in the fate of refugees for either Party but the Greens can take a bow.
In all conscience, I hope that I am not the only two ears in the wilderness, deafened by the stunning silence from the ACTU, and the Labor Council, on the most recent issue of national importance ` Economic Predators`. Or am I being a tad xenophobic and emotional as to our Australian sovereignty, and the inability to care for our own disadvantaged families in this already economic and class conscious divided land , a land of numerous tribes with more unintelligible chatter taking place about self-centered personal and egotistical issues , by small but unruly self interest groups , than was ever spoken in the `Tower of Babel`.
While some may say , that unemployment is only around the one million figures, the four to five million of the working poor must be looking on in agape at the vanguard of their economic survival , while "The Union Movement" , refuses to support the `Howard` government in defense of our land.
There can be no ambiguity as to the invasion of our coasts by , not as some would have us believe , `political refugees` , but economic predators , who can , in real terms pay more to have them smuggled into Australia than their fellow countrymen could earn in a lifetime. These are persons who deliberately destroy their documentation of identity as soon as they are within sight of our shores. This in itself is a matter of great concern, even if they were to arrive here by more conventional methods. These are persons who play on our sense of fair play, by using Women and children as to entrap us in their emotional web of deceit.
This is a problem that should be addressed on a bi-partisan manner, and not in an attempt to placate those that would play on the collective guilt or our still blatantly obvious cultural cringe.
There are now too many on this fence, and it is in danger of collapsing.
I am attempting to research the use of email during the waterfront dispute of 1999. I have copies of the archived emails that LeftLink circulated but I want to find a complete set of the emails circulated by the ACTU because those emails included both information dispersal and, more importantly, exchanges among contributors.
The ACTU has, however, moved offices and has no copies of any of those emails. Like several others I have contacted, I have long since lost my copies on an old computer hard disk. But there must be someone who has lovingly kept them in safe keeping somewhere.
If anyone has any questions about who I am, what I want to use the research for, what the research is about, what my politics are etc, you can contact me at mailto:[email protected]
by Peter Lewis
ETU's Bernie Riordan
This week we have seen action regarding the contracting out in the Health Department. It seems quite a bizarre story of how the State Government is looking at cutting costs through bundling power and labour. Has this approach surprised you?
The approach has surprised me. We are in a situation where they want to contract out all the maintenance work and at the same time have that contractor be the electricity provider to the hospital. It would make far more sense to the Department of Health, a State Government organisation, to go to one of the State Government distributors and say we want you to supply electricity for all of our hospitals and area Health Boards rather than to do it this way. They would have bargaining power to negotiate a better price than the way they are proposing now.
Is there a philosophical problem you have with the whole approach or is it just that it's affecting your members?
It's not just that. People who go into the hospital, as contractors would be our members as well. What we're concerned about is the level of service that will prevail after the contracting out. Sydney Water is a great example of what can go wrong. Half of the maintenance of Sydney Water was contracted out back in 1995 by former Fahey Government just prior to the election. Craig Knowles was actually the Minister for Sydney Water when the Government became elected. When I saw Craig Knowles about the situation, he told me then that he was totally opposed to contracting out but there was nothing he could do. The contracts had been signed.
Later that year raw sewerage flowed into rivers and streams because the contractors coming in didn't have the personnel or the experience to undertake the work. In this situation we are dealing with people's lives, rather than whether or not a stream gets polluted. I think it's a big risk for the Government to take of which the public is unaware.
This approach is now coming from a Labor Government - do you think the Minister is driving the agenda??
No, the Minister seems distracted so it is possibly not his idea. But he is the Minister so he has to take responsibility. Craig Knowles views himself as a future Premier. We're asking him to provide some leadership in this situation, not simply to take the economic rationalist rhetoric that comes out of the Treasury Department. We believe that the in house maintenance can be done far cheaper that the external maintenance contractor. We believe the Health Department can get a far better deal for electricity than any one off area Health Board. We think the Government also needs to take into account the social responsibilities of having the maintenance undertaken in a manner, which guarantees that the work will be performed, and that there won't be any breakdowns caused by lack of maintenance. I'll give you a great example. Lithgow Hospital has an emergency generator that, for the last few years, has been maintained by a private contractor. When the generator was tested recently, it failed. Why did it fail? Maintenance hadn't been complied with water and oil levels were low, etc. Say that occurred at Prince of Wales Hospital in the middle of an emergency operation - the power goes off and you need to rely on they emergency generator. The Lithgow Hospital situation is repeated - there is no power. What happens then? Can you imagine the public outcry and ensuing litigation?
What we're saying is that in-house employees have a greater level of care than contactors. It's been proven time and time again. You can go through them all - Sydney Water, the electricity companies, even some of the blackouts that have hit Sydney in the last few weeks. Once again caused by poor tree clearing practices undertaken by contractors. So we think the situation is fairly clear for the Government in relation to contracting out. We've had all sorts of pious resolutions passed at ALP Conferences in relation to contracting out. It would appear that a number of Government Ministers think that they can ignore ALP Policy, and the voters that put them there and get away with it.
I think Craig Knowles and the rest of the Government need to realize that they are on the nose and they better start adopting Labor Party principles.
You've had a couple of rallies on these issues. Where do you go from here?
There are a number of options available. Obviously we don't want to start introducing bans which have an effect on the public. That's too sensitive a work environment to do that. What we will be doing though is targeting Craig Knowles as an individual and also perhaps the by-election out at Auburn.
What will you be doing there?
We'll be doing some letterboxing and handing out leaflets at railway stations. Just advising the public of some of our concerns.
Another front opening after you led the charge to oppose the privatisation of the Power Industry and sections of Pacific Power now look like being up for sale. What's the ETU's position on that?
We're opposed to privatisation. The Government's announced that they want to privatise PowerCoal, which we do not support, and they're also flagging the concept of privatising Pacific Power International. Once again we oppose that, we think it's a short sighted view. At some point in time the NSW Government has to realise that whilst they are the Government of the day, they also have to be accountable for their decisions in the future. Whilst selling PowerCoal makes good political sense in the current environment, five or ten years down the track there will be no guarantee that the electricity generators, owned by the NSW Government, will be able to buy sufficient coal at the appropriate price, to generate electricity at its current cheap price.
So the real likelihood is that electricity prices will have to go up exponentially just to meet the purchase price of coal. So what the Government's proposing is to take out the first link in the supply chain of electricity generation and distribution.
I believe it's a long term, foolish decision. Now I understand that the Government is saying that the industry needs an injection of capital, but that's got to be seen as an investment for the future of NSW and the consumers of NSW, not whether or not it affects Michael Egan's budget surplus.
The same applies for Pacific Power International.
Speaking of ALP policy, the workers comp reform package was something that was in breach of part policy. But at the end of the day it seems like it's gone through anyway. What is at the Union Movement's disposal to hold a Government to ALP Policy?
The only thing we can do at the moment is try to influence policies from the outside, in the way we are doing now by lobbying. Alternatively we have to sponsor and support people to run for Parliament who support our line of thinking. It is becoming evident to not just me but a number of Secretaries of Unions that we need to do something to ensure that the people who go into Parliament are people who believe that fundamental ALP principles are worth fighting for and it is worth opposing any rhetoric or philosophy which is contradictory to those principles.
But how do you do that?
The only way at the moment is to have our members become more active in the branches of the Labor Party. We need to ensure that the people being preselected to stand for seats of Parliament fundamentally believe in the principles of the Labor Party and not their own self interests.
Of course the line that would come out of Macquarie Street is that your Unions are having fewer and fewer members every year. How can you claim to dictate party policy while those numbers are declining?
I think it's fairly obvious from the recent surveys that have been released that, whilst Union membership may be declining, it's probably got more to do with the system of work which is developing in Australia rather whether people prefer to be in a Union or not. I think it's fairly evident that the workforce, still fundamentally believes in what the Trade Union Movement stands for. It is whether or not they are able or comfortable with being in a Trade Union.
That's an issue you're grappling with in the ETU as well. Tell me about some of the ways you are organising your workforce.
We're doing a number of things. We've targeted a number of our industries that in the past have reflected fairly low levels of financial membership. We employed Adam Kerslake, actually we seconded Adam from the ACTU for 12 months to coordinate our organising campaign. We have now commissioned a number of organizing strategies in relation to delegate training, and refocusing the full time Union Officials to ensure that we have moved away from the old traditional servicing model.
I am not going to say we have adopted the organizing model warts and all, but I believe we have modified it to such an extent that it would be successful in our industries.
What specific work areas are you going in and looking at?
We've targeted, in particular, construction, the power industry in general and also the metal manufacturing industry - all of which have different idiosyncrasies, all of which require different styles and different approaches and Adam has been successful - I believe - in implementing strategies which are different and reflect our need in each of those areas.
What's an example of some of the innovating things that are going on?
For example we've developed a PowerPoint presentation for the construction industry which highlight the levels of income of five or six of the major CEOs of the building industry. It highlights the way that they treat their employees and the huge profits these people continue to earn despite the downturn in the industry and how we can make them share it with our members.
We have also run a successful organising campaign in the poker machine area. Employees of Aristocrat went from being non-union in February to on strike on Golden Slipper day and put the operation of the NSW TAB at risk. It was a great result.
