Labor Council secretary John Robertson made the call at a rally of international unionists in Sydney this week, claiming the Howard Government had outmanoeuvred the ALP by playing wedge politics.
Rejecting claims by some commentators that blue-collar workers were racist, Robertson said workers would respond to a compassionate refugee policy if it was clearly stated and fairly applied.
"My view is that it is not an issue of racism, but of ensuring Australians understand and have confidence in our policies on refugees," Robertson says.
"Australian workers have a great history of supporting just causes and opening their hearts to those in need."
Robertson also flagged a significant promotion and education campaign to promote racial harmony in the workplace and educate workers about the plight of all refugees including the Afghani refugees.
ALP Members Speak-Up For Refugees
Meanwhile, a group of Queensland ALP members have launched a campaign to change Labor policy towards refugees and asylum seekers.
Nearly 400 ALP Branches and party activists will receive a letter from Queensland Labor for Refugees this week calling for "a new policy towards refugees and asylum seekers, based upon compassionate and humanitarian principles".
Labor for Refugees acting-Convenors Siobhan Keating and Matthew Collins say the campaign will provide a forum for the many ALP members dissatisfied with Labor's "us, too" approach to the Coalition's asylum seekers policy.
"Since our election defeat many senior Labor figures have questioned our policies towards asylum seekers, including Doug Cameron, John Robertson, Gough Whitlam, Lindsay Tanner and Duncan Kerr," Matthew says.
"At the Branch level there has been a simmering disquiet for many months, but until now there hasn't been an organised or coordinated campaign to bring about change. Labor for Refugees aims to act as a catalyst for this change," he says.
The Labor for Refugees draft Charter, to be discussed at the group's inaugural meeting next week, calls for
· an end to mandatory detention;
· an end to Temporary Protection Visas;
· an end to the privatisation of detention centres;
· an end to the practice of processing asylum seekers offshore; and,
· a judicial inquiry into the practice of mandatory detention, and conditions within our detention centres.
Siobhan says a key focus of the Labor for Refugees group is to provide resources for Branch members so that rank-and-file activists can organise the campaign across the ALP.
These campaign resources include model resolutions, draft letters, speaker's notes and background papers, and will be principally distributed through the Labor for Refugees website (www.labor4refugees.org). The website was launched this week and will be expanded in the coming weeks.
"Labor needs to ensure that our policies towards asylum seekers and refugees reflect our party's values and principles, such as solidarity, compassion, and a 'fair go'. None of these values should stop at Ashmore Reef or Christmas Island," Siobhan says.
Labor for Refugees is holding meetings at Queensland's Trades and Labour Council building (16 Peel Street South Brisbane) on November 27 and December 18 at 6:00pm.
Balmain Declares: Time for change
And in other post-election news, the Balmain branch of the Labor party, founded in 1891 and the oldest ALP's oldest branch, has called for a transformation of the party following the election defeat.
Members who gathered last Monday night to commiserate following the Liberal victory felt that Labor needs to change the way it operates if it is to reconnect to ordinary Australians.
Members wanted to campaign on principled polices rather be a small target, to define the debate rather than react to it. Most all they wanted a say.
The branch unanimously has written to the leader elect as follows
This branch, conscious of its historic role in the history of the Labor Party, calls for the new Party Leadership to instigate a revitalisation of the Labor Party into a transformed political organisation that:
· Determines its leadership and major party policy positions through a democratic process involving Labor Party rank and file members directly
· Actively seeks the participation of the broadest cross section of society in the party decision making.
· Develops alternative economic and social policies that are connected to the aspirations of working Australians
· That campaigns continuously to educate Australians about its policies and principles
The failure to address the undemocratic, highly centralised decision making process that alienating so many Australians in 1996 has led to a continuing perception that we stand for nothing more than getting re-elected and continuing on as before. Ordinary Australians feel less connection with our party than at any other time in living memory. As a result our primary vote has declined since to our lowest since the splits of the Depression.
It is our view that a failure to transform the party into participatory democratic organisation will see a continued crisis of relevance for the party that will be reflected in a continued decline of our primary vote. Labor cannot afford more of the same.
We therefore call upon the new Federal Parliamentary Leadership to initiate a transparent, independent review whose terms of reference is to make recommendations to facilitate the transformation of the party.
Unions have vowed to renew the political and industrial campaign that culminated in the picket on State Parliament in June if the government pushes through with plans to strip injured workers of their right to sue negligent employers.
The first phase of the campaign will begin on Tuesday with full-page newspaper advertisements and information fliers distributed at Sydney railway stations.
Labor Council officials have already begun negotiations with cross-bench MPs who hold the balance of power in the NSW Upper House and could soften the cuts if they voted with the Opposition.
But they have also warned of industrial action in the coming weeks, with the Bill due to be introduced in Parliament on November 27. Bizarrely, this is the same date the changes will come into affect - with the Bill seeking to be retrospective.
Bill Fails Test
Unions are concerned that the Bill fails the government's stated test that injured workers should not be left worse off by the reforms in the following ways:
· the amendments effectively rule out the right to sue a negligent employer;
· they abolish the discretion for insurers to commute a workers weekly benefits into a lump sum payment
· they introduce a method of assessing psychiatric and psychological injury that has not been scientifically tested or validated
· and they reintroduce some of the most Draconian parts of the Bill that the government originally proposed in April including:
- binding medical panels with no right of appeal
- no right for legal representation for a worker whose claim is disputed.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says the government should not under-estimate the gravity of these concerns.
"Labor Council and affiliates are angry at the way their members have been treated by the Carr Government," Robertson says. "The treatment of injured workers is a fundamental issue for trade unions.
"We will continue to negotiate with the government but we want to make it clear that we will pursue industrial and political action if our concerns are not addressed."
He also called on the government to consider increasing premiums to ensure that employers shouldered some of the burden for blow-out in the scheme.
The delegates to the International Metalworkers Federation's global conference in Sydney were joined by thousands of blue-collar workers as they called to put 'people before profits' in the global economy.
They heard from local and international unions leaders arguing that core labour standards should be incorporated into the World Trade Organisation's core frameworks.
Marcello Malentacchi, IMF General Secretary said the destructive effects of globalisation must be stopped and the WTO, governments and multinationals need to take greater responsibility for human and labour rights.
"The WTO must include provisions for human and workers' rights in international trade deals. Core labour standards must be seen as an essential part of trade and investment agreements to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are shared equitably around the world," said Mr Malentacchi.
"Out of poverty, ignorance and oppression grows fear and uncertainty. Such an unstable climate breeds fundamentalist responses that can lead to terrorism," said Mr Malentacchi.
No Joy in Qatar
The Sydney march coincided with actions around the global to protest the World Trade Organisation meeting in Qatar.
While the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) were successful in tabling the core ILO labour standards, the outcome was less than satisfactory.
The new draft declaration reverts to language first proposed two months ago which merely reaffirms the declaration on core labour standards made at the first WTO Conference in 1996, and just "takes note" of the work at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on the social dimension of globalisation.
The demands for the WTO to recognise the negative effects of trade on the basic rights of hundreds of millions of workers, and to start doing something about the problem in conjunction with the ILO, are entirely ignored.
"This WTO Conference may well prove to have been the WTO's last chance for constructive engagement. It will not have another like this", said ICFTU secretary general Bill Jordan said afterwards.
"If the WTO is to enjoy popular confidence in all parts of the world, it must respond to popular concerns in areas like workers' rights, the environment and consumer safety.
"It must contribute to the development of the developing world. If it can rise to that challenge, the WTO could be recognised generally as the lynch-pin of a stable and sustainable multilateral trading system. If it does not, its unpopularity will only go on getting worse."
Questions Loom Over WTO Deal
Meanwhile, the ACTU has warned Australia's agreement to the World Trade Organisation's new liberalisation agenda threatens to undermine workers' basic rights.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow says that despite some welcome but limited progress on access to cheaper medicines, Australia has traded off its rights at the WTO over international investment, government procurement and competition policy in exchange for some vague and unenforceable promises of larger agricultural markets ACTU.
She says investment deregulation and international competition policy threaten jobs and industrial rights,"
"Australian farmers will not be fooled into thinking that the European Union and the United States will their ease agricultural trade restrictions on the basis of some encouraging words in the new WTO agreement.
"The Australian government should not sign up to any such agreements until they have been subject to public study and debate over their impact on Australian industry and employment.
"Unions are disappointed that Australian officials at the WTO talks in Doha refused to join their counterparts from the US, EU, Japan, Canada and New Zealand in supporting the inclusion of protections for core labour standards in the agreement. For John Howard's government, the rights of Australia's working people are not a priority."
Ms Burrow said promises of additional assistance for developing countries in the new agreement appeared empty as Australia and most European nations had continued to cut their foreign aid and development budgets over the past five years.
"It's no surprise that the new WTO agenda strongly favours US and European-based corporate interests when the US and EU delegations in Doha numbered 553 people, well outnumbering the 368 people representing China, India and 39 other developing nations," Burrow says.
"Unions will continue to fight for fair international trading rules that guarantee core labour standards, basic human rights and environmental protections."
Colin Cooper, Communications Division President of the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) says that Telstra would sell-off its entire PABX business to a private sector operator as part of its ongoing job shedding programme.
Cooper says the union had evidence that the sale had been underway well before the federal election although the announcement has been delayed until now.
Telstra's PABX business currently performs maintenance on dedicated switching systems used by businesses and also offers a facilities management service for large corporate customers such as QANTAS and Westpac on a contracted basis.
Cooper has slammed the sale as irrational and claimed that it would mean a further draining of skills out of the company. He says that business customers, especially those in regional centres, would be the losers from the sale.
"This is a highly specialised workforce," Cooper says, "whose skills should be retained within the corporation. As with the sale of the Commander business and the proposed sale of Network Design and Construction (NDC), this move represents a de-skilling of our national carrier."
Cooper says that the PABX skill base within Telstra had already been eroded to some degree by the massive redundancies that had occurred over the last six years. He claimed that the skills were not being replaced because of the cost of training higher level technical workers.
"This is going to be a problem for the new owners in due course too," Mr. Cooper said, "and for customers in the not too distant future. No-one wants to put the investment into training the next generation of skilled workers for this industry."
Telecoms Employment In Tail-Spin
Meanwhile, the announcement by Optus this week that it would shed another 350 jobs was a further sign of the failure of the Coalition government's telecommunications policies.
The CEPU's Mark Brownlow says he fears even more job losses could be in the pipeline, following poor performances from companies operating in the telecommunications sector.
Brownlow says that the job cuts made a mockery of the Government's assurances about employment opportunities in the sector, made repeatedly during the course of the Telstra privatisation debates.
"We were constantly told that the skilled employees shed by Telstra to please financial markets would easily find work elsewhere. Those claims look pretty hollow now."
Brownlow says that the spate of job cut announcements being made immediately after the Federal election seemed to point to a tacit agreement by the industry not to rock the boat during the election campaign.
Vodaphone Cutbacks Stalled
Meanwhile, Swift action by the CPSU in the Industrial Relations Commission today has prevented embattled telco Vodafone from issuing redundancy notices to more than a thousand staff.
In a strongly worded rebuke, Commissioner Greg Smith issued orders prohibiting redundancies and demanding Vodafone consult fully with unions before taking any redundancy action.
CPSU spokesperson, Stephen Jones, was delighted with today's decision.
"In the short term it has brought immediate relief to many anxious Vodafone workers. In the longer term it sends a strong message to employers about the importance of properly consulting staff and their unions," said Mr Jones.
The CPSU is seeking an urgent meeting with Vodafone and intends to go over any redundancy plans with "a fine-toothed comb" to save every job possible.
"If, as has been rumoured, Vodafone are looking to sell off parts of their business, we will be strenuously arguing that people be given the option of following their job to a new company," added Mr Jones.
The CPSU has struck the deal with Primus, the technology partners of the ACTU computer venture Virtual Communities.
The agreement - registered under the federal Workplace Relations Act - includes a four per cent wage increase over 12 months ; increased penalties for shift and weekend work and provision of trade union training leave.
It also creates a new wage and classification system, jump up rates for labour hire staff and conversion of long term casuals to permanent employment.
CPSU state secretary Mal Larsen says the agreement sweats an important benchmark for the CPSU which is organising around bargaining in the sctor.
"At the same time we have made an interim award in the telecommunications industry and are negotiating with the Australian Industry Group for a final award to cover all non Telstra/Optus telecommunications service providers," Larsen says.
Earlier this year concerns were raised at Primus' attitudes toward unions in the context of the Virtual Communities deal.
"Only weeks ago Qantas demanded a wage freeze from staff on the basis that this would provide job security. Qantas has achieved a fair degree of support for that position from some staff. Qantas is also spending $1.5 billion on new planes, has been taking on new staff and last month threatened to bring in Canadian jets to meet extra demand," Mr Combet said.
"This decision to cut 2,000 jobs contradicts all of these previous commitments.
Qantas enjoys a position of special privilege in the Australian aviation market with some 90% of the domestic share. With that privilege comes some responsibility to staff and customers. But just last week Qantas was threatening to go offshore altogether.
"These job losses could not have come at a worse time. Australia now faces a jobs crisis, with tens of thousands of redundancies in recent months across the aviation, tourism, finance, manufacturing and communications industries.
"These and other recent job losses should no longer be looked at in isolation. The Federal Government needs to take urgent action to protect Australian jobs. John Howard's hands-off approach to industry policy is not working and should not continue during an economic downturn."
Mr Combet also said many Australians might well be cynical about the timing of the latest job cut announcements, coming just days after the Federal Election.
Unions Bid to keep Ansett flying
Banks and oil companies and other unsecured creditors this week joined union calls on the Federal Government not to double dip on the ticket tax.
These companies believe the government's $195 million loan to Ansett's Administrators should help pay creditors including the cost of workers' entitlements. Like unions they don't believe the loan should be recovered from the assets of Ansett, but should be repaid from the $10 ticket tax being collected for that purpose.
This follows a meeting this week where Ansett creditors supported the actions of the administrator to date including proceeding with the Fox-Lew bid.
In other developments the Anstaff group dropped out of the race to purchase the airline and the administrators met with the government to discuss how the $195 million loan to help pay for workers' entitlements is treated.
Unions remain optimistic that Ansett will remain flying and that Ansett Mark 2 has a viable future.
The ACTU and Ansett unions are holding ongoing discussions with the Fox-Lew consortium about industrial conditions, profit sharing arrangements and the protection of entitlements in the transfer over to the new company.
The workers, members of the Finance Sector Union, have begun collecting proxies from shareholders so they can attend the Annual General Meetings to raise issues about staff conditions and customer service from the floor.
Workers are due to take unprecedented industrial action, with stop work rallies outside the Westpac and NAB AGMs in Sydney and Melbourne on December 13 and Sydney action by ANZ workers the following day.
The FSU have advertised in major metropolitan dailies seeking shareholder proxies under the banner "if you think bank bosses and poxy, lend us your proxy!" It is also circulated a community petititon to bbe tabled at the AGMs.
FSU state secretary Geoff Derrick says the time has come to draw a line in the sand for workers and customers.
