A series of job forums were held around the nation where rank and file workers, senior union officials discussed the impact of the wave of company collapses and job cuts under the Howard Government.
In Sydney, delegates representing thousands of workers gather at the Sydney Masonic Centre while about two thousand workers rallied in Melbourne.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow unveiled 'Howard's List of Shame' a roll call of scores of businesses that have shed more than 100 staff. She called on all unionists to spread the word in their workplaces on the damage that has been done.
"Working Australians need a national plan for jobs growth and respect for their basic right to be consulted and bargain about their futures. John Howard's policies have promoted conflict and insecurity at work through contracting-out, casualisation, and the use of unfair individual contracts," Burrow said.
The meetings were also briefed on Labor's IR priorities by Opposition Leader Kim Beazley - via a specially produced video. He promised to "begin the repair work from Day One", including:
- restoring powers to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission
- abolishing Australian Workplace Agreements
- and securing 100 per cent of workers entitlements - including full redundancy and superannuation protection.
Individual unions are planning a frenetic final week of campaigning, with activities targeting across the nation including:
- Mass meetings will be held on all major construction sites in NSW with workers to be briefed on the IR strategies of the major parties.
- Education unions are sponsoring the Public Education bus to travel through marginal seats highlighting the differences in education priorities between the parties. Members will also be pamphleting school communities about the public education issue.
- Telstra's unions will complete their nationwide tour in the Telstra bus finishing in Sydney on Wednesday outside the Telstra corporate offices.
- Maritime unions will highlight their concerns with the Howard government's shipping policy, with newspaper advertisements and the appearance of 'Slick, the oily surfer' at Bondi Beach.
- And Ansett workers will continue their campaign against the Howard Government, handing out information on election day at targeted booths.
Formal Resolution Adopted
The activity is in line with the formal resolution adopted at the mass meetings:
"The people gathered here today call on all Federal election candidates to make clear to their electorates their commitment to the vital issue of jobs and job security.
Australia can no longer afford a Government that does not work to ensure the long-term security and wellbeing of all Australians.
We reject the policies of the Howard Government. Five years ago, John Howard promised that no worker would be worse off under his Government. But every day, we count the cost in disappearing jobs and squandered employee entitlements.
We believe the following steps are required to restore job growth:
1. A comprehensive jobs plan and industry policy to promote Australian manufacturing and employment development.
2. Greater job security through the promotion of full-time work to replace the rising number of insecure casual, part-time, and contract jobs.
3. A national scheme that guarantees 100% of employee entitlements.
4. The abolition of the Government's unfair Australian Workplace Agreements in favour of collective bargaining arrangements that restore fairness in the workplace.
5. A return to balance in the industrial relations system through restoration of powers to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
by Phil Davey
His opposition takes the form of an independent, Dr Peter McDonald, who formerly held the state seat of Manly.
McDonald is enjoying somewhat of a second coming on the Northern beaches.
His message of compassion for asylum seekers and honesty and transparency in Government is by all accounts gaining support in an electorate growing tired of the foot in mouth antics of Abbott.
The themes of McDonald's campaign - community and collectivism- are in stark contrast to Abbott, known across the country as a pathological hater and an unreconstructed individualist.
Locals are saying that McDonald is comprehensively out campaigning Abbott.
McDonald has a number of structural advantages he is playing to;-
1. His years working for Medicines San Frontiers in East Timor since leaving state parliament look good compared to the career politician Abbott
2. He has a capacity to engage with voters without menacing them as Abbott does
3. He is not a known bovver-boy like Abbott.
Saturday night November 10 keep an eye out for Warringah as the results come in. There are very few in our community who will mourn the loss of Tony Abbott to the Parliament.
by Noel Hester
Presently the Government is putting up the money up to cover a portion of the statutory entitlements - wages owed, holiday pay, long service leave but capping redundancies at 8 weeks.
But they intend not only to get the money back through the $10 levy on air tickets funded by the travelling public but now are placing themselves at the head of creditors to get first dibs at funds held by the administrator.
'This cynical practice is now under consideration by the Federal Court which has insisted the Government furnish additional information about the way they are operating the entitlement scheme,' says ACTU Industrial Officer Richard Watts.
Ansett unions say if the Government continues with its objective of taking back the money established to cover workers entitlements it will be placing at serious risk the 8000 jobs saved through the relaunch of Ansett Mark Two.
Howard's policy with Ansett stands in stark contrast to the settlement on the waterfront with Liberal comrade-in-arms Chris Corrigan. Then the Government underwrote redundancies on the docks with a container tax without ever putting itself at the head of the queue as a creditor.
Government Lawyer's Confirm Sleight of Hand
Meanwhile, the Federal Court has been told that not one cent of the millions of dollars collected for the express purpose of funding Ansett employee entitlements may be used for that purpose.
Robin Brett, QC for the Commonwealth, told Justice Goldberg that: "It's wrong to assume that because it (the ticket tax) has been collected it will be passed on (to Ansett employees) . . . it may be that none will be passed on."
Section 7 of John Howard's Air Passenger Ticket Levy Collection Act says:
"The purpose of the levy is to meet the cost of payments by the Commonwealth under the Special Employee Entitlements Scheme for Ansett group employees."
ACTU Secretary Greg Combet says the evidence before the Federal Court exposed Mr Howard's plan to double dip into Ansett's assets and force the company into liquidation as soon as the November 10 election was over.
"The Howard Government has indicated to the Federal Court that the ticket tax money will only be available after they have forced Ansett into liquidation, with the loss of 17,000 jobs," Combet says.
"Mr Howard is showing contempt for the life savings and the job security of thousands loyal and hard working Ansett employees by telling the Federal Court that the Government does not have to comply with its own tax legislation."
Labor believes the IT KickStart Plan will be the first step towards breaking the so-called 'Digital Divide' between those with IT skills and those without.
Opposition leader Kim Beazley says the IT Kickstart courses will be introductory courses designed to provide basic computer skills such as getting started with a computer, using email and navigating on the Internet.
Key goals of the training will be for each person to find something on the Internet of personal interest to them, to learn to access government and community services and to locate information they need.
The face-to-face training will be supported by training software, online advice and access to phone support.
The target population are people who have never, or very rarely, used a computer. Recent ABS statistics indicate that 35% of the Australian adult population did not use a computer in the twelve months to February 2000.
"The IT revolution has improved the lives of many Australians who have benefited from access to the internet for information, entertainment, banking and shopping and email for communication," Beazley says.
"But not all Australians have kept pace with the revolution. If we do not assist them some Australians will fall behind. There is no reason why there needs to be a digital divide.
Knowledge Nation Apprenticeships
Meanwhile, the national union representing aged care workers and child care workers has welcomed Kim Beazley's plan to create 35,000 high-skill apprenctice places.
The LHMU National President, Helen Creed, said she had reported the initiative to the National Council of the union - meeting in Darwin.
" Our members will welcome Kim Beazley's plan for 35,000 high-skill apprentices under his Plan for a Knowledge Nation," Ms Creed said.
"There are thousands of people in aged care and child care who would benefit from the Knowledge Nation Apprenticeship Training," she said.
"In aged care, in particular, there is a definite need for formalised training for all staff - not just nurses - to care for an increased aged care population."
Helen Creed said that the $3,000 Labor would pay employers for each apprentice place would help provide quality aged care.
The union would want to ensure the money was genuinely used for training, not a subsidy to the employer as so many of the schemes in the last five years have been.
"But the scheme should be extended to include mature aged women who have much to contribute to the care of older people," Ms Creed said.
Stellar, a joint venture between Telstra and US giant, Excell, agreed last month to be party to the first award in Australia's booming contract call centre industry.
The sector employs 90,000 Australians, mainly on AWAs, and analysts predict that figure will soar beyond 300,000 over the next five years.
The CPSU Communications Union and Stellar struck deals on classifications, redundancy provisions, penalty payments, safety net salaries, a 38-hour week, along with recognition for the union and its delegates.
A handful of activists, at Wollongong and Robina, spear-headed a campaign that has turned Stellar's approach to industrial relations on its head.
One year ago, all staff were employed on non-negotiable individual contracts; union officials were barred; disciplinary action against delegates was routine; management refused to recognise the CPSU and called security or police whenever an organiser was sighted.
One delegate received a written warning for notifying workmates of an upcoming union picnic.
While, on-site, members refused to be cowed, officials broadened the campaign through Trades and Labor Councils; the media; applying pressure to state Governments and unionised companies with which Stellar hoped to do business; and even registering freedom of association complainst with anti-worker Office of the Employment Advocate.
Wollongong activists Paul Stolk and Sherri Purse were head-hunted to tell their stories for a Labor Party campaign video.
Immediate award benefits will be organisational but the establishment of improved core rates and conditions will lift the "no disadvantage test" bar which AWAs are required to clear before registration.
In the medium-term, the award is likely to undermine the rationale behind persisting with individual contracts.
CPSU Communications Union assistant secretary, Stephen Jones, hailed the award as an opportunity to sort out a "pretty hostile relationship".
"Since Stellar started operating in 1999, there has been a fair bit of bomb-throwing from both sides," he said.
Jones said the advantages, to workers, of improved rates and conditions were obvious but predicted Stellar would also benefit from "regularising its employment relationships".
¨ The CPSU has also established a presence at fledgling telcos Vodafone, Orange and AAPT.
The union was one of several that went into negotiations with the Australian Industry Group yesterday in a bid to extend an interim award, created on October 15.
When a union noticeboard went up at Vodafone, Strathfield, as a result of the interim document, it marked a breakthrough in an organising campaign marked by knockbacks, frustrations and run-ins with security guards.
Martha Hansen-Sackey, a Congress Delegate from Ghana, has been denied a visa by the Australian High Commission in Lagos. Hansen-Sackey is expecting to attend the IMF World Congress as the representative of the Women's Committee from the West Africa region.
Napoleon Kpoh, the General Secretary of her union, the Industrial & Commercial Workers' Union, said today that the Australian High Commission had given no reason for rejecting Hansen-Sackey's visa application.
``The Australian High Commission in Lagos did not give any explanation as to their reason for rejecting her visa. In fact they did not add any letter of explanation, the passport was returned with a rejection stamp with no word of reasoning behind the decision,'' said Napoleon Kpoh.
Daniel Ndoum, a Delegate from Cameroun, has also has been denied a visa, although no further details of his rejected visa application are available at the current time.
The IMF congress will formulate a strategy to tackle the growing issue of economic globalisation, the main challenge facing the trade union movement worldwide.
Julius Roe, National President of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) and Delegate to the IMF World Congress said today that he feared that the rejection of Martha Hansen-Sackey's visa application may be for political reasons and has called on the Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddick to provide an explanation.
`` I am writing today to the Immigration Minister to demand an explanation for why these delegates have been denied entry. In Africa, unions are extremely limited in their rights to fight for working people, and if the Australian Government has denied Hansen-Sackey the right of entry into Australia for political reasons, then they are no better than the draconian anti-union governments of Africa,'' Mr Roe said.
``No such obstacles have been put in the way of Delegates attending from Europe, so we call on the Government to allow Martha Hansen-Sackey the right to enter Australia. She has every right to be here so that she can represent women from West Africa and participate in the global discussions on how we can improve the lives of workers,'' Mr Roe said.
The IMF is one of the biggest unions in the world, representing 23 million workers from 101 countries. Every four years the IMF holds an international congress, bringing together delegates from around the world to discuss, debate and vote on the activities of the IMF. This years' World Congress is being held in Sydney from 11-14 November 2001.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), the Australian Workers Union (AWU) and the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) are all Australian Affiliates to the IMF and will be participating in the IMF World Congress.
The Workers United, Need a New Slogan!
Meanwhile, the organisers of a major international rally to coincide with the IMG Congress are globalisation are seeking inspiration for some 21st century chants.
With a major street d4eomnsatration planned, organsiers want to go beyond the usual lines of "the workers united ..." and "whatta we want ..."
The AMWU, AWU, CEPU along with all the major unions, community, social, environmental and religious organisations are marching to support global justice, fair trade and to oppose any new WTO agreements at Qatar on Tuesday November 13.
The rally coincides with the International Metalworkers Federation World Congress in Sydney. 1000 union delegates from all over the world will lead the march.
Info on the rally and a list of supporters is at http://www.sydneyrally.org.
"We need new, good and loud chants that will be heard and remembered," the AMWU's Natasha Holmes says. "They have to be short, catchy and relevant!"
The best chants will be printed up and distributed to be used in the rally. A final selection will be posted on Workers Online and the sydneyrally website.
by Dermott Browne
Graeme Thomson, the ABC Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union this week welcomed the announcement that the ABC Board has removed Jonathan Shier.
"Shier has been responsible for creating significant damage to the ABCm Thompson says. "Top quality programs makers and support staff have suffered under his term as Managing Director. ABC audiences have declined in the face of Shier's attempts to dumb down and commercialise the ABC."
"The Board needs to be congratulated for forcing him to resign. It must be remembered however that the same Board must be held accountable for putting him there in the first place and failing to act on his woeful performance a lot earlier.