Ten years down the track, can you see the Union Movement being closer or further away from the ALP than they are today?
I believe we will be closer. I think that the swing is back on to have party which represents the interests of working men and women across Australia in a manner which will be different to what is currently being proposed by the Labor Party. I can see that the 80s approach of Hawke and Keating where it was deemed to be appropriate to be comfortable and perhaps sympathetic with Australian business is disappearing on the basis that Australian business is also disappearing.
What is clearly occurring is that globalisation - with all of its warts - has resulted in the multi - national companies buying off the Australia farm and their principles are being pushed into the Australian marketplace. A perfect example of this was the dispute at Joy Manufacturing last year where workers were locked out for six months and at the end of the day we were forced to negotiate with a manager who, every fine minutes, had to report to the US to get answers to our questions.
What about the faction system. Do you see an industrial faction emerging as maybe a counter point to traditional left/right?
I think it already has and the recent Workers Comp dispute proves it. When you have Ministers in both the Federal and State Parliamentary Parties adopting Policies which I regard as being similar to Michael Egan's rather than similar to someone like Tom Uren, then the so-called principles of the left have disappeared.
Is that a good thing?
Absolutely. My view is that factions in the past have been a source to breed mediocrity and do nothing to further the best interests of the people we have been elected to represent.
When Kamal Fadel came to Australia from West Sahara two years ago, he was surprised at how little we knew of a 25 year old struggle by his people for independence. "I was astonished by the lack of knowledge when I arrived, despite the fact that it has been going on for 25 years. I was also surprised at the sympathy, understanding and support I got," Fadel said.
"I lived in West Sahara until 1975. Then because of the invasion and occupation by Morocco, most of my people and myself, fled our homes and settled in areas of West Sahara controlled by the independence movement. Then we were bombed and attacked and we moved to Algeria," said Fadel.
Kamal Fadel is a member of Polisario, the liberation group fighting for West Sahara's independence. Since the invasion about 180,000 Saharawi's have been expelled from their country and live in refugee camps in the dessert of Algeria. Fadel grew up in these camps. He went to school just outside the camp.
Fadel came to Australia for several reasons. "One is that we didn't have representation in this part of the world. I wanted to bring the message here to educate people and gain government understanding. I also came just before the East Timor referendum, their situation is very similar to ours, and it's important to follow this example and learn from it," he says.
Like East Timor, West Saharawi's were also promised a referendum by the UN. In 1991 the UN intervened and a ceasefire was called. Plans were drawn up for a referendum to decide who would control West Sahara. Unlike the East Timorese, Saharawi's are still waiting for their chance to vote.
Stephanie Brennan, of the Western Sahara Alliance, believes that the situation could get worse if the UN does not take action soon. "Morocco has broken the ceasefire. The Saharawi's will return to armed conflict if the UN abandons them. They've been waiting for 11 years," Brennan says.
The UN Security Council will vote in November on a report which seeks to abandon the plans for a referendum and endorses Morocco's view. "Morocco is looking for a 'third way' which is autonomy within Morocco," says Brennan.
Polisario have rejected the attempt to override their right to self-determination. They see this move as an attempt to legitimise. Morocco's illegal occupation of West Sahara. They have stated that if the UN bows to Moroccan pressure, the UN will be used as an instrument of colonisation.
The report was prepared by American James Baker. There is some speculation as to why the US is supporting the plan for autonomy instead of independence. "Morocco is notorious for lobbying and paying people off," says Brennan. Other observers have said that it is because Morocco is America's one reliable Arab ally.
Australia does not have an official stance on the sovereignty of West Sahara. "We don't have a stance in particular, we support the UN all the way. We are supportive of the UN resolution which is holding off having a referendum," says Caroline Thompson of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Kamal believes most Australians will support the Saharawi's struggle. "Australians have been involved in similar issues such as South Africa and East Timor. West Sahara is not an exception. The government can show its interest and can make its voice heard at the UN in support of justice," he says.
The Western Sahara Alliance and the Australian Western Sahara Association are raising funds to bring a woman from the refugee camps to Australia. "Nobody has come from the refugee camps. Especially not a woman as they play a crucial role in running the camps," says Fadel.
If they are successful, this woman will go on an international speaking tour to raise awareness of the plight of the West Saharawi's and talk about the experiences of living in the refugee camps.
There have been horrifying reports of rape, torture, detention without trial, and murder, from the Saharawi's. In some cases electric shock treatment is used to torture suspected Polisario members.
"They face imminent danger everyday," Brennan says. "There is 2000 kilometres of wall separating those in the refugee camps from their homeland. There is also 175 000 Moroccan troops who have British arms trained on the refugee camps," she says.
Recently Britain refurbished the Moroccan forces with 30 new 105mm guns. However the British parliament claims it was misled over the sale. Around 75 countries recognise West Sahara as a sovereign state. "They do not agree with the human rights abuses and they do not agree with the obstructions to the referendum," Fadel says.
Fadel intends to continue his work in Australia. Based on the support he has received so far, he believes his message is getting heard and more Australians know about the situation than they did when he arrived two years ago. "We're getting somewhere," he says.
A fundraiser for West Sahara will be held this week - details in the news section
The organisation of schools, the use of school resources, the curriculum all reflect the ordered, top down, one-dimensional industrial age structures. It is true that schools have adapted to a degree to the information age - they have computers, but what is a computer on its own? What else is needed to make children the critical and conceptual thinkers we need if our society is to flourish in the information economy? By sticking them onto computers, aren't we just wedding children to soon to be outdated technology? What more is needed to train people who are truly equipped for this new world?
The Wired Classroom
There are some basic things schools can be doing to equip people for the information age. Accustoming students to being online, using computers and developing the skills to work them is only the start. There is also a need to develop the thought processes and to get the benefits of the enhanced learning capabilities that come from network technologies. The classroom has changed a good deal over the years, but there is the need for further changes flowing from the ever- increasing permutations of the Internet.
The school project is a neat metaphor for this change. Before the Internet a school project was about finding the relevant resources from a limited number of books in the school library. If you were lucky there was a World Book encyclopaedia. You'd copy out the relevant information and present it for the teacher. If you found the right source material and could colour inside the lines, you'd get a good mark. What the Internet offers is a unlimited supply of potential resources to tap into - provided you know how to use it. So the shift is away from finding the one thing you need, to filtering through an unlimited mass.
This shift is potentially a profound equaliser; if you have this vast bank of online information, then providing you have the skills to access it, it doesn't matter if you are the richest school in the country or the poorest school. Before if you were in a school with limited library resources and you were a long way away from the state library, then you had a real problem. There are still some unequal components - what goes on at home has an enormous impact on what goes on in the schools, but it is a massive shift from the idea of content as a limited resource, where at school you had to consume the content that was given to you because its precious; to this unlimited mass.
The same shift has been occurring across society. Look at the change in the finance sector from stockbrokers who passed on parcels of information to their clients, suddenly anyone can get hold of it. This changes the whole sense of how you deal with information - no longer is it a precious commodity in the way it is compartmentalised and distributed.
Totally different skills then become paramount - the skill of discovery, imagination, interpretation and the skill of utilising passion. These are skills that liberal educationalists would always have argued were central to primary education; but now you can see the benefits in a more tangible way. They fuel creativity and self-directed drive. The cooperative group school projects or putting on a school play are now so much more like real world employment and family life than the formal individualist school work. Whether projects use online technology or involve an observational trip to a creek, it is the cooperative sharing of information and skills around the group and the communication of the synthesised information that is the key learning experience. And in the IT world, one of the things that makes people really good is that they have a passion for their stuff. It can be an obscure passion - maybe for Linux operating system programming or a certain type of content area. But it is the passion that makes them valuable.
Can you educate passion?
You can liberate passion; you can give people the skills to use their passion, that kind of naïve energy, in a constructive fashion. That's what education should be about in the Information Age. This is a major shift conceptually from where it's been in the Industrial Age. Much of the education was to train children to grow into workers who would be cogs in the machine or the managers who would run the machines. In each case, it was about training people to fit into a frame; learning the behaviour that would contribute to the machine.
To see the pitfalls of this model, you only have to look at a place like Japan. One of the reasons the Japan economy has been stagnating in recent years and is in enormous trouble is that it is the archetypical industrial age economy. The education system has an emphasis on rote learning and those structures. It's stuck in this formal and cultural industrial age framework of rickety old superstructures that are fine if the world attention is focussed on mass manufacturing of goods. But when you have an over-capacity in producing widgets, as you do now around the world in all the major widget-producing capitals and when the production and a sale of widgets is a decreasing proportion of the total world economy, you've got a problem. In a society like our's the notion of questioning things and solving problems and thinking for yourself has been an emerging priority in education. That's a post industrial age mindset. We're lucky that while we haven't exactly launched into this world, the changing mentality that is necessary for this to happen has been occurring by default.
A Liberal Education
The Athenians believed a broad education was necessary for the functioning of democracy and for empire building. The British of the 18th and 19th and early 20th century picked up this idea of the classical education as one that would equip gentlemen for running the empire, the civil service, science, business and politics. In the twentieth century the broad liberal curriculum for 'gentlemen' was extended to all citizens who were able and motivated through high schools, but this sat along side 'industrial continuation schools (up to the 1950s), and the option leaving at 15 or 16 for the majority of Australians who obtained a job or entered TAFE in tandem with an apprenticeship or office job. The aim now is for everyone to remain at school until 18, and then to continue education throughout life. The period of 'youth has been extended from the teens to age 25. Specialsiation can occur later, after school or even after a BA style education. More and more kids from blue collar and lower middle class families expect and seek the education once reserved for upper middle class kids and the talented scholarship minority.