"These three banks have declared in excess of $6 billion profit from their Australian operations in the past year and each has awarded their executives and directors very large rewards in the form of salary, bonuses and share options," Derrick says.
In recent days it had been revealed that three NAB executive had returned to the USA with $10 million bonuses despite presiding over the $4 billion Homeside debacle.
It was just the latest act of hypocrisy amongst the Big Four banks, who routinely award CEOs multi-million dollar bonuses while cutting back on staff and services.
To register your proxy support go to:
Big Redundancy win
Meanwhile, the Finance Sector Union, Commonwealth Bank Officers' Section, has secured an historic win in the Federal Court.
His Honour Mr Justice Moore found that employees seconded by the Commonwealth Bank to EDS, a separate multi-national IT company, should have been made redundant from the Bank.
His Honour accepted the FSU's argument that the secondment of staff without payment of redundancies was a breach of clause 42 of the Commonwealth Bank Officer's Award 1990. His Honour said further that the Bank failed to pay each employee a severance payment in accordance with Clause 42 (g) of the Award.
The Bank's Mr John Mulcahy said in an Update to EDS staff on the 19th of November 1997 that:
"Quite simply no one will be made redundant...."
Mr Mulcahy also said: "If the FSU pursues its claim, the process is likely to be lengthy and unsuccessful.".
It would seem from the Court's decision that the only part that Mr Mulcahy got right was that the case was indeed lengthy.
The matter has been held over until the 29th of November, for further directions.
The 80 workers, employed by Carter Holt Harvey, a corrugated paper manufacture at Lansvale, had reached agreement on their own enterprise agreement, securing a 14 per cent pay rise.
But eight women working in the company's office - who were also members of the union - had been told the company would not discuss a pay rise and keep them on open-ended contracts. The women have not had a rise for three years.
After hearing of the response to their female colleagues, the workers - members of the AMWU Printing Division - called a five-day stoppage until the management talks to the women.
The dispute drew media attention - placing extra pressure on company management who produce women's sanitary and home entertaining products.
They were ready to walk off the job again this week when managers backed down and agreed to negotiate a collective agreement through the union.
AMWU state secretary Amanda Perkins says she's really proud of the men who took the stand. "These are middle-aged blokes from migrant backgrounds who have taken a stand for their colleagues," Perkins says.
The new Award gives community and welfare workers immediate pay rises of around 12 per cent as well as reducing their working week from 40 hours to 38.
ASU Secretary Luke Foley says the new Award is a victory for union members.
"We've been fighting for five years to have this award come down and it's a significant step forward for our members who are working with the most marginalised and disadvantaged people in our community."
He says the ASU and industry representatives will be holding talks with the NSW Government to ensure non-profit organisations receive increased funding to enable them to meet the Award conditions without cutbacks to staffing or services.
The Award comes into effect on Wednesday, November 28.
The MEU's Ben Kruse told Labor Council delegates last night that the Carr Government's decision to hand over sections of Leichhardt and South Sydney to the City of Sydney would impact poorly on workers.
Kruse says there have already been 200 jobs lost within the City of Sydney and that workers transferred into the City would soon be forced to bid for their jobs.
The MEU has renewed its call for a moratorium on competitive tendering within local government - the practise where council workers have to bid for work against private contractors, often employing their workers on inferior wages and conditions.
The Problem With Competitive Tendering
The Municipal Employers Union has made a commitment to oppose Competitive Tendering of Council jobs. The Sydney City Council is currently trying to lure workers into signing an agreement which includes Competitive Tendering provisions. Members have rejected this proposal in favour of an MEU negotiated Award.
Local Government has significant physical, economic and social responsibilities in Australia. The decision of some councils to tender and contract out services is often done without adequate consideration of the social impact on local communities or the Australian economy. Some of these issues are briefly discussed below with particular reference to Sydney City Council.
Employment Impact: Mounting evidence indicates that tendering and contracting-out leads to significant decreases in employment. This has a disproportionate impact on particular groups of employees. For example, workers over 45 years of age are most vulnerable to the impact of tendering and contracting out. Various studies have shown that contractors are more inclined to employ younger, fitter workers. An increasing pool of older workers bear the brunt of tendering and contracting processes as they have difficulty finding alternative employment. This has many social consequences as contractors turn their back on the employment of older workers who have families to support - many of whom have to resort to obtaining support from the wider community and from social security payments.
The process outlined in the Sydney City Council Corporate Plan of using "competitive tendering as a means of regularly testing our services" is destructive of workplace harmony and perpetuates a mood of distrust and uncertainty which can undermine worker commitment and increase staff turnover with consequent inefficiency from the loss of skilled staff. This environment therefore has the opposite effect of "getting the highest quality services at the best value".
Large corporations have high capital turnover rates which dwarf the revenue base of local authorities. Some councils have experienced 'low balling' tactics of large contractors who bid low so they can secure the market and recover cost and profits later. This makes a mockery of council practices of testing the market through competitive tendering.
Reduced Pay and Conditions: Some contract firms reduce costs through payment of below-award wages and conditions, often preferring non-unionised workers. Such cost reductions are not efficiency gains but a redistribution of wealth from the workforce to profits (which may go overseas). Reduced pay for workers will reduce their spending power and can impact negatively on the wider community.
Dumping of social commitments: There are a range of policy commitments of the public sector such as EEO and multicultural policies. As part of its EEO objectives the Sydney City notes it aims to "seek to employ a range of staff at all levels which reflects the social composition and diversity of the community." As such, Council promotes itself as a socially responsible employer and service provider however, competitive tendering and contracting out enables the council to wash its hands of these and other social obligations as these commitments have meaning to a shrinking workforce.
The Rise of the Contract Industry: Throughout the last few decades the scope and magnitude of contract work has dramatically increased. A large number of firms contracting for local government services are multinational companies who take profits overseas - reducing Australia's economic development opportunities. This hardly fits with the council's challenge of "creation and sharing of economic wealth with the local community" as set out in their Corporate Plan.
Ongoing job losses at Sydney City Council In March 1996 there were 945 employees in Sydney City Council, since that time it has reduced to 731 according to the Australian Local Government Guide - though the LGSA figure of 723 is probably more accurate. This means that there have already been 222 jobs lost in this one Council.
Competitive tendering will reduce this number even further. Such reductions can come without increasing efficiency but at a social cost to the community.
The MEU believes there should be a morotorium on all contracting out of jobs at Sydney City council until all inner city local government boundary changes are complete. With expansion of the Sydney City Council to take in workers from South Sydney, Leichhardt, Marrickville and Randwick all CT decisions must wait.
The MEU has lodged an Award log of claims with the City of Sydney Council and has called on the Sydney City Council to hold a full impact study into the social implications of further competitive tendering of local government jobs.
The Union movement believes that it has traced Sunshine Sugar products from the mills and refinery to the supermarket shelves with sufficient precision for a targeted boycott to be very effective.
Commenting on the proposal CFMEU State Secretary Andrew Ferguson says what management at Sunshine Sugar is doing with this lockout is morally indefensible.
"They are not just trying to starve 350 Australian families into submission, they are ruining Cane farmers and holding the entire North Coast economy hostage," Ferguson says.
"We are hopeful that management will reconsider their position, cease the lockout and negotiate a sensible settlement of this dispute."
The movements peak union bodies, the Labor Council of NSW and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) this week received delegations of locked out workers and were strongly supportive of initiating a national campaign in support of mill workers.
Ferguson has pledged to raise the dispute to a national level to highlight the bastardry of mills management and ensure locked out workers are financially supported by other Australians.
NSW Transport Minister Carl Scully has agreed to extend transport concessions to third year apprentices, whose right to taxpayer funded had been previously restricted.
The decision - effecting approximately 1200 apprentices - brings them into line with tertiary students and will take effect from the beginning of 2002.
Electrical Trades union state secretary Bernie Riordan has congratulated the Minister for Transport for supporting apprentices and trainees, in a move that gives young workers a fair go.
NSW Nurses Association members at St Vincent's Private Hospital have voted to accept a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA), which provides a pay rise that is 2.5 per cent above current public sector rates and major improvements in such things as allowances, maternity and paternity leave, salary sacrificing and rostering procedures.
NSWNA Acting General Secretary, Brett Holmes, says the St Vincent's agreement is a credit to the nurses at St Vincent's who struggled hard for this outcome.
"It also increases the pressure on the NSW Government and other health care employers. NSW is experiencing a serious nurse shortage, which is impacting on the availability and quality of health and aged care services. St Vincent's seems to have accepted this fact to some extent and has gone some way towards improving the working life of its nurses.
"It is time other employers, including the NSW Government, other private hospitals and aged care providers, also accepted we face a nursing crisis and negotiated wages and conditions that will help rebuild this vital profession," Holmes says.
George Piggins, Brian Parker, Sean Garlick
The clubhouse opening further cements ties between the Union and the most working class football club in Australia, South Sydney.
The CFMEU was instrumental in getting Souths back in the league, campaigning strongly both amongst its membership and within the broader community.
CFMEU NSW Assistant Secretary Brian Parker says he's delighted the clubhouse is opening.
"When Souths took on Rupert Murdoch to get back in the league they were taking on one of Australia's biggest corporate heavyweights. The CFMEU is also familiar with battling large corporations.
"This clubhouse will be a testimony to working class solidarity and the survival against the odds of working class culture."
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions says the move could help convince companies to pull out of Burma, thereby pressuring the junta to comply with ILO standards which treat forced labour and slavery as crimes of international law.
The list was published as the ILO's decision-making Governing Body concluded its discussion of the report of a High-Level Team which toured the country last September and early October to assess whether forced labour had been eliminated, as the junta claims.
The ICFTU points out, however, that nearly one year after the ILO's historic decision calling for measures to be imposed against the junta, the mission report fully vindicates the organisation's perception that forced labour is still routinely resorted to by the military.
It also says the report clearly demonstrates the junta's attempts to disguise this reality and hide it from the ILO investigators. It mentions as evidence the fact that posters prohibiting forced labour had been put up on the eve of the ILO team's visit to particular villages, that they were posted in Burmese and English in areas inhabited by ethnic groups generally not speaking either language, and that junta-issued "Orders" prohibiting the practice and dating back as far
as 1999 had still not been published by the country's newspapers, radio or television.
The ICFTU noted with interest the mission's recommendation that an Ombudsman be appointed and/or that a permanent ILO presence be established in the country, in order to monitor the forced labour situation and to help the authorities to tackle the problem. It also said, however, that the ILO should remain realistic about how much it could expect from international monitoring, given the total absence of civil liberties in the country, including freedom of association, freedom of expression and movement.
Global Unions, which includes the ICFTU, TUAC and the ten international trade secretariats, started to compile its list of companies linked to Burma last February. Over the last 8 months, it asked around 310 companies to sever their business links with Burma - the database of companies was based entirely on publicly available information.
Over 60 companies replied directly. Some denied involvement, others admitted their presence. Some companies said their presence is beneficial to the people of Burma, while others suggested opening a dialogue with unions about their Burma links.
Most multinational companies identified as having dealings with Burma are based in OECD countries. The Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC) has urged the OECD to employ the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises to encourage action in support of the ILO resolution on forced labour in Burma. In addition, a number of TUAC affiliates have raised the Burma involvement of companies based in their countries with the National Contact Points established under the Guidelines.
According to the trade unions, it is impossible to conduct any business relationship in Burma without directly or indirectly supporting the Burmese military dictatorship, which is responsible for the extensive use of forced labour, as well as other serious human and trade union rights violations.
"Any international business involvement in Burma is an accommodation with tyranny. It supports a corrupt and repressive military regime that has never been granted any legitimacy by the people of Burma", said Bill Jordan, General Secretary of the ICFTU.
Some of the 310 companies approached have been removed from the list after providing evidence of their withdrawal from Burma. Others have been removed due to a process of ongoing dialogue. The list of companies is on the web and includes links to evidence, and correspondence where available.
The database, as well as background information on this initiative, can be found on the web at: http://www.global-unions.org/burma
Shaping our World Through Institutional Investor Activism
Sydney Tues 20 Nov; Melbourne Wed 21 Nov
6-8pm. Two seminars only; limited space available.
Following the collapse of One Tel, HIH and Ansett, the world's leading institutional investor speaks in Australia on how institutional activism can save jobs, companies and the environment while improving returns.
Peter Butler, CEO of UK based Hermes Focus Asset Management Limited, provides a rare insight into institutional activism. Discover:
* How institutional activism operates around the world
* How institutional activism goes beyond voting shares and
engages with managers to improve company ethics and profits
* How investors, fund managers, clients, unions and
activists benefit from shareholder activism
* How institutional shareholders can control corporations
and the triple bottom line
If you have any interest in the active use of capital, this is a seminar NOT TO BE MISSED.
Peter Butler will appear together with a panel of leading Australian experts :
* Chris Cuffe - CEO, Colonial First State Investment Managers and a Director of the Investment and Financial Services Association (IFSA). Chris has grown Colonial First State from small start-up operation to a dominant force in the Australian retail funds management industry.
* Jon Buckeridge - heads the Australian and New Zealand investment management operations of Morgan Stanley, a global investment bank. He is also a Director of IFSA.
* Michael O'Sullivan - Chair, Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, which represents Australia's largest superannuation funds .
Two seminars only
SYDNEY - Tuesday, 20th November, 6pm -8pm
Seminar Room, Level 37, Gilbert + Tobin, 2 Parks Street, Sydney - Parking - Queen Victoria Building or Hilton Hotel
Chair: Chris Cuffe -CEO, Colonial First State Investment Managers
Peter Butler - CEO of UK based Hermes Focus Asset Management
MELBOURNE - Wednesday, 21st November, 6pm-8pm
Melbourne City RACV Club, 123 Queen Street,Melbourne
Chair: Jon Buckeridge - Morgan Stanley/IFSA Director
Peter Butler - CEO, UK based Hermes Focus Asset Management Ltd/IFSA Director
Michael O'Sullivan, - Australian Council of Superannuation Investors Chair
Booking details for both seminars - $75 per ticket - Bookings essential, Major credit cards welcome
Contact Tory Waygood
Phone : 02 9692 5100
Fax : 02 9692 5192
Mail 'Pluto Seminar' @Locked Bag 199, Annandale 2038
International Day of People with Disability
The Absolutely Everybody Festival Day at Parramatta's Church St Mall (open air)
The event is on Sunday 2 December 2001, from 12-4pm and is organised by the Disability Council of NSW, Disability Services Aboriginal Corporation, Mental Health Coordinating Council, Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association, NSW Council for Intellectual Disability, People with Disabilities NSW, Physical Disability Council of NSW, with the support of Parramatta Council.
The purpose of the event is to celebrate International Day of People with Disability in a fun and relaxed atmosphere of diversity and inclusion.
This year marks 20 years since the International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981 so there is a lot to celebrate!
There will be groovy entertainment including the Australian Theatre of the Deaf, Aboriginal Dancers Yidaki Dige, duo Nature Nature and a rock band Mud Rock, as well as roving street theatre, kids entertainment, multicultural food and a sausage sizzle. One of the most unique parts of the day will be the interactive displays and activities including an Image Gallery, and a Time Wall, marking significant times for people with disability, and where participants can add their own achievements and hopes for the future.
