When workers employed at the cutting edge of the welfare sector won a 12 per cent pay rise last year, they hoped that at last they would be recognized for their often thank-less work. Instead the wage rise has plunged the sector into crisis, with 3000 agencies facing closure - all because the Treasurer refuses to come to the party. Some services are looking at closing doors in May if the Treasurer doesn't announce funding in the upcoming Federal Budget.
The 6.5 per cent average rise lifted pay rates from what was an Award range of between $21 000 and $39 000, with most earning less than $30 000. But the modest pay rise under the SACS Social & Community Services Award was only the beginning of their battle for wage justice. That's because the organisations that employ the SACS workers are themselves reliant on state and federal government funding.
Despite spending most of his life doing a pretty convincing impression of Ebaneazor Scrouge, NSW Treasurer Michael Egan came to the party, approving a supplement to the organizations funded by the state government to the tune of $40 million. But Costello held out, meaning that community service workers employed in youth refuges, women's refuges, migrant services and disability services were faced with the reality that any wage rise would further cut critically low resources, and with it jobs and services.
When pressed on the issue, Costello put his name to a letter opining that Canberra "does not need to provide additional funding" as Commonwealth grants to the State Government or direct to service agencies already were indexed annually to cover items such as wage rises, and "additional funding would effectively provide double compensation to organisations and governments". The problem with this argument is that the money he talks of only covers the incremental Living Wage increases designed to maintain the real wages of low income employees, not a significant restructuring of wages such as this. It is the non-profit community agencies that are going to be forced to double-dip - and it will be the public who will pay in lost services.
Of course, the reality is that Costello is tightening the screws everywhere to free up more money for the defence department, budgetary beneficiaries of the unstable international environment and the cynical internal scare mongering of the last election. Defence will spend $23 billion over the next 10 years. And while Costello promised there would be no extra funding for the War on Terror, he has since requestioned a further $340 million for Afghanistan. Meanwhile the government continues to throw around the bucks to keep asylum seekers in third world nations with an estimated $200 million going into border protection and discredited Pacific Solution.
All of which provides an interesting twist to Howard's xenophobia. If you are an alien we will spend billions keeping you out of our country, blowing you up and maybe even throwing some money at you to get you back to whatever hole you crawled out of. But if you are an Australia, we will cut and cut at community services and make your difficult life even more isolated. Anyone who thinks that border protection is about helping Australians, should have a look at the budget bottom line.
Council secretary John Robertson and Public Works Minister Morris Iemma this week signed off on a Memorandum of Understanding that will make it tougher for shonky bosses to participate in the lucrative race to supply goods and services to state government
Contracting, in some sectors, has become a synonym for rorts, from slashing wages and avoiding tax and compo payments, to discriminating against people with union affiliations.
Those worst-case scenarios are repudiated by the memorandum formally recognising unions "as the representative body of employees".
It gives effect to that by providing rights to enter workplaces and inspect records, as well as banning victimisation of union members.
The memorandum binds the Department to deal only with operators who comply with the code and sets out enforcement responsibilities.
State-Sponsored Sweated Labour
Council deputy assistant secretary, Chris Christodoulou, drove the agreement from its formative stages.
He said the memorandum, expected to apply to tens of thousands of people employed in occupations such as cleaning, security, couriers, IT and garment manufacture, had its genesis in the discovery of sweated labour at firms holding state government clothing contracts.
Unions pooled resources and experiences to develop a draft which was reshaped over 15 separate meetings with departmental officials.
By the middle of last year enough ground had been made to involve the minister.
Unions, including the LHMU, TCFUA and TWU, re-caucused over the practicalities of monitoring its implementation, then put their proposals before peak industry bodies.
The arrangement supplements another, covering off the NSW building industry, and seems certain to be used as a template for protocols with the RTA and local governments.
Plans to erect fences around those sectors are underway with Labor Council likely to put the acid on at least 12 Sydney-based councils in the near future.