The challenge is to create a new liberal education for this century that enhances citizenship and democratic participation, creativity and lateral thinking, knowledge and cultural/social literacy. Ethics is an important element as well, especially given the decline of religion. The challenge is to devise a broad liberal education that is not biased to old upper middle class Anglo-Celtic culture - which is as out of date as old blue collar culture . We need an education that harnesses the community's differences for the good of our economy, creative culture and polity. And that doesn't mean Italian Day or folk dancing. How can so-called Aboriginal learning difficulties be turned into a positive learning experience with regard to , say , visual literacy? How can pop fan consumerism by working class girls be turned into media literacy? How can a Vietnamese teenager's love of computer games be harnessed to a programming project. How can some couch potatoes from Campbeltown get to make a short film like the young private school trendies in the Tropfest? This is the challenge of actually tapping the talent and cultural literacy in our diverse population.
The key skill is the need to analyse symbolically and think abstractly - skills not necessary for everyone in the industrial world, but essential in the new information economy. Globalisation demands a serious commitment to learning other languages from a very young age - as they do in Europe. Australian public schools do not do this anymore. Primary education now emphies skills acquisition rather than knowledge. You have to have both to function in society.
The Internet is just one example of the ease with which more knowledge can be attained yet the primary school curriculum has abandoned history and science and geography to saddle kids with the tyranny of 'relevance'. In so doing children are being given inflexible minds that will not cope with change. Every Australian deserves to now have 3000 years of history and dreaming, and to understand the natural world. This feeds directly into the content of the new information age. Without knowledge the pipes will be empty.
The Left needs to critically review the state of curricula - they have surrendered criticism to the Right and become uncritical defenders of some pretty dumb, short sighted social engeneering. Giving every class a soon to be outdated computer is a political expedient to convince parents that a govt running down resources and emptying out the curriculum is doing something . Significantly, most who carve in the computer world never used a computer at school - for many, they didn't really exist then. But all the kids who were good at symbolic analsysis or manipulation of ideas or clever with games or imaginative seem to have made the jump when work environments or recreation exposed them to it.
One of the keys to making the transition we are talking about, is that you shouldn't confine yourself to simply replicating your existing arrangements in an online. You should actually rethink what you do and how you do it. It's not just painting the red car blue, it's about re-engineering the whole thing. We need to reconsider what we do, why we do it and how we do it, in the changed context. Likewise - in education the shift is not just to move from doing the six times table on a computer rather than on apiece of paper. We should also be asking what we are teaching it for and whether we should be teaching something else.
You clearly need a set of basic skills. The curriculum process in recent years has been useful in refining the skills base we want people to have. But the conceptual shift is also in how these skills are taught. A lot comes down to individual teachers and how they use the curriculum. Do they work the kids through the curriculum - like they are on a process line? Or do they identify what a child is interested in at the moment and push them down that track, work with them to pursue that that curiosity and discovery side of them? These two models are quite different - they use the same formal curriculum, but they use it in totally different ways that reflect different models of learning
The Teacher as Mentor
The relationship between teacher and student is changing dramatically. One possibility that the Internet opens up is that a particular enthusiastic student will know more than their teacher because it gives them access to such a vast bank of information. What happens to the relationship there? The dynamic between teacher and student must change to a more interactive partnership - almost like the relationship between a supervisor and a PhD student; the teacher becomes the educational resource and the authority figure who keeps control and offers a bank of live experience and education experience; but they do not become the keeper of all the knowledge. Potentially that relationship will change quite markedly. The differences will be less about intellectual knowledge as emotional differences - the art of teaching becomes a mentoring process.
Look at what flows from the uncoupling of physical constraints. If you are 15 year old kid who is really into Physics, in the Industrial Age there is a major constraint on what you can do - you need physical laboratories to conduct experiments. That's a huge constraint. If you move into a world where you can simulate all these things on a computer, then suddenly your potential for learning and discovery and moving to a much higher level of understanding is liberated.
One thing that really stands out is how marginal formal education is becoming in lots of the jobs of the information economy. There is an interesting paradox that in the new world people need a lot more skills, the work is more brain based, unskilled manual activity is retreating very rapidly to the proportion of total economic activity; so clearly education per se is critical. But you talk to people in the IT sector and they have very equivocal views about formal qualifications. Sometimes, they would rather someone with the basics who can learn from them than the university educated. I recently had lunch with a group of IT managers from major companies. Someone commented that none of their jobs had existed when they were at university. They went around the table and this was literally true.
This raises issues about what is the best mix. There may need to be a new structure that recognises that a qualification comes to resemble a glorified apprenticeship arrangement; which says that the reality of getting out there and doing it is what matters most, and that there are certain things you can learn in a classroom context that are important reference points. The model would be radically different from apprenticeships, but it's very difficult to teach outside the workplace, particularly in IT areas which are changing every six months. We would still recognise the importance of the collective learning experience of the classroom; but the notion that you should lock someone away for three of four years and teach them to write 5,000 word essays and detailed knowledge of some new, but evolving technology, without being out there and tackling real problems, is not going to work.
The Curse of the PhD
An example is the PhD system. The brightest students in each year are cursed by the expectation of ongoing insitutionalised learning. These are the students who got the top marks as undergraduates. They get first class honours, so they're told they're really good at their area so they better get a PhD. They then come out of, sometimes a decade in a tertiary institution, the master of a very narrow field, but with very few concrete employment options. The PhD emerges as the dead-end of industrial age education - it's specialise, specialise, specialise until you reach this point from where there is no escape route.
The notion that you should have a linear process that you complete outside the world of technological activity: that you go from school to university to PhD and then from the top of your discipline you are launched into a world of information technology as a great genius is just not going to happen. The question becomes: how to you prepare your brightest students to give the greatest contribution in their working life? In an economic sense is about how to get the most out of your human capital. For the individual, it's about getting a decent return for the time invested in their education.
All of Life Training
There was no such concept in the past. But It's now become a necessity forced on people because their jobs have disappeared. In the Industrial Age economy the interest of the employer was very round up in security and stability. If you have this vast amount of capital sunk into big factory, big machinery, then what you need is a stable workforce whoa re not going to turn over very fast; who know how to work your equipment, who are reliable, who turn up on time. In a sense, innovation and change is a negative.
If you move into an economy where there aren't big lumps of sunk capital involved; when you're starting a company which employs lots of people where there isn't $50 million in equipment invested and the investment is in the people themselves; the stability of your labour is no longer the imperative. No longer will you need to tolerate poor performance in return for stability of labour. The smaller the capital investment, the quicker you turn it over. If you buy a $3 million printing machine, and another model comes out on the market in six months that is slightly better, you are not going to throw away your machine and buy the new one. Eventually you will replace your machines, but you didn't do that regularly.
In the information age that 's exactly what you'll do. You'll invest in some software, when something new comes along you will make the change. This forces people to continually upgrade their skills. How you do that? Conceptually it's not difficult: it needs to be a constant revision both in the world of employment and the world of education. The challenge is: how do you integrate that into an educational system?
The problem is that if we accept that education for the information age involves broader notions like discovery, imagination, interpretation and passion, how do you re-educate in that context? If we take the view, that education is no longer just about learning fact A. B and C, then re-education can't be about A, B and C either. It's about opportunities to get people involved. One idea would be to develop a mentoring sort of system; matching students who understand the technology with older people, who's experience is an asset but whose skills are falling behind. They each have something to offer the other. Maybe there is potential in connecting those two people for their mutual benefit.
Long Term Game Plans
There needs to be ongoing retraining strategies in place. Workers need to think about where their skills are taking them. Employers should discuss where the company is going so workers can develop their skills in those areas. The US management literature at the moment talks about job reviews where you don't take down notes, you don't look at quantitative indicators; but rather you talk about the person's interest, where the job is going how you can develop over the next year.
One way to make this a lot easier is an accounting change; treating human resources as a capital asset so that training becomes an investment rather than an outgoing expenditure. This would make a huge change for workers - you would suddenly have human resources on the balance sheet. Most companies in the information economy are nothing more than its workforce and a brand name - without the workers they would not exist - but we don't attach any value to this in accounting . An example is the football club - you have players who if you transferred them all, you would have nothing on the field. Investment in players should be viewed as a capital asset that can be written off over time. We have relatively absurd valuations for Internet companies - but there's no way of telling which valuations are good and bad. The success of a lot of the Silicon valley companies are based on the value of their team - you need a tool to quantify this - and we haven't come to terms with this yet. The resistance is people don't like the idea of human beings being treated as assets - it's fine to view buildings and land as assets, but whether they'll accept people is another thing.