There will also be information stalls, a wheelchair sports demonstration, community organisations and some market stalls so you can go Christmas shopping!
Auslan interpreters, some personal care assistance and accessible toilets will be available. Parramatta Train Station is an Easy Access Station and is very close to the Mall. Some street parking and parking stations are available. If you would like to find out more info on transport options or access please contact me.
A colour flyer is being distributed and I can send copies to you if requested. Any assistance in distribution of these would be greatly appreciated. In the meantime if you have any queries please contact me.
ph (02) 9319 6622
CPSU national secretary, Wendy Caird, made the call after returning from today's Telstra AGM at Sydney's Darling Harbour Convention Centre.
Features of the meeting were confirmation of a record $4.1 billion profit and further job losses, on top of the 35,000 since 1996.
But Ms Caird said the most glaring feature of the AGM had been the top-table's "complete disregard" for ordinary shareholders.
"If I tried to run a meeting of Telstra workers like that, they would have my guts for garters and rightly so," Ms Caird said.
During the meeting, company chairman Bob Mansfield had prevented questioning of directors prior to voting on their positions; over-ridden procedural motions from rank and file stock holders; and refused to entertain a number of questions from the floor.
Some of the ignored questions related to director and executive salaries, staff cuts and Asian investments.
Management did, however, reveal that executives who had failed to achieve targets would still be paid bonuses.
"Before the Tony Abbotts of this world ever lecture unions on democracy again they should attend a Telstra AGM," she advised.
"We couldn't get away with it. Even if we wanted to our members wouldn't allow it."
Poor fellow my party Australia will lament this sad day.
Once the ALP left could be clearly coloured red , now sadly its green .
And as they quietly marched away from the working class I doubt they sang even sotto voice solidarity forever.
It was not the first time the left let down the working class the shameful ,gutless self interest in the backdown to mr 4% Bob Carr stood out as a chance to make a working class stand .
As I stood in the rain outside the north coast sugar mill with locked out workers at Broad water we all waited the chance to vote that day for change I was just a tourist showing the flag
They? The victims of Howard's vindictive industrial relations policy's
As we grew more hopeful few would know we would be beaten so badly , and betrayed so badly again by some from the left.
What good is the left to the working class if they only betray them?,how can we except the party that once had an all time low primary vote of 43%after the overthrow of Witlam except yesterdays bottom?, is it the bottom?.
Those locked out workers are in for a dreadful time prime minister in waiting Costello will see to that country unionists in tiger country do not need left wing words they need to know working class politics stay solid , committed to them and the ALP .
We can salvage some of our platform if we understand and except we too must change Australians will never ever except open door migration .
They will give till it hurts to bring an end to suffering in other countries ,you could run a telethon every month and we would give freely.
I grew up on Sydney construction sites with people from most of the world and loved it ,but my brother at work had a knife put to his throat , just because he carried a tray of pies down a factory floor , with a woman not of our faith.
Is it wrong to hate racism so badly that I even hate it when its from the minority?.
Education must include my rights to my culture , no racism is execptable ever.
AUSTRALIANS overlooked old folks bathed in kero ,GST relief, education, hospitals,.
They overlooked the best prime minister we never had.
Can the left or indeed the right believe they do not demand the ALP learn from this? We will never again fill the government chairs unless we change.
But even I doubt I can vote for Carr rape should never be at the hands of a family member
At last, One Nation has been defeated. Their vote has been halved. They have gone from being the third largest party, in terms of votes, to the sixth largest. It seems they will win no Senate seats at this election. Hanson will be consigned again to the electoral dust bin. John Howard promised to stand up to Pauline Hanson. Her words, he said, were inaccurate, dishonest and verging on the deranged. They were appealing to irresponsible racist sentiment in the Australian community. Now, like the Borg in Star Trek, the Prime Minister has defeated One Nation by assimilating them.
Now we also have established a new political consensus on asylum seeker. It is important Australia sends a clear message. We will be compassionate to genuine refugees, but will not tolerate being seen as a haven for intending migrants that wish to jump the queue. When a known refugee situation arises in a foreign land we will offer help to the refugees in their land. We cannot have an open door policy that sees boat people arriving on our beaches on a daily or weekly basis. Australia is not responsible for people who pay for passage to Australia bypassing other points of refuge. Most of these people are not refugees but migrants jumping the queue. Are these the words of the Liberal Party? Or the ALP? Or of One Nation?
What a different Australia it is now, to that which we had in the lead up to 1980, when a Coalition Government dealt with the refugee problem with humanity and leadership. What a different meaning the word "leadership" has now.
Yet in other ways there are similarities to 1980. In the lead-up to that year's election, Labor had held a commanding lead in the polls for three months (and indeed through most of 1979). But Labor sought to minimise the difference between itself and the Government, focusing on a small range of issues, and paying little attention to the key issue of unemployment. It made itself vulnerable to a scare campaign which inevitably came - on the issue of capital gains tax - and which saw its lead collapse.
In 1980, the scare campaign began well after the election campaign started. In 2001 it began immediately before the election campaign. Despite the difference in issues, it was no less calculated in 2001 than in 1980. And with Labor having filled with muddy water the ravine that might have separated itself from the Government, the small target became a sitting duck. By the time Labor in 2001 started to articulate its vision and policies - yet still trying to minimise the distance between itself and the Government - it had lost.
At least Malcolm Fraser had the moral integrity not to whip up xenophobic hysteria for electoral gain. At least he did not manufacture stories about the boat people of the time. But I suspect that if he had, even the Labor of 1980 would have stood up to him.
As a former Labor voter I would just like to comment on the election outcome.
This morning I have been listening to radio and party members analysing "What went wrong?". I believe the reasons put forward have failed to address the fact that the average man in the street agrees with Border Protection and they want an orderly refugee program not an invasion of "Boat People".
An honourable man of high intellect has resigned as party leader. Now the fear of Simon Crean and his cohorts, Marten Fergusen, Jenny George and Cameron getting control of the party will gaurantee that Labor will be in the wilderness for a long time to come. Whoever takes over as leader must accept that the days of, "Them and Us" has long gone. We don't want desparate promises given for the sole purpose of getting the top job. Forget the GST and come to grips with the real community concerns....the militant approach will no longer work.
THE LABOR PARTY MUST CHANGE DIRECTION
As a concerned ALP member , "True Believer" and Labor voter in the seat of Lindsay, I am deeply troubled about the large swing to the Liberal candidate Jackie Kelly. Is it possible, that her retention of this once safe, then notional Labor seat, and now a safe liberal seat will affect the achievement of our Labor candidate Councilor David Bradbury, in having Penrith replace Richmond on the national weather?
One of the highlights in my long days of forced retirement is the smiling weatherman telling me- in what climate, I enjoyed this leisure time.
We as a family will miss you David, and as a family of Western Sydney "True Believers", we will continue to support you in reciprocation as to the support you and your Comrade- Councilor Greg Davies have given us in our hour of need, in fact we hope you both stay in local politics to enable us to give you - a serve of value added reciprocation.
We were also saddened to see that your stable mate David Borger the ex Mayor of Parramatta lost with an even larger swing against him, and as an ex-employee of Parramatta, who now rely on clothes from St. Vinnies , food from the Sallies and welfare from the State, we can express much empathy with his loss , and we as a family will certainly seek out some manner to repay the kindness show by David .
It is just unfortunate that unlike our family, these other moronic voters in Western Sydney will just not acknowledge who are their betters, and that the party machine, and its hierarchy the "Chardonnay and Café Latte "elite know what is best for them.
Perhaps if you had taken the sound advice that you gave to me, when I humiliated my self with a request for assistance, and contacted the "Union", you might have had a seat (federal) rather that a three year wait and a sore arse!
In a run down on how the parties fare on industrial relations in last week's Workers On Line (Issue 118) readers were presented with a twisted analysis that put The Greens in bed with IR Minister Mr Abbott. This distorted view, written by Peter Lewis, contrasted with the generous interpretation given to the Democrats IR work. The party that gave the Coalition the necessary votes to bring in the first wave of the Workplace Relations Act was awarded "brownie points" for supposedly resisting the Howard-Reith reform packages.
With the election looming the Lewis-Labor Council spin denigrates The Greens by association with the baddest boy of the Howard team, the mad monk himself, Tony Abbott. The Greens are proud of their policy and actions on IR issues, such as support for workers' right to strike, abolition of AWA's, winding up of the Office of Employment Advocate, and the development of industry-wide insurance schemes to give full protection to all workers' entitlements.
And Greens MPs have consistently put their policies into actions. Greens Senators fought to stop the sell-off of the Australian National Line and vigorously opposed the Reith-Kernot Workplace Relations Act with a raft of amendments. In NSW Upper House MPs led the fight to protect workers' compensation from being dismantled by a Labor government.
When it comes to the Democrats Workers On Line pulls on the kid gloves. Yes this party does have a policy commitment to abolish junior rates of pay as Lewis informs his readers. But he failed to add that when they had a chance of ending age based discriminatory wage rates they just could not bring themselves to do it. The Democrats voted with the Coalition to retain wage rates based on age instead of competency in the 1998 Work Place Relations Act. If the Democrats had voted with The Greens and Labor this measure would have been defeated.
When it comes to policy many political parties get the words right. But what happens when a party has the power to act on its policies is what really counts. Surely Lewis, known for his hard hitting style, could have delved deeper than the policy documents and given WOL readers a reminder of what some political parties do when they actually have the power to change the laws that affect workers lives.
In 1998 the Democrats had that power, but the result was ugly for workers. As the Democrats chose to vote with the Coalition and not support Greens and/or Labor amendments we ended up with only 20 areas to be covered in awards, the loss of pay for industrial actions (not including strikes), and the reintroduction of secondary boycott provisions.
So what to do on November 10 - a crucial election on so many fronts. A vote for The Greens and preferences for Labor in the House of Representatives and the Senate strengthens the value of your vote.
It will help to ensure a Labor government is elected, while sending them a strong message that you want a party that shows humanity to refugees, is strong on workers' rights and will strengthen and extend public assets and services.
Greens Senators for the past decade have had a consistent track record of support for progressive issues and workers' rights. We have a real chance of increasing our numbers in this election. Your vote in the Senate will be crucial to getting this country back to values that serve all and not the elite few.
Ed's Note: This was Lee's daggy headline, not mine
I'm a 19 year old student from La Trobe University in Wodonga. This would have been the first time I voted in a federal election, only I was visiting my parents in the small town of Tottenham NSW. I am enrolled for the Indi electorate, and as that is interstate I could not vote at the local polling booth. It seems you have to vote at an AEC office if you are from interstate, and the nearest one of those is around 2 hrs away, and I cannot get there. I was under the impression that you could vote for any electorate at any polling booth anywhere in Australia, however it seems I was mistaken. Me and around a dozen other people from interstate, not to mention anyone I have mentioned this to. This is a small town of around 400 people, I can only imagine that this is going on in every other polling booth across the country which is not at an AEC office, and believe that this is not good enough. They should either make it possible to vote for any electorate from any polling booth anywhere in the country (as seems to be the popular belief), or they should launch a major advertising campaign all over the country - something I didn't see a whisper of even though I live in a border region. As things stand at the moment, the idea of every voice in Australia being heard is an absolute farce, and I am furious and hurt that my opinion doesn't matter, but am determined to make sure my voice is heard.
"Workers Online" is continuing its valuable nurturing of the serious study of labour history as evidenced by its recent publicising of Marilyn Dodkin's book on the Labor Council.
A revealing discovery in the Dodkin book is that a self-described "gauche" Bob Carr caused severe embarrassment in 1978 when, in a pioneering document, he suggested that the ALP should finally abandon its formal commitment to socialism. This idea helped to kill off Carr's Labor Council career as it was "a heresy to Ducker".
This incident confirms my understanding that the split of the 1950s had nothing at all to do with whether you were strong or weak on socialism. It seems to have had a lot more to do with old-style religious sectarianism.
When trying to protect society from terrorism we must also protect ourselves from losing what we are supposed to be protecting. Laws are being enacted in 'advanced' countries
allowing citizens to be held without trial or knowledge of their incarceration. A reminder of the old law of habeus corpus. An vaery important law for trade unionists
Yours sincerely, Mr I G Ferguson
* habeas corpus : A writ issuing out of a court of justice, or awarded by a judge in vacation, requiring the body of a person to be brought before the judge or into the court for the purpose specified in the writ; spec. the prerogative writ habeas corpus ad subjiciendum, requiring the body of a person restrained of liberty to be brought before the judge or into court, that the lawfulness of the restraint may be investigated and determined.
b) Habeas Corpus Act: the name commonly given to the Act 31 Chas. II. c. 2 (1679),
whereby the granting and enforcing of this prerogative writ was much facilitated.
* "HABEAS CORPUS ( Lat., "[that] you have the body"), a writ or order issued by a court to a person having custody of another, commanding him or her to produce the detained person in order to determine the legality of the detention. The writ of habeas corpus is of English origin; its original purpose was to liberate illegally detained persons, and it is still a protection against arbitrary imprisonment."
by Peter Lewis
Michael Coast MLC
It is being read as a disaster for Labor. What's your take Saturday's election results?
In the circumstances I thought it was a great result for Labor. Two weeks out there was no doubt that we had the potential to lose up to a dozen seats. I think Beazley has got to be congratulated on the campaign that he ran. I think it was a tremendous campaign. It positioned Labor so that we are in with a chance next time. Whilst people can be critical of some of the issues that Labor had to fight on, the reality is that we came fairly close in a number of areas, and maintained our position.
But the reality is that a lot of the seats that were marginal are now fairly safe Liberal seats.
All that shows is the volatility of the electorate. I reject this notion that if Labor had of taken a different position on the asylum seeker issue it would have won the election.
Even though I have an elite view about that issue - that is that I support additional places being made available for asylum seekers and a more humane treatment of it - the reality of it was that all the polling showed very clearly that issue was one that was biting in a way that was going to damage Labor.
The real issue here is that there should be a proper immigration debate. This issue was lost in relation to an immigration freeze when we didn't engage in a proper debate. In fact, this issue was lost when One Nation got on the scene and people didn't take up the issue of immigration and sought to pander to them. Any expectation that you could turn this thing around in the following campaign was illusion.
But can you understand hard-core Labor supporters being disillusioned with the way that Labor ran the line?
I was disillusioned that the election had reached the point where the defining issue, despite all of the efforts of the Labor front bench, remained the asylum seekers. That was a very disillusioning position to be in. But given that the events were out of the control of Labor, the result was then worse.
Lindsay Tanner in his wash up is saying that the problem that Labor faces now is that it has got two distinct constituents - middle class constituents and its blue collar working class constituents - and its challenge is to actually get a theme or a line - a reason for being - that cuts across both those groups. What is your take on that?
Labor has had two constituencies since the 70s, since the Whitlam era. I don't think it is something that has emerged in the last 12 months or five weeks; it has been around at least since the Whitlam period. Labor made a dramatic shift in policy towards what we now call aspirational voters. That began with Whitlam, particularly in education and some of those broader social questions.