"The key part of the exercise is to get out and organise in those companies the Government deals with," Christodoulou said. "From here, it has to be monitored and driven by rank and file members in their workplaces
"What the memorandum does is remove a significant impediment to doing that. You would think that bona fide companies wouldn't be going in to slash wages or exhibit anti-union tendencies but, unfortunately, that has not always been the case."
Delivering the annual Kingsley Laffer lecture at the University of Sydney, Justice Kirby said the NSW Industrial Relation Commission's reasoning in establishing the Equal Remuneration Principle was "founded squarely on a human rights approach".
"I am aware of no more explicit recognition by an industrial tribunal in Australia of the significance of international human rights norms for Australian industrial relations law and practice," Justice Kirby said.
Speaking to a packed audience, Justice Kirby argued that international human rights principles, through ILO conventions, were increasingly underpinning Australian workplace law.
Pay Equity Spreads North
Meanwhile, the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission has accepted the pay equity principle, opening the way for the first pay equity cases in that state.
The principle accepted by the Commission directly reflects the Queensland Council of Union's application, based on recommendations announced last year, following the Pay Equity Inquiry conducted by QIRC Commissioner G.K Fisher. The principle will be operative on 1 May 2002.
"We anticipate the first Queensland pay equity case to begin by the end of the year for Queensland dental assistants," QCU state secretary Grace Grace says.
"Hopefully this case will have similar results to the recent NSW librarian pay equity case which saw a 26% increase granted to librarians."
Read the Full Speech by Justice Kirby:
Labor Council is preparing a supplementary submission on the subject to the NSW Industrial Relations system five-year review.
"Our concern is that if there is no capping mechanism the system will cease to offer working people affordable access to workplace justice," Labor Council secretary John Robertson says.
"There is already a move towards more high-priced lawyers operating in the IRC, prompting claims for significant costs. That, in itself, mitigates against people taking their grievances there.
"Unless we are careful, IRC procedings will become subject to the deep pocket test."
Unions fear that important issues will be denied an airing if members are threatened with ruin when their cases don't get up.
There are also concerns about lawyers changing the nature of the system, from one based on the practical application of natural justice to an environment where technical legal points-scoring holds sway.
Traditionally, representatives of unions and various employer groups have argued the toss in IRC forums.
In a recent case, however, the ASU, contesting a dismissal, was contronted by a barrister, legal counsel and a handwriting expert. It lost the case and had substantial costs awarded against it.
MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin is addressing the International Transport Workers Federation executive in London where he will seek backing for the MUA position on flags of convenience.
"We are considering all our options, legal and international," assistant secretary Mick Doleman responded to the Federal Court's rejection of an application which would have prevented CSL selling the Yarra and bringing it back to Australia with a foreign flag and crew.
The union sought its application under freedom of association provisions of the Workplace Relations Act, arguing Australian workers were being sacked because of MUA membership.
Federal Court judge Catherine Branson ruled that union membership was not the reason for CSL's conduct.
"It's outrageous for the Federal Government to openly encourage foreign shipowners to harm this country's workers, industry and economy," Doleman said.
"This Government wants to turn the Australian shipping industry into a sweatshop. It is forcing Australians to compete against the cheapest labour available in the world."
Federal Transport Minister John Anderson has to permit foreign flagged vessels to work the Australian coast. Since he became minister he has overseen a tripling of ships using foreign crews on Australian routes.
Unions have raised environmental and security concerns about the practise, as well as their core wage and conditions objections.
Flags of convenience countries run regimes similar to Swiss banking, seducing dubious owners with secrecy guarantees that are hard for international law agencies to crack.
Only about 45 Australian flagged and crewed vessels remain in business.
ACTU Secretary Greg Combet says the decision demonstrates that current laws are inadequate to protect Australian jobs and prevent Australian workers from being replaced by foreigners on lower wages and conditions.
"The Federal Government could fix this problem with the stroke of a pen. If John Howard is serious about protecting Australia's borders, then he should act now to save Australian jobs," Combet says.