Socialisation of the Mind
One of the challenges for political parties of the Left is that if you look at the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange; and if you look at where western economies are heading; what it leads you to is a point that basically says: how do you socialise what is inside people's heads. Because that is increasingly your dominant means of production, distribution and exchange. The means of production were traditionally seen as capital, labour land with labour seen predominantly as in a manual sense, with a certain amount of narrowly defined brain input. Increasingly the means of production is comprising autonomous decision-making, knowledge, expertise and choices that ultimately means that the dominant factor of production is what is in people's heads. That is not susceptible to socialisation, to central planning, to command economies.
This gets to the bigger question of why social democratic parties around the world have been retreating from traditional regulatory and ownership structures? Why did Eastern Europe collapse? Because of these changes? Because the production process has changed. When it consists of lots of sunk capital with lots of people doing the same thing at the same time with the Taylorised skills structure, then your economy is amenable to a command function, if you are prepared to make the call over personal freedom which is another question. But when you move into a knowledge based economy, it just doesn't work. I always think back to the Gosplan computer in the Soviet Union where there was this giant single mainframe computer that supposedly ran the whole Soviet economy. It was pretty strange then - it's ludicrous now!
Keep 'Em Laughing
It is a fundamental importance to the future of our society, to an equitable society, that we don't end up with half the society online and half not. We are already starting to see the first signs of a new layer of disadvantage and exclusion and all the problems associated with that emerging in our society. It won't be long before people who are online regularly get things cheaper, get better services from government; it is an emerging problem that has to be addressed.
Answer? The government has a responsibility to see everyone online. The barriers include infrastructure, which is gradually being tackled through a variety of new technologies; and price which will gradually be forced down. But we need to accelerate the take-up among potentially disadvantaged groups, or the gap will persist for a long time. The barrier that is going to stop people being online is that people don't know how to do it and don't want to do it. If you are talking about people who don't have an occupational need to develop computer sills, who don't have the opportunities or motivation, how are you going to get them online?
One solution is to open up all possible data channels to competition -- especially if they adapt existing technology. For example, datacasting, using TVs, offers the ability for people to relatively painlessly shift into this world. The great analogy is the spread of mass literacy in the 19th Century. What was the key driver of mass literacy? Universal education was critical, but people still needed the motivation to sustain and use their skills. Otherwise they'd forget how to do i. What gave it to them? Tabloid newspapers, crappy magazines, pornographic rubbish, trash. Ordinary people who didn't have an employment need or a social need to read or write, actually had a motivation: entertainment.
That's where datacasting comes in. If you quickly produce this modification to this existing technology and offer people the ability to do magic things with their TVs, like participating in the quiz show or choosing your camera angle at the cricket, what will happen is that people will seamlessly move into this interactive world. You will have the Internet on TV and it will be a relatively simple shift. Entertainment will be the vehicle to drive the people who do not have an economic connection with this new technology. This needs to happen now, nit just when the TV stations are finally comfortable with the idea.
The Howard Government has imposed absurd restrictions on datacasting in order to protect the existing TV stations. This will inevitably retard the spread of internet access and skills, and reinforce the emerging gulf between those who are online and those who are not
A Critical Mass of Benefits
This goes back to the question of education. How to make sure that everybody is online. Because the things that flow from that are immense. Even just from the cost of government: if you have everyone online, a whole host of things that currently cost a lot of money in the endless day to day relationship between government and citizen can be done a lot cheaper, a lot more conveniently for the consumer and government. But you can't do that effectively if only half the society is online, you don't get the critical mass of savings and you do get the exclusion.
Half the households in Australia have PCs. That's not the elite - the elite are in there, but the elite are not half the society. Household internet connection increased from 18 to 23 per cent in the year to August 1999. Yet the percentage of Australian households with PCs only increased from 46 to 48 per cent. The concern is that the internet take-up will keep rising until it starts to plateau around that halfway mark. That's why datacasting is so important. As we said earlier: it's about keeping people engaged with learning. It's not the box, it's what you can do with it.
What It Means for Labor
The most important thing for us to understand is that social structures and educational structures reflect the society around which they've been built. They reflect imperatives that emerge from the essence of the society, and importantly from the production process. The most obvious examples of this are punctuality and rote learning and discipline in schools - all of which are about replicating the factory environment. We need to keep the machines running, we need the people there for defined periods, we need everybody organised and pulling together in the same direction. The pattern of school education in our society very much reflects the rhythms and dynamics of the external world students were going to go into.
Because we are in this process of transition, with the production process changing into a different type of economy, the education system has to reflect that. The great challenge for Labor as a political party is that we are in both worlds at once. As with the change from the agricultural to the industrial economy, the industrial economy is not going to disappear, it's just becoming a smaller proportion of the total reality. As the industrial economy developed agriculture retreated as a proportion of the economy. We were still eating the same, we're eating more, but because of our productivity it becomes a smaller part of the economy and fewer people work in it. That's what happening to the industrial economy. It's not disappearing, but it's being overlaid by the new service industries. And by definition, the education system has to follow where the numbers are, where most people are going to work.
This means that the skills, attitudes and attributes that it is trying to generate for the future are increasingly different. An example is people skills - there's a perception that these skills are innate, solving problems, working as a team, human skills that are not really taught anywhere but that are becoming more and more important to the production process. The command model of production is being replaced by cooperative collaborations. Unless our education system accepts and embraces this, it won't be fulfilling its function.
This chapter is based on a discussion involving Peter Lewis, Opposition finance spokesman Lindsay Tanner and Social Change Online director Sean Kidney
"This is the most advanced train in the world", Wayne Diemar declares. Wayne and his workmates are justly proud of the new millenium train they are building at EDI for the State Rail Authority of New South Wales.
EDI's Cardiff plant is on the fringe of Newcastle in the economically hard-hit Hunter region. By the end of the year the first of 81 carriages will roll out of production and head down the rail line to begin service in Sydney. The new trains will be safest and the most technologically advanced to run in the state - or anywhere in Australia. The carriages feature internal surveillance cameras for security, help signs and electronic destination indicators in each passenger section of the carriage. These screens can also display other messages.
Wayne and his workmates can feel pleased with the great effort they've put into building the millenium trains. They feel less pleased with Richard Face, the NSW Minister for Gaming and a local Hunter member of the NSW Parliament. Face has criticised the apparently slow pace of production at EDI and has raised concerns that the delay may reflect on the ability of the Hunter region to meet future major engineering contracts.
Welder Todd Lawrence feels that these are ill-informed comments from a Minister who also assists Premier Bob Carr on Hunter Development. "The blokes are doing their best to get the carriages built on time, and keep jobs in the Hunter region."
Production delays have occurred as a result of design changes required by the SRA and due to the unique features of the new carriages. As Wayne Diemar says, "we've never seen trains designed to this level before." Each millenium carriage is designed to withstand the impact of a 50 mph crash - to absorb the shock of collision without breaking up, leaving the main passenger shell intact. This is an unprecedented level of crash resistance in a train.
The single air bag suspension system is also revolutionary. Trains normally operate with two air bag suspension; the single suspension system makes the train less likely to derail. "The design complexity means that it takes time to develop and test the new features", Wayne says.
Newcastle Branch AWU Secretary Kevin Maher says "the EDI workers can only do the work that's put in front of them. They've done their best, and there's been no industrial disputes at EDI. They see the Minister's comments as a slap in the face. They feel that their reputations have been damaged, and they worry about how employers might perceive them in the future."
"If the Minister wanted to find out what was really happening, all he had do is to talk to the workers at EDI - some of whom live in the Minister's own electorate."
220 workers are directly employed by EDI on the millenium train project. There are also a number of contractors providing labour and materials for the trains. EDI has currently won the tender for stage one of the project; another 120 trains are yet to be constructed - and the contract could be awarded to another company. "We're trying to win stage two and the Minister is not helping our cause", Todd Lawrence says.
EDI says it has had nothing but positive feedback from the SRA. EDI has spent $10 million refitting the SRA's old Cardiff rail workshops to construct the millenium trains. In all, the company will invest $65 million in the Hunter region.
"We've had to battle fairly high unemployment in the Hunter region in recent years", Kevin Maher says. "And we need to do everything possible to ensure that contracts won by Hunter manufacturers stay in the Hunter."
On the day I drop in on the Sao Paulo office of Brazils landless peasants movement, the MST, a national blockade of highways is taking place. Rural poor are taking blockading action at dozens of points around this huge nation to protest a newly announced 56% cut in aid for small farmers.
The atmosphere at head office though is calm. As I sit down to talk with MSTs International officer Dulcinea, I wonder what it would take to provoke the sort of hysterical atmosphere I would have thought more comensurate with the momentous events of the day.
The Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra (MST) is used to this sort of militant direct action though. Boasting an active membership that runs into the millions, the MST has dealt as many blows against the corrupt Brazilian state as it has taken, although the cost in lives has been high.
Hundreds have died in Police and Army massacres of MST communities, yet their achievements are extraordinary. Land repossesed from absentee landholders sufficient to resettle 200 thousand landless families!
Dulcinea and I discuss MSTs new status as an official enemy of the state.
In the last few weeks the MST has lost its NGO (and tax deductability) status and it has been revealed that the Brazilian Federal Government has put them on the official "enemies of the state" list, alongside organised crime and narco-trafficers.
What has brought this on? According to Dulcinea the 16 year old MST is now really hitting its straps, moving from a social movement concerned exclusively with land redistribution and pouring huge energy into building a broad front of progressive organisations with the potential to transform Brazil.