The real challenge is that if there is an issue that you believe requires a defining of position, then it has to be done outside the context of an election. Effort has to be put in well before an election on an issue as sensitive as immigration.
But when you are leaving all your policies until the election campaign, surely that leaves you exposed?
I think it was a fundamental mistake not to engage in a debate on immigration. I think that has to be something that Labor puts forward in a sensible way in the next three years. We ought to have a debate about immigration in this country. That debate ought to be one that is based on a proper understanding of the benefits and costs of immigration - not one that has a focal point on particular events around the border. That is not an immigration debate, that is wedge politics at its worst.
Simon Crean looks like being anointed leader unopposed. Is that a healthy thing for the Labor Party?
I think it is healthy that Labor has a leader elected unopposed. That at least shows that the team is willing to work around one individual and not split in relation to leadership aspirations. Now that is healthy.
In terms of Simon Crean, he is a person of enormous talent, but I am one of the people that believe that he really does need to reinvent himself. I think he has got the capacity to do that, but it means focusing on those issues that really are important to the average Labor Party member, and Australian voter.
Crean is already saying that he would be looking at reviewing the influence of unions in the Party. Is that a healthy debate to be having at the moment?
I think it is a complete nonsense to raise the question of the influence of unions, particularly if you are a former ACTU president. The reality is the unions have played an important role in ensuring the stability of the Party. What he should be raising is the question of bashing the system, which is a different proposition altogether to the unions.
The problem with the Labor Party is not that it has got a trade union base, it has got a factionalised structure, and Simon would be better off focusing on the sorts of candidates that system brings up.
Looking around the various seats that Labor put a lot of effort in, it seemed a lot of the work was by default being done by trade unionists because there were very few other rank and file members around. Do you think the election did expose problems in the level of activism at branch levels?
I think that the unions, as always, played a critical role in being the core of Labor's network, and that is appropriate. I don't accept the view that there wasn't branch activism - there certainly was. But what is valid, is the criticism that that in some areas we have large branches that can't staff polling booths - one could ask about the level of activism.
I go back to what I have said on previous occasions, that the Labor Party does need to put some requirements on branch members, both in terms of their responsibilities to the Party, but also in terms of the obligations that the Party has to provide them with resources and education.
So you seem to be fairly relaxed about the result?
Given that the polls two weeks out had us in a position where we could have had an enormous disaster - one that would have meant it would have taken at least two electoral cycles to be in a position to win government - I think the result on balance is a good result for Labor. I would have preferred we won, but circumstances changed after September 11, and the Tampa issue. There is no doubt about that. John Howard played wedge politics brilliantly. That is no credit on him but it is certainly great credit to Kim Beazley and his team that we weren't decimated.
On wedge politics - doesn't it mean that Labor is always going to be vulnerable to this sort of attack?
Absolutely. And that is the point of the comments I am making. Unless we engage in a proper debate over a long period of time about the structure of our immigration policy, we are always open to being vulnerable on these types of issues.
That is the problem with this debate. You can't have an immigration debate in five weeks. It takes a long time to shift attitudes.
I think Labor has got a responsibility as the Party that by and large was instrumental in supporting post-war immigration, to take the issue up in an intellectual way and a political way, and ensure that we have a proper debate.
And what Labor principles should guide that debate?
The principles are quite clear. We stand for equality of opportunity. I think that is broader than our domestic borders. I think that this country will tolerate an influx of migrants that contribute to this country. But this country will also tolerate refugees, provided there is a proper debate about the consequences of that type of policy, rather than an attempt to create fear and insecurity.
Leader-designate Simon Crean has been drawn into a debate on the future of the relationship between the ALP and the union movement in light of calls from some sections of the Party to diminish union influence.
In this debate a few points should be made:
· Unions are more popular than the ALP. Labor Council has commissioned polling over the last 5 years, which consistently shows 60 per cent of people support unions.
· Unions are having to reform to survive and are undergoing fundamental shifts in the way they represent their members.
· During the election campaign, unions carried many of the ALP campaigns
Those who seek to diminish the role of the unions may not like these messages but they ignore them at their peril.
Perhaps it is time to debate the role unions should play in the ALP - but it is a debate that should explore the full relationship, not a grab for power by the apparatchiks.
In this time of scientific poll-driven politics I'll give the ALP a bit of free advice: you already have a focus group of some two million Australians who can really tell you what is going on out there in the real world.
Union values and priorities are driven by the mass of voters who the ALP should be trying to woo.
They are not just blue-collar workers they are also white-collar professionals and service workers, what the pollsters call the swinging voter demographic.
Yet some in the ALP want to pussyfoot around relations with the unions as if we were an embarrassing relative.
We are related: The unions set up the ALP to represent working people.
If those same people in the Party don't like our values they are welcome to go and set up their own party. Just don't call it Labor - it will give us all a bad name.
The constructive alternative is for the ALP to view the institutionalized links with working people as a critical advantage over its political opponents.
Modern union officials have a complex skills set:
· On the ground campaigning
· Dealing with complex technological change issues
· and managing significant service-based businesses
which makes them a good sounding board for the Party.
Those with fears of union ties are misguided. What they should fear is a lack of union ties. Without unions what is the Party but another populist organization using modern polling techniques to tell the people what they want to hear?
It may win power from time to time: but for what purpose??
Ben Chifley had the balance right in his light on the hill speech when he said the ALP "must fight for what it believes is right, whether it brings electoral success or not".
Unions are reinventing themselves to meet the needs of modern workers and political parties too need to reinvent themselves to meet the needs of a disengaged electorate.
The unions are going through the change process first, the ALP will ignore our lessons at its own peril.
The time has come for us to redefine the ties between industrial and political Labor but this is not simply to reduce the role of unions.
The links with unions are a virtue, not a burden.
Let's not ignore our history - or we will face a future without focus or meaning.
John Robertson is the secretary of the NSW Labor Council
by Michael Gadiel and Peter Lewis
There is no doubt that John Howard's effective dealing of the race card was the decisive moment of the campaign. But it was Labor's response which dictated the outcome. It embodied all that was wrong with Labor in the post-Keating era.
The Beazley camp will argue that, faced with the Tampa crisis, it had no alternative but to neutralize the issue and attempt to keep the focus on its chosen battle ground of health, education and jobs. These were, after all, the issues its polling was telling it were of concern to voters. It was prepared to run dead on the Howard's covertly racist policy on refugees to give the people the message they wanted to hear.
Beazley's fatal mistake was in failing to differentiate his position on refugees from Howard's. By wholly adopting Howard's position, Beazley conceded the leadership in this area to the Government.
If Howard tapped Australia's xenophobic streak, then why could Beazley not have tapped the Nation's compassion? Who were the refugees running from and why? What risks had they undergone in reaching our shores? Isn't it a problem for the whole region, not just Australia?
Whilst accepting the need to regulate our borders and discourage illegal entrants, Labor could have argued the ridiculousness of the pacific island solution, challenged the government on its relationship with Indonesia, and put forward an alternative policy for streamlining the refugee assessments system and limiting appeals. What about re-funding English language classes for immigrants? The Coastguard proposal was the single positive contribution Labor brought to the debate.
The Labor strategy could only work if the refugee issue could be kept out of the headlines for the rest of the campaign - for Beazley to get a clear run on his message on health and education, but it was naïve to think that that would be the case. With each new boatload, the refugees were back on the front pages throughout the five weeks of the campaign.
When a boatload of refugees sank - or when the video affair that blew up on the government in the final days, Beazley would have been able to take advantage of these events to turn the debate around -had he sought to differentiate his position from Howard. Instead these events worked against Labor - even though the Government was on the defensive - because the refugee issue was back on the agenda drowning out Labor's other messages.
The results on Saturday night show that Labor lost ground from both the left and the right: A strategy that sought to minimise the effect of this issue instead magnified it leaving many Party faithful disillusioned about Labor to the point of disengagement.
In doing so, it showed again its willingness to sacrifice principle for populism, in a bid to win power. This, more than Tampa, is the reason we have not elected a Beazley Government.
The race card has been played effectively and has exposed an enduring Achilles Heel for Labor. Whenever a conservative faces difficulties it can now play the card, knowing Labor is left blowing in the populist wind. The only viable strategy for Labor is to challenge the race question head on and take the card out of the pack.
In the inevitable rebuilding period it would be dangerous to blame Tampa and bad luck, Labor must re-evaluate the way it conducts politics, why it is in the game and what it wants power for.
The Problem with Populism
Beazley appeared weak because he has constantly allowed the opinion polls to shape his position.
Inconsistency is a luxury that oppositions enjoy and governments do not. Governments must develop policy that is workable and in the public interest or they will suffer the unpopularity of the effect of these policies in the future.
How would Beazley behave in government? Where is there an example of a policy where the Labor Party has held out against public opinion on the ground of principle? Can the average punter find this position believable? Are they just telling us what we want to hear...sucking up with the real intention of doing something else? These were the enduring questions about Labor.
Adherence to principle and consistency is vital for an Opposition because it is the only way the electorate can get a sense for how they will behave in government.
Labor was unable to gain the trust of the Australian electorate because they didn't know where they really stood. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, any chance of explaining these positions was probably obliterated.
By relying too heavily on polling to determine their position Labor is not acting strategically - they become as predictable as the mob and therefore Howard has been able to manipulate the landscape to his advantage.
To act strategically the party must work to shape public opinion as well as reflect it. This means that Labor needs to engage - a two-way, exchange of ideas leading to a genuine change of thinking on both sides. Without this educative roll the Party serves no purpose other than as a public opinion polling machine whose skills are built up around telling people what they want to hear and then being forced by circumstances to do the opposite.
It is time for the Labor Party to re-establish some realistic principles and then stick to them. Maybe it could start by listening to its constituency - talking to unions and working people that have been the base of this Party for 110 years.
They will find that- far from being the racist rednecks that Howard played to, Australians can be deeply thoughtful about the future and compassionate about their fellow humans. Aussies are caring and generous people, it was just that these emotions were never tapped in the refugee debate.
At what point should the Party draw a line and accept that it will not compromise certain principles to get elected?
Are there some principles upon which it is worth making a stand - or is everything negotiable and flexible in this post-modern world?
Labor has always been a party that sought power to achieve an agenda - to the benefit of its core constituency of working people. This is the one of the key distinctions between the Labor Party and the conservatives who see themselves as the natural ruling class and seek government for the sake of power alone.
Labor seeks power to achieve benefits for its constituents. Both Whitlam and Hawke were elected with a genuine case for change and with a real spirit of optimism that there was a better way.
That feeling was missing in this campaign - largely because of the international situation, but also because with major parties were pandering to isolationist, inward-looking feelings in the electorate.
Traditional Labor thinking is that none of the agenda can be implemented if power is not achieved, therefore it is necessary to compromise.
The question for Labor is what is the real objective: the pursuit of power or the pursuit of the objectives that it purports to stand for?.
This is not a black and white question, but involves a balance. Whitlam is rightly respected for making the party electable - reforming it in a Cold War climate to offer the electorate an alternate government rather than a revolution.
But is it possible though that we have now swung too far? That the principles that the Party purports to represent have been totally subjugated to the pursuit of power? Does the party now compete with the Liberals to be the 'natural' government.
The refugee issue is perhaps an issue that would be better served, in the long term, by Labor holding the line on this issue.
Regardless, the tendency to populism over principle hurt the Labor campaign before the Tampa issue exploded.
By taking short-term decisions in Opposition to support the Coalition's policies on private health and private education, Labor locked itself into conservative funding priorities.
Not only did this make it difficult to distinguish itself from its opponents, it meant that it could not draw on these substantial funds to finance its own agenda in the election campaign.
Labor has two possible responses to the weekend election defeat. The first is to treat it as an apparition - a lucky break for Howard. Under this scenario. The alternative is to look for a generational change in leadership and a reappraisal of the way the Party is operating.
While the elevation of Simon Crean to the leadership suggest Labor is taking the former course, it's what he does in the job that is ultimately important. What is clear is that Crean needs to remake Labor as much as he needs to remake himself.
Crean has already signaled a review of Labor's relations with the unions. A better place to start would be in his own backyard and the increasingly destructive role of factionalism. This would involves confronting the reality of the Party's failure to change with the times - that sees it still operating under the old cold war structure - dominated by the factional warlords of the Left and Right. The dominance of these groupings intersects with the problems we identify above - the primacy of attaining power over standing up for Labor principles. The people at the top have placed an ideological straight jacket on the Party in order to maintain their own power. But this approach has failed. Their obsession with power will be the reason why it is denied to them yet again.
The hallmark of Labor has always been about standing up for principles in the face of the populism of the conservatives. Labor must be realistic; making sure that it only adopts principles that it can adhere to in government. But it needs to enunciate these principles, rather than presenting a grab-bag of issues at election time as it did this time around.
Several emerging Labor figures have attempted to redefine these principles in the last few days. Lindsay Tanner speaks of building a bridge between the middle class and blue-collar Labor bases, a theme based on equality of opportunity. Kevin Rudd talks of the new radical centre - the aspirational voters and small businesses who are now the mass of the Australian popoulation. He would hone right in on these groups - with an agenda of equality and social justice. Neither of these perspectives are definitive, although Tanner's call for a story that bridges different groups in society seems a useful starting point.
Let's start the new era with an open debate on immigration and refugees - a full policy is required that deals with our collective fears while unlocking our compassion for a people who have been devastated by a conflict in which the old Cold War alliances have some responsibility.
To be electable, we must develop a broad set of Labor principles that articulate a firm world view: embracing the opportunities of change while protecting those who are victims, developing a new language for distributing the fruits of prosperity and about increasing the stake of people in system increasingly dominated by big corporations.
Education, jobs and health are all elements of this agenda, but they are tools to Labor objectives not ends in themselves. A package like the Knowledge Nation is also a component, but it too is tool for the broader Labor agenda.
If there is a positive to come out of the election defeat Labor must regain an appropriate balance between principle and populism and give the Party a sense of direction to rebuild and then regrow out of this unhappy chapter in its history.
Otherwise we will suffer a similar a fate to that experienced by the boatpeople - adrift, unwanted and with nowhere to call home.
by Peter Lewis
Weekend: On the Hustings
I spent the weekend up in Macquarie, one on the forgotten seats in the election. The few dedicated campaign workers are pushing on with few resources, no polling data for four months and a big pile of materials to get out to the punters. It's a seat Labor should be fancying itself in - with 10,000 new voters, mostly inner-city refugees, the Liberals 4.9 per cent margin seems doable. But like everywhere, the lack of enthusiasm and feeling in the campaign is palpable. It's left to the handful of party faithful and friends of the candidate to push through the last seven days.
Candidate Adam Searle, who graduated as Jeff Shaw's capable and conscientious chief of staff won the preselection for his first tilt at office, which is where the hard work began. Over the past 12 months he's door-knocked thousands of houses./ It's the unglamorous side of politics - door-to-door sales; there are lots of doors slammed in the face, better resourced seats also try phone polling - isolating swinging votes via a very clever analysis of electoral data - and then ringing the punter with a targeted message. It's all sales, selling the candidate, selling the Party, trying to sell some enthusiasm in the democratic process. It's grueling work the TV news never captures.