"Without trying to take too much gloss off the announcement, his removal comes 18 months too late.
"Shier has left a legacy. He imported carpetbaggers and marketeers who will still be around when he leaves on 31 December.
"It will take many years to rebuild the ABC. The damage he has created has been significant. Many talented people have been forced out and TV production stalled.
"The task of re-building the ABC will not be easy. The Board and senior management of the ABC must give a clear commitment to re-building the national broadcaster as a strong and independent producer of TV, Radio and New Media. Much of the damage over the past two years has been created by the ideological drive to outsource program making and close down the ABC as a program maker."
MEU women's committee and industrial team outside the IRC
Following months of negotiations between the MEU and the Local Government Shires Association (LGSA) a consent agreement was this week approved by the Industrial Relations Commission.
According to MEU General Secretary Brian Harris, it can't come soon enough for many members. "We've got members who are hanging out for this decision and it will make a big difference to them - many are coming to the Commission hearing just to make sure it goes through," said Brian Harris.
Harris says the decision will benefit thousands of workers throughout NSW, including those in regional areas who are doing it tough.
"Paid Maternity Leave recognises the value of women in the workforce. It provides the opportunity for workers to have a family without being financially disadvantaged," he sayd.
The MEU believes the battle for paid maternity leave has been harder than predicted but worth the commitment by the Union and its members.
"There has been no parity at all with paid maternity leave provisions," Harris says. "Both federal and state government employees have been entitled to paid maternity leave for years however local government workers have not."
Paid maternity leave will extend to 9 weeks on full pay or 18 weeks on half pay. "A very positive aspect of the agreement is that casual employees who have worked on a regular and systematic basis with council will also be entitled to paid maternity leave," Harris says.
Harris scoffs at the criticism by some that Paid Maternity Leave is discriminatory. "Australia is only one of three industrialised countries that does not have paid maternity leave. It is recognised that it is vital for both mother and child to have a break from work and it is time women - and families - were no longer economically disadvantaged by starting families."
by Laura MacFarlane
While 5000 nurses marched on Parliament house in Sydney the 11 nurses of Tottenham marched down the main street to the hospital. Paige Kildare, the only full time registered nurse at the 10 bed, 24 hour a day, 7 days a week facility commented when asked if the rally caused a disruption, "The town's policeman couldn't redirect traffic because he's on holidays!"
Tottenham is the geographical center of NSW - 130km from Dubbo and 130km from Parkes. They have a pub but it doesn't have Sky Channel. They have a hospital but it doesn't have enough staff. That is why the nurses of Tottenham took action with the rest of the state's nurses on the 18th October.
"There is only one full time registered nurse and two who are permanent part-time and they have some enrolled nurses and casuals. 10 all up" said Murray Bean, Organiser for the hospital from NSWNA.
"With that number of people they have to cover three shifts a day with qualified nursing staff. They need a total of 4.2 full time equivalent RNs plus casuals to make the hospital safe and to cover all shifts. As well as cover annual leave and sick leave." said Bean.
The hospital deals with trauma cases from accidents on farms, car accidents and all the other things that go on in every day rural life including "birthin'" babies.
The fact they couldn't join in the events at Sydney Town Hall via the Sky Channel broadcast didn't deter these nurses of Tottenham. They had their "strike" and then they had a barby. And because they had put up flyers all over town about "The What's a Nurse Worth?" campaign, 50 people turned up and three local businesses closed in solidarity with the nurses of their town. To top it off the petition to parliament for more nurses was signed by more than half the population.
Following an Industrial Relations Commission hearing on Thursday, Orange have agreed to a voluntary redundancy process and will now call for expressions of interest from staff when redundancies are unavoidable.
Orange have also agreed to try and find positions for displaced staff in other parts of their ongoing operation.
The union secured better than expected redundancy and notice payments for staff as well as a commitment to pay staff all monies owed on the date of departure, not months later.
CPSU spokesperson Stephen Jones said, "It goes without saying that we would have preferred fewer jobs disappearing, but it seems the tech sector is still in shake-out mode. On the positive side we have been able to ensure these workers are leaving with a few extra dollars in their pocket."
Orange has also agreed to meet with unions at least 2 weeks before any new redundancy announcements to considering union proposals for minimising job losses.
The drivers, all of whom said they had been involved in near-misses on metropolitan and rural lines, presented a multi-pronged approach to the Committee in public hearings this week.
- educating drivers about the risks of ignoring warning signals.
- deterring drivers from ignoring warnings by implementing a rail equivalent to red-light cameras on the state's roads.
- Enforcing stricter fines for offences at level crossings.
The drivers, members of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, argued that there needed to be a coordinated approach to managing initiatives that address safety.
"One person needs to take responsibility for track safety," they said.
A full copy of their written submission to the StaySafe Committee is available from the Labor Council.
The rise, including two $300 lump sum bonuses, follows an agreement reached between Australia Post and the Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) to enter into a new 26-month Enterprise Agreement.
The new wage deal completed a very successful week for the Government-owned Australia Post, by posting another record gross annual profit of $402.1 million following the announcement as the clear winner in this year's corporate reputation stakes.
Communications Union, State Secretary - Mr Jim Metcher claimed "The remuneration benefits, job security commitment and permanent full-time jobs as the preferred employment option are deserving initiatives contained within the proposed agreement."
He said, "the new Enterprise Agreement provided in the main the necessary certainty and stability for Australia Post workers who continue to be deeply concerned with the expected loss of their jobs given the promise of a re-elected Howard Government to deregulate Australia Post by opening up its reserved letter service to full competition."
Mr Metcher invited the Prime Minister to reconsider the Federal Government's policy by not deregulating Australia Post and allow this year's number one corporate to continue maintaining world's best reliable and affordable postal service that will keep thousands of Postal workers in their employment.
Mr Metcher expected the overwhelming majority of New South Wales Postal workers will support the new wage deal and should expect delivery of the first pay rise instalment prior to Xmas.
More than half of Australia's workplaces are failing to carry out basic health and safety precautions, according to an ACTU survey of more than 1200 health and safety representatives. "More people are being killed or injured in workplace accidents than on our roads, but there has been no national response like the road toll campaign.
The Federal Government must take the lead," said ACTU President Sharan Burrow. "Despite more than 450 people being killed and 160,000 seriously injured on the job each year, the Howard Government has sat on its hands. Instead, the Government has cut funding to workplace safety and blocked the introduction of new national safety standards. The removal of safeguards from workplace awards has compounded the probem." Key findings of the survey include:
· Less than half (47%) of workplaces carry out regular health and safety inspections
· 30% of sick or injured employees are pressured to return to work before it is safe to do so
· 20% of health and safety representatives have been bullied or intimidated by management after raising health and safety issues
· The most commonly reported health and safety hazards are repetitive work causing muscle strain(63%), noise (60%), heavy lifting (57%), extreme temperatures (55%), inadequate staffing (49%), long hours (40%), dust and fibres (38%), cleaning fluids (37%) and lack of training (36%).
Ms Burrow will release details of the survey and a scorecard on the Federal Government's response to workplace health and safety issues at the launch today of the ACTU's 2001 National Occupational Health and Safety Campaign. As part of the campaign, people are being asked to phone in a brief report on health and safety issues at their workplaces by calling the ACTU toll-free hotline: 1300 362 223
by Greg Turner
Nic was arrested and gaoled in California in July with other Greenpeace campaigners during a peaceful protest against the United States' 'Star Wars' missile system.
He is a member of the Australian Services Union and is currently in Australia on bail before he plans to return to the U.S. to defend himself in court.
He has acknowledged the support of the ASU and the NSW Trades and Labor Council which passed a resolution calling for the dropping of all charges and his immediate release.
"There was a time when this whole thing was getting really heavy and I felt like my whole world was coming down around me," Nic says.
"Then I got a call from the ASU to tell me about the Labor Council resolution and that one call really, really, boosted my morale at a time I needed it most."
Along with ASU members from Greenpeace and other community organisations, the fundraiser was attended by representatives from Trade Unions including the CFMEU, The President of NSW Legislative Council, the Hon Meredith Burgmann MLC ( Labor) and NSW Greens leader, the Hon Lee Rhiannon MLC.
Well known environmental campaigner Bruce Childs also attended the Sydney fundraiser and congratulated unions for supporting Nic's cause.
"Nic is taking a moral and ethical stand and he's taking it right to the very heart of the system." He has also received support from Catholic and Anglican bishops.
They will hear the ACTU President, Sharan Burrow, talk to them about the Living Wage campaign and the need to build better job security for hospitality workers.
The LHMU Hotel Union is holding a rally at the El Alamein Fountain in Macleay St, Kings Cross, from 9.30 am to discuss a campaign to demand more consultation in workplaces.
A couple of top-of-the-range hotels in the Kings Cross area have announced plans to shutdown over the next few months - but are refusing to discuss shutdown plans and retrenchment entitlements with their workforce.
This week another hotel, the Sebel in Parramatta, shut down. Many of the workers there, who faced a hostile, anti-union management running the workplace with individual employment contracts ( AWAs) , are bitter at the way they were treated - with very little sign of respect for workers.
Hospitality workers traditionally rely on the Living Wage campaign to get any wage increase. The meeting on Tuesday will emphasise the need for union members to get actively involved in this campaign, to put up their hands and volunteer to be witnesses and promote the campaign in the community.
Hotel Union members will also discuss the need to campaign harder for more workplace rights for the casual workers who increasingly dominate the hospitality industry.
by Andrew Casey
" This has been a frustratingly slow and long process forced on our membership by a rickety workplace relations act introduced by the Howard Government," Terry Breheny, Victorian Assistant Secretary said.
More than 170 LHMU Security Union members walked off the job on Wednesday to protest a decision by the full bench not to give them an award pay increase.
The union members agreed to a return-to-work following a day of intensive talks in the Industrial Relations Commission.
" Our members have returned to work as a sign of good faith.
" However they really are unhappy that workers who have such significant responsibilities, highlighted by the September 11 incidents, have to accept such low pay and interminable delays to fix up their very real pay problems."
The Industrial Relations Commission recommendation results in a pay increase of approximately 4% - with the opportunity for further increases from the work value case.
" This result is overdue. Chubb Security has dragged their heels for eight months now, despite the fact that airport security guards for Group 4 Securitas have been paid nearly 15% more for the same work since May last year.
Chubb has publicly acknowledged the value and responsibility of the work - and yet has not been prepared to pay for the skills," Terry Breheny said
The LHMU Airport Security Union has mounted a national campaign to deliver security to all Australian airports.
Details of the claim can be found by clicking here.
Read a couple of earlier stories about the Melbourne airport security workers' walk-out.
CNN on airport security
The CNN web-page is currently running a series on airport security and the poor pay and working condition of US screeners. The issues in the USA are almost the same as in Australia, or the UK, or Europe.
You can read the 4-part CNN feature by clicking here.
The East Timor Vocational Education Centre was funded by donations from Australian building companies, the development community and Australia's largest construction union, the CFMEU.
After playing a leading role in community campaigning in support of East Timorese independence, the Australian construction industry union made a commitment to assist in the reconstruction of East Timor.
This assistance has taken the form of the East Timor Vocational Education Training Project. Fourteen companies and industry bodies joined with the CFMEU and APHEDA in raising A$250,000 for the project, which includes as a major component the construction of a vocational training centre in Dili.
The name of the training centre is Knua Buka Hatene - the Tetum name means "a community place of learning". There are two other smaller components of the project, equipment for a technical high school and the development of carpentry workshop cooperatives in rural areas. The official launch of the project took place in June 2000.
The funds raised have enabled the construction of Stage 1 of Knua Buka Hatene to proceed. Construction of the Centre is due to be completed in early November - the centre will be formally opened on 23 November 2001. Stage 1 will be an independent multi-functional training and resource centre for literacy, information technology, English as a second language, carpentry and occupational health and safety, managed by a Board comprising of local Timorese partners.
With additional funding of A$30-40,000 we hope to construct Stage 2 of Knua Buka Hatene. Stage 2 comprises additional workshop space, which will enable more trainees to benefit from practical trades based training.
APHEDA, an accredited aid agency, is the organisation responsible for the in-country management of the project, including the liaison and co-ordination with local partner organisations and their project committees. The Australian Building Industry Sub-Committee (BISC), comprised of WALTER Construction Group, Multiplex, Leighton Contractors, CFMEU (National C&G Div), is the group which represents the donors and together with APHEDA meets regularly to monitor the project.
In the long term, the East Timor Vocational Education Training Project reflects the hope that the Australian construction industry will be able to work in partnership with the people of East Timor.
The review is a requirement of the Act and is designed to determine whether the policy objectives of the Act remain valid and whether the terms of the Act are appropriate for achieving those objectives.
"The key principle underlying the Act is that collective bargaining is the most effective safeguard against exploitation in the workplace underpinned by a strong award system," NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca says.
"The Act places broad responsibilities on the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, as the independent umpire, to resolve industrial disputes.
"This system contrasts sharply with the current federal system whose focus is on individual contracts and an Australian Industrial Relations Commission with very limited powers."