This is taking the shape of joint actions with Brazils Union Movement that mobilise literally hundreds of thousands at a time, alliances with small farmers, with feminist organisations, with the millions forcibly relocated for hydro-electric projects. MST are developing relationships with urban movements like the Greens over issues like genetically modified food.
The powers must be nervous indeed at such significant new developments.
What about a systematic push into the political arena? Dulcinea says their are no moves to form a political party- in fact MST is critical of many of Brazils political parties because they have no mass base. While MST endorses Brazils left alliance of parties (basically the PT-Workers Party and Communist Party) they will not run candidates for election.
We talk internationalism. Dulcinea outlines MST plans to bring dozens of East Timorese youth over to Brazil for several years training in Agriculture. We talk about the close links between MST and similar social movements in Africa.
We also discuss plans to bring someone from MST to Australia for a speaking tour.
Workers Online readers should get along to hear more about the MST if such a tour can be arranged. They are amazing.
During April this year some 300 people gathered in Canberra for a three-day Conference at the Australian National University.
Drawn from a diversity of social backgrounds, occupations, and generations, the participants and attendees broadly comprised labour movement activists.
Rank and file workers, union officials, pensioners, students, academics, teachers, poets, journalists, lawyers, booksellers, photographers, archivists, politicians, and industrial relations specialists, mixed in a spirit of cooperation and learning that was frank, open, and friendly.
The Conference was the 7th biennial National Labour History Conference, organised by the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History (ASSLH); a smorgasbord of papers, addresses, panel discussions, films, performances, book launches, navigated by attendees according to personal preferences.
The program filled a 40-page booklet; 56 events, and 136 speakers and presenters. Topics ranged from the Cold War through to the information technology industry, and many points in between, prior, and beyond. ACTU President Sharan Burrow opened the Conference.
The ASSLH was founded in 1961, to encourage study, teaching and research in labour history. It built on a sparse but rich legacy of historical research and writing dating back to the 1890s, including the work of activist historians like George Black, William Guthrie Spence, later Vere Gordon Childe, and later still Lloyd Ross and Brian Fitzpatrick.
Branches of the ASSLH operate in Canberra, Melbourne, Tasmania, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, the Hunter Valley, Sydney, and the Illawarra. Each publishes its own journal or newsletter, and organises talks and special events, usually in conjunction with the labour community.
Nationally, the ASSLH publishes twice-yearly the book-size journal Labour History, a prestigious and internationally recognised forum of labour and social history.
Since 1961, thousands of books, articles, and theses have been produced in Australia by academic and non-academic labour movement researchers.
Overall labour history focuses on the relationship between capital and labour, social justice issues, sympathises with the disadvantaged and oppressed, and adopts a critical perspective towards Australian society.
Labour historians tend not to see their work in isolation from politics and struggle. Historical research ideas and writing do have consequences. In many ways, history is an ideological construct. We live in a society where history is often invoked by the media and opinion-formers to assert the legitimacy of the way things are, from social injustices to the current distribution of wealth and power.
If prevailing political and social arrangements are to be contested and changed, then their origins and natures need to be understood. Similarly, past efforts to contest prevailing social and political conditions, and the visions and experiences of those involved, can help inform, sustain, and inspire current movements, campaigns, and struggles. When it all boils down, history is the only teacher workers have.
The ASSLH welcomes new members; there are categories for institutions and individuals; a concessional rate is also available. Twenty-four trade unions have current memberships, and the Society is keen to attract more. For membership details, and back copies of Labour History, contact the ASSLH at Institute Building H03, Faculty of Economics, University of Sydney, NSW, 2006. Telephone (02) 9351 3786.
Email: [email protected].
by Red Pepper
If you own a PC, you've got your own software factory. If you can write good software, multi-billion pound companies need you -- but you could string together the words and numbers that shape the world as well from a bedroom in Calcutta as from their plush offices in Silicon Valley. The consumers own the means of production, the workers hold all the cards: welcome to the future, a world where the anarchy of software economics has the potential to overturn capitalism.
Or, alternatively, there's the doomsday scenario:
"We are about to enter an age that would have thrilled all the dictators of the past. An age where machines can be a totally obedient, non-human, police force allowing absolute control over the movement and interaction of every individual," says Tony Stanco of the embryonic radical software company FreeDevelopers.net.
To him there is a war on. If things keep going as they are now, before we know it the profit-making strategies of "proprietary" companies such as Microsoft will leave us with our communications, commerce and, potentially, democracy controlled by programmes no-one can scrutinise and few can understand; created and marketed to us by unaccountable billionaires: "Since proprietary software is by definition unseen code not subject to scrutiny by the public, it gives too much power to a few, unelected businessmen, mostly from the US. Looking back on human history, nightmarish scenarios cannot be hard to imagine," says Stanco.
The battle he is engaged in is between what is widely known as Open Source software, where the code the software is written in is made public -- such as the GNU/Linux operating system -- and proprietary software, where the code is kept secret. During the decade which saw Microsoft ascend to levels of monopoly deemed illegal by the US District Court, thousands of volunteer software developers have been beavering away in computer labs and bedrooms across the world, writing code everyone can see, reuse and modify, usually for free, to create an alternative to Microsoft-style profiteering.
They've undeniably become a mass, global, 21st-century social movement. But it is hardly a clear-cut, politically committed resistance movement -- or even a straightforward single-issue campaign. It is a convergence of individuals and groups ranging from philanthropists, to libertarians, to free market believers, to nerds with more passion for the minutiae of operating systems than any political ideology. And as the movement matures and its principles gain commercial ground, the community is cracking along its ideological fault-lines.
The Open Source movement is significant and interesting to the left for three key reasons. Firstly, among the benefits touted by Open Source proponents are challenges both to large-scale corporate domination and to north-south economic neo-colonialism. Secondly, Open Source developers are united by the belief that working in collaboration rather than competition produces better results and liberates their own creativity. The community they have created, where intellectual satisfaction, personal principles and human relationships are more important than fat salaries, is a living alternative to the individualism of the average big-buck business environment. Thirdly, the issues the movement is addressing and struggling with give an insight into the new shape of technology-driven capitalism.
Keeping Code Hostage
Microsoft doesn't kill babies or chop down trees. Bill Gates gives billions to charity. But the mere mention of the bespectacled man who brings us ever-new but temperamental versions of the Windows Operating System consistently elicits snarls from computer users the world over. The reasons cited vary from frustrations with over-priced, frequently-crashing software to the company's attempts to take over the world. The variations are symptomatic of the range of principles informing and driving Open Source advocates.
You don't need a computer science degree to understand how software giants' profit-making strategies disempower developers and users. Software is initially written in the words and numbers of a particular programming language. For the computer to understand it, it is turned into binary (strings of ones and zeros) by another programme, a process which is hard to reverse.
This means you need the original source code to see how the software works. Early software was distributed with its source code, but companies (and not just Microsoft) quickly adopted the 'proprietary' model, keeping their code secret and patenting their software. If you can get their code at all, you pay through the nose for it. Reusing it or copying it is either tightly restricted or completely illegal.
Open Source software provides the source code along with the programme. In it's purest form, it is distributed under "copyleft"-style licensing, which give users rights to copy, modify, study and redistribute it, providing the software they produce also guarantees these rights to users. Throughout much if its history, Open Source software has generally been available at no cost, although business users pay for commissioned software designed and customised for their own operations. In recent years, companies have begun to build viable retail enterprises by bundling Open Source software applications together with support services. Some of the various licenses that have been developed under the Open Source banner allow developers to modify and copy Open Source software for resale, providing that the same freedoms are carried through and guaranteed to users of the modified version.
These rights mean, essentially, that every line of computer code written is a gift for the greater good of humanity. They create a world where users can dig in the innards of the programmes they use, learn how they work, adapt them for their own purposes, disseminate them to thousands of software developers across the world for testing, then make copies for friends when all the bugs are fixed. Instead of guarding their work jealously and keeping breakthroughs to themselves, it enables developers to work collaboratively, peer reviewing and refining each others' work.
A Broad Church
Different members of the Open Source community will stress different arguments for the superiority of the model, depending on their underlying principles and beliefs. Firstly, there are purely pragmatic arguments about efficiency and quality. Even if you believe whole-heartedly in free market economics and think software is for nothing but making money, there's still a case for Open Source. The level of Beta-testing and bug-fixes possible if an early version of a piece of software is released into the public sphere for interested developers to refine is much more rigorous than if the code as kept under wraps and testing confined to the company that produced it. Unsurprisingly therefore, one of the main qualities fans of the Open Source operating system GNU/Linux cite is its stability.
From the user's point of view, particularly for business users who have specific needs, there's the choice between proprietary software available off the shelves or commissioning something specific from scratch. But if they had rights to modify software they already possessed, they could adapt existing applications for their own purposes. Also, if a developer finds a bug in a commercial programme, he or she is unable to fix it without the source code. If the software is proprietary and the company that produced it has deemed fixing that particular bug uneconomic, the bug remains unfixed and continues to irritate users.
These arguments extend quite naturally to issues of the creativity and personal fulfilment of developers: many find the proprietary model frustrating as it prevents them pooling their discoveries and brainpower. Work for proprietary companies is often described as continually "reinventing the wheel": progress is kept secret and work duplicated.