The polls are all over the place, with Labor's heartland disappearing in seats so save they might not make a difference. But focused polls have the party still competitive in key marginals/ There's two schools of thought within Labor - one that we've gone for all money (my view), the other that given (a) the situation is highly volatile and (b) 20 per cent of people make their mind up on the day, anything can still happen. That's why the candidates have to keep on pushing - things can be totally cactus, but as long as you have undecided voters, miracle can happen. It means that even when you are dead, there's the chance of resurrection.
Monday: The Party Line
There is a dangerous sideline emerging in this campaign - the pressure to give unquestioning support to Howard's closed border policy on Afghani refugees, the US foreign policy and their War on Terror, whatever guise it may take. As these are the issues that are dominating our world right now, it severely hampers a considered debate about where we are heading. But both leaders of the major parties have drawn a line, albeit for very different reasons: Howard to exploit the situation and Beazley to neutralize it.
For a Labor Party with a proud tradition of critical thought and dissent, it is a particularly heavy weight in the saddle bag - candidates making even the most vague references to concerns with US policy are being held up as traitors, pounded on by7 the media and being forced into an unedifying public recant of their views. Peter Knott was forced to state he "was misguided to have held the views he held" - a line of reason that smacks of McCarthyism. Other candidates have followed him in recent days, typically in comments to their local papers that are printed innocently enough, picked up by the Liberal campaign team, circulated in the media and then dropped on the Leader.
It's a cynical exercise and one that is contrary to all the things our leaders tell us we are fighting for. For Beazley to dismiss comments by a candidate as a sign of their immaturity, may neutralise the issue for now, but will come back to haunt Labor. From the day the Tampa crisis began, Labor has deserted the high moral ground in the mad rush for popular support. As for the Liberals, the ugliness of their attack on divergent opinions highlights the cynicism that is at the heart of their modern philosophy. Only now some Liberal candidates are also starting to question the Party line - stand-by for more public repudiations of views one shouldn't have.
Tuesday: And They're Racing
The Melbourne Cup is the obvious pictorial backdrop to the day's campaigning. With five days to polling day all the players are looking for omens - symbols that just might stick in a swinging voters' mind long enough to influence their vote. Beazley backs a West Australian nag which gets a nose-bleed on the home straight, while Howard opts for Big Pat - a gray stayer that runs out of steam. Howard seems to like the 'stayer' analogy and spends the day dead-panning it, again raising serious questions about how he has ever survived in public life. It's that excrutiating.
Behind the pictures, the day-to-day fare of the campaign is all negative. Labor's begun its scare campaign that the Coalition will put a GST on food; in return the Tories are trying to tear holes in the ALP costings - now submitted to Treasury for official scrutiny before the election. Campaign promises have slowed to a trickle: Labor puts some money into childcare, Howard comes up with a superannuation plan to benefit the risk, but at this point of the campaign it's the smear that is compelling. But the biggest negative campaign is being targeted at both the major parties - a string of former Liberal leaders, senior bureaucrats and diplomats panning both parties for their mishandling of the refugee and immigration issue.
But yet, but yet ... The polls are still showing Labor is in the hunt. The Morgan Poll has the Opposition a remarkable nine points in front. The thought horrifies me: am I witnessing one of the great backs-to- the-walls victories, but I'm too emotionally involved to see it happening? My instinct has been wrong in the past: I made a much-hyped escape from Sydney for the Olympic Games and look what happened there. If Beazley gets across the line, I'm going to have to seriously rethink my faculty for sound judgment. And I hate to admit it, but I think I'd be a little disappointed if he does get up - as it would vindicate for all time the sort of facile, opportunistic politics-in-place-of principle tactics that has defined the Beazley Show. At best, it would be bitter sweet.
Wednesday: In the Drink
Allegations emerge that would have been dynamite if Labor had chosen a different, more moral, electoral tack. The Australian newspaper quotes unnamed naval sources as saying that refugees on a boat intercepted by the RAN had never thrown children overboard as claimed by the government. At the time both parties used the evidence to argue "these are not the sorts of people we should have in our country". There was said to be video evidence to prove this heinous act and it became a truism that applied to all asylum seekers. Evil people who ram airplanes into towers and throw their children overboard.
Now, one month later we have a Minister of Defence like Peter Reith claiming he had not been "bothered to look at the video", that he thought it was infrared or grainy or unusable in some way so it was unlikely it would be publicly released. One can only wonder how this scandal would have played out if Labor had not fallen in behind Howard on the issue. More community leaders are questioning the morality of the campaign and the fact that both parties have vacated the high ground for votes. I keep coming back to the fact that all Labor would have need to do was display the guts to run a moral and humanitarian position - care for the current refugee crisis and work with our neighbors to handle the coming influx - and we would have been approaching Saturday with justice on our side.
But Beazley's at it again, defending the indefensible at his National Press Club lunch, his last big set-piece of the campaign. He doesn't dwell on refugees in his speech, but it's all the journalists want to question him on afterwards. Beazley focuses on the need for secure borders, the need to crack down on people smugglers and the fact that Australia is already generous. What he won't and can't talk about is the loss of our compassion for other people fleeing repression who have given up everything for a chance to get to Australia, for those who have already have their refugee status confirmed but wait in Indonesia to be accepted to Australia, a country which is not even fulfilling its refugee quote. If he manages to win on Saturday all this will be vindicated in the short term, but the long-term costs will be far greater.
Thursday: Not Waving, Drowning
This campaign is becoming too surreal. It now emerges that the Navy never told Reith that children were thrown overboard. There is evidence a child was held overboard on a threatening manner before the boat went down, but no evidence to back up the bilious lone that the major political parties used to justify their tough stand on asylum seekers. What's gone on here? Reithy being Reithy you can see how it plays out - half a kernel of truth, beat it up and see the sparks fly. Remember, this is also the public figure who fuelled the scare campaign that boatpeople were potential terrorists - it's his modus operandi. In the final days of his political career, the man who brought balaclavas and dogs to the wharves and family values to public perks has one last trophy: Australia's dodgiest home videos.
So the government has lied and the lies have been part of the foundations of this bipartisan campaign of prejudice. The truly tragic part of this saga was the way the evidence was used in the first place. Even if it was true, there was no space for compassion, the question: what desperation would make someone throw their own flesh and blood into the ocean? Only a: we don't want your type in our country line. Reith, Ruddock, Howard and Beazley are all equally to blame and should be all chastened the emerging truths. Howard was grilled on SBS - remarkably coming back for a second interview after his office pressured the Naval chief to soften his denial of the children overboard reports. The defence is now: look at the small print of the comments and you'll see they were qualified, I was acting on advice. The small print never ,made it inot the new reports, yet the leaders were happy to have the line run.
But bizarrely, the latest incident will not necessarily play into Labor hands. Beazley has spent the entire campaign desperate to neutralize the issue of national insecurity embodied in the fears of hordes invading us from the north. The theory went, neutralize boat-people and Howard has nothing; Labor's health and education agendas would prevail and Labor would sneak over the line. It had been going to plan for the past few weeks, stories of more boats being intercepted and towed of to a compliant Pacific neighbor had been creeping further and further down the bulletins. Now at the eleventh hour they're leading the bulletins again and Howard can again trumpet his tough leadership, leaving Beazley nothing to do but complain about the lies while failintg to distinguish his own party in any other way. He who lives by the unprincipled act of political expediency can also die by it.
Friday: And So to the Booths
All the major dailies editorialise in favour of the conservatives, as they normally do. The general line is that this has been an uninspiring campaign between a government that has run out of ideas and an Opposition that never really had any. The conservative press equates Beazley health, education and jobs with old-style Keynsian economics; of all the interest groups they appear the only ones to give Howard credit for selling off the rest of Telstra. It again shows how out of touch our mass media is with the views and aspirations of its readers. They're not even endorsing Howard, more the prospect of a future Costello government; as The Australian states: We enetertain some hope that the Coaltion, if not under Howard, then under someone else will renew itself and its ideas.
The Liberals' newspaper final advertising blitz is on its chosen theme - keeping unwanted people out - a full page advert of Howard with the quote "WE decide who comes to this country" underlines how evil, but effective, the campaign has been. Labor is again left to plug away at the issue it had believed would be its godsend: the GST. More news reports of boatpeople dying off Christmas Island after they set their craft alight do Beazley no good. All they do is underline the depth of the humanitarian crisis that is the destruction of Afghanistan and the mean-spiritedness of Australia's response.
The most bizarre election in memory is drawing to its end. So who will win? I'm more pessimistic than anyone I know about this outcome. Most are convinced it will be close - Labor to pick up in Victoria and the NT, and holding the line elsewhere to sneak into power. I'm not convinced - I just can't imagine the history books serving us up a campaign like this, at a time like this, with a Government and Opposition running similar lines on the issue that is at the heart of the populous's fears, coming up with a change of government. There are all sorts of strange results that may be thrown up on election day, but I just can't see Beazley being elected. Nor do I believe he deserves to be. So there it is: Howard with a 20-seat majority. For Labor, a most ignomious defeat.
Just as woodworkers used to drink in the Carpenter's Arms, or farmhands in the Jolly Ploughman, the trade negotiators from the world's richest nations have found their way to their own hallowed ground.
When they gather in Switzerland, they dine together in an exclusive restaurant on the shores of Lake Geneva called The Pirate. It's here that the members of "the quad" -- the US, EU, Canada and Japan -- study their maps and count their doubloons.
In Seattle in 1999, the world trade talks failed because the weaker countries, excluded from the key negotiations, walked out. Now, we have been promised, the rich world has learnt from its mistakes.
At the new talks in Qatar on Friday, the nations of "the quad" will, they insist, rescue the castaways of the new world order. But the progress so far suggests that, instead of being allowed a share in the spoils of free trade, the world's poor will be walking the plank.
The draft declaration due to be discussed this weekend was mostly written during two exclusive meetings: in Mexico in August and in Singapore last month.
Though the World Trade Organisation has 142 members, only 21 nations, among them the world's richest and most powerful, were permitted to attend. The documents the meeting produced were then submitted to the other members for approval. They were not permitted to make substantial changes.
As a result, the draft declaration contains almost none of the concessions that developing countries, representing most of the world's people, have requested. Powerful nations have refused to stop subsidising their exports of meat, grain and sugar: by dumping them in weak countries at artificially low prices, they destroy the livelihoods of local farmers.
Britain and Germany have insisted that they will not relax the laws governing the patenting of drugs: poor countries facing public health disasters will continue to be denied cheap medicine.
The poor world wants the rich world to honour the promises it made under the last world trade agreement, before starting any new negotiations. Instead "the quad" is loading the agenda with new and fiendishly complex issues, such as investment, services and government procurement.
At first sight this approach makes no sense. Just as Presidents Bush and Blair insist that the world's future prosperity, democracy and even freedom from terror will depend on a successful new trade round, their negotiators appear to be doing everything in their power to undermine it.
But all that has happened is that the powerful nations have abandoned the pretence of seeking consent. Now they will simply bludgeon the developing world into submission.
Last month in Geneva an African delegate to the World Trade Organisation complained that, "If I speak out too strongly, the US will phone my minister. They will twist the story and say that I am embarrassing the United States.
My government will not even ask, 'What did he say?' They will just send me a ticket tomorrow. ... I fear that bilateral pressure will get me, so I don't speak, for fear of upsetting the master. To me, that threat is real. Because I am from a poor country, I can't say what I want." If the poor nations complain, the rich nations simply withdraw aid or freeze their exports.
Now, as Christian Aid has revealed, some governments are dispensing with negotiations altogether. Britain's Department for International Development, run by Clare Short, has decided to bypass the World Trade Organisation and apply direct pressure on poor nations to open up their markets to foreign companies. The department has told Ghana that aid money for a water project will be conditional on the country's privatisation of its water industry.
Without consulting its own people, the government of Ghana has been forced to start raising the price of water by between two and three times, to prepare the industry for sale to British, French or US companies. The corporations will make millions, but already Ghanaians are being forced to draw their water from polluted rivers and ditches, infested with cholera and guinea worm, as they can't pay the new rates.
But while quietly plundering the poorer nations, our pirate states like to pretend that they are compassionate and even-handed. Britain's Department of Trade and Industry, as it website boasts, holds regular meetings with campaign groups such as the World Development Movement, in order to "share information" and "gather views".
But, as a series of leaked documents shows, behind the scenes the British government is doing all it can to undermine them.
The papers were discovered by members of the research group Corporate Europe Observatory, who were investigating a powerful trade association called International Financial Services, London. The researchers stumbled upon an unlinked page, accidentally appended to the lobbyists' website.
International Financial Services, London is one of several British groups hoping that the trade talks can be expanded to cover a wide range of service industries. The proposed new General Agreement on Trade in Services, due to be discussed alongside the other treaties in Qatar, could oblige countries to privatise key public services such as health, education and water.
The leaked page contained the minutes of meetings held by the "Liberalisation of Trade in Services" committee set up to liaise between IFSL and the British government.
British civil servants, the researchers discovered, were worried that campaign groups opposed to the General Agreement on Trade in Services were becoming too effective. The minutes recorded that Matthew Lownds, from the Foreign Office, "noted that the campaign by the World Development Movement in particular was leading to a broadening of concerns. ... He also pointed to the need to coordinate business responses to the NGO's allegations."
Malcolm McKinnon, a civil servant from the Department of Trade and Industry, complained that the case for the general agreement was "vulnerable" when campaigners asked for "proof of where the economic benefits lay" for poor nations. The committee decided to spend pounds50-70,000 to "counter the NGOs".
More damagingly, the civil servants appear to have been passing critical European Union papers to the business people on the committee, including negotiating documents from other countries, which could be enormously valuable to companies hoping to anticipate hostile positions. These papers, the Corporate Europe Observatory points out, are unavailable even to members of the European Parliament.
So the government, while secretly colluding with corporate lobbyists, has been double-crossing the public and undermining some of the poorest countries on earth. Tony Blair and Clare Short call this process "development". It is not development. It's piracy.
This piece first appeared on Z-Net
The Labor Party has wasted no time in beginning its soul-searching analysis as to why we lost the Federal Election, who's to blame and, of course, what the solutions are for the future.
All the normal suspects are off the blocks with a couple of new entries.
Like many other Labor Party commentators the issues I raise will probably fall on deaf ears and things won't change much between now and the next election. Nonetheless continued agitation might at some stage find its mark.
Lets start with the simple issues first.
Policy and strategy
We should have released our election policies earlier, we should have worked out a strategy to get our message across which didn't solely rely upon the mass media and we should have in hindsight forced a number of issues in the Senate which were left for the election proper.
In this regard, we should have blocked the coalition's education funding package and taken this issue to the wire over twelve months ago.
It is clear that "Tampa" and the whole issue of asylum seekers coupled with the September 11 terrorist attacks simply overshadowed our original election strategy on education, health and jobs.
Our inability to put up any real alternative to Howard's approach to asylum seekers in the end destroyed us. Endorsing Howard's approach to asylum seekers was seemingly the ALP's way of neutralising the issue, however it sent the message that the Howard Government was right and that there was no other solution to the problem. Unlike some of my comrades from the Left I don't believe the alternative was to simply attack Howard on his handling of the boat people. This would have been political suicide and our current loss would have been massive.