"These ships destroy Australian jobs and don't pay Australian taxes. Ships doing the right thing and operating with Australian crews under the Australian flag simply can't compete."
The initiative has been developed with NSW Labor Council, and comes ahead of Sunday’s International Day of Mourning for people killed or seriously injured at work.
NSW Industrial Relations Minister, John Della Bosca, says the Summit will take place in Bathurst in July. It will feature international experts on workplace safety, together with senior government, union and industry representatives.
"This Summit will develop strategies to deliver a reduction in workplace injuries and illnesses of at least 40 percent by 2012," Della Bosca says.
Occupations with the highest risk are labourers (52 injuries per 1,000 workers), plant and machine operators and drivers (49.7) and tradespersons (35.1).
Fatalities have fallen significantly from 181 in 1999/2000 to 139 in 2000/2001. "While that is a very welcome reduction, it is a tragedy that 139 people have lost their lives at work in NSW in one year," Della Bosca says.
In the past 12 months in NSW, a 48 year old timber cutter was killed when using a chainsaw to cut down a tree, a 26 year old trainee sustained fatal crush injuries to the head from a hydraulically operated pile driver and a 53 year old labourer died from a asthma attack after being splashed by polyurethane.
"By convening the Workplace Safety Summit and with modern and effective occupational health and safety legislation in place, NSW is taking active steps to reduce accidents, injuries and deaths in the workplace," Della Bosca said.
A member of Sydney’s Trade Union and Solidarity choirs, who performed in last week’s Villawood concert, told Workers Online how far Government paranoia over asylum seekers had gone.
"We were required to submit all our songs for their approval and had to attend several interviews before they would give us the go-ahead," the anonymous chorister revealed.
"Such are the security restrictions that we were actually surprised when they gave us the green light."
The concert went ahead after six months of negotiations between centre management and choir representatives.
Detainees from a variety of countries, including Colombia, China, Nepal, Fiji and Spain attended a recital that included songs in some of their languages.
Our source said audience and performers were allowed to mingle and share stories after the recital.
Detention Officers Not Scapegoats
Meanwhile, workers at detention centres at Port Hedland and Curtin are caught in an impossible position and must not be used as scapegoats for the Federal government's poor policies, their union says.
The Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union's Carolyn Smith, says officers working in the detention centres lack permanency, have inadequate training and suffer from chronic understaffing.
"It is an impossible situation that our members are in," Smith says. "They are expected to work in a very difficult environment, but without the support they need.
"It is grossly unfair that they should be made scapegoats because of the inability of the Federal Government to run these centres properly.
"More than 50 percent of the Detention Officers are casual employees, some receiving only one shift per fortnight.
"For the 180 detainees at present in the Port Hedland centre, there have been on occasion only seven officers on duty in the compound. This level of staffing is appallingly inadequate.
"How can our members possibly provide a proper level of care and security under these conditions?"
Smith says it is a problem which can only get worse and the Federal Government must act immediately to ensure that the safety of both officers and detainees is assured."
Union secretary, Bill Shorten, delivered findings from the Auspoll survey to a Rural Press Club lunch in Melbourne this week.
He revealed that the industry's traditional gold standard, Victoria's pot of beer, had fallen off the pace. Shearers now receive $1.78 per animal while the pot has crashed through the $2.50 barrier.
Shearers say the weight and size of the sheep they confront in today's shed is significantly bigger than the animal they dealt with a few years ago.
Nearly 90 percent didn't believe their income would provide them comfortable retirement incomes and 7 out of every 10 said they wouldn't encourage family or friends to join the industry.
Sixty eight percent of shearers said they were being forced to travel more widely with a "very bad" impact on family lives.
Shorten said survey results put the average shearer's annual income at $35,000 and that of shed hands at barely $18,000. These figures are significantly eroded by equipment and travel costs.
"Our research supports ABS census data and other research that paints a picture of a widening gulf between rural and city living standards," Shorten said.