After four months and some soul-searching, Milwaukee student Daniel Bauman jacked in working for the proprietary LS Research Inc to write Free Software: "When you write some software and you are really excited about it then somebody asks 'hey, can I use it?' and you have to tell them 'no', it is heart-breaking," he explains.
Then there is a series of political arguments around economic equality and the needs of minorities. As computer processor power continues to increase and software is updated with flashy features to take advantage of it, it is never long before a shiny new high-end machine feels obsolete. Open Source software, however, can be designed and adapted for a older-style processor machine donated to an inner city project or modified as a small-scale business in a developing country slowly upgrades its hardware. Another oft-cited example is that of minority languages: for example, it makes little economic sense for a major company to produce Icelandic-language versions of applications, but if the source code is unrestricted, developers in Iceland can adapt it themselves.
Furthermore, software, requiring little in the way of raw materials and public infrastructure, is a key industry in upcoming poorer nations. However, as Robert Chassel, the founding director of the Free Software Foundation (the sister charity supporting the GNU Project) explains, in a group of programmers he recently addressed in Thailand, only one had never seen the source code of Microsoft Windows: "It meant the others did not have access to a major portion of their new economy." The proprietary model is also leading to US pressure on governments in the south to enforce anti-copying laws, which could be costly and -- especially in countries battling corruption -- problematic. "It's a neo-colonialist situation," adds Chassel. "They become dependent."
Thirdly, there are philanthropic and idealistic principles based on challenging the power of the few with the co-operation of the many. Richard Stallman founded the GNU Project, which aimed to create an entire Open Source operating system. Renowned for his idealism after 16 years of developing and campaigning, he says it's about "the resource of goodwill -- willingness to help your neighbour" and likens it to recipe sharing: "If readers don't write software, they probably cook. If they cook they probably share recipes. And they probably change recipes. It's natural to share something with other people. But those who want to profit by controlling everyone's activities try to stop us from sharing with each other -- because if we can't help each other, we're helpless. We're dependent on them." Extended, this leads to the fears of people such as Stanco, that proprietary software has the power to "enslave the world", because of the extent to which software controls -- and will control -- human life.
Also, by avoiding duplication of effort, an industry based on Open Source software would theoretically progress faster for the greater good. As Chassell puts it: "Do you want to spend your whole life reinventing the wheel -- when instead of inventing the wheel, you could invent something more useful -- like an axel, or a cart that uses two wheels?"
Finally, there is a strand to the thinking of the more radical sections of the Open Source community which could be classed as libertarian. "It's a question of whether you have the right to do things or not," says Chassell. "Say you live in a house and you want to move the furniture around, should you have the legal right to move that furniture, or should you be forbidden? It's the same thing with software, either you as a programmer move the furniture, or you hire somebody to do it."
An Alternative Community
There are now tens of thousands of developers, scattered from Silicon Valley to Asia, Africa and Latin America, committed to creating software under the Open Source and Free Software banners.
Early software was mostly unrestricted. The UNIX operating system was initially distributed along with its source code in the 1970s, but was later commercialised by AT&T in 1979 as the proprietary model gained prominence. The Open Source movement grew with the success of the Sendmail programme, developed in 1979 and now responsible for around 75 per cent of the email sent over the net. It gained critical momentum in 1989 when Lynas Torvalds, a student in Helsinki, wrote and released the core or "kernel" of his software operating system, Linux.
Out of idealism, sheer anorakiness and the desire for programming kudos, thousands -- estimates range from 3,000 to 40,000 -- of unpaid developers and contributors expanded, tested and refined the kernel. Meanwhile, Stallman's GNU Project had developed much of an operating system, but still lacked a kernel. In 1992, GNU and Linux were combined, creating the GNU/Linux operating system now used by an estimated 10 million people.
More recently, in 1998 Netscape started giving its Communicator 5.0 web browser away free and released the source code. Then major software vendors, including Computer Associates, Corel, IBM, Informix, Interbase, Oracle and Sybase, started to make their products compatible with GNU/Linux. By mid-2000, the Open Source Apache web server was used on around 60 per cent of websites.
Collaboration and proliferation on this scale couldn't have happened without the internet. Log on to any of the numerous Open Source and Free Software websites and newsgroups and you'll find developers discussing the minutiae of operating systems and applications, pointing out bugs, sharing fixes. Try to install Linux on your own machine, and a community of initiated users is online with the answers to problems "newbies" are likely to encounter.
The community that has developed has had a substantial impact on the industry, and has also created a ground-breaking alternative professional environment where the work itself is more important than profits or pay cheques. Developers face a stark choice between the fat salaries major companies offer and working for little but their ideals, yet many, such as Bauman, still opt for the latter: "I am making sacrifices right now. I know I could go somewhere and make a ridiculous amount of money, but I know this would not make me happy."
Idealism and Anoraks
It is the opposition between the pragmatic and the idealistic/libertarian rationales which now threatens to split the movement. To Stallman, the battle is about lifestyle, community and principles, not just good programmes, and all proprietary software is an infringement of personal freedom. The GNU project has always preferred the term Free Software to Open Source, with "free" meaning "unrestricted" rather than "no cost." The linguistic distinction between Free Software and Open Source has developed into a split as collaboratively-developed software released with its source code has proved its worth on the commercial market. Proprietary companies are releasing Open Source programmes, companies describing their business as Open Source are packaging software under the Open Source banner together with proprietary programmes or are releasing source code but restricting its use.
To Open Source proponents who are driven by pragmatism and efficiency arguments, this is good news: more Open Source software is reaching users. But to Stallman, supporting this is a sell-out: "[Their views] wouldn't lead you to set a goal of chasing all the non-free software out of your computer because it's bad, because it doesn't respect your freedom. But our views lead logically to the idea that a non-free programme is infringing on your freedom." Contrasting the Open Source movement with the Free Software purists, he says: "[It's a] sort of namby-pamby movement in that it doesn't say anything is wrong. It just says 'isn't it a little nicer if we do it this way?' "
A 21st Century Struggle
Software is strange beast. It's a substance-less product made out of chunks of maths, not steel parts or woven fibres. Some elements of it are generic and reusable, others are more specialised. It can be mass-produced by anyone, without raw materials, and transferred in seconds across the world. Such idiosyncrasies, coupled with the experience of the Open Source movement, raise several questions about the shape of 21st-century capitalism and resistance to it.
Firstly, what is the balance of power? Chassell points out that, as software is so easily copied, anyone who owns a PC effectively owns a software factory, but the proprietary model makes using it illegal: "In a sense the question is 'should a person who owns their own means of production have the right to use their own means of production?' " Factor in the difficulties and cost to governments of policing something as easily copied as software, and the legal costs of patenting and copyrighting sections of code as a percentage of the costs of production, and the industry looks very different from conventional manufacturing.
Furthermore, the developers are organising against and rejecting their employers' controlling strategies, and Stanco points out that the strength of their position comes from the fact that they themselves, rather than machinery or infrastructure, are the key assets of software companies: "In traditional companies, workers unite to have a countervailing power. But if software developers unite, they are the only ones with the power." Therefore, he adds: "If we can persuade the developers to unite, we win."
Secondly, can idealism stand up in the market place? And if so, who benefits? Cashflow has always been a difficult issue for the Open Source and Free Software movements. Companies have only started making significant money from Open Source software in the last two years when several companies, such as North Carolina-based Red Hat Inc, exploded onto the market. Stanco's FreeDevelopers company is currently little more than a group of 450 developers, mainly twenty-somethings, located in 25 different countries, aiming to start their own company which will pay developers to write free software. He sees commercial Open Source companies as philosophical allies, but feels their business model risks exploiting developers: "The biggest difference between us and them is who gets to share in the wealth.
They have a more traditional model where those at the top of those organisations reap most of the rewards, and rely on the unpaid work of thousands of free software developers who volunteer their effort for the sake of their free software ideals."
Thirdly, who should own software? Stallman describes protesting on the streets 10 years ago when Lotus tried to patent a particular set of menus used in a spreadsheet application. Elements of software can be very generic, and Open Source advocates are now organising against moves to allow similar software patenting in Europe. To Stanco, software is -- and should be treated as -- public infrastructure akin to roads. The company's aim is to cash in on government initiatives in countries such as the US, France, China, Brazil, Japan and Germany to pay for the development of Free Software. They're already moving on these principles, as in the meantime they're developing their own software for online voting, which could both realise their aspirations for a democratically structured company and create an open, accountable prototype for future electronic electoral systems.
While the Free Software movement has already created its own Microsoft-free community, to Stanco it faces a battle to the death between two paradigms which are too antithetical to coexist: "When we hit the radar screens of proprietary they will come at us with full force," he warns. "Since their current power over the developers comes from dividing developers and keeping the code secret, they know they have to discredit us or lose all their power. Since there are hundreds of billions of dollars, plus immense personal empires, at stake, we are expecting an incredible campaign against us." The world's hearts, minds and hard-drives are still up for grabs.