In my view we should have engaged the electorate on the issue of immigration generally and focused on the Howard Government's hypocritical stand on the question of illegal immigrants. On the one hand, Howard has spent over $200 million using the navy to block around 1,000 asylum seekers whilst on the other hand he has done nothing to police or regulate the tens of thousands of overseas visa workers who remain in the country illegally. There has been little, if any resources put into policing employers who use illegal migrants as 'cheap labour'. We should have also exposed the Coalition's obsession with importing skilled labour at the expense of training our own people to fill these skill shortages.
Restructuring the Party
Of course whatever our policy and election strategy was, our ability to mobilise on the ground through ALP branches to sell our message was never going to be an option. Branches are dying and in some electorates if it wasn't for union assistance the distribution of election material and the staffing of polling booths would have non-existent.
Discussion about reviewing Branch structures and Party organization is not new. It happens every time we suffer a defeat. The debate is usually factionally driven and therefore nothing ever happens. The same old clichés are again doing the rounds now. The reality is that if we are to rebuild the Branches, rebuild activism and reconnect with our traditional constituents we need to do this without factions and preselection agendas sabotaging the process. This has got to start from the top.
Bob Carr was an unexpected entry into the political analysis of our defeat. Unexpected not because he commented but in terms of what he had to say.
"A defeat is a defeat and no nice gloss can be put on it," Mr Carr said.
"The Labor Party needs to replenish its parliamentary ranks.
The delegation from NSW that sits in Canberra needs some deft retirements and new talent to go in there.
That is the challenge for the party organization. I'll be putting it to them in unmistakable terms ¾ there needs to be a turnover in personnel."
I have three responses to the above.
1. I agree;
2. Implement it at a State level; and
3. Go one step further Bob and abolish factional caucusing at the Parliamentary level.
This single last action would make the Parliamentary leadership work a lot harder in ensuring its policy agenda is properly discussed. It would renew the Parliamentary caucus in terms of debate and discussion and would greatly assist in the demise of the factional system in New South Wales.
We need to renew rank and file activism in the Party and renew our membership with people who are true believers not preselection votes.
Three years ago I put forward a plan to defactionalise the Party in New South Wales. I repeat the seven (7) point plan in terms of the components of a defactionalised Party.
STRUCTURES IN ADEFACTIONALISED PARTY
1. No factional caucusing at a Parliamentary level
2. Term limits for Parliamentarians who are not Ministers
3. Reviewing the preselection system with a view to finding the best candidates. This might include:
- candidates having to establish union , business and community support as part of their nomination
- reviewing the preselection tests for rank and file members to reward genuine activists and workers;
4. Mass recruitment, induction and education training for new members;
5. Restructuring branches to make them more accountable, financial and accessible;
6. Electorate policy conventions in the lead up to conference;
7. Rank and file election of conference delegates.
If we had six or seven thousand real party activists on the ground we may have had the capacity to sell a stronger message in some of the electorates where we did badly in by using some old fashion face-to-face discussion and debate.
Having said all this I believe in all the circumstances the result could have been much worse. I paid tribute to those party members and trade unionists who kept campaigning to the very end even when it became clear that the odds were against us.
Clearly here in NSW our challenge is to win the next state election.
This is far from a forgone conclusion. Workers Compensation has the ability rip the trade union movement's support of the party apart.
If we are to rebuild and renew after this election defeat it must be on the basis of unity not division.
Lindsay Tanner, in contrast to other "advisers" to the ALP this week, hasn't called for a split with the unions. He acknowledges problems for Labor and labour, but looks for ways to hold together increasingly divergent interests around a political theme.
His call to embrace hope may be the key for the ALP's future. He also shows an awareness of labour history (something we at Workers Online can only applaud) by his comment that "If Labor allows another Petrov story to take hold as the explanation for our defeat, we will not learn from our mistakes and we will continue to lose."
Certainly the Tampa "crisis" and the Afghan "war" were factors, but the argument that the ALP has been too reactive and too defensive, that the ALP has relied too heavily on winning by Howard mistakes rather than any ALP appeal to the public mind, has echoes in comments from the 1950s
Verity Burgmann, in True Believers, notes Henry Mayer in 1956 querying the idea of the ALP being the party of initiative. He maintained then that there were strong elements of negativism or resistance in the ALP such as "narrowness of objectives, absence of a positive policy of implementing socialism and constitutional reform, internal rigidity and mechanical discipline, leading to a general orthodoxy and confusion and uncertainty about foreign policy."
Tanner's reference to the Petrov mythology perhaps downplays the nightmare it was for Doc Evatt. Menzies used Petrov to demonise the ALP and turn around his political fortunes in the 1954 elections, seen by Evatt as his best chance for the Prime Ministership. This led on to the Split and the loss of the 1955 election. Evatt's loss and his subsequent apparent mental decline clouded a wonderful career and record as a champion of Labor. Evatt was most vociferous in his claims of a conspiracy theory. He moved on to attack the Movement and its influence in the ALP, and to indicate that he was going to take on the Victorian branch. He appeared at the Petrov Royal Commission, against the wishes of Caucus and implicated his own staff. This led directly to the Split and the formation of the DLP. Menzies called a very early election for December 1955, and won a huge victory. The ALP didn't recover until 1972.
Evatt's problems with the movement had haunted the Chifley years too. In 1951 Chifley despaired of the "mad buggers". He could see the end of Caucus solidarity coming. Evatt's coming to the leadership perhaps made it all the more inevitable, as many saw that he lacked the experience of the internal workings of the ALP to be able to hold things together. This despite his run ins with Lang and the NSW party in the 1920s and 1930s. He was undoubtedly committed to the cause of the ALP but many saw him as the wrong one to keep it together in the Cold War days. He also continually sidestepped party machinery designed to help the party restrain the politicians.
His campaign against the anti-Communist referendum in 1951 hardened the Catholics against him. John Iremonger points out in his chapter on the Rats in True Believers, that the main Caucus group of Keon, Mullens, Bourke, Joshua, Crenean, Andrews and Bryson were as Labor as anyone in Caucus. They were also hardened veterans of internal struggles in Victorian unions, local government and local branches. Some of them dined regularly with Santamaria. The animosity within Caucus is summed up in Fred Daly's anecdote about Reg Pollard and John Mullens. When Pollard got up to speak in Parliament, Mullens interjected, 'You are defending Communists.' Pollard was furious and roared 'I brand him for what he is, a narrow-minded skunk and a man who is prepared to do..." Lost in the uproar was the rest of the sentence. Mullens tried to scramble over the seats in the House to get to Pollard. This was before the Split. Menzies, as Iremonger notes, was of course delighted with the permanent opposition within the ALP.
Menzies summoning up of the Petrovs and the deft media play that kept it in the headlines enabled him to win in 1954.
Kylie Tennant, in her biography of Evatt relates a part of this, quoting Catholic economist Colin Clark. This view stuck in the public mind thereafter. Mrs Petrov was forcibly dragged onto the plane at Sydney Airport, in view of a large crowd anti-Soviet Russians. The press reported that she was calling "save me". She later said (at the Royal Commission, that at no point did she call to the crowd but felt that the Embassy people were trying to rescue her from the crowd. ASIO agent Bialoguski claimed the credit for the dramatic "rescue" of Mrs Petrov but Tennant notes that Cark fairly gives it to famous redbaiter W.C. Wentworth.
Wentworth phoned Menzies about events at the airport. Menzies at first failed to grasp their significance (his acolyte John Howard was not so slow on the uptake with regard to the refugees supposedly throwing children in the water and setting fire to their engine) but eventually agreed to radio instructions to the captain of the plane. There was then an even better piece of political theatre in the photograph of two large couriers being disarmed by even bigger Australian police, with a frail woman being rescued at the last moment from the horrors of the Kremlin.
The ALP won 50% of the vote in the 1954 election but nowhere near enough seats. The loss embittered Evatt. There was a Caucus vote on the leadership soon after that saw a quarter of the federal party vote against him. This further emboldened the Groupers. Bourke even went as far as to publicly challenge the leadership during the campaign. The ongoing Royal Commission and Evatt's decision (without Party approval) to appear for two of his staff before the Commission didn't help. There was another call for a spill of the leadership later in 1954 and the events at that meeting traumatized many. The call for a spill was clearly lost on the voices apparently, but deputy Eddie Ward, a great hater according to Daly, called for a division. To everyone's amazement, Evatt leaped on the table and said "get their names, get their names'. Senator John Armstrong, who was supporting the leadership said" if that's what you intend to do I'll vote for the motion. Put my name down too. Daly says that these were his sentiments too and he Stewart and Luchetti crossed over in potest at what Daly saw as "the worst action I have ever seen". Gil Duthie said it made many there "sick at heart." Clyde Cameron said it was a vote against the groupers, not a vote for Evatt. And perhaps if Daly had been a Victorian MP rather than from NSW he may well have been firmly aligned to the grouper faction anyway. He doesn't give the context of the Evatt and the leaderships struggles with the groupers, who were, as noted, very experienced factional warriors.
Calwell said such a scene could not have happened under Curtin or Chifley, but did not personally blame Evatt, laying the blame at the feet of two extreme groups that Evatt was battling so as to keep the party together. Dale, Buckley and Reynolds also saw it this way. Evatt had already used the Federal conference against this crew. The debacle of the 1955 election saw all the groupers mentioned above defeated (after the party had split). The subsequent history of the DLP proved the limited vision of the group, but the damage to the Federal ALP was long lasting. Evatt finally resigned in 1960, after all challengers mistimed it or backed off. It then took another 12 years to rebuild.
The old guard took took a long time to fade. Eddie Ward (once a rat himself with the Langites) felt cheated of the deputy leadership in 1960 when Calwell took over. However the newly powerful federal executive (powerful because of Evatt's attacks on the groupers especially in Victoria but also in NSW) moved in favour of a young 43 year old Gough Whitlam. This is seen by Burgmann as a move away from old style industrial militancy and a move to provide a young middle class socially progressive, non-Catholic counterpart to Calwell. Today the jargon would be an appeal to the aspirational generation.
Tanner says that Labor's role is "to offer people hope for a better society. Our success is governed by our ability to do this, not by our capacity to exploit community anger and fear."
Lindsay Tanner. Losers must embrace hope; in The Australian Tuesday 13 November 2001). Also Tanner's Open Australia discussion forum at http://conference.socialchange.net.au/openaustralia/
For further thoughts and dispute about what went on see:
John Faulkner and Stuart Macintyre (eds) True Believers: the story of the federal Parliamentary Labor Party. (Allen and Unwin, 2001)
Arthur Calwell. Be Just and Fear Not. (Hawthorn, Vic.: Lloyd O'Neil, 1972)
Kylie Tennant. Evatt: Politics and Justice. (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1970)
Nicholas Whitlam and John Stubbs. Nest of Traitors: Petrov Affair. (Milton, Qld: Jacaranda Press, 1974)
Robert Manne The Petrov Affair: Politics and Espionage. (Rushcutters Bay, NSW: Pergamon Press, 1987)
Clyde Cameron and Daniel Connell. The Confessions of Clyde Cameron. (Sydney: ABC, 1990)
Fred Daly. From Curtin to Hawke. (South Melbourne: Sun Macmillan, 1984)
Peter Crockett. Evatt: a life (Melbourne: Oxford Uni. Press, 1993)
Ken Buckley, Barbara Dale, and Wayne Reynolds. Doc Evatt: patriot, internationalist, fighter and scholar. (Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, 1994)
During the last fortnight of Election 2001, prominent Australian academics, writers, clergy, former politicians, business people, came forward and publicly criticised the Howard government's policies and attitudes towards refugees, and what they perceived as the racist overtones of the Howard election campaign.
In response Howard classified the critical voices as part of a nameless, unspecified ELITE, or ELITES plural. This was apparently reason enough to dismiss the moral, ethical, and intellectual content of the criticisms as unworthy of consideration. ELITE/S subsequently became part of media comment.
Howard's electoral victory on Saturday was portrayed by some in the media as a victory against the ELITES. And when Liberal Party support in former and notional Labor areas, particularly in Western Sydney, was factored in it became "Howard's Battlers" defeating the ELITES.
Hang on; what is an ELITE? Mr. Oxford of the Concise kind informs me that ELITE is a word of French derivation meaning "the choice part, the best of ". Okay. But that is not what Howard and his spin doctors had in mind.
No. They had in mind a meaning that conveys a sense of people who are somehow on the nose; people who are apart from the rest of us; gifted, and talented maybe; but on the margins nevertheless; and with them their ideas. So far out on the margins, in fact, as to be derided, possibly even demonised.
Hang on. Former Liberal Party leader and Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, a one time supporter of the Vietnam War, possible CIA puppet, and slayer of the Whitlam Labor government, was one of the people in the anti-Howard ELITE.
How come? Only Leftists of various hues ever referred to Fraser as part of an economic and social elite. He was rich, spoke in measured plum-in-the-mouth tones, and was part of the prosperous Western Victoria wool growing class; his kids went to the best private schools; he hobnobbed with the rich and powerful; and when he was Prime Minister he used to send out Christmas cards of himself and his wife on their rural estate, swanning around as though they were Royalty.
None of which upset the Liberal Party of the time. He was born to rule, it was his right to rule, just like the rest of the Libs.
Just like Third Term Johnny; not exactly the boy next door. Johnny never stood on an assembly line, or clocked on at work. He is a university man of the lawyer kind; he's got a pile of money, and a salary and Superannuation scheme that mock the piddling earning power and future of the majority of Australians; his wife drove a sports car to university in her student days when her peers scrounged for bus fares; his kids attended the best private schools; he hobnobs with the rich and powerful; and if he was prised out of any of his three residences and transposed to Western Sydney, he would be as comfortable and welcome as a leper in a nudist colony.
Something must have changed for Fraser to be part of an ELITE that he was not part of before, and that Third Term Johnny is not part of today. And so it comes down to Fraser's ideas.
Today Fraser is a high profile and respected international Mr. Fixit; a passionate, articulate, persuasive spokesman on behalf of the world's poor, abused, and dispossessed. In recent years he has been doing the sorts of things many would like to see former Labor Prime Ministers doing, instead of flogging pasta sauce on television, and hobnobbing at the racetrack with the rich and powerful.
Fraser is materially and socially no different to many people in the Liberal Party who support Howard, and who help frame Liberal policy. But he is different in the head.
Fraser is willing to go public with ideas on reconciliation, racism, the treatment of refugees, the global impact of poverty and dispossession, which are not in accord with the Howard line. His former, and current, status ensure him a media platform.
Therefore Fraser had to be marginalised and demeaned, so his ideas would be neutralised, denied their authority and expertise. The same fate befell others who similarly attempted to contribute to moral, political, and ethical debate beyond the fatuousness and anonymity of talk-back radio.
Which is where the term ELITE comes in. The sense of "the best" is ditched, and the sociological senses of "privilege" and "apart from the masses" are emphasised.