Comments are now sought in relation to the review and should be forwarded to the Department of Industrial Relations by Friday 21 December, 2001.
Labor Council has put up $2000 to go towards air travel for the winner of the organiser of the year competition, which will be awarded at the executive dinner in early December.
To enter, just write 500-800 words about an experience where you've put the principles of organising into practise. Send it to Workers Online via the button below.
Entries received by December 2 will be judged by our panel of experts, with finalists announced prior to the dinner.
Previous winners are the Transport Workers Union's Bruce Penton and the Police Association's Bob Morgan.
For further details contact Peter Lewis on 9264 1691 or mailto:[email protected]
NO WAR RALLY
No Australian troops or Australian support
No US war
No racist scapegoating - Welcome Refugees
No attacks on democratic rights
Next RALLY: SUNDAY 12 noon 4th November
Hyde Park North Archibald Fountain
HELP THE CAMPAIGN
everyone is welcome
Open organising meeting
Next Wednesday, 7 pm,
Level 3 or 4
UTS Tower Building Broadway
War And Racism
0408 619 152
A benefit night to help Burmese refugees will be held at the Harbourside Brasserie on Thursday 15 November.
Musicians who have donated their time and talent include: Jon Stevens; Jackie Orszaczky and Tina Harrod; Mike Nock; Reg Mombasa and Peter O' Doherty; Jonathan Zwartz and Hamish Stuart and Dr Winston O'Boogie Strings. Entry is $10 and a number of award-winning Australian and international photographers have also donated pictures that will be raffled on the night.
Globalisation from Below
Alternatives to Corporate Globalisation
Seminar: Sunday November 11 - 11.30-3.30pm
Tom Mann Theatre, 136 Chalmers Street, Surrey Hills
Speakers from the International Metalworkers Federation World
Congress: Silumko Nondawnga--General Secretary, National Union of
Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA);
President Mun--Korean Metal Workers Federation (KMWF);
Buzz Hargrove--President, Canadian Auto Workers (CAW);
Local speakers from AFTINET, Aidwatch, AMWU, Jubilee, NSW Nature
Conservation Council, NUS & UnitingCare (NSW.ACT)
Sunday November 11
Doors Open 7pm
Metro Theatre, George Street, Sydney
Featuring: The Tenants, Matt Ellis Band, Raw Sugar and Frank Bennett.
Hosted by Tugs Dumley
Tickets: $10 (plus bf) on sale at the Metro
Part of the IMF World Conference
by Jasper Goss
The decision is highly unusual because a union representing workers has been regarded as a company under Indonesian law, in contradiction to the Trade Union Act of 2000, and the individual office bearers of that union have been held responsible, in a manner akin to company directors.
If the decision is allowed to stand, a very powerful union-busting technique will be at the disposal of any company which wants to intimidate trade unions.
The case was brought against the workers for losses that the Jakarta hotel management claimed it had incurred during its three month closure and lock-out following an industrial dispute.
On December 22 last year, a spontaneous protest occurred in response to the arbitary dismissal of the Shangri-La Jakarta Independent Labor Union (SPMS) president.
Management reacted to this protest by closing the hotel and
then in the following months dismissed hundreds of workers, including union members who were on holiday at the time and not invovled in the protest.
While Indonesia's sham labour arbitration process gave management the right to fire the workers, the union has continued to maintain a peaceful and united campaign in order to secure the jobs back of the dismissed workers.
Confronted with physical assaults and intimidati on Shangri-La workers have continue their struggle.
This latest tactic is but one further sign of the lengths to which the hotel's owners will go to in their attempts to deny the workers their legitimate rights to be represnted by a union of their choice. The union's lawyer, Johnson Panjaitan, has said the case will be appealed to a higher
Jasper Goss is Information and Research Officer with the Asia and Pacific regional secretariat of the International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations.
Whilst Greg Platt makes good points ('The Great Orwell Debate Continues...', Issue No. 117) in relation to George Orwell's political views in the 1930s, I would question his analysis of Orwell's position in the late 1940s. Platt comments that in the last years of his life, when the Cold War made his anti-communism fashionable, 'Orwell refused to line up with the Right'. In late 1996 I examined a top secret file that had just been declassified by the Public Record Office in London. It concerned Orwell's collaboration with a clandestine anti-communist propaganda unit operating out of the British Foreign Office. In 1949, not long before his death, Orwell gave a secret list of names, with his own sometimes brutally frank annotations, of more than 130 'crypto-communists' and 'fellow travellers'. It seems reasonable to assume that, as a consequence, a number of those identified experienced some form of blacklisting in the 1950s.
When this revelation became public in 1996, many of Orwell's former friends, such as Michael Foot, were astonished and disappointed; they certainly believed Orwell had 'lined up with the Right' by becoming an informer on the Left. Perhaps Greg Platt may be interested in the brief article I wrote on this sad end to Orwell's crowded life. See 'Confronting the Cominform: George Orwell and the Cold War Offensive of the Information Research Department', Labour History, No.73, 1977, pp. 219-26.
With the continuing "Anthrax", scares proliferating through suspicious articles sent through the mail, it would appear that national security organizations are as usual not seeing the trees for the forest.
With every major city in the world having large multi storied buildings, and in some cases thousands of people working in them, with many more thousands passing through, one feels physical sickened at the possibilities for on the ground covert biological terrorism.
To give an example: - Most of these building are climate controlled by air conditioning systems which use cooling towers. The water in these cooling towers has in the past, been the cause of outbreaks of legionnaire's disease, a debilitating condition on occasions causing death. These cooling towers, if not regularly disinfected properly, are a perfect incubation environment in which to cultivate a lethal virus`.
As these towers are not secure and are rarely checked, and in fact many are probably not even registered with local health authorities, the possibilities for terrorist activities to swiftly and silently cause havoc in our major cities with impunity, is immeasurable.
We are at war, and the enemy has already displayed a proclivity for terrorizing the civilian populace, so I for one, will be avoiding large building that rely on water cooling towers to provide a climate controlled environment, unless thy can show that their cooling systems, are secure and constantly monitored by properly security cleared and experienced operators.
Air inlet vents in buildings should be immediately moved to inaccessible places, as these also are opportunities to create terror without the necessity to be of a close proximity, through the use of easily accessible chemicals and gases which can be introduced to building through these insecure accesses.
The continued Ostrich approach to this ever present terror in our midst could have serious implications for any government that does not ensure the safety of our citizens.
We are vulnerable!
by Peter Lewis
The Ansett dispute is probably the biggest nationwide dispute the unions have seen since the waterfront dispute. How do you compare those two?
The first thing is that it is not strictly a dispute, in the sense that we have got an industrial dispute with an employer. It is an insolvency process where we are battling to protect jobs, and on that front it does have some similarities with the waterfront. On the waterfront we were in an industrial dispute with Chris Corrigan's company and the government, but it was also a complex insolvency issue that we had to deal with, and Ansett is an insolvency problem on a major, major scale. One of the largest collapses we have ever had. 16-odd thousand workers affected, and a massive number of those are union members. It is affecting every State and every region, every major town and city in the country - and it is a very, very complex insolvency. We have got well over 2 million creditors in the company - including ticket holders and frequent fliers.
In terms of the scope of it, it is larger in that it affects more workers; it affects more areas of the country than the waterfront. But equally contested. The other similarity I guess is that it has been a difficult struggle with the Howard government. The waterfront obviously was, but so is the Ansett issue.
We have been involved in what you could only describe as a lot of trench warfare with the Howard government to try and stave off the liquidation of Ansett and protect the jobs. So I am having a fair bit of déjà vu and I am still learning about corporations law. I learned a lot in 1998 in the waterfront thing about corporations law, but I am learning even more now. There is a PR similarity.
I guess the change is that you are actually working with the administrator and there aren't those obvious legal and industrial tactics that would normally be used in a dispute. Is this a new territory for unions? To actually play such a role at this stage in a company's evolution?
Yes it is. I guess with the desire to play a role in the administration process and to try and save the company, also comes more responsibility, and often times in the past we have been caught in the position where for a whole lot of reasons, not through any failure of the unions but because of how the corporations laws operated, we have essentially been there just battling to get the best out of a liquidation of a company. In this one we have got in very early and changed the administrators so that we would have a chance of trying to rescue the company and save jobs. And that essentially means that you have got a key involvement in the administration process in terms of representing creditors and in terms of trying to get jobs up. So you have got to play a very active role in the administration - and that is what we have been doing.
What is your end game though?
The end game is to get a buyer for the airline and get as many Ansett workers as we can into a job, and for those that don't keep a job, to get 100% of their entitlements paid.
Along the way you have got to manage the administration so that you can maximize the value of the assets, get government support for the entitlements, and bring buyers on-stream so that the company can be sold. That is the process, and the objectives have always been to save as many jobs as possible and protect 100% of the entitlements.
Obviously you have had to make some trade offs, particularly in terms of the wages and conditions of the staff on Ansett Mark II. Are you concerned as to ripples that is causing in Qantas?
Oh yes, but the main game if you like for the employers and the government in the aviation industry during the last six months, well before Ansett was put on the ground, has been to drive the wages and employment conditions down. We have been very conscious of that in dealing with any bidders for Ansett. Obviously the unions and the ACTU are as determined as possible to protect the existing pay and conditions and to try and win the argument that it is not people's wages that are the problem. There has been terrible management, a failure of government policies. And you can get this thing viable by improving the cost structure and improving productivity and efficiency; getting the staffing levels right; and make it viable without cutting people's pay. We are engaged in very vigorous debates every day at the moment about those issues - and that is a very important argument in terms of protecting people's wages and conditions within Qantas also.
Corporate collapses in the current global climate are hardly groundbreaking news, but can we really blame the Federal government for what is going on?
I have been following and have been involved in this Ansett issue for some time - the ACTU has for years - and we knew earlier in the year that Ansett was in trouble. What has transpired now is that we didn't know to the level of detail that the government knew, about just how much money Ansett was losing and just how serious the financial troubles were. The Federal government were briefed on it as far back as June, and then consistently kept up to date by Air New Zealand, and yet the Federal government did nothing, and you can only interpret their actions in supporting Qantas throughout the whole process and essentially keeping hands off Ansett, that they were quite happy to see Ansett go down. It really is a failure of policy in dealing with a crisis with a major airline, but also it is a terrible indictment of competition policy in the aviation industry, all of this.
You've seen Compass One go down. Compass Two go down. Impulse disappear. Now Ansett in this terrible state. It is just not an industry where you can open it up and expect that there is not going to be calamities.
Moving on to the Federal Election, Labor has announced its IR agenda. How close is that to the model you would like to see implemented?
It has got a lot of the key elements that unions adopted at the ACTU Congress last year in IR policy that we carried, and a lot of common elements with the issues that we have been arguing. There is an emphasis on the importance of the award system and its being able to provide relevant and fair and comprehensive protection for people. That is a cornerstone of Labor policy and a cornerstone of Union policy. In addition, there is an emphasis in Labor policy on the role of the Commission, and ACTU policy also sees that the Commission needs to have greater powers and capacity than it does under the Liberal's legislation.
There is also an emphasis on collective bargaining rights in Labor's policy, and of course that is a critical issue for unions and workers in workplaces. And there are a number of other elements too, but those are three essential pillars that are in the Labor policy.
In addition, you have got the 100% of worker entitlements being protected through a national scheme. That is something we have been fighting for. You have got recognition of the rights of delegates in Labor's policy - that is also something we are arguing for. So we are quite pleased about the Labor policy. No doubt there are lots of issues about detail. If Labor wins and drafts a Bill there will be a lot of issues to deal with, but the fundamental pillars of it are in accord with the union movement's policies.
Are there any stark omissions in there? Anything that you would have liked to have seen that they haven't addressed?
They go to things like Junior Rates of Pay. That is a continuing sore between Labor and the unions. There may be at the end of the day when we get to formulating legislation if Labor wins, when it formulates legislation there may be issues about what the award system might actually provide. There is a question as to whether it should continue to be a safety net. That is the casting of Labor policy, whereas unions would see that the awards have just got to be brought up to a market level so that they can be effective and relevant and provide a level playing field.
There are a lot of issues like that that are important ones, where in working out the detail I am sure there is going to be a bit of hustle and bustle.
What is your greatest concern about another term of the Howard government?
Well, I think it would just be disastrous for the workforce. There is a continuing depletion of funds out of public education and health. And in the industrial relations environment I am sure that there will be yet another round of industrial legislation changes proposed by Howard, and you can back that in that it is going to try to destroy people's collective bargaining rights, impose individual contracts on them, further destroy the award system and the role of the Commission, and give wider power to the employer. That is going to be disastrous for working people. Their ability to advance their interests at work, to lift their living standards, to protect their health and safety at work - all those things are the things that the Liberals intend undermining.
It is a very important election from that point of view, and I am sure that people understand that.
Given that it looks like an increasingly tough election for Labor to win, just looking forward if Howard is returned, will it be business as usual for the ACTU, or do you think there will need to be a rethink of how the unions are going about their business?
Regardless of the election result, I think that unions have got the fundamentals right about the things that we have got to be doing to rebuild and reorganize and attract more people - organize more people into unions and to advance living standards of workers.