Heather Sharp is editor of online news agency Out There News at http://www.megastories.com
Long Way to the Top, far from being the definitive view of Australian rock history, is at least a window into the sociological environment that generated the vibrant performance based culture of "pub rock". Sure, they spent fifteen minutes talking to Hush guitarist Les Gock (better known as the bloke from Popstars and who wrote "...this goes with this at Susan's") and didn't mention the Blitzkrieg rock of Radio Birdman, who incidentally were formed by a couple of North American ex-pats. Yep, they spoke to "Molly" Meldrum about Countdown and Go-Set but ignored RAM magazine and Sounds Unlimited with Graeme Webb or, for those who came in late, Donnie Sutherland but as it stands, Long Way has managed to strike a chord with the generations of Australians who spent most of their youth traipsing from beer barn to beer barn having their hearing blown apart by some of the most energetic and vibrant bands any where in the world.
Today's push for the gambling dollar has shifted revenue away from a varied and vibrant music culture within Australian pubs. Sticky beer drenched carpet has been replaced with the jingle of poker machines and casino style settings or a move to raves with dance floors covered in water and happy drugs. This shift in Australian musical culture has resulted in the Howardisation of blandness within pubs that now such cultural high points as poker machines, jelly wrestling and wet t-shirt competitions. We're actually kind of partial to the move to free fried dim sims.
Anyway, this blandness of local pub music culture in no way acknowledges current musical talent or cultivates the expression of difference. It is about the acceptance of soulless conformity for short-term gain. In this maze of greed and struggle for the dollar, we are strangling one of Australia's cultural engines - live music. The corporatistion of Australian music has lead to the demise of the rugged individualist culture of Australian pub rock and propelled the myth that the dance culture's bland Howardisation of Australian culture is acceptable. We are being forced to accept the insipid blandness of mass conformity within the genre of 21st century disco with a little more treble and bass then the good old days. We are hurtling towards a new romantics period and we ain't gonna take it, no we ain't gonna take, where not gonna take it anymore!!!!!
And what about that period not so long ago, or maybe it was, when a group of young musicians honed their skills in the Immigrant Detention Centers. These new arrivals went on to lead to way in such bands as the Easybeats, AC/DC, Cold Chisel, Swanee (not Al Jolson for those who have forgotten him) and possibly Glen Shorrick if our information is correct. Unfortunately we can't remember for sure. Anyway, this just goes to show that Australian culture has been about accepting diversity rather than supporting an insular shut the doors approach to music and our culture. If nothing else Long Way To The Top, the current history of Australian Pop music on channel 2 shows us when the world really began to open up to a global market place where Australia learnt from other cultures and export the best of our own cultural energy to the world.
Borders are a construct of people and economic in order to ensure free trade and the open exchange of ideas are managed by a select few in order to develop conformity by the masses. Similar to what Molly Meldrum did once he decided to move away from wacky presenter and took himself too seriously and moved to being a music critic in the commercial blandness of a certain TV station. Similarly, globalisation provides an opportunity to live in a world potentially without boarders allowing greater cultural interaction between different groups of people, which in our music analogy, would equate with the arrival of Countdown. Liberation at a respectable hour. However, this weeks Tamper incident has shown how people are not able to make up their mind and will fall back into 1950's Menzian Dad and Dave rock around the clock fear that drives simple people to open their mouth and say stupid things and drive us towards an insular mono-cultural world without the colours and sounds of difference.
Long Way to the Top, is not just about music, just as the Tamper is simple not just about 400 people who decided to go for a boating trip with the Captain and Merryanne. It is about the bigger picture of where Australians want to position themselves today and in the future. We have the opportunity to revisit disco as the current dance culture has done and add a few more flashing lights or we can attempt to develop a diversity of individuals that complement each other in order to develop a country that is able to accept diversity and difference. Do we want to suffer the new romantics again? Will we let ourselves be forced to wear the puffy shits to gain acceptance and have to pretend to enjoy Pseudo Echo? Or do we want to push the boundaries and ensure we write the perfect pop song?
by The Chaser
After almost a week stranded off Christmas Island, with no hope of Australian help, the refugees have learnt that Afghanistan and Iran are extremely humane countries by contrast.
Prime Minister John Howard has repeatedly told the captain of the Tampa that he's not prepared to let the ship dock in Australia until after the federal election. He's ordered the ship to linger offshore for as long as it takes for his approval rating to eclipse the Opposition's.
Mr Howard said that, like Harold Holt before him, he's willing to stake his Prime Ministership on a sustained challenge out at sea.
Earlier the government's Defence Minister Peter Reith attempted to blame the freighter's inability to dock on the inefficiency of Australian wharves.
Mr Reith later deployed a number of Australian SAS officers on to the vessel, where they sought to subject the refugees to a series of traditional naval bastardization rituals.
Initial military plans to airlift the refugees out of Australian waters by helicopter were put on hold when it was revealed that the assigned pilot was Shirley Strachan.
Round-the-world yachtswoman Isabelle Autissier had also tried to help ferry the passengers, before she herself got into trouble, and had to be rescued by the already crowded Tampa.
It's believed the marooned refugees have requested additional facilities on board the ship, such as a shuffleboard court and a large open deck for coits.
Some of the asylum seekers have considered making their new permanent homes on the Tampa which, given the rate of diplomatic progress, might be their only option.
Indonesia last night remained steadfastly unwilling to negotiate. President Megawati said that even though the refugees were rescued in Indonesian waters, from a sinking Indonesian boat, provided by Indonesian people smugglers, the matter has nothing whatsoever to do with Indonesia.
I was always taught at school that one of the basic principles of our Australian democracy was the right to vote. It seems that the Howard government doesn't see things as clearly as the majority of Australians. The Report on the Integrity of the Electoral Roll chaired by Liberal Member Chris Pyne was an attempt to strike a blow at the ALP and the Labor movement. It failed dismally in that attempt. But it has recommended some disturbing measures for democracy which the Howard Government seems increasingly keen to put into law. The most concerning aspect for young people is the recommendation that the electoral roll should be closed as soon as writs for an election are issued - that is, the day an election is called.
At present young people are given 7 days to enrol or to change their voting address. Under the proposed changes first time voters will not be able to enrol once an election is called, and young people will only have 3 days to change their address. It's clear that young people are more likely to miss out on exercising their democratic right to vote under these changes.
First time voters will be hardest hit. Many first time voters do not know that they need to enrol to vote before an election, especially if they have turned 18 since the last election. Many assume that once an election is called they can fill in the form and enroll to vote. If the electoral roll is closed straight away as recommended, then young people who want to vote may miss out altogether.
The measure will also unfairly discriminate against students and those in rental accommodation. Many students and young people in rental accommodation have to change their address each time they move. If young people are not provided with adequate time to change their electoral address, then they may not be able to have their say in the democratic process.
The Australian Electoral Commission has estimated that reducing the time for electoral enrolment to zero days for first time voters and 3 days for those changing their address, will mean a minimum of 200,000 people will miss out on voting. This kind of disadvantage is unacceptable in our democracy where the right to vote is protected and valued. The measures also severely restrict the voice of young people in our democracy when young people are struggling to be heard at all. It is hardly a surprising move by the Howard government, especially given its total disregard for the issues that matter to young people, such as education, the environment, reconciliation and youth unemployment. It is commendable that any government launches an enquiry into cleaning up our democratic voting procedures. But when the outcome is that thousands of young Australians will be denied their democratic right to vote, you have to wonder at the motivations of such an exercise.
Ben Heraghty is President of Australian Young Labor
by Peter Lewis
Luff was with the Swans since 1990, right through the infamous 21 game losing streak. It's a sign of his career that when the drought finally broke, Luffy was out injured.
Twice the Swans dumped him, placing on the transfer list, only to have second thoughts and add him to the following year's list. But through it all, Luffy kept doing what he does best - trying. He's not particularly, tall, particularly fast or particularly good - but it's a credit to modern AFL that there's still a place for a player with tons of heart. If there's a mark to be taken backing into a defender's elbow - chances are Luffy will be in the pack. He may not take the mark, but he'll never shirk the grab.
When the Swans turned it around and went all the way to the Grand Final in 1996, it was Luffy who was at the top of his form. History will recall that when the Swans went ahead early, it was not Plugger, but Luffy that kicked the first tow goals of the game. It was great fun - the chants were a constant challenge for the Troy Luff fan club - no pop song went untouched - Luff is in the Air, All You Need is Luff, Luff me Tender, I Honestly Luff You - and so on.
And with every success came the threat of disaster - it became a common sight to see Swans coach Rodney Eade dragging Luff and giving him an earful down the hotline. Luff would cop it and get out there again trying to turn it around.
In recent years, Luffy has spent more and more time on the bench 0- christened this year 'The Troy Luff Stand' - or even running around in the seconds - where he gave the same wholehearted performances for Port Melbourne. But it was fitting that he made it back to the Firsts for his last SCG game, and as the rain set in took the final mark of the game.
As his teammates chaired him from the field, I couldn't help thinking that Luffy was a star, not because of what he was, but what he wasn't - he was not a deadest champ, he was not a big-head, he was not dull. He was a trier - a working class hero - and his very presence added to the humour - and humanity - of the game.
Luff's career got me thinking about other working class sporting heroes:
- Kerry Hemsley - Balmain front-rower from the eighties, brought the Milperra bikie look to the League, only went one way - forward.
- Tommy Raudonikis - west half who lived hard and played hard. When he lost a testicle to cancer, responded with the timeless quote "you only need one ball to play football"
- Shane Warne - the yobbo with talent. His best moment was probably the Quit for Life scam where he stopped smoking precisely long enough to take home the money and then lit up again. Brilliant.