Shearers nominated improved superannuation, piece rates and travel allowance as the keys to making their trade more attractive.
Three hundred and fifty workers at Walkers Australia voted to stay out this week, threatening production at Mitsubishi and Holden manufacturing plants around the country.
Workers at Tenneco's Walker operation are angry that their employer is refusing to honour an agreement to establish a trust fund to protect their long service entitlements.
The company is hiding behind Government's General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy scheme, established last year, arguing its provisions release it from honouring obligations it singed up to in the existing enterprise agreement.
But the federal compensation scheme is full of holes as Ansett workers will attest. By Government's own figures, released in Parliament, Ansett workers, alone, have already been shortchanged $187 million on their entitlements and that figure is rising.
Workers are missing out because Government has capped its liability. It's latest statistics reveal that 29 percent of money owed is leaching away under that provision.
Now Walkers are using a scheme that deprives employees of 29 percent of their entitlements to try and defeat an obligation to ensure the safety of all money owed.
Government describes it's scheme as a "safety net" but some employers are choosing to view it as a taxpayer-funded guarantee.
The Federal Labor Party has picked up on the injustice with Workplace Relations spokesman, Robert McClelland, refloating a national insurance plan, under which Government and big employers would share the cost of securing entitlements.
"It is time for Government to admit its taxpayer-funded scheme is not the answer," McClelland said.
Labor's proposal would cover 100 percent of entitlements and prevent employers shifting the debt for money they owe onto the taxpayer.
The large crowd of mainly construction and manufacturing workers was hushed during a minute’s silence as 12 white crosses were placed on the steps of Parliament in memory of the dozen workers killed on the job in Victoria so far this year.
Jan Carrick - who's 18-year-old son Anthony was killed on his first day at work at Drybulk Pty Ltd in inner Melbourne in 1998 - told the crowd that the legislation was needed to stop companies like Drybulk from killing people and getting away with it.
Drybulk's liquidation means the company and its principals have not had to pay $50,000 in safety fines and $20,000 in criminal compensation awarded by state courts.
The Victorian legislation would criminalise gross negligence causing death or serious injury in the workplace, with fines of up to $5 million for corporations and prison terms of up to five years for individuals guilty of the worst kinds of industrial manslaughter.
"When it's manslaughter, it's manslaughter, whether it's on the roads, whether it's in private, or whether it's in workplaces," Victorian WorkSafe Minister Bob Cameron told the rally.
State Attorney-General Rob Hulls dismissed as "nonsense arguments" claims by employer groups that the legislation was unnecessary because the average annual number of people being killed at work had decreased.
"We've got to stop this carnage. If road deaths decrease you don't ease up on road safety. I say to the Liberal Party: if you oppose this legislation then you're sending a message to Victoria that you're soft on crime in the workplace," Mr Hulls told the crowd.
Victorian Trades Hall Secretary Leigh Hubbard said the legislation, although not yet passed by Parliament, had already had a beneficial effect: "We know of examples of companies that have already smartened up their health and safety practices in response to this legislation."
Netball mum, Janette Wynbergen, scored a comprehensive win in her ground-breaking Carers' Responsibilities case against the company this week.
Wynbergen, sacked after refusing to work changed rosters that prevented her spending Saturdays with her children, had been forced to withdraw the pre-teen daughters from netball teams in the Bankstown area.
Wynbergen was represented in the IRC by the SDA with Labor Council also appearing because of the importance attached to the case by the labour movement.
Prior to the parties presenting final submission to deputy president, Peter Sams, a deal was struck which sees Wynbergen reinstated to a fulltime position which, according to a joint SDA-Babyco statement, "fully respects" her "genuine family responsibilities".
"The roster will enable Janette to fulfil her carers' responsibilities to her daughters on weekends whilst ensuring that BabyCo can meet the demands of its busiest trading times."
Other terms of the settlement, including compensation, are being kept confidential.