They are the fundamentals and so you have got to look at the mechanisms by which we can achieve those fundamental objectives. We have got in place now across the movement over the last couple of years, a strategy to focus on the workplace, focus on delegates, involve people in the workplace in collective bargaining, build our campaign capacity, try and use better campaigning techniques - including using information technology in a more clever way. Those are the fundamentals.
We have also got an increasing focus on the areas of jobs growth in the economy. The services sector. There is a massive way to go, but we see that it will be a five to ten year programme to really make an impact in some of these areas.
I am determined to continue the focus on those things, regardless of who wins the election. The election result however, can have a big influence on the environment in which we are pursuing those objectives, and obviously changes to the IR laws are very important. They do have an important impact.
But the ACTU's focus in terms of IR laws is very much on ensuring that working people have got the right to organize and collectively bargain; that delegates will have rights; that we have got a fair award system to underpin it all; and the Commission to go to when there is a dispute that needs to be sorted out.
So, it is not going to deflect us from our central methods of achieving our objectives, but it can certainly have a big influence on the environment in which we have got to operate, and that is really what is at stake.
Finally, the Labor Council launched the IT Workers Alliance recently, and we have received more than 100 people signing up in that time. What message would you send to these new members of the union movement?
Well, I think as you can see, as the economy has been turning down, and especially since the Tech Wreck in the US, there has been a bubble burst in the IT sector, and what that has exposed I think to a lot of employees in the sector is that things aren't quite as secure and rosy and hip and groovy as they might have appeared at one time. There are still very fundamental questions about job security. There are fundamental issues about protection of your entitlements - your living standards - and people are realizing that collective organization in the workplace is important. And unions are the vehicles for that.
I think people are understanding that, and I encourage them to be involved in the IT Alliance. To find out what unions are on about. To start to join together, and to organize. To make sure that employees have got a good future in the IT and communications industry in this country, people will have to be organized, and if the IT Alliance can help bring that organization about, then it is a great initiative and we are very supportive of it.
We've got 8 days. 8 days to make a difference for our people - working Australians.
Jobs and job security - that is the message from these forums. We are beginning with capital city meetings as a lead up to a week of intense activity in marginal seats right across Australia, and hopefully in every workplace. That is where you are critical. The delegates amongst you.
Every day we hear of further job losses. Every Australian knows a family member or friend who has been made redundant or been forced to work in casual jobs. You can see some of the representatives here today who demonstrate the courage not to just stand up for themselves, but in standing up for working people right across the country.
We all know the stories of working families. We all know those who have been denied millions of dollars in lost entitlements, and we all know John Howard has stood back and done nothing to protect or to create jobs.
The Howard Government has a roll call of shame. And it is worth listening too.
In the Commonwealth Public Service we've seen 35,000 jobs disappear.
You have the companies with more than 1,000 job losses: ANZ, Westpac, Commonwealth, National Australian Bank, Ansett, Telstra, Australian Tax Office, One Tel, BHP, Franklins, Amcor, Coles Myer - Target, Daimaru and HIH.
There are the companies with between 500 and 1000 job losses: Bradmill, Optus, Pacific Dunlop - South Pacific Tyres, Accenture, Mitsubishi, Gate Gourmet, OneSteel and Harris Scarffe.
And those between 100 and 500 workers: Arnotts, Clark's Shoes, Vodafone, BT Funds Management, Australian Submarine Corporation, Chapmans Smallgoods, Orica, SAMCOR, ABC, Solectron, Thomas Clark Australia, Consolidated Apparel, Levi Strauss, Lucent Technologies, Sheridan, Barron Entertainment, Fletcher Jones, Mt Schank Meatworks, Alcatel, Dimension Data, Fox Studios, Nestle, Cisco, Commander Communications, Adelaide Bridgeton Cement, Bridgestone and Nortel.
And then the jobs at risk - the ones we have heard of in the last few weeks: Pasminco, Sydney Airport, Merrill Lynch, Hutchison Telecom (that's the Orange network), Hewlett Packard, AMP, Crown Casino, Medibank Private, Fairfax, News Limited, Mariott Hotel Group.
That is the Howard Government's list of shame - and there are hundreds of thousands of jobs in small businesses right across Australia - at risk - that we can't even locate.
NAB says it has to cut $500 million when the banks have made billions in profits and yet they continue to cut jobs. They have got no commitment to customer service or staff loyalty and there is no legislation that even seeks to make them reinvest the people's money that they make profit from in the people of Australia.
And then yesterday, Morgan & Banks (now calling themselves TPM Worldwide), released their outlook survey to track job offers from people who hire or recruit, and they say that their latest survey is the worst on record.
So we know that in the year following the introduction of the GST 160,000 full time jobs were wiped out. Youth unemployment has risen from 20.8% to 25.4% and what has this government done about it?
Well, let's take a little look at Ansett. Did the government work to protect jobs? No, not last year when they could have actually looked at the Singapore bid. Not again in June, where Singapore wanted to buy in and wanted some help. Not in August and not in September, when the company asked for help.
These people should be called "job killers".
This is an edited extract from Sharan Burrow's address to the Sydney Jobs Forum
Weekend: Howard's Baby Bonanza
The election auction is up and running after the weekend launch of the Liberals' campaign. In lieu of coherent policy, the Libs revert to their grand tradition of throwing money at the electorate. There's been some great campaigns appealing to the electorate's baser instincts in the past; who could forget the Fraser Government's fistful of dollars tax pledge? Only, having frittered away the surplus, there is only about a billion to throw - which means targeting the largesse. And the target is new families, specifically supporting stay at home mums - and the richer the mum, the greater the largesse, with payments based on the previous year's salary. While the tactics assure some baby-kissing front-line schmaltz it remains to be seen whether the electorate will see this 'policy' as anything more than the $20 per week back-hander it is.
More instructive than the Howard address is the rousing reception that Phillip Ruddock receives at the launch - he is revered as a sort of modern day John Wayne. He's earned his legend status amongst the Libs for implementing the party's masterful 'wedge politics' play of securing our national borders, even if he's trashed our national reputation in the process. His credentials as a 'wet' may lay in tatters but he will be remembered as a hero of the Hard Right for his stewardship of immigration. More boatpeople news stories follow on the evening news, this time a boat that has allegedly gone missing after the 'boatpeople' took the people traffickers 'hostage' off Lombok. It emerges later the ship has been found, but not before the headlines delivered some more secretly coded benefits to the Bad Guys.
The problem that does emerge for the government over the weekend is the Coalition's plan to privatise Telstra. Costello let it slip last week as he attempted to poke holes in Labor's policy costings. Seems the Libs have earmarked money from the full sale of Telstra into the budget from 2003. The Nationals run protection under the line, "absolutely no sale of Telstra until regional service levels are met", but the questions remain - what levels and on whose say so? This is the sort of doublespeak that gives politics a bad name; if they're going to flog it, just say so. The Labor negative adverts are beginning to run - and they're right on the money - reelect Howard and wave good bye to public ownership of Telstra.
Monday: The Dream Run
The front pages are plastered with images of babies and the extended Howard family, as good an advertisement as one could get against the policy platform. Of course the Telegraph is the cheesiest with a cartoon of Howard in diapers building the graph that shows the punters how much they'll save. It's all soft and uncritical, although the reactions from voters are instructive. One young woman is quoted as saying the money would be better going into education and health, which is Labor's point exactly.
The whole Howard show goes to expose the enduring differences between the two parties - Labor believes in collective approaches - an education and health system - the Liberals believe in giving the resources straight to the individual. Labor's problem is that self-interest will always take the money first, until there is some form of engagement and explanation on the benefits of acting collectively. It's instructive that this type of language is completely missing from the campaign, not because Labor doesn't get it, but because they're afraid the electorate won't. It's the 'aspirational' analysis pioneered by Della in NSW that has gone to undermine so many Labor values. We'll treat the public like they're greedy and then try and trick them into vote for the collectivists. When you treat them like that, it's a hard sell.
But Beazley is continuing to sell another rush of policy announcements - there must be three or four a day now - everything from Kim's Plan for Cancer (better access to treatment) to his Plan for Contemporary Music (same as 1998, only softer on parallel importations). They're not getting the attention they deserve though, Kim's plan to improve Medicare, for instance, gets nothing more than a postage stamp-sized run in the Telegraph. But there's better coverage in the Herald, even an arty shot with Beazley and a bub. Babies aside, it's Telstra's that's getting the most purchase, the Nationals in damage control and Costello and Howard trying to neutralize the issue. But the sale's in the budget and there's nowhere to hide and Labor will continue to flog it for all its worth.
Tuesday: Reality Checks
The Australian trumpets the ominous message - "Labor in Deep Trouble", details of the latest Newspoll show Labor's surge back into the contest stalling. It's right next to another photo of Howard and the Mrs terrifying some more young Mums. The baby gimmick is being worked in spades by Howard and they're all white babies too. Could this be another coded message to the mass voting public terrified by the influx of hoardes of foreigners who will rape and pillage our homeland? They're not honest enough to say it, but it's between the lines - we need more white people. Are they this evil? Is this what the Baby Bonus is really all about?
It's not a good day for Beazley. Laurie Oakes hammers him for evading, then admitting meeting BHP's John Prescott over a Keating idea to sell Telstra in 1996. Beazley claims he was there to listen "as an opponent to selling Telstra". It's been a line peddled around the Canberra for months, but now it has currency. Howard is desperate to make capital out of it - he's the one planning to privatize the carrier after all, but even he mustn't be able to believe his luck With the Libs squirming around on their not so secret sales plan, it's not just a diversion, but further reinforces their subterranean message that Beazley is all over the place on policy.
The media mark it down as a technical foul for Kim. His sin? Trying to block questions early in the day, then being flushed out - it means Howard gets to run two doorstops on the issue and the Beaze has to sweat twice. The drawn-out response means the story dominates three cycles of news, when it could have been blocked at the start of the day. The only upside for Beazley is that the war on terror is again dominating the evening bulletins - all the elements: bombs in Afghanistan, more anthrax in the US, Afghani refugees rioting in Indonesia and the Australian navy towing another leaky boat back out to sea. At the end of the day, if the world is on the brink of a Holy War, who really cares what happens to a phone company?
Wednesday: Bouncing Back
A fresh poll, a fresh set of numbers - this time Morgan puts Labor four points in front. I want some of whatever they're taking. Still, the fluctuating polls hammer home the reality that there has not been a single vote cast at this point in the campaign. As the Chaser boys keep observing from the National Tallyroom - "at this stage it's too close to call". 10 days out and the election is still very much a side-show - even compared to 1998 when the footy finals dominated and noone gave Labor much of a chance, there was a real buzz around the place by this stage - it's been lost this time, not the least because the one issue that would generate serious passion for labor - a humanitarian response to the boatpeople - has been neutralised.
Undaunted, Beazley launches Labor's policy at Hurstville Civic Centre - the feel is very Tony Blair - the luminescent blue backdrop - the focus group feedback replacing a campaign theme - "Jobs, Health, Education". There's been a growing number of British accents in the Sussex Street lifts and the suspicion is they've been recruited to show the colonials how to win. Beazley is jumpy for what is the most important set-piece since the debate - after each line he grins sheepishly - almost giggles - is it nerves, over-buffing from the image makers or an attempt just to lighten up and let himself go for what could be the last hurrah of his public life? As his address unfolds, the profound injustice of this campaign crystallizes: Beazley is so much better on the hustings than his opponent, he just can't get the space to engage.
And there's substance the Knowledge Nation concept - $1 billion for education, big bucks for remedial teaching and IT training, the flesh on the Knowledge Nation bones. Beazley strains against every prolix sinew and sticks to the tightly-worded speech. He even summarises the Knowledge Nation to one word 'jobs' and wraps it into the sort of rhetoric that would kill a peace-time election, thinking smarter to provide greater opportunities for the generations to come, the State as the facilitator of national efforts to lead the world in biotechnology, IT and environmental sustainability. It all holds together, which makes it even more dumbfounding why they let Barry Jones loose on it. What does emerge is that Labor has a long-term plan, a plan that would make Labor a shoe-in if it weren't for outside factors.
Thursday: Casualties of War
Beazley's launch is well-received - front page treatment and positive commentary. At last people can see what the Knowledge Nation is really about - thinking for the long-term. At last the voters have a clear distinction between the Howard and Beazley agendas. You can see what the Labor strategists have been holding out for - a coherent, slick package that brings out the best in Beazley and the people he wants to vote for him. Even in the current climate, the big media hitters play it up, thankful to have something at last to analyse after the minimalism of the Liberals' launch.
Unions hold nationwide meetings to highlight the issues of jobs and job security. Beazley delivers a pre-recorded video message promising to begin the repair work form the day he takes office. Again it was the demands of war that have swamped the event, original plans to have Beazley address workers live via Sky Channel were scuppered when their were troops to send off to the War on Terror. The issue of jobs is the missing link from Labor's trifecta of key issues: Health, Education and Jobs. The roll call of job losses in recent times is stark and could undermine the Howard government economic credentials if anyone had the time or the attention to take notice.