- Jai Turiema - training regime dominated by pizza and lung-bsuters. Celebrated his long jump silver medal by heading to the closest pub.
- World woodchopper Big Dave Foster - proof that a beer gut and elite sport and not mutually exclusive.
- And Olympic swimmer Petria Thomas - who finally learnt the hard way that bombing in the pool is prohibited.
The common thread, none have been seduced by the prevailing ethos that equates elite sport with robotic. On and off the field, they were happy to make mistakes in the hope of kicking a goal. We warmed to them because they were more like us, rather than the glamour jocks that made us feel so inadequate.
Few can kick a goal from fifty - but we can all muff the ten metre hand-pass. Thanks Luffy, you've done it for all of us.
Time to Act on Air Rage by Shane Enright
The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) believes the time has come for an international convention offering a global legal framework to prosecute all incidents of air rage, wherever and whenever they occur.
International law at the moment places the responsibility for criminal or violent actions that take place on board aircraft on the country in which the individual aircraft is registered. In practice this can present many barriers to the prosecution of disruptive passengers.
(Transport International; no. 6, 3, 2001)
The Slow and Agonising Death of the Australian Experiment with Conciliation and Arbitration by Braham Dabscheck
After being to the fore through the 1980s, the AIRC has seen its role come under fire from the early 1990s from the ALP and then more strongly from the Coalition government. Both the ALP and the Coalition introduced legislation to reduce the Commission's role. Using regulation theory Dabscheck argues that the Commission dealt itself a blow in the late 1980s by not recognizing the "signals" from the players in the IR system that were calling for far reaching change. The Commission's perceived failure to respond in innovative and activists ways saw the government override it.
(Journal of Industrial Relations; vol. 43, no. 3, September 2001)
Apprenticeships - Positive Findings Surprise Researchers
The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) says that apprenticeships are re-emerging as a key remedy to skills shortages. The recently developed flexible approach has seen Australia emerge as one of the leaders in new apprenticeships. By the end of 2000 nearly 300,000 people had newly enrolled in apprenticeships. The report gives the first accurate picture of post-school training than ever before. Problem would seem to be in the increase in the lower skilled apprenticeship areas such as clerical and hospitality rather than in engineering. The report also shows the low participation rate of non-English Speaking background people. Women's involvement has increased since 1992.
The report concludes that apprenticeships are by far the best pathway to full-time employment or self-employment.
(Workplace Intelligence; May 2001)
Commission Deals Blow to Manusafe
In a crippling blow, the IRC has found metal unions cannot lawfully take industrial action in pursuit of the Manusafe trust fund or substantially similar trust funds.
In a s127 ruling handed down this afternoon, Justice Paul Munro found that Manusafe did not pertain to the employment relationship and therefore couldn't form part of a claim for inclusion in an enterprise agreement.
However, he left the door open for other arrangements to secure employee entitlements, including provisions making them portable, and set out in some detail the form that such arrangements could take.
MTFU secretary Dave Oliver. said Justice Munro had made it clear in the s127 decision that employee entitlements arrangements including trust funds, insurance bonds and bank guarantees could form the basis for legitimate bargaining claims and protected industrial action.
Transfield Pty Ltd v Automotive, Food, Metals, Engineering, Printing and Kindred Industries Union. PR908287 (30 August 2001)
Order PR90282 (30 August 2001)
Paid Maternity Leave Burgeons
The proportion of women employees entitled to paid maternity leave under agreements registered last year was up by 40% in comparison to deals registered in 1997, according to a snapshot released in the DEWRSB wages report.
While the Department cautioned that a different mix of agreements in different years might make comparisons unreliable, the data might indicate an important trend.
Substantial growth in the proportion of female employees entitled to paid leave occurred in finance and insurance, electricity, gas and water, health and community services, education, and personal and other services.
Just 1% of female retail employees were entitled to paid maternity leave in both 1997 and 2000, while no female workers in mining or agriculture forestry and fishing had an entitlement.
Entitlements to paid leave fell in transport and storage, wholesale trade and communications services.
Contractor v Employee
Non-standard employment is growing rapidly in Australia. The difference between casual and permanent employees is crucial. State and federal tribunals are developing new tests to distinguish between true and permanent casuals. This article looks at the recent High Court judgement in Hollis v Vabu where the definition of employee extends to dependent contractors.
(Workplace Intelligence; August 2001)
Green Ban On Gas Fired Electrical Generators
The ETU in Victoria has put a green ban on new gas-fired generators in Victoria. The ETU is opposed to the construction of gas fired electrical generation plants in Victoria without due regard to a full energy industry strategy. We feel the construction of these plants would compromise any strategy to develop wind generation projects, and in particular wind generation manufacture in the State of Victoria.
Gas fired electricity generators are designed as we understand it, to meet peak electricity load demands in the warmer summer months in Victoria. Further the generators proposed are of the lowest efficiency. Overall we believe Victoria lacks a comprehensive and well thought out electricity generation strategy that reflects the current and future needs of electricity consumers in Victoria. A proper strategy should combine the needs of Victorian consumers and industry, along with an environmentally sound and stable electricity generation strategy that will serve this State well in the decades to come.
The ETU will continue to work with employers and lobby government and take industrial action if necessary to fight for Victorian manufacturing industry jobs and fight against environmentally unfriendly proposals planned throughout Victoria.
The ETU has also endorses the Greens candidates in the Melbourne City Council elections and their green energy plan which would create 1000 jobs in the alternative energy industry.
Contracting Out and Freedom of Association
A company's decision to contract out part of its operations may in the circumstances offend not only the freedom of association provisions of the Workplace Relations Act 1996, but may also constitute coercion that involves unlawful, illegitimate or unconscionable conduct.
Her Honour held that in the circumstances, the inconvenience likely to be suffered by the employees, if they were dismissed in breach of the Act, outweighed the inconvenience to BP of the employees continuing in employment, even though no breach may have been committed.
Transport Workers' Union of Australia v BP Australia Ltd,  FCA 1174 (23 August 2001),
Overt anti-semitism isn't a goer for Europe's neo-fascists these days. Much as they might admire and revere Adolf and his jew-hating it isn't such a vote catcher in a post-holocaust world. Ah, but immigrants, now there's a scapegoat group you can still demonise and organise a far right party around.
With the storming of the Tampa, Johnny Howard takes his cue from the Le Pens and Finis of this world. The evidence of Howard's entrenched racism has been there from as far back as 1987 when he exposed his dark side in an ill-timed tirade against Asian immigration. If the Liberal Party and its business backers had any integrity they would have permanently ended his political career then. Instead, in their own desperation for power, they turned to this racist to end the Labor years. Now look where they find themselves!!
Since he became PM Howard has been cranking up the racial tension in Australia starting with his unconscionable crusade against land rights and the stolen generations and now at its logical conclusion with an SAS assault against a Norwegian ship with 400 poor souls fleeing the Taliban. You can just see Le Pen, the French ex-paratrooper, analysing the tactics and nodding his head in support.
You can only just savour the irony of where the ship directed by Australian authorities to pluck these refugees from the sea came from. Here, standing in stark contrast to the unscrupulous opportunism of our redneck 'leader' are the Norwegians with their impeccable social-democratic credentials, humanism, and sense of common decency. To juxtapose on TV the Norwegian Foreign Minister with his humanistic concerns for the refugees with our Prime Minister and his shameless pitch to the xenophobic streak of the electorate is to observe the disgraceful place in world politics that this Coalition Government is taking us.
'Fuck the Scandinavians, I'm with Le Pen and Fini,' is the real Howard doctrine.
As for our so-called refugee crisis - what a joke. Look at the incredible population dislocations of the last 10 years. Every time there has been a civil war or famine in Africa the result has been a stream of human misery in the hundreds of thousands if not millions. Only a trickle of those people end up in the west. The brunt of these human disasters is always taken up by their neighbours, in every case just as poor and unstable as the source of the misery. Look at the consequences of Rwanda - ten years later the whole Great Lakes area of Africa is destabilised by the refugee problems arising from that disaster. Ditto the Balkans. A few years ago even Bangladesh had to deal with a massive influx of refugees after a crackdown by the Burmese junta. Imagine the magnitude of that desperation. Fleeing your home to try and create a better life in Bangladesh!
This is the real context of refugees. There are 24 million of them living in constant limbo. Our connection with that mass of misery is so minute we shouldn't even blink to accept the tiny number that turn up here.
But none of this is about refugees or illegal immigrants, or our creaking social security system, about our jobs or the threat to our way of life. It's all about John Howard and how John Howard sees his place in history. It's about John Howard being re-elected.
True to the polling which has driven this fiasco Howard has plenty of public support for this outrage. But how long will it last as the reality that the problem isn't going to go away sinks in, Howard stands stranded with no real solution to the problem and the knowledge of our international humiliation filters through? And there is still those common-sense Norwegians to deal with as they report Australia to the UN maritime agency, its refugee agency and to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
As Thorbjoern Jagland, the Norwegian Foreign Minister pointed out : 'Australia's attitude to the refugee incident is unacceptable and inhumane and contravening international law.'
How long before the emperor twigs that he has no clothes?
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005