The NSW Labor Council argued BabyCo had "abused and breached" the national award by failing to have regard for Wynbergen's family responsibilies when changing her roster.
Secretary John Robertson said that while carers' responsibilities had received legal recognition it was important that workers felt confident to exercise those rights.
"This matter was an important test case of the commitment of NSW employers to the reality of carers' responsibilities. I am pleased that, in the end, the parties reached a settlement that recognised that principle," Robertson said.
Wynbergen said her overwhelming reaction was relief. "My priority is to go back to work and build a good relationship with them again," she added.
The call for war crimes and crimes against humanity investigations follows confirmation of the destruction of an Australian-supported health project.
A midwife was killed and three others are still missing from the Al Amal Hospital, run by the Palestinian Patients' Friends Society, supported by Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA
Hospital general secretary Mohammad Alsaid said he had personally seen a woman, holding a white flag, shot in the back.
Union Aid Abroad is calling for a UN peacekeeping force in the West Bank and Gaza, and for a total Israeli withdrawal from the occupied lands.
The commitment came at a meeting between Labor Council and the Office of the Employment Advocate in Sydney this week after the OEA sparked anger by initially refusing to endorse the clause.
Unions, particularly the CFMEU, have taken to policing immigration issues on worksites because, they say, the Government won't.
Their concerns centre on the growing number of employers using illegal immigrants to slash wages and conditions, while avoiding workers comp and tax liabilities.
Last week it appeared the Government was set to use the OEA to strike down a clause in the Lucas Heights agreement that has become standard for Sydney building industry documents.
After meeting OEA representatives, Labor Council deputy assistant secretary Chris Christodoulou, was confident the clause would survive.
"They accept the right of unions to have these clauses," Christodoulou told Workers Online. "They want minor alterations to comply with privacy provisions, otherwise, it should be alright.
"The Office of the Employment Advocate is representing ANSTO and they understand it is an important Federal Government project, that it is in the public interest to have a workable site agreement in place."
The biggest sticking point now is the Office continuing to baulk over delegates rights.
Christodoulou is hopeful that issue, already agreed with the employer, will be resolved next week.
Ruddock A Hypocrite - TWU
Meanwhile, the TWU is accusing Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock of hypocrisy over his announcement of a 5000 person increase to immigration levels.
State secretary Tony Sheldon argued Government's move, aimed at attracting skilled immigrants, hadn't been matched by a commitment to training.
Sheldon holds up the inbound tourist coach industry as a prime example.
He says participants on the working visa programme from Japan, Europe, South East Asia and Korea are being routinely exploited.
"We have information that some of these people are being paid as little as $10 an hour for up to 17 continuous hours as drivers or guides," Sheldon says.
"Some are overstaying visas and driving with little or no experience of Australian roads or conditions.
"Despite been made aware of these concerns, Government has boosted numbers on the programme from 35,000 to 74,000 over a five-year period."
Sheldon is urging Ruddock to back the TWU's call for a radical review of working and temporary visa programmes in the industry.
The official May Day Toast and Jam - Wednesday - 6.30pm (Toast) and 8.30p, (Jam).
Speakers at the traditonal Toast include NSW Labor Council president Sandra Moaitt, PSA secretary Maurie O'Sullivan and members of the Chaser team.
The Jam will see finalists in the Wobbly Radio Union Anthem Song Competition perform their entries. Performers are Dogbite, Mahuia Cooper, Swarmy G and urban Guerillas. For more details check out http://www.wobblyradio.com.au
Tickets $20 (Toast and Jam) or $10 (Jam Only)
On Sunday, the traditional May Day march will start at Hyde Park North at 11am, marching to Sydney Town Hall for speeches.
The MI Group is also planning May Day action, including:
M1 Sydney 2002
- 7:00am Blockade ACM, 44 Market St, City
- 12:00 noon, Unity Rally and March, Martin Place.