But the war encroaches yet again, Labor's candidate in the marginal seat of Gilmore, Peter Knott, scores national headlines by being quoted by a local paper as saying what most CNN commentators are now saying: that US foreign policy is implicated in the Septemeber 11 tragedy. Like Anthony Mundine, this is regarded as heresy; Howard tries to link it to Pauline Hanson's overtly racist comments before the 1996 election and calls Beazley to drop Knott from the ticket. The media happily lap it up. In the wartime hysteria Knott is forced into a humiliating and Orwellesque apology - IO was wrong to have these thoughts. The whole sorry episode highlights the dangers that lie in patriotic bipartisanship on a complex geopolitical issue. But the short-term damage is starker - it's knocked the Knowledge Nation off the front page.
Friday: The Holy Jihad
The Taliban branch of the Liberal Party campaign swings into action, giving Howard the dream headline - 'Jihad on Australia'. We are no longer just sending troops overseas, we are now the targets of terrorism. It just keeps getting worse for Beazley: who cares about education when we are being attacked? The newspapers are beginning to report that Beazley has privately stated he needs a 'miracle' and the recriminations are beginning. Not for a bad campaign - it's been good in the traditional sense; but for the lack of flexibility when the extraordinary events overtook the master plan.
For Beazley there's now just seven days to bring it home. He'll criss-cross the country and stick to the script. He'll outperform Howard on policy and personality, he will win swinging voters and charm reporters. He will paint a picture of optisim, of engagement with the future and a world linked by new technology. He will agree with Howard on foreign policy, while differentiating Labor on the domestic front. He'll push his themes of health, education and jobs. He will fight it to the line and he will shine in the process. But, I fear, it will all be to little avail
While some around me are keeping upbeat, I just can't see the impossible happening. The reports for each marginal is that "things are really promising", but it doresn;t wash with me. Look back at the climate when the two most recent Labor Administrations won power: Whitlam and Hawke. In both cases there was a mood of optimism within the community, an awakening - something that I would argue is a prerequisite for a government with a reform agenda. And now? We seem more scared and inward-looking than at any time in the past 30 years. Partly though the world events, partly through the masterful maneuverings of our arch-conservative leader. By luck and good management, Howard has created the perfect climate for a conservative regime: fear and loathing.
by Peter Lewis
You can call it what you like: workplace relations, security at work, common human decency; there's a yearning for someone to come up with a response to the growing fear that the world of work is now a lottery.
With a steady stream of corporate collapses seeing workers left on the scrap-heap - often with thousands of dollars in unpaid entitlements - Australians are looking for solutions to some basic questions which go to their basic quality of life:
· how can I make my job secure so I can make plans for the future?
· is there a limit to the demands of hours I must work to keep my job?
· if my job disappears, what happens then?
The pointy-heads will tell you that workplace insecurity is a fact of life - a necessary flow-on from the benefits of economic deregulation which has seen more capital flowing into the economy, creating more jobs, even if they are less secure. They will tell you there are no easy answers, that we have traded off security for opportunity.
Over the past decade, this logic has been used top erode our system of industrial relations - by first the Keating and then the Howard Governments. That system was based on a comprehensive award system - with wages and conditions centrally set on an industry by industry basis, by a strong and independent industrial umpire. It was a system that's wet Australia apart form most other nations in the world and was the foundations for our ethos as an egalitarian nation.
Two major changes have undermined this system: first the push from awards to enterprise-based bargaining (under the former Labor Government) and then, under Howard, to individual bargaining. Parallel to this shift has been an aggressive push by some employers, supported by the conservative government, to de-unionise their workplaces by offering attractive contracts up front as an inducement to leave the union (knowing any extra expenditure now will be more than compensated later when the workers are no longer organized collectively).
At the same time as the award system has been weakened, so have the powers of the Industrial Relations Commission. Once the umpire had power to order parties to the negotiating table and broker a fair deal. Today its role is limited to applying penalties on parties (usually unions) that break the complex rules designed by the Howard Government to prevent them from properly representing their workers.
So faced with a grim world of work where there are no rules and no umpire, its hardly surprising that the issues are coming up as serious concerns in all the polling and focus groups. The challenge for the political parties is to come up with solutions, in an area where there are no easy answers.
The Howard Government's policy could be subtitled "you're not really hurting" or "tale your medicine, it will do you good, really". The Liberals believe the market is our best protector; that the market hates rules, so we should have fewer of them..
Howard argues the government has not gone far enough in deregulating industrial relations. The hung Senate in his first term forced Peter Reith to water down his preferred package and both the PM and his heir apparent Peter Costello, have flagged in the campaign that they'll revisit IR. A quick flick through the Liberals policy "Choice and Reward in a Changing Workplace" gives an idea of the flavour of this agenda.
The Liberals like talking about 'flexibility' - that is code for minimizing the number of rules an employer needs to abide by. Flexibility will be used to justify exempting small businesses from abiding by unfair dismissal laws - meaning there will be two classes of workers with different rights, depending on the size of the business they work in. Flexibility will also be the justification for further stripping away the award system and the powers of the IRC. There's also the promise to protect workers entitlements, although with more fine print than a scratch lottery ticket. Redundancy, is defined as the "community standard" of just eight weeks, even though most agreements - and even the NSW standard - have far more generous clauses. The only situation where eight weeks will be a "community standard" is when Abbott gets back and hacks away at this hard-won right.
Then there are the 'rights' for workers - rights such as forcing secret ballots before strikes and further toughening the secondary boycott laws. Given that withholding labour is the one armory a worker has at its disposal, the Coalition's plan reads a little like unilateral disarmament - workers will have the right to have vastly reduced scope to assert their rights. How this agenda will do anything other than further erode job security is a mystery, but if a landscape without minimum standards or independent scrutiny makes someone feel secure
Labor has repackaged its industrial relations policy as 'Security at Home', believing industrial relations casts Labor too close to the blue-collar unions. Pity, as its ties with a union movement with a public support base of 59 per cent (according to last Labor Council poll) should be regarded as a positive.
Regardless, Kim Beazley aptly launched Labor's policy in front of a group of dispossessed Ansett workers a couple of weeks ago. The plight of their unpaid entitlements is a major issue that is resonating across the country as more and more companies hit the wall. Labor's comprehensive protection - including full redundancy - delivered via a small increase in super contributions is a key difference between the parties.
Labor's other initiatives are to wind back some of the excesses of the Howard Government and bring industrial relations back to the Industrial Relations Commission. This includes giving the IRC the power to order parties to 'bargain in good faith', preventing the long and inhumane lock-outs which employers have used to break collective action by workers. The six-month Joy Manufacturing dispute was only the worst example of this tactic - which has returned to the industrial landscape under the Howard Government.
A Beazley Government would also wind back the spread of individual contracts by outlawing AWAs - the formal mechanism for scrutinizing and registering contracts - although there would be nothing stopping contracts outside the formal system. Its akin to the difference between rogue terrorism and state-sponsored terrorism - at least the government would not be pushing the model onto the workforce in the way it is now.
Labor has also promised to abolish the Employment Advocate, the body that has spent millions of taxpayers hard earned harassing unions when all the evidence says the biggest problem is that workers are too scared to join unions. Part of that money will go back into strengthening the AIRC, as well as the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission - two institutions that have taken a battering under the Coalition. So Labor's vision is about strengthening the institutions and framework for industrial relations. Retro policy? Perhaps. But if we accept we've taken the wrong fork in the reform road, the only way is to return to the crossroads and try something a bit more sophisticated than busting the unions.
The Minor Parties
Both the Democrats and the Greens are jockeying for Labor preferences, so their plans on industrial relations make for some interesting reading. Both parties recognise the legitimacy of trade union rights and the need to strengthen the IRC. Interestingly, both put an emphasis on a unitary industrial relations system - which ignored the fact that the Labor states currently have far stronger safeguards for workers.
The Democrats dress their policy up as being about balance "With Labor representing the interests of the big unions and the Coalition the interests of big business, the Democrats play a crucial part in ensuring that industrial laws are fair to all sides," their preamble reads. The Democrats have some Brownie points already for their work in the Senate in resisting some of the more noxious elements of the Howard-Reith reform packages. But they have to wear agreement on issues like AWAs and the weakening of the AIRC's powers that they allowed through the Senate in 1996.
The Democrats' 2001 policy speaks of strengthening the national and international labour institutions; softening the secondary boycott laws, removing common law damages against parties in industrial disputes and abolition of junior rates of pay. Interestingly the Democrats also explicitly support 'service fees' levied against non-members, something that state Labor Governments have explicitly ruled out.
The Greens industrial relations agenda is hidden on their website under their policy for 'Society'. The policy says all the right things - remove secondary boycott provisions, a national training accreditation scheme, support for unions, state support for women and the unemployed in the workplace, strengthening the AIRC and promoting collective agreements. An interesting green initiative is its support for employee-owned businesses - which dovetails with Tony Abbott's vocal support for employee share ownership initiatives.
More than the Democrats, the Greens push is for a return to the centralized industrial relations system - initiatives include legislative safeguards forcing employers to recognize and negotiate with unions and the re-imposition of a comprehensive federal award system. Indeed, the greens go further than Labor in asserting the roles of trade unions in the system - while Labor stresses the idea of choice, the Greens' model would place unions back at the center of the workplace equation.
In many ways, the Greens and Democrat policies reflect the old political divides. The Democrats policy can be read as "wet Liberal" - individual freedoms with recognition of the legitimacy of unions; the Greens a pre-Keating labor agenda where unions are part of the solution, rather than just a player.
As for One Nation? The self-styled Agrarian Socialist party has yet to post an IR policy on its website, although Hanson's voting record when in the Senate suggests she'd back further reforms form the Liberals.
The major parties offer a stark contrast - the Coalition will deregulate the labour market further, while Labor will pare back some, but not all, of the Reith agenda. The Democrats and Greens offer enough to be confident they would use any power they may bring to the Senate to stymie wholesale reform by a Coalition Government and broadly support the Labor agenda.
Back to our original question - is there a solution to this deep feeling of insecurity? - the answer is simple. Only one side is even trying: which is why a vote for a Beazley Government will be the only vote for job security.
Industry policy hasn't been anywhere in the commentary on this election, except from unions in the context of closure of industry and redundancy entitlements.
The ALP has finally started really talking about its Knowledge Nation plans, showing that industry policy does not just mean smoke and steel, but also technological knowledge.
The importance of knowing and making things to many sectors has been emphasised by political economists and unions and ignored for years by governments. Tim Harcourt recently in workers online talked about exporters, but he didn't talk about any overall strategy for developing industry. Many on the right deride government intervention in the economy.
Indeed former Labor Council Secretary Micahel Costa and his mate Mark Duffy accepted the astonishing argument of Industry Commission abacuses that Japans economic success up to 1990 was in spite of, not because of, their Minstry of International Trade and Investment (MITI). Its because the Right have this problem about government interference. Interference to drive down wages and conditions is allowing the market free reign but interference to back ideas is a no-no. Of course they realize that picking winners in industry is like picking your nose, everyone does it, but no one wants to admit it.
But picking isn't the point here. The importance of industry policy, especially in high technology manaufacturing, has been highlighted in particular by political economists. Phil Toner, George Argyrous and Frank Stilwell, amongst others, have pressed the point in articles in the Journal of Australian Political Economy and in Stilwell's book Changing Track.
Toner puts it like this: "manufacturing industry has a number of inter-related characteristics which, taken individually or collectively, provide an important case for its continuing significance in the Australian economy. Firstly, there is the crucial role in technical change through high levels of research and development and product and process innovation. This innovation is not only important in raising the productivity of manufacturing industry, but the diffusion of these products to all industries economy-wide efficiency and innovation. Secondly manufacturing industry accounts for 50% of long-run productivity growth in the Australian economy. Thirdly, manufacturing has a key role in the maintenance of high wage employment."
Harcourt's emphasis on the export sector avoided the issue of the "high road or the low road" to industrial development. George Argyrous notes that "the high road is most likely to build economic prosperity through industrial cooperation and strong worker rewards.... The 'low road' relies on conflict and insecurity, control and harsh worker punishments" Which road sounds most familiar to you in the current environment?
The ALP Knowledge Nation is taking on some of these issues. Boosts to CSIRO (even if in the form of tax subsidies) and crucially the 35000 Knowledge Nation apprenticeships are nods in the right direction.
The employers and the Coalition see the way to boost employment and growth as by cutting wages and longer hours. Productivity has grown in Australia mainly by making people work longer hours, rather than because of industrial innovation or "working smarter".
Structural economic change has been swamping the Australian workplace, and the ALP and the Coalition have argued that it is inevitable but have then failed to develop policy to make the shift work for people in Australia, rather than for international capital. All of them have been committed to tariff cuts since the Whitlam era, but the Alp refused to take into account the Australia Reconstructed proposals of 1987. Indeed industry minister Button said he had never bothered with the document, which, whatever its faults was a real attempt to deal with structural change. Earlier, the AMWU had published a Policy for Industry Development and More Jobs (1984). This had analysed the constraints on Australian economic development and presented a range of proposals for industry intervention strategies.