This is a political sleight of hand; and a complex psycho-political process. Those who use ELITE as a term of marginalisation and denigration are often themselves socially, economically, and politically advantaged well beyond the norm, and therefore arguably part of an elite.
The intent of the process is sinister. The term ELITE as Howard uses it is an attempt to confuse people about how an open, pluralist, society should work, and the nature of Democracy. The implication is that Democracy is not about ideas clashing in the public arena; it is not about full and free public access to information, opinion, and debate; it is not about everyone participating as much as possible in decision making and policy formation in an ongoing, active way. Even the right of an elected Opposition to act as an opposition is questioned.
Instead Democracy is about the Ruling Party having the untrammelled right to say, narrate, control, decide; its mandate to do so is granted by the electoral process. And what we end up with is an approach to politics not too far away from a gentle form of Fascism.
by The Chaser
Crean says that Labor's approach of providing detailed policy on domestic issues failed because it completely ignored the issue most relevant to voters in their everyday lives - the issue of refugees. He says he is committed to following the approach endorsed by the Australian people, and will emulate Howard in releasing only policies that relate to that one issue.
The former Shadow Treasurer has therefore committed to a new "toughest on boat people" policy that would see the Australian Navy immediately torpedoing all boats carrying refugees upon their entry into Australian waters. He has warned that that refugees constitute an ongoing threat because some Afghans will survive the bombing campaign in their homeland despite "the best efforts of the United States Air Force". Crean says that the war on boat people is simply another front in the war on terrorism, because Australians are clearly terrorised by anyone whose skin colour is not white.
The likely Labor leader also criticised John Howard for the "soft" approach he had taken to refugees by simply "palming them off" to other countries in the region. "Howard's approach does not neutralise the threat they pose because it permits boat people to remain alive," Crean said. He has committed himself to "finishing the job" as Prime Minister, and would therefore pursue boat people by invading Nauru, Kiribati and New Zealand. "Only by hunting down boat people wherever they are, and in many cases before they've even boarded their boats, can the right of the Australian people to determine who comes into this country be fully respected," he said.
In 1986 I was living in the US, during the Iran-Contra Hearings under a Reagan Presidency. Arms had been secretly sold to an 'enemy', Iran, to obtain release of US hostages, with the finances also used to fund the Contra terrorists then undermining the left-wing Nicaraguan government. The atmosphere was stifling.
It is representative of American freedoms that the hearings, via the Congressional inquiry system, were being held at all. But the Government wasn't interested in disclosure, nor was it remorseful. There was George Shultz, Secretary of State and Bob Hawke's mate, covering up his underlings' dirty tricks. Shultz, senior executive of Bechtel Corporation (1974-82), which is a serial employer of ex-CIA operatives and a big player in Middle East construction, would certainly have been well informed of the character of American involvement overseas.
The media was obliging. The quality newspapers had the continuing defence of the imperial prerogative as their mission. Public television was restrained. Only independent radio (a medium presently under siege in the US) was detached from the sordid affair.
It was a relief to return to Australia and its media. There is an advantage to living on the global periphery, removed from the propaganda apparatus of empire. Yet in retrospect it may have been the irreverent strain in the Australian press, rather than its political savvy, that was a refreshing contrast to the turgid New York Times and Washington Post. With the events of September 11 and beyond, the response of the quality press in Australia has been disappointing, with a pervasive whiff of the colonial cringe.
One should have seen it coming, as the leading dailies were already primed for a mediocre response. The Australian's trio of Colonel Blimp Kelly, Staff Sergeant Sheridan and Lance Corporal Milne are pervasively humdrum, alike in a sense of their self-importance.
Kelly thinks that the ANZUS treaty compels us to follow the yanks into battle (Australian, 19 September). Rubbish. Kelly thinks that this is a war about values we share with the US (Australian, 13-14 October). Do these values include the bombing of Red Cross facilities in an impoverished country? Kelly claims to draw authority from Owen Harries, an Australian political scientist just back from a long stint within the inner sanctum of American right-wing circles. But Harries has recently urged caution - "Australia should proceed carefully and without illusion in dealing with its powerful ally. ... the priorities of the two countries are likely to differ at least as often as they coincide." (AFR, 9 October).
Sheridan thinks that the US has 'an outstandingly successful record in nation-building' (Australian, 27 September). Well, the 1947 Marshall Plan was a pretty good achievement, if you accept the marginalisation of left-wing forces throughout Western Europe, who had earned their stripes during the War, and the imposed hegemony of the political right. But US administrations have constructed nations around some low-life leaders (including South Korea and Formosa on Sheridan's list) and de-constructed plenty of other functioning nations whose leaders they didn't particularly like. Have Kelly and Sheridan read any history of American foreign policy?
Fairfax's flagships, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, were already weighed down with the likes of Gerard Henderson, P. P. McGuinness, Miranda Devine, and Imre Salusinszky.
Gerard distances himself from the hard right, but he has a job to do to keep the funds and the personnel flowing into his so-called think tank for which his Herald column is a convenient advertising medium. But Gerard was an ardent supporter of Bush's National Missile Defense before the events of September 11, so he can't be that bright. McGuinness has moved from iconoclasm to pedestrianism, and is increasingly incoherent. From one column to the next, he doesn't know which hat to put on - grand thinker, editor of a venal little right-magazine, local government councilor or general reactionary.
The embarrassing Salusinszky was given a compensatory income at the Fairfax broadsheets after being relieved of his column at the Australian Financial Review. It's like a personal Work for the Dole Scheme except that Imre already has a job and he's refusing to learn any new skills. Imre had originally been hired by the Fin Review to fill in for the loony-tune American-born humorist, Peter Reuhl, when Ruehl went to the old country for R&R. With Reuhl's return, there was one too many right-wing humorists at the Fin, and one of them wasn't funny. Salusinszky now holds down a significant Monday morning column, even though his knowledge of history and economics, on which he issues forth, is non-existent.
As for the unlovely Devine, it was clear that Herald management was already dumbing down its paper with her initial joint appearance from the Sunday Sun-Herald. The Sun Herald has itself been forced further down-market to rival the appalling Murdoch-owned Sunday Telegraph, so Devine is dragging down two papers simultaneously. Her father Frank has been dragging down the quality of The Australian for years, so it's in the family tradition. The 28 October issue of the Sun-Herald ran a human interest story on a bright young English girl who had joined the American air force and was now in the thick of the action. Presumably this hint of affirmative action made the bombing of Afghanistan more appealing to the readership.
The 27 September Herald article by Devine represented a low point. We can't have anybody asking for causes, and we can't have anybody casting a jaundiced eye on past American foreign policy. Has Devine read anything about American foreign policy? One suspects not. Has she even bothered to ask why the privatised airline security system was so slack as to permit the death of innocents? Back to the tabloids for you, Miranda.
In the meantime, David Flint, sometime Press Council Chairman (1987-97), was lamenting the state of the Australian press in the September issue of Quadrant magazine. Flint claims that the days of the press barons are over, that the press is run by the journalists, and the journalistic heights are commanded by left-wingers! Well did Henderson, Salusinszky and Devine hire themselves?
Both The Australian and Fairfax have run substantial reportorial coverage of the September 11 carnage and the 'war on terror'. In terms of coverage of events, much of this is good and some is excellent. It is in the opinion pieces, both from columnists and outsiders, that one gets a feeling for the editorial centre of gravity.
Within constrained parameters, there has been a rough balance of opinion. The Canberra Times is the exception, generally managing to avoid publishing any establishment functionaries at all. So it can be done.
Scott Burchill, a homegrown expert from Deakin University, had been a model of sanity (AFR, 21 September; Australian, 22 October). Burchill's Deakin colleague, Damien Kingsbury, made an informed counter-ideological intervention against John Keegan (below) on the simplistic treatment of non-Western cultures (Age, 10 October). Chalmers Johnson, an impeccably credentialled American conservative, looks to the arrogance and incompetence of successive American administrations to understand the anti-American terrorism (Canberra Times, 11 October). Monash University's Robert Wolfgramm laments the pro-war propaganda and the US' irrational response (Age, 23 October).
On the other hand, there has been much reproduction of uncritical defence of America's 'innocent victim' status, and of the administration's subsequent belligerent behaviour. The mentalities underpinning much of this response is a worry.
Walter Lacquer is the most informed of establishment correspondents (Australian, 2 October; Australian Financial Review, 5 October). He is a genuine expert on terrorism, and one of the founders of its study as a 'discipline'. Lacquer says forget about looking for causes in poverty, American influence, and so on - terrorism is essentially non-rational. Some substance there.
But in the 'war on terror', neither Lacquer nor the rest have mentioned state terrorism. As is common in the press, it took a cartoonist (Moir, Herald, 1 October) to state what is unmentionable for the wordsmiths. And speaking of state terrorism, here is Henry Kissinger pontificating that 'moderation is no option against terrorism' (The Age, 13 & 17 September). Why is the Australian press reproducing Kissinger as if he still carries legitimacy? If we are waging a genuine war on terror, then Kissinger should be in court facing trial rather than in print. One letter-writer to The Australian wondered whether Lacquer's 2 October article might actually have been ghost-written by Kissinger.
The 'white man's burden' crowd is well represented. The State Department's two consultant ideologues, Harvard's Samuel Huntington and Princeton's Francis Fukuyama, have provided the latest language for the difficulties the advanced and progressive 'West' (an undifferentiated entity) faces in dealing with the backwardness of the East (also undifferentiated). Huntington and Fukuyama differ - Fukuyama thinks that the 'liberal-democratic' West has already won hands down ('the end of history'), whereas Huntington thinks that the liberal secular West still faces a momentous battle with Islam.
Whatever their differences, Huntington and Fukuyama are the latest in a long series of ideologues that polarise humanity into the rational advanced superior camp and the irrational backward inferior camp. Fukuyama's argument is so manifestly silly that one has to question the motives or intelligence of editors who continue to give him a platform (Australian, 9 October; Herald, 12 October). These people deserve a crash course in Edward Said's Orientalism (1978), from which they emerge as part of a long line of myth creators about foreign cultures. But the American Right has declared a fatwa on Said, so everybody is excused from reading him.
John Keegan, defence editor of the London Telegraph, is a camp follower of the Huntington/Fukuyama brigade. "Westerners fight face to face, in stand-up battle. ... Orientals, by contrast, shrink from pitched battle, preferring ambush, surprise, treachery and deceit as the best way to overcome an enemy." "This war belongs within the much larger spectrum of a far older conflict between settled, creative, productive Westerners and predatory, destructive Orientals." (Age, 9 October).
Keegan appears to have been raised on Boys' Own and Biggles. The creator of Biggles, W. E. Johns, had rather pronounced hierarchical views about race. In Biggles Foreign Legionnaire (1954) the German is an evil but worthy adversary. But Mediterraneans and Arabs - well - they are absolutely inferior and untrustworthy types. And these days the good guys will clean up in Afghanistan just as surely as if Biggles, Algy and all the chaps were running the show.
The Australian Financial Review's Rowan Callick has spent the last decade or so in countries to Australia's north. Inexplicably, he follows suit. He quotes V. S. Naipaul, 'presciently': "Civilisation is the ability to stand outside yourself and consider yourself. Tribal people don't have this gift." (AFR, 22-23 September). The struggle with primitives has been blurred, says Callick, because of the West's dalliance with post-modernism which denies the existence of objective truth. Callick later puts bin Laden in a long line of dangerous absolutists, many of whom are westerners (AFR, 12 October). Perhaps the divide is not between West and East after all. In the same breadth, he absolves Jesus from a Palestine "dotted with would-be messiahs ... some going on to urge suicidal missions against the evil Roman Empire". Wasn't Western 'civilisation' built on Jesus' suicide mission against the Empire? So much for objective truth. And Callick is one of the AFR's resident intellectuals.
The Australian Financial Review has generally remained detached from political commentary on events after September 11. Emphasis continues on what the AFR likes best: nervous speculation on whether things are going up or down. The resident ideologue, Alan Mitchell, continues blithely on his jihad against any distortions to the sacred market mechanism. This is in spite of the fact that the rest of his newspaper is full of daily sightings of incompetence, greed and venality amongst market personnel. Thankfully, one of the AFR's staffers, Nick Horden, is an informed commentator. However, the standout feature of the AFR is its Friday Review section, edited separately. The Review supplement has published a greater diversity of informed opinion (helped by article length) than has appeared elsewhere.
But the main part of the AFR soiled its bed recently with the publication of Charles Krauthammer's call to bomb the hell out of Afghanistan, a time for 'righteous might' (AFR, 1 November). "We are there to avenge 5000 murdered Americans and to protect the rest by killing those preparing to murder again." Yet Krauthammer admits that "not a single important Taliban leader has been killed or captured or has defected." So who are we killing? "We are expending enormous effort on dropping food." I think you mean cluster bombs, Charles, getting confused by the fact that food and bombs are the same colour. Manna from heaven for the Afghanis - all good Old Testament stuff of endless retribution.
Krauthammer is one of a group of American columnists introduced to AFR readers (the 'Washington Post Writers' Group') when the Canadian Conrad Black was a significant influence on the Fairfax share registry. In the current circumstances, we can be thankful that Black went home. Black owns the British Daily and Sunday Telegraphs and the Spectator, and the Jerusalem Post. Black is not sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, to put it mildly, and is an interventionist owner (is David Flint on the job?). So why are we still reading Krauthammer?
One of Black's writers, Bruce Wolpe, has stayed behind, and is now manager for corporate affairs at Fairfax. Wolpe claims that more than 100 nations are behind the American effort, and that "the forces of globalisation and modernisation have secured a decisive victory of the fomenters of terror and unholy war" (Age, 9 October). I would say somewhat exaggerated, and a trifle premature respectively. Wolpe is a fan of Fukuyama, but it's a worry when opinion-making elites end up believing their own propaganda.
There is no lack of Anglo-American imports who think that American interventions into other regimes has been weak and indecisive. Frank Devine, long-time Oz hack, wants Australia to get on board with the Americans on the say-so of William Safire, who has the USA shortly liberating the Middle East (Australian, 11 October). Why the USA hasn't liberated the Middle East already, after being intimately involved in the area for decades, is something of a mystery. Safire, sometime speech-writer for Richard Nixon and long-term Cold War functionary for the New York Times, has been reproduced down under for another round of sabre-rattling (Age, 13 September; 20 October).
Peter Beinart, editor of the appalling New Republic, thinks that the Americans have not intervened enough (Australian, 28 September). What one needs is an American or Western alliance takeover to run the country for a race that can't run it themselves. Max Boot, opinion page editor of the Wall Street Journal, says that the problem "has not been excessive American assertiveness, but insufficient assertiveness". "Afghanistan and other troubled lands today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets". (Australian, 19 October). Boot's knowledge of Afghani history seems to be fairly slim. Conservative English historian Paul Johnson recommends the occupation and administration of 'obdurate terrorist States' (AFR, 8 October). "Countries that cannot live at peace with their neighbours and that wage covert war against the international community cannot expect total independence." The jodhpured and pithy Brits are going to occupy the US then? They could do a re-count of the Florida Presidential votes while they're on the job.