Toner points to great array of empirical evidence that highlights the central role of manufacturing in the growth of per capita output ie it effects a wide range of people jobs and regions. It is necessary to maintain (or regain) a large and competitive manufacturing industry.
This competitiveness should come from the high road to development. Argyrous looks to Marx's aphorism that "every capitalist wants the wages of their own workers to be low but the wages of every other capitalist to be high." He argues that, contrary to popular myth, "Australian-based firms can be competitive in the production of mass produced goods, but not through the low road strategy of cheapening labour and lowering standards". Globalisation had made the high road strategy of high tech, high productivity and economies of scale even more necessary. Small scale producers of high value commodities interacting with mass producers is the role to a successful global manufacturing industry in Australia, in his view.
Neo liberal policies as pursued by the Howard government are incapable of developing a structured approach and are content to see a wind back of wages and conditions as "the solution", despite a great record of failure in this area.
Frank Stilwell sums an alternative with four central planks:
· policies to nuture industrial innovation as the economic benefits are wide ranging
· fostering industries with environmentally sustainable objectives; good for the earth good for jobs and the economy
· industrial clusters with a regional focus. The Nationals and Country Labor profess regional concerns but only seem interested in Telstra services rather than the dramatic rundown of much of the non-metropolitan economy over the past 20 years, the same period that has seen the national farmers push for more of the policies that have undermined the livelihoods of the people they claim to represent
· a new institution for the public control of investment, particularly of the vast resources of superannuation funds. Australia Reconstructed proposed a National Development Fund years ago, another plank of that document that wasn't even a blip on the radar screen.
See for further enlightenment:
Journal of Australian Political Economy; no 45, June 2000, particularly the articles by Toner and Argyrous., but also Iain Campbell on casual employment, and Don Munro on the Knowledge Economy. Also the earlier issue reviewing Australia Reconstructed after 10 years
ACTU/TDC Mission to Western Europe. Australia Reconstructed (1987)
Frank Stilwell. Changing Track: a new political economic direction for Australia (Pluto Press, 2000)
Paul Boreham, Geoff Dow and Martin leet. Room to Manoeuvre: political aspects of full employment (Melbourne University Press, 1999)
by Neale Towart
Three PMs: Curtin, Fadden and Menzies
John Curtin didn't quite get the majority in the September 1940 federal elections, but the result showed that the public was through with Menzies and the United Australia Party. The ALP got there on the floor of the house 13 months later.
Paul Hasluck noted that the 1940 campaign was brief. Government campaigning was less intensive than usual, with Menzies taking the view that the Government would be commending itself to the electorate by its undertaking the war effort. Hasluck saw the main issue as whether the war effort was best left to the responsible types in the UAP (such as himself) or handed to the ALP.
Some also felt that a government of national unity should be put in place for the duration.
Other issues that got a lot of attention was petrol rationing that the UAP government had introduced and a claim by wheat growers for special assistance, a claim the government resisted but the ALP promised to act upon.
The ALP's difficulties going into 1940 were enormous, or at least the section of the ALP that Curtin led. In NSW Lang's Non-Communist Labor Party was the largest and most noisy. Then there was the Hughes-Evans group. Curtin's ALP was the smallest. However Curtin was gaining in stature and seemed able to pull the party together despite factional divisions (Lang excepted). The split was only official in NSW. The poor showing of the UAP assisted Curtin's emergence as an alternative PM despite the ALP infighting. The internal dissent from Menzies on the conservative side got a bit of attention. ALP supporters in NSW were alarmed at the fighting in NSW but the Curtin groups decision to use the term Official ALP was the best move they made.
Another big plus for Curtin's group was Doc Evatt's decision to resign from the High Court and stand for the ALP. Evatt didn't get a clear run however, and had to contest against a sitting UAP member.
Curtin quickly broadcast that the ALP would prosecute the war actively alongside other British Commonwealth nations. He also promised to increase pay for the militia and the A.I.F, guaranteed higher wheat prices and the restoration of the Commonwealth line of steamers to ensure cheap transport of primary products overseas. Also on the list were an increase in old age and invalid pensions and a review of taxation to make assessments conform with the ability of people to pay. Themes that are strangely familiar.
The ALP also campaigned heavily on Menzies and co. having conducted the war effort poorly so far, and in a way that had favoured the privileged in the community.
Menzies approach was pretty bleak and uninspiring, calling for a national effort and emphasising ALP divisions.
Another striking similarity with today was a dispute about the ALP's commitment to certain national security regulations. Curtin made this a winning point as he emphasized the ALP National Executives ability to make decisions in this area and to ensure party unity. Curtin during the campaign also began what we see today as his hallmark - his promotion of Australia's national security as a priority, not something that was per favour of the British government. His later recall of Australian troops during the war was the most famous example of this.
Curtin almost cost himself a seat in the federal parliament, even as he lifted the ALP to equality with the UAP in the final count. For days after the election he seemed certain to lose his seat of Freemantle (another aspect he seems to share with Beazley who looked a possibility to lose his seat in 1998 before winning comfortably and almost lost in in 1996) because he had to spend so much time attending to the ALP in NSW. The close result for Curtin was seen from two perspectives. It was perhaps a source of strength for the ALP afterwards as they realised how important his role was and thus it served to unite the disparate groupings. Some rivals in the ALPIt saw it as a problem for his leadership. He was shaky in his own electorate, and others were ambitious, notably Evatt and Calwell. One of Curtin's great achievements was to maintain the leadership and to be able harness Evatt's undoubted abilities to a solid ALP cause, despite Evatt being thwarted in his ambitions at the time..
Another significant gain for the ALP was the re-election of Ben Chifley. Chifley's candidature was also part of the general ALP push to reunite in NSW. Curtin and former PM Scullin were keen to get Chifley and Evatt back in. He had previously been a federal member from 1928-31 under Scullin (he was defence minister at that time). The NSW factions were at each other over the war effort and much else (the attitude to Russia was causing ructions from the Left). Then it seemed Evatt would seek the seat of Macquarie that Chifley had pre-selection for. Chifley was in hospital at the time with pneumonia. The nurses actually worked for Chifley on the polling booths. Evatt got the Barton endorsement instead.
The election result saw a deadlock The new House of Reps had 32 ALP, 4 Langites, 2 independents, 14 Country Party and 22 UAP. With the UAP providing the speaker, there was equal strength of the majors.
The two independents, Alex Wilson and A W Coles, followed the UAP/Country Party. The ALP did well in NSW and lost ground in Tasmania.
Before the election the ALP had 27 seats, and the Non-Communist ALP had 5. The UAP had 25, Country Party 16 and the Independent Country Party 1.
HEADING TO THE GOVERNMENT BENCHES
Following the election, concern about Japanese policy gradually sharpened focus, and the war in Europe looked worse for the allies.. Menzies was still keen to have a national unity government. Curtin remained opposed to the notion, but was willing to support an Australian War Council, with representatives from all political parties, to advise and assist the government in the war effort. The government accepted the proposal. Jack Beasley was head of the Langites and they also were drawn into Curtin's proposal, a big step towards unity of the ALP factions.
However, the Advisory Council and its role also led many in the ALP to see Curtin as being to close to Menzies. He was carrying co-operation too far they thought. Evatt was one who thought they should use their strength to move against Menzies and UAP. Eddie ward and Arthur Calwell were vociferous opponents of Curtin's approach.
The Advisory Council wanted to bring naval forces closer to home. Curtin was a prime mover in the move to ensure Australia was adequately defended from a Japanese threat. Many on the left saw some war preparedness as attempts to intimidate militant workers, particularly in a dispute at Newcastle. Curtin met with union leaders about his fears and their concerns.
On top of these issues, the Beasley group proposed terms on which it would unite with the ALP. Curtin told them that they should ask the NSW Executive of the ALP to readmit them as individual members. They responded angrily but Curtin wasn't budging. Negotiations continued and the Langites realised they were withering on the vine. Five delegates from each party formed an interim state executive. Lang himself signed a pledge of loyalty
Menzies failed with his "trumpet calls" for national unity. Crisp feels that his public image gave the impression of urbanity and superiority that did not appeal to the Australian public at the time. Dowsing is more to the point., highlighting Menzies habit of "antagonising the vast majority of workers" They "believed, rightly or wrongly, that he represented big business interests exclusively.... Time and again he offended by what were considered arrogantly word statements.
On one occasion, he was reported as saying that he had "respect for the rights of the top dog," adding that there was ' no foolish doctrine of equality between the active and the idle, the intelligent and the dull, and the frugal and the improvident.""
Chifley felt that the war administration required more drive and zeal than Menzies approach of letting the apparatus move things along. A leader to sustain the drive and who could transform oratory to effort was needed, and that wasn't Menzies. He also saw that if Menzies had showed more steady and determined application he might have a party behind him, rather than the backbiting and faction riven crew that he had.
By July 1941 the Menzies government was at a low ebb with Menzies under fire from Government members and the ALP. ALP leaders were sticking to an understanding of general support of the war effort, but others were not so circumspect. Menzies requested a party truce so that he could head for London again. The ALP as a whole were suspicious of the Government's motives for wanting Menzies, unpopular in the UAP, 10,000 miles away. After the August budget was introduced, Curtin granted the government a recess to enable its completion. Menzies resigned as PM and Artie Fadden took over. The government disunity was wide public knowledge and Curtin spoke several times over the next few weeks about Labor being ready and willing to govern. A further scandal engulfed Fadden and co concerning their devious funding of front organisations The government survived by one vote in the House. Curtin then came out criticising the re-introduced budget, especially the inequality of sacrifice for the war effort. Compulsory savings schemes for wage earners were contrasted with cosy schemes for banks. The two Independents, previously supporters of the government, spoke against the budget too. Coles in particular spoke strongly against the coalition approach. The budget was defeated in the House on 3 October and the ALP took the reins.
Chifley pointed out later that the reason the government was defeated was not because the ALP had sought to distract them from the war effort, on the contrary the ALP had gone out of its way to ensure unity. The problem was within the UAP-Country Party coalition. They "could not reach a reasonable degree of harmony amongst themselves, much less harmony amongst the people of this country, in constructing its war effort....Before the previous Government lost the confidence of the people it had lost the confidence of the members of the parties constituting it."
Curtin thus became the first ALP Prime Minister since 1931, and the fifth in forty years of Federation. In a statement as Prime Minister designate he said:
"I am ready to form a government, I am confident it will be a stable government, and I know it will devote itself with singleness of purpose to what is the undoubted desire of the Australian people, concentration on the prosecution of the war, and the distribution of the inevitable burdens of the war over the whole community..."
There is a huge amount of stuff to go into but I have skimmed these books:
L.F. Crisp. Ben Chifley (London Longmans, Green, 1960)
David Day. John Curtin: a life (Pymble, NSW: HarperCollins, 1999)
Irene Dowsing. Curtin of Australia. (Blackburn, Vic. Acacia Press, 1969)
Paul Hasluck. The Government and the People 1939-1941 (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1952)
Lloyd Ross. John Curtin: a biography (South Melbourne: Macmillan, 1977)
Why do you think the manufacturing industry is so important?
Job creation through productive investment is possible everywhere in the world. The economy of a country cannot be based on export, like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund want and recommend. I think improving purchasing power, making it possible for workers to buy what they produce is in the long run much better. This is why distribution of wealth is fundamental for sustainable development.
How do we in Australia balance working with our brothers and sisters in our region with ensuring that our wages and standards are not undermined?
The solution to this problem that affects many parts of the world is to organise workers and make sure that they have an organisation that fights for their rights. Workers in rich countries will have to continue to improve their standard of living and at the same time help those in poor and underdeveloped countries to achieve better standards.
MNCs argue that high salaries and high standards of living undermine the economy. Then why are the wages and standard of living so high in the strongest economies? Like the USA, Japan, Germany, Sweden, Norway all countries with the highest standard of living and the strongest economic performance. In fact reducing wages and the standard of living in rich countries would undermine the possibility of the poorest to develop.
How has the International Metalworkers Federation campaigned for workers rights?
Trade unions will have to organise its work internationally. We have to globalise our daily work. The IMF has been fighting since 1966 to include a special social clause in all trade agreements, multilateral and bilateral. The role of the WTO is to bring order into world trade. I believe that the WTO is the organisation that should rule over all trade agreements. The WTO must be re-structured and be a democratic organisation and very transparent. Trade Unions must be part of the WTO together with other nongovernment organisations.
The IMF has launched a proposal to all other International Trade Secretariats and the International Confederation of Free trade Unions (ICFTU) to create its own Tribune for Global Unions. We need to discuss the proposal and come up with an alternative to both Davos (World Economic Forum) and Porto Allegro (World Social Forum).
The IMF has adopted a policy paper with a special program for MNCs. We are in the process of negotiating international agreements with MNCs to guarantee a minimum standard as has been established in the ILO Declaration of Fundamental rights. Agreements must apply in all countries regardless of the geographic position of economic standards. The agreement must contain specific rules on how to monitor and implement the agreement.
The way the AMWU has fought for their workers rights over the last few years is eloquent. Through your commitment to the IMF and other international organisations the AMWU can contribute to the struggle in other countries in the region. Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma and PNG are countries where we together should be able to start projects that aim at creating strong independent and democratic trade unions that in the end is the best guarantee of workers rights.
Major Conference Events
Global Justice and Fair Trade Rally
November 13 12 pm
Assemble: Outside the Convention Centre, Darling Harbour - March to Martin Place
Speakers: NSW union speakers as well as Jack Mundey, Mick Dodson, Dorothy
McRae-McMahon, Sue Harris (ACFOA) and Klaus Zwickel (IG Metall & IMF)
Music by: The Drugs & Elefant Traks
Full details http://www.sydneyrally.org
Support the 1000 international delegates in Sydney for the International
Metalworkers Federation World Congress.
Protest the World Trade Organisation meeting in Qatar.
Part of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions - Global Day
Other events to build support for the rally:
Globalisation from Below: Alternatives to corporate globalisation seminar
FREE November 11 11.30-3.30
Tom Mann Theatre, 136 Chalmers St. Surry Hills
Speakers: International Union speakers from South Africa, Canada & Korea,
and local speakers from AFTINET, Aidwatch, AMWU, Jubilee, NSW NCC, NUS &
Sunday 11 November 7pm
Metro Theatre, George St., Sydney
$10 (+bf) Tickets available NOW from Metro
bands: The Tenants, Matt Ellis, Raw Sugar hosted by Tug Dumbly
Surely we know that security is one of the most fundamental human needs: an irrefutable guarantee of safety, economic possibility, sociability and order; of a life lived freely without fear or hardship. That security is a universal good available to all, and a solemn pledge between citizens and their political leaders, to whom their people's security is 'the first duty', the overriding goal of domestic and international policy-making.
In the wake of the Asian crisis, the fall of Soeharto and the deployment of 6000 Australian troops to East Timor, we may no longer be so sure. Bitter recriminations followed the Timor tragedy, as commentators denounced thirty years of foreign policy for failing to prevent or prepare us for such a crisis. The Australian editorialised bitterly that 'what the events in East Timor have shown is that we are militarily weak, politically naive and strategically alone'. Among the fallout has been the Howard Government's release of a glossy public discussion paper on defence, and the unprecedented formation of a 'consultation team' which will travel the country asking for public input.
As important as such a process could be, I wonder if it will do more than scratch the surface of the debate we really need. Are we willing to think deeply about what our security means, and how it dominates our lives for the worse? How is it that Paul Keating could declare so confidently in 1995 that 'A Prime Minister's duty, his first duty, is to the security of his country', or that the ALP's 1998 platform declared the party's central values as 'security and opportunity'? What does it mean when John Howard says he wishes to give Australians a sense of security and 'home' amid otherwise sweeping change, and what connection is there between this and the harsh refugee regulations Philip Ruddock introduced last year as he declared that we faced a 'national emergency' from a wave of illegal immigrants from the Middle East? What links this desire for security and the Government's approach to welfare, or its response to Mabo and Wik?
Menaces and Contagion
This book finds this link in the search for what Manning Clark called the 'enemy without and the enemy within'. We may find it surprising that throughout Australian history security required the shipping of 180,000 convicts from England, the murder and dispossession of Aborigines, a racist immigration policy, the terrible sacrifice of the Great War, the confrontation of communism within Australia and in wars in Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia, and an amoral embrace of Asian dictators such as Marcos and Soeharto. Security has been central to the construction of powerful images of national identity and otherness, and a potent, driving imperative throughout Australian history. As we celebrate the Centenary of Federation in 2001, this ought to give us pause when we look backwards with an eye to what we are, and forwards with an eye to what we might become. Amid the congratulations we ought to be asking about the price we have paid, and asked others to pay, so that we could be secure.
If to be safe from cultural strangeness is one historically powerful meaning of security, Newscorp Chairman Rupert Murdoch last year offered another. Speaking to the Asia Society he lectured Australians against allowing their international policies to be 'driven purely by humanitarian or moralistic concerns, divorced from attention to the national interest'. He warned, alarmingly, that the 'pursuit of a foreign policy based on moralism can lead to a massive loss of sovereignty'. Murdoch's specific target was Australia's deployment to East Timor - which, having strained relations with Indonesia and cost over $1 billion, he hinted was made at an excessive cost to the 'national interest'. No doubt he was also concerned about Newscorp's interests in China, whose leaders he had appeased by censoring Star TV, blocking the publication of a book by the former Governor of Hong Kong and praising China's brutal rule in Tibet.
Both Murdoch and Ruddock make the same rhetorical ploy: just as refugee flows are a 'national emergency', Murdoch invokes the vulnerability of the nation in his ridiculous claim that humanitarian intervention could lead to a 'massive loss of sovereignty'. They imagine security on the basis of a bounded and vulnerable identity in perpetual opposition to an outside-an Other-whose character and claims threaten its integrity and safety. Ever since Henry Parkes and Alfred Deakin began to argue for the formation of an Australian Federation in the face of the threats posed by the populous and threatening civilisations of Asia, such an image of security and identity has been a constant in Australian life. The community imagined in such claims is always an exclusive one, bounded by a power which seeks to enforce sameness, repress diversity, and diminish the rights (and claims to being) of those who are thrust outside its protective embrace. This is the clear implication of the former diplomat Richard Woolcott's argument, as late as 1995, that 'sentimental notions of self-determination for East Timor or Bougainville...threaten our national security'. Likewise Keating, after signing a mutual security agreement with Indonesia's President Soeharto the same year, stated that: 'We are not going to hock the entire relationship on Timor. A Prime Minister's duty, his first duty, is to the security of his country'. How many must die, we might ask, so that we should be secure?
Imagined in such terms, security is a practice of exclusion: a practice of identity and being through exclusion. After Murdoch's comments and the tough new refugee laws, we are forced to ask once again whether an 'Australian' community will be thought on the basis of a walled and insecure identity, or a generous and outward-looking diversity. Should we accept that Australia's 'national interest' and 'sovereignty' would have been better preserved by not antagonising Indonesia as its army and militias perpetrated genocide in East Timor? This was certainly the Howard Government's approach until September 1999, when the scale of the killing crossed even their threshold of indifference. Should we likewise accept that our security demands the suspension of the human rights of one class of refugees over another?
If we do not, and the overwhelming popular support for the deployment of peacekeeping forces to East Timor suggests we do not, we have a lot of work to do. This work, at least in a small way, is the task of this book. The great obstacle it encounters is that Australia's political, media and bureaucratic elites consider a need for security axiomatic, as do many of us. The book asks what it means to be secure in two ways: by interrogating the concept of security itself, and by weighing the price of its realisation through Australian history and its impact on the possible forms of an 'Australian' culture and community. It asks whether things had to be this way-what other forms of being, identity and interrelationship might be imagined once the suffocating political embrace of security is escaped.
Security Has No Truth
Yet how are we to understand a security which, in the mouths of diplomats and political leaders, appears like a perversion of language itself? Because the clear implication of their arguments is that 'our' security-our very existence-is to be wagered on the death and suffering of the ten thousand who perished in Bougainville during ten years of war, the more than two hundred thousand Timorese victims of the twenty-four year Indonesian occupation, or the millions who died during the West's thirty year war on Vietnamese communism. What of their security? Wouldn't such a contradiction render security meaningless?
This is a very real problem. The history this book describes takes us into an Orwellian universe in which truth is often a cynical device, in which concepts appear to mean their opposites, and in which our civilisation's grand dreams of progress and enlightenment are drawn aside to reveal an underlying structure of baseness and horror. To live, as we do, in the linguistic universe of our leaders and bureaucratic elites is to live in a place where the oxymoronic slogans of George Orwell's 1984-'Freedom is Slavery', 'Ignorance is Strength', 'War is Peace'-appear as a new principle of reality. No doubt, we have created some of our own: 'Prosperity is Want', 'Security is Fear'.
Yet the European political theorist R. N. Berki sees no contradictions. For him, security is fear: Seeking after security for oneself and being a cause of insecurity for others are not just closely related; they are the same thing, with no chance of either logical or existential separation...when the chips are down, and to a certain degree, they are always down...it is my life, my freedom, my security versus the rest of the human race.
As important as it is to struggle against such dilemmas, they will not be easily escaped, and not by simplistic appeals to truth. Security has no truth. This is something East Timor's Bishop Carlos Belo knows well-after the murder of a youth by Indonesian security forces on the eve of the 1991 Dili Massacre, he exclaimed: 'The news put out by TVRI was false! False! The truth turned upside down. We live in a country where bad is good, light is dark, and there is no justice!'
Security has no truth. What could I possibly mean by this? While security is always spoken about as a universal, commonsense value, I wonder if security's power instead lies in the very slipperiness of its significations, its ironic structure of meaning, its ability to have an almost universal appeal yet name very different arrangements of order and possibility for different groups of people. Spoken like this, claims to security receive consent based upon the thinnest pretence of common understanding-a common understanding which does not in fact exist.
Thus, it may be more useful to worry less about what security is than how it operates as a form of power. My view is that security is a particularly sweeping and insidious form of power that runs through the entire social body. It is what Michel Foucault called a 'political technology', one that is able to construct and influence subjectivity, national life and geopolitics-often all at once. In this way security has been crucial to the cultural, political and economic contours of both an 'Australian' nation and a post-war 'Asia-Pacific' modernity. When we see the Current Affairs Bulletin describe the Cold War in 1952 as less a strategic contest than 'a struggle for the hearts and minds of men', or John Howard say in the 1999 Federation Address that 'the success or failure of a nation essentially begins in the homes of its people', we are witness to a technology which seeks to tie our bodies and hearts into a transnational circulation of power, money and resources - too often without our full understanding or say. There are countless other examples, from figures as diverse as Henry Parkes, Billy Hughes, John Curtin, Paul Keating and Mahathir Mohammed. Differences between Labor and conservative, east and west, democracy and autocracy mean little when contrasted with this common injunction to work, consume, identify and consent. Within such discourses division and dissent - whether in the form of strikes, protests, mutinies or guerrilla wars -- appear as illegitimate threats to security rather than valid forms of expression and struggle.
Despite its undoubted historical force, and its ability to insinuate itself into our bodies and dreams, security is not unassailable. We can undermine its power by identifying the concrete practices and strategies that lie beneath its promises of safety and being. Against security's constant injunction to 'discover what we are', we could explore Foucault's intriguing challenge to 'refuse what we are' -- to discover ways of being, and of social, cultural and economic organisation that disrupt its entire discursive imagination. But that perhaps is another story, one we can all help tell.
Anthony Burke has published widely in cultural theory, politics and international relations, and is a published author of fiction. He currently works as a researcher in the Senate.
by The Chaser
Speaking at his policy launch yesterday, the locksmith said he was the best man qualified to provide security at home to all Australians.
He claimed he had more experience in double-latch locks and window bars than either of the main parties, and that he was the natural man to lead the country in these nervous times.
"Security at home. Security in the garage," he said. "I'll fix you up with the locks you need at an affordable price."
The locksmith has also promised in his first term in office to cut taxes, and cut keys.
Beazley addresses the troops
Well, it's great to be speaking to friends, even if I can't be with you in person. I've always thought that the labour movement comprises the believers of Australian political and industrial life. And so I'd like to thank Sharon Burrow, Greg Combet and the ACTU for affording me the opportunity to speak directly to some of those believers.
More than half a century ago, a great prime minister and proud trade unionist by the name of Ben Chifley said the following:
'I believe that the best incentive that can be given to workers is a sense of security - security of employment and security against sickness, unemployment, and the disability of old age.'
Fifty years on, Chifley's words are truer than ever. Working families are owed a sense of security. But they are a long way from getting it.
A lot of families feel insecure in Mr Howard's Australia - but then a lot of single people do, too. Young people are feeling the financial pressure as much as older people - and taxpayers as much as pensioners.
And make no mistake - a great deal of the blame for all this should be sheeted straight back to Mr Howard and his cronies.
They have introduced a new tax that increases the pressure on Australian families. They have flogged off half of Telstra, one of our great national assets - and the last week has shown, categorically, that if they have their way, the rest of it will go, too.
They have squeezed ordinary Australians in favour of their wealthy friends. They are putting decent health care out of reach of the majority. They have swept aside our safety net as if it was a spider's web. They have shifted education funds to the richest private schools. And, of course, they have ripped into Australian workers and their unions.
Because the issue of industrial relations is so vital to the national welfare, a government's IR policy is a sure test of its character. It is a test that the Howard Government has failed.
The Government's three musketeers - Mr Howard, Mr Reith and Mr Abbott - have gone a long way towards destroying the cooperation and harmony that used to obtain in Australia's industrial relations.
They have remade the system in their own image: confrontational, bullying and aggressive. They have created a system described by a Victorian judge as 'ritualised mayhem in which only the innocent are slaughtered.'
Under Mr Howard, it's every man for himself - and God help the women, who are increasingly relegated to part-time and casual employment.