And the British leadership could do with a more jaundiced treatment from the Australian media. Tony Blair got on the rostrum and declared war on greenhouse and poverty as well as terrorism. Epithets of 'statesman' were thrown around, but charlatan or mountebank might have been more appropriate. Simon Mann, European Correspondent for The Age, performed a rare exposure of Blair's shallowness and hypocrisy (Age, 12 October). Big Ear's war on poverty should start on the home front; as for democracy, he has been steadily dismantling it in his own party.
An ethical foreign policy immediately went out the window once Blair's Labor was elected, confronting that Britain's still substantial military-industrial complex had to have its export diet sustained. British Aerospace has just picked up a significant slice of the US Defence Department's $14bn. contract with Lockheed Martin for a new round of jet fighters. Keegan is a remnant of the imperial ideological baggage that justifies all this stuff.
During the Gulf War, the Guardian Weekly juxtaposed the language used by the British press to characterise the combatants (3 February 1991). Our chaps were 'brave, resolute heroes', etc., whereas the Iraqis were 'fanatical, ruthless mad dogs', etc. It is more heroic (and profitable for British Aerospace, etc.) to bomb civilian populations than it is to weed out the presumed evil. Language helps to shape opinion (and votes), and the Anglo-American press is at it again. Even the chauvinist characters in Biggles had more integrity than these defenders of 'freedom and democracy'.
The Fairfax and Murdoch presses have published myriad articles on the need for intelligent analysis and restraint, and of caution in giving the Americans a blank cheque. The Herald has published Brigadier Adrian D'Hagé, a Vietnam veteran, and who knows the realities of war first-hand (Herald, 18 October). Nevertheless, the presses has given only token recognition of informed dissent from international sources, sources from which they have readily drawn for establishment opinion.
There has been effectively non-recognition of recognisable dissenters from American foreign policy - Edward Said has appeared once (Age, 20 September). Noam Chomsky appeared locally, condemning Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories (Age, 23 August), but has not been represented since September 11. Neither has John Pilger. These are the left-wing nasties that Miranda Devine has railed against as akin to Taliban propagandists (Herald, 27 September). But as the local quality press is not printing these people, she can rest easier.
Robert Fisk has been represented (Canberra Times, 22 September; AFR, 22-23 September; Herald, September; AFR, 20-21 October) - but given Fisk's experience and enormous output on the issues, the representation has been slight. Token or no recognition has been given to other credentialed Anglo-American correspondents and academics, including Jonathan Steele, George Monbiot, Tariq Ali, Fred Halliday, Ahmed Rashid, William Pfaff and Michel Chossudovsky. The respectable Christian Science Monitor produced an important article, 'Why do they hate us?' (27 September), not picked up locally.
The informed contributions, reproduced in ZNet (USA), Common Dreams News Center (Canada) and Counterpunch (USA), from those named above and others, may as well not exist as far as the Fairfax and the Murdoch press are concerned. Nothing has been reproduced from the relatively detached (non-Black) Canadian press or Irish press. Nothing has been translated from Europe or Asia, and certainly nothing from the Middle East or South Asia.
More fundamentally, certain big picture issues are off the agenda - distillation of the long history of American foreign policy; the politics of oil, in particular; and the Palestinian question. The Australian occasionally covers the Middle East, often via the Sunday Times (cheap borrowings from another Murdoch paper); the Fairfax press not at all.
As for oil, Afghanistan doesn't have any, but it has a land mass essential for the transport of Caspian basin oil if its transport is to be kept out of the hands of the Russians and the Iranians. The American oil company UNOCAL has been working on this since 1995 (George Monbiot, Guardian, 23 October; reproduced in Common Dreams News Center, 25 October). After the Taliban takeover of Kabul in 1996, the Taliban was seen pragmatically as the stable administration that could help UNOCAL in its vision. Taliban leaders were invited to Houston to be entertained. US official policy towards the regime during this period was acquiescent. Afghanistan, as always, is less important in its own right than as a vehicle for strategic control of the region, now threatened by China's ambitions as well. The death of Afghani civilians is of little consequence in the drive for a Western-oriented regime in the country. Freedom and democracy have nothing to do with it.
In a rare glimpse into the past by the Australian media, The Australian's Roy Eccleston interviewed an American academic, Shahrough Akhari, who happened to be the son of a minister in the Mossadegh government in Iran (Australian, 6-7 October). This was the government that was overthrown by the CIA and British Intelligence. Several sentences providing significant insight into future events that could easily have been missed.
Well Encyclopedia Britannica missed it, and not by accident. Quote: "The disturbed political situation during Mossadegh's premiership turned his nationalization triumph [of the oil assets] into a pyrrhic victory. His period in office ended in turmoil in 1953." No CIA action here. Merely internal instability, and the subsequent rise of the modernizing (if repressive) Shah, who was inexplicably undermined by hysterical clerics in the late 1970s.
The relatively easy victory in Iran ushered in a long and glorious international career of the multinational firm known as the CIA. The American media has been sanitizing the story ever since. The Australian media have generally followed suit. The Australian media, while making concessions to a modicum of pluralism, have skirted around the provision of a basic intelligence that would help us to understand the venality and the incompetence that is currently driving the carnage in Afghanistan.
Evan Jones is senior lecturer in the Department of Economic and Social Science at the University of Sydney
Like most things, however, tribalism is a double-edged sword. It can slice the top right off our critical faculties.
Australians are not the world's most emotional sporting enthusiasts, not by a long chalk, but even they can lose perspective.
Exhibit one - Kevin Muscat's tackle on Frenchman Christophe Dugarry at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The general consensus seemed to be that Muscat was a tough Aussie battler while the Frenchman was a soft, Gallic prima donna, if not a dead-set poofter.
Fact - the tackle was a shocker that should have made the referee, at least, see red.
Exhibit two - big Jason Stevens' tap dance on the swede of British prop Terry O'Connor.
Now it's fair to say, that it was very likely accidental. Rugby league props are taught to hit the tackle, get straight to their feet, plant one of them, and play the ball quickly. There is, in the game's laws, a responsibility on the tackler, in this case O'Connor, to roll away from the ruck.
None of that, though, is the point. Imagine the reaction of fans and media if the boot had been on the other cheek.
Exhibit three - Glenn McGrath's over of near wides to Kiwi batsman Craig McMillan when the visitors needed 18 runs from three overs to complete the biggest form reversal since Piers Ackerman wrote two true words, admittedly his byline, in the Tele.
Sure, Steve Waugh made the test with his declaration and, equally, the Kiwis did not deserve to win but, with McMillan eventually taking guard outside his stumps and still unable to reach the ball, you would be entitled to question whether or not it really was cricket.
Then again, it's a bloody good feeling when everything you always knew about some breed of foreigner is proven to be indisputably right.
The odd moan in defeat is understandable but there is nothing lower than a poor winner. Clive Woodward's post-match press conference at Twickers was a classic of its kind, pretty much summing up everything we had always known about Pommy sportsmen, if that's not an oxymoron.
That's the thing about tribalism. Once you pay your fare, you can take the hula girl option, ride until you uncover the Taliban within, or get off at any station in-between. The choice is yours.
Paid work and parenting: charting a new course for Australian families by John Buchanan and Louise Thornthwaite
To date, work and family policies and praise have focused on a few adhoc initiatives based on a 'best practice' model of workplace reform. These have been larger workplaces and others are urged to follow suit. The authors argue that a more systemic approach is needed as more and more people are expressing their dissatisfaction with the work family cycle, and for many the situation is deteriorating (note the increase in working hours in Australia). Key findings of the report include:
· a comprehensive system of maternity and paternity leave paid for by government, but funded, at least in part, by employers
· a comprehensive, quality child care system with quality and access the keys, not the profit motive
· employee choice rostering arrangements, buttressed by awards, and, if necessary, legislative specifications and obligations enabling individuals greater capacity to fit work around family lives
· a new deal for part time workers to improve quality of jobs and to ensure access to part time work for parents who need it
· experimenting with new support structures at neighbourhood level
· developing new support arrangements for employers
(Report for the Chifley Research Foundation; published by ACIRRT as Working Paper no 70, August 2001) http://www.econ.usyd.edu.au/acirrt/
Help Put Health Before Wealth - Sign Oxfam's Petition
World Trade Organisation rules are threatening to put medicines completely beyond the reach of the poor - a terrible prospect when treatable diseases already kill 37,000 people every day. Go to http://www.oxfam.org.uk/health and help change these rules by signing Oxfam's online petition and joining a movement to put the health of the poorest before the wealth of rich multinational corporations.
New TUC Globalisation Website Goes Live
The TUC launched a new section to its website to mark the first ever Global Unions' Day of Action on Friday 9 November 2001. The day, on the theme of Making Globalisation Work for People has been called by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).
In addition to the website, the TUC will be involved in a series of activities in the week leading up to the Day of Action to raise awareness of the negative effects that globalisation is having on workers around the world.
TUC Deputy General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Unions round the world are calling for globalisation underpinned by solidarity and justice, rather than globalisation where trade undermines the values and living conditions of workers.'
The website will host information and materials surrounding globalisation issues and highlighting key campaigns from eliminating child labour to balancing the power of multinationals.
This site will provide an online learning resource for union members and non-members alike. In addition TUC Education will be running a series of activities in all of its courses during the week running up to November 9.
TUC Deputy General Secretary, Brendan Barber, led a delegation to meet Hilary Benn, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, on 8th November to highlight trade union concerns on this issue.
Don't Look Now by David Braue
Electronic monitoring of the workplace is becoming more pervasive. Kim Parker from Maurice Blackburn Cashman says that there are not "sufficient protections for employees in terms of electronic monitoring". Just because you agree to work for an employer doesn't mean you give up your rights to privacy.
(The Bulletin; 9 October 2001)
Breaking the Bullying Cycle
Grant Michelson, a lecturer with the University of Sydney's Work and Organisational Studies unit, told a group gathered at a briefing co-sponsored by WorkplaceInfo's partner ACIRRT that bullying was more than violent, obvious harassment.
Tactics like malicious rumours, professional slurs, setting workers up to fail or 'cold shouldering' were far more insidious, and organisations that allowed these types of covert bullying to operate would pay the consequences.
Michelson outlined strategies to deal with bullying, and Therese MacDermott from law firm Cutler Hughes Harris supported Michelson and pointed out that anti-bullying policies were needed regardless of size.
Trade Union Congress (TUC) Learning Services
TUC Learning Services provides the strategic framework to support the union role in learning and skills.
The TUC and unions can make a unique contribution to the lifelong learning agenda because of:
· the unique relationship with the workforce and direct access to them
· the ability to persuade people who have not participated in learning since leaving school and who have lost confidence to try again
· the direct link with employers which can lead to a shared practical purpose and joint activity
· the first hand knowledge of the learning and skills needs of the workforce, employers, geographical areas and sectors
The TUC works with partners nationally, regionally and locally to:
· increase business/service competitiveness;
· enhance the employability of the workforce
· build a partnership approach with employers
· add value to the union card
Fitness for Duty in the Australian Mining Industry: emerging legal and industrial issues by Chris Briggs, Jim Nolan and Kathryn Heiler
Fitness for duty is clearly an issue that is gathering momentum in the mining industry. This paper explores emerging legal and industrial practices in relation to fitness for duty and the implications for employment rights, managerial practices and OHS.
Recent allegations of fraud in the NSW construction industry have sparked an inquiry by the NSW government. This article takes a preliminary look at how widespread fraud is, what is being done, and the implications this may have for other compensation schemes throughout Australia.
(CCH Compensation Week; 23 October 2001)
The 'New Apprenticeships' program introduced in 1998 was a significant initiative in developing a more encompassing system in employment based vocational education and training. After the Howard government abolished Working Nation, it stands as about the only real labour market program if this government. Here A.M. Dockery, R. Kelly, K. Norris and T. Stromback draw on evidence from case studies of 60 employers. They look at changes in costs of apprenticeships and trainees. In another article, Mark Cully and Richard Curtain, look at the skill formation issues and the school to work transition aspects of the 'New Apprenticeships' scheme.
(Australian Bulletin of Labour; vol. 27, no. 3, September 2001)
It wasn't enough for Howard to drive a wedge through the Australian psyche in a bid to get reelected. There he was on Saturday night, claiming victory with his trademark whine, pumping both fists in the 'double wank' he has made famous and calling for national unity!
Twenty-four hours later he was trying to spin the whole election as a win on merits, denying his Fortress Australia policy had been the substantial factor in his win. For a man who has never been shy of accusing opponents to rewrite history, this was a remarkable piece of revisionism.
The full-page newspaper advertisements the Liberals ran on election eve with the 36 point type screaming "we decide who comes into this country and the circumstance they come in" will long be remembered as a national disgrace. The manipulation of public attitudes toward desperate Afghanis made the Petrov Affair seem like a soft photo op.
Yep, Little Johnnie's ships came in, but it's a vessel that will soon be taking water. In his desperate bid for power he's not only made Australia an international pariah, he's fractured relations with our nearest neighbour and brought the modern day equivalent of feudalism to the Pacific - which is noiw a series of island states taking our money to house our refugees while waiting to be swamped by rising water levels caused by the greenhouse crisis that Howard refuses to address by signing the Kyoto protocol.
But if there's international damage - it shrinks in comparison with the harm Howard has caused our national interest. For a nation reliant on immigration, Howard has killed - perhaps for all time - the consensus that our leaders will make the tough decisions to expand our population base. As Malcolm Fraser observed so eloquently this week there would have been no post-war immigration if the question had been taken to a popular vote, ditto south-east Asian immigration in the 70s. But we have strengthened and diversified by our so-called 'elites' forming a bipartisan view that we needed to grow to survive.
Now Howard has adopted the One Nation agenda on immigration, it's difficult to see how he will be able to lead our nation into the new century with any sort of vision. But that's never been where Howard wants to take us. He's nirvana is the 1950s, a nice cuppa, a photo of the Queen on the mantelpiece and the blackfellas kept out in the back paddocks.. As this Tool takes up three more years on the public purse, it will be left to Labor - as always - to build a new vision that cuts through the fear and loathing that Howard has unleashed to find a way forward for the nation.
For Howard, his enduring legacy will be to have lower the standard of political discourse in this country. Rejecting the notion that leaders should take their people to somewhere better, he opted to drive them down for his own calculate political advantage. In years to come, this will be remembered as the Howard Doctrine.
A Ship of Tools
Of course, Howard is but the head of a team of Tools who were quaffing the bubbly on Saturday night. Amongst them are:
- Daddy's Boy Larry Anthony, holding onto Richmond without leaving the old man's side.
- Sophie Panopolous - the excreble anti-Republic campaigner who ran big on the "don't trust a pollie" ticket last year. Now she is one and we won't.
- PM-designate Peter Costello, who's election-night high-jinx ripped off his mask as a modest politician to expose a two-pot screamer.
- The Mad Monk, who blamed the CFMEU personally for having to get out on the streets of Mosman and actually work his electorate.
- And Peter Reith- who abandoned ship when things looked rough and now probably realizes he could have hung around and had a run at the top job.
So, regrettably, the ship of tools continues to float, against all justice and reason - as long as it does the Tool Shed will be there, exposing their hypocrisy,
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005