You'll remember Mr Howard saying a few years ago that he wants Australians to feel 'relaxed and comfortable'. Well, it's hard to feel relaxed when you're working longer and longer hours. It's hard to feel relaxed when your company's going under and your entitlements are at risk. And it's hard to feel comfortable when you're facing attack dogs and men in balaclavas.
Labor is deeply concerned about the industrial relations path this country is on - and we are determined to change it. We are determined to create a sense of security in Australian workplaces - to make them fair, safe, and productive. On the first day of a Labor Government, the repair work to our IR system will begin.
We will quickly reintroduce the notion of fairness into Australia's industrial scene.
We've all heard what a great cricket fan John Howard is. So it's ironic that he's spent the last six years hopping into the industrial relations umpire, the IRC.
John Howard once said of the Industrial Relations Commission 'We will stab them in the stomach.' And they have. They have done everything within its power to incapacitate, undermine and nobble the Commission.
They have starved it of funds. They have berated its members. And they have transferred, or attempted to transfer, its jurisdiction to just about every other court in the country, including the Federal Court, the Federal Magistrate's Court, and the State and Territory Courts. They have scattered its jurisdiction far and wide in an attempt to stamp out any critical mass of IR expertise that may play against their prejudices and partisan politics.
This is the triumph of right-wing theology over sound public policy. It's the work of a government made up of bomb-throwers and partisans.
Well, Labor won't stand for it. A Beazley Government will give the Commission appropriate powers to deal with all industrial matters, to prevent and resolve disputes, and to ensure that the rights and entitlements of employees are protected. The Commission will get the authority and resources it needs - and the appropriate jurisdiction.
In other words, we'll get the umpire back on the ground.
We'll also act quickly on employee entitlements. This issue is bread and meat for Australian workers. It's critical for people's confidence that, regardless of the fate of their company, their legal entitlements - what they're owed for their labour - are safe. It's critical to national confidence, too.
But in the last two years we've seen people who have worked all their lives lose their entitlements when their company goes belly-up. We've witnessed a parade of disasters - STP, Woodlawn, Merrywood, Exicom, Grafton and Scone Meatworks, Parrish Meats, National Textiles, and now Ansett.
Mr Howard has been truly useless on this issue. In only one case did the Government put up the money to ensure that workers got all they were owed - National Textiles - and that was a family values decision on the part of the Prime Minister!
I guess Mr Howard thinks he needn't worry - his entitlements are fully protected even if he's fired by his employers, the Australian people. I'll tell you this: he'll need his super, because when he's voted out, he'll have no case for unfair dismissal!
Labor takes a different view from Mr Howard. We are determined to ensure that the legal entitlements owed to Australian workers are delivered. We'll introduce a national scheme, established by legislation and based on the principle that employees should receive 100% of their legal entitlements.
We'll protect the full range of workers' entitlements - unpaid wages, annual leave, long service leave, termination and redundancy payouts, and superannuation contributions. And we'll ask large employers to shoulder their fair share of the costs through a small increase in the Superannuation Guarantee Charge, rather than dumping the whole thing on taxpayers.
Labor will also provide for collective bargaining, promoted through fair and simple workplace, enterprise and multi-employer agreements, negotiated with unions collectively. We will legislate to ensure that the right of employees who wish to be represented by unions is protected and to prevent employees being discriminated against because of union membership or activity. Labor will abolish Australian Workplace Agreements.
Industrial relations is one area in which we'll set out to repair the damage done to Australia by the Coalition.
But there's a lot of work to be done in other areas, too - not least on the question of jobs. The current Prime Minister won't fight for Australian jobs. His view is that government should just sit back and watch the losses roll on.
Again, we take a different view. We believe that if we put our shoulder to the wheel, we can create jobs for Australian workers - but it will take a truly national effort.
For example, Labor is prepared to re-invest the proceeds from the corporatisation of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electricity Authority into a new generation of national infrastructure. This is a huge opportunity for the Australian construction industry - but also for the country as a whole. And it's a worthy cause in which to invest the fruits of Ben Chifley's vision.
In the area of health, Labor's Medicare Alliance with the States will provide the funds to save our public hospitals. We'll repair the education system by redirecting funding towards public schools in priority areas.
But we won't only be on repair duty - we'll also be building a better Australia. That's the difference between me and John Howard. I have a plan for the future, he has a plan for his retirement.
We'll build a Knowledge Nation here in Australia.
We'll improve Australians' access to communications infrastructure - but we won't sell even one more share of Telstra.
And we'll remove the GST from essential items such as gas and electricity bills, nappies, funerals, sanitary items and charities.
The Government has had a bit to say about our plan to reduce the burden of the GST. Mr Costello said it amounts to 'peanuts'.
Well, $100 off a family's annual electricity and gas bill is not peanuts to the people I speak to, Mr Costello.
It's not peanuts to the people that I represent.
In these and a hundred other ways, we'll repair the damage that the Conservatives have caused this country, and we'll set about building a better Australia.
We'll do it with the help of the union movement. Like Ben Chifley before us, we will work day and night for Australian workers - and we'll create a secure future for all Australians.
We will hear of the good and the greedy, champions and charlatans, as virtuous and vermin seek our dollar and vote. Come to think of it, it's more than a confluence of circumstances, there is undeniable symmetry between the choices we face in the TAB and polling booth.
Twenty four runners in an open handicap equates roughly to a ballot paper offering more candidates than you can poke a stick at.
There are punters who don't take their responsibilities seriously, backing future leaders by how they look in the parade ring and picking two mile champs by sticking a pin in the book.
The more mature amongst us will study the form and check the records. But, on the stump as at the track, deep-down you have this sneaking feeling that there is every chance you are going to be sold a pup, quite possibly, even, a mangy dog.
Those looking for real value this week will venture into the exotics. Fair enough, but our advice is to by-pass the first fours, trifectas etc and concentrate on the feature double.
Here's the form guide ...
PERSIAN PUNCH - well traveled Pommie-type who, given the chance, will stay all day. Bracket with ALEXANDER DOWNER.
UNIVERSAL PRINCE - promising, boasts some impressive results. Unproven this distance but always ready to pounce - PETER COSTELLO.
SKY HEIGHTS - well bred but bashed around when heavily-supported in his last big one. Running into good form. Will stay - KIM BEAZLEY
ETHEREAL - Kiwi latecomer thriving in semi-rural surroundings. Earned her penalty - JACKIE KELLY
CAITANO - plenty of miles on the clock, been around more than most - CHERYL KERNOT
GIVE THE SLIP - normally a pace-maker for better-fancied stablemates. The tag "most expensive bunny in the world" is deserved, should be knocked off early - LARRY ANTHONY
MARIENBARD - Experienced interloper from Saeed Bin Suroor stable. Fresh off the boat but mean as they come - PHILLIP RUDDOCK
YIPPYIO - battler who has seen better days, real doubts he will see this out - JOHN HOWARD
HILL OF GRACE - sprightly type who turns heads but unlikely to salute in the big one -NATASHA STOTT-DESPOJA
INAFLURY - vicious mare, doesn't mind the stick but performs best under vigorous riding - BRONWYN BISHOP
KAAPSTAD WAY - proven campaigner. A couple of dry days in Melbourne, unlikely as that may seem, would bring right into contention - SIMON CREEN
CURATA STORM - out of his depth here - MARK LATHAM
FREEMASON - does not win out of turn and has had his thrill for 2001 - MARTIN FERGUSON
MR PRUDENT - lives up to his name, expect calculated run and judicious use of whip - JOHN FAULKNER
PASTA EXPRESS - grazes in a very good paddock - MICHAEL WOOLDRIDGE
REENACT - pretty non-descript, bit skittish but a runner's chance - JOHN ANDERSON
BUSH PADRE - well-credentialled, tenacious, but could lose the blinkers - TONY ABBOTT
PROPHET'S KISS - strange mare, will have her supporters but has trouble holding a line - DE-ANNE KELLY
BIG PAT - free-running type who has impressed in the build-up - KATE LUNDY
CELESTIAL SHOW - temperamental lightweight and should be treated as such - DANNA VALE
RAIN GAUGE - originally a left-field proposition but has impressed in the lead-up, keep safe - ANTHONY ALBANESE
TIGER'S EYE - nowhere near best and would need a makeover, physical and mental, to foot it with these - PAULINE HANSON
RUM - can stay but lacks class, doesn't mind throwing a few when odds are in his favour - WILSON TUCKEY
MAGNETO - (lots of) others preferred - BOB KATTER
THE SECOND MORTGAGE - big build-up, talked the talk but couldn't walk the walk - scratched - PETER REITH
KARASI - outsider with achievements under his belt. Has made a mark since arriving and deserves respect - BOB BROWN
SPIRIT OF WESTBURY - lightweight in more ways than one - MAL BROUGH
TOUCH THE GROOM - certainly solid but big question mark over class - JOE HOCKEY
BIG HUSTLER - three from 48 is hardly awe-inspiring, hard to fancy - AMANDA VANSTONE
YUPPIE - highly strung and a bit pretentious, will be lucky to make the cut - CHRIS PYNE
Rossy at Work
The most obvious place to look for information about what makes the web work is inside the belly of the beast. The "information superhighway" is at its best when the pitch is made to its most natural constituency... the so-called "computer geeks".
For the beginner: Webmonkey
Tough in the middle: 24 Fun http://www.24fun.com
Geek Central: The Open Source Developers Network http://www.osdn.com
The true geek, up to his or her knees in code there is only one true Mecca, the OSDN. This site offers a gateway to Linux.com < http://www.linux.com > the only o/s of choice for the true aficionado, as well as Freshmeat < http://freshmeat.net > a script depository for the hardcore coder. Last but not least, OSDN is also the home of Slashdot < http://slashdot.org > aka as "news for nerds: stuff that matters". Yeah, um right, fellas... you better get back to your Half-Life clan before someone gets fragged...
Running for office under deep cover has been the Howard modus operandi since he accepted back in 1987 that no-one really liked him or what he stood for. In 1996 he slipped through our defences on the promise of not being Paul Keating, releasing barely a skerrick of policy before being swept into office on the 'It's Time' ticket. In 1998 he cynically positioned the election campaign during the Commonwealth Games and the footy Grand Finals, ensuring minimum public space to scrutinize his destructive first term. While the nation cheered for Gold, Howard snuck over the line with a minority mandate.
Now he's back for one more tilt, under the protection of international crisis, Australian troops abroad and an electorate with an ill-founded fear of being overrun by anthrax-wielding boatpeople. By extinguishing the last vestiges of compassion from Middle Australia, Howard has fashioned an election policy where his weakness is taken as strength, his myopia as vision, his prejudices as principle. He trivializes his opponents' efforts to map out a future for this nation, with the undeliverable promise that he'll turn back the clock to a mythical area when everything was All White.
John Howard fell into power on the fears of Keating's engagement with the world and has stayed there by exploiting the hatred of the Other: from day one it was ATSIC, then single mums, dole bludgers, until he had cleared all the local pariahs out. Then it was onto Muslims, first within our communities, then those wanting to join us. Using all the modern polling techniques, designed to tap the public's pulse, even as the consciousness was being formed, Howard tailored his message to tap our deepest fears. But he went one step further - actually shaping those fears through manufacturing an international crisis off our coast.
His performance is a textbook example of what government shouldn't do. He's rallied the mainstream against the marginalized, appealed to our fears over our compassion and turned long-term thinking about our nation into a form of treason. Amidst the debris lies our dreams of reconciliation, a Republic and a dynamic and integrated society respected internationally for its good heart. The after glow of the Sydney Olympics has faded, as our darker sides have been exposed, fuelled by Howard for short-term political gain.
The contradiction of the Howard era has been while pandering to nationalistic fervor, he has done more than any leader before him to expose workers to the amorality of unfettered global capital. By ripping away the rules of work that had protected workers for 100 years, the Howard Government has left its citizenry without a workable safety net to enforce the social contract of work in return for security. Ironically, it is this insecurity and lack of faith that has fuelled the fears that Howard has exploited with issues like immigration.
In some ways Howard has succeeded in his goal of returning Australia to the 1950, but without the sense of civic duty or optimism in the rewards of virtue and hard work. He's promoted a modern greed is good ethos and super-imposed it on a blame the victim mentality. The social conservatism of the fifties has melded with a 21st century self-assuredness to create an environment where any injustice is justifiable, provided it carries the trappings of success. At a time when Australia could be coming of age by engaging with its region, he has encouraged it to turn on itself - for no other reason than it suits his own short-term political agenda.
If Howard gets in there'll be many reasons to weep, but most of all we should weep for the Australia we thought we were growing in the eighties and nineties - a vibrant, multi-racial society where we defined ourselves by our desire to engage the world, welcome people in and strengthen our society. Howard is a Tool for many reasons, but most of all he's a Tool for killing off our better natures. If there is any consolation, it is that - win or lose on November 10 - history will dismiss him as the ultimate anti-leader, someone who won power by stealth, but saw this as the ultimate prize, who frittered away our history for a bed in the Lodge.
© 1999-2000 Labor Council of NSW
LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/118/print_index.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005