Following the success of M1 actions last year, activists involved in M1 2002 have been conscious to put forward a positive vision of what we're fighting for - a different world with different priorities.
M1 Sydney is encouraging people to protest for a world where:
· Refugees are welcome and the detention centres are closed
· The only war governments wage is on poverty and third world debt
· Strong unions advance workers' wages and conditions
· The environment comes before corporate profits
· Indigenous people have their land back
Sexism, racism and homophobia have been eliminated
Organised around the theme of "A Different World is Possible", M1 in Sydney will begin with a morning blockade of the offices of Australasian Correctional Management, the corporation that runs the refugee detention centres and a number of private prisons. Buoyed by the recent protests at Woomera, a large turnout is expected to protest against the policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers.
At noon, a "Unity Rally" will be held, with a number of performances and speakers from the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, Finance Sector Union, May Day Committee, Progressive Young Hazaris, Community Action Against Homophobia, The Wilderness Society, Aid/Watch and the PNG Solidarity Collective.
There will then be a march through the CBD stopping outside the Israeli Consultate, the Australian Stock Exchange, Howard's office and the US Consulate, with protesters demonstrating against war and in solidarity with the people of Palestine, and the racist and anti-union policies of the Liberals.
Support for the day of action has also come from the NTEU, the Refugee Action Collective, the AMWU Activists' Network, the NSW Greens, Sydney People Against a New Nuclear Reactor (SPANNR), Action for World Development and more.
M1 Sydney encourages all those stand against the brutal policies of war or the harsh results of free trade to join in on May Day as a mass action for peace and global justice.
In Melbourne, events include:
- May 1st -7am Community Blockade and picket of Casselden Place Casselden Place, at 2 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, includes the Immigration Department and other federal government Ministers and offices.
- 10.30am Unity March - Following the blockade and picket of Casselden Place, unions will march through the city. Start at trades Hall, finish in Collins Street, outside the Building Industry Royal Commission.
- 5.30pm Wreath Laying Ceremony - A wreath will be layed in a ceremony at the 8 Hour Monument opposite Trades Hall.
- 6pm The May Day Lecture - Mary Crooks delivers the May Day Lecture in the Trades Hall Old Council Chambers. Light Tea provided.
May 2nd - May Day Film Night - Special screening of a film about the New Zealand waterfront lockout of 1951. 7.30pm in the Old Council Chambers, Trades Hall.
- Sunday 5th May - May Day March - Assemble corner Victoria Street and Russell Street, opposite Trades Hall, at 2pm. March commences at 2.30pm and proceeds to treasury Gardens for rally.
- May Day Tea - The May Day Tea follows the march and rally and will be held at Trades Hall. To be followed by the May Day concert.
Internationally, Check out Labourstart (http://www.labourstart.org) for all the May Day action.
The latest stand-off, involving Public Service Association members, follows an assault on a case worker at Campbelltown on Wednesday.
Since February, Campbelltown case workers have been required to wait in the general waiting area, prior to hearings, often mixing with the families and friends of children they have had to take into care.
The PSA warned of the potential danger then, and again on April 11, but spokesman Greg O'Donoghue says alternative arrangements have not been made.
A similar problem at Sydney's St James courthouse was resolved within days of being raised.
The Campbelltown issue comes hard on the heels of a strike by community services workers in Sydney's Metropolitan West region.
They claimed inadequate resourcing was seeing child abuse and neglect cases going unattended.
The findings were part of a Queensland Council of Unions survey, held during a two day free "at work" advice hotline to coincide with Youth Week 2002.
Over 2,000 workers contacted the QCU during the two day period, majority via
the website www.qcu.asn.au/atwork.html
Major issues included:
* 80% of calls received were underpayment of wages - a young apprentice painter called who was receiving $6 an hour
* failure to provide Award conditions
* general unawareness of rights and entitlements - notice period for resignation, overtime payments
* unfair dismissal, superannuation and workplace health and safety
Ninety five per cent of calls received resulted in membership kits of relevant union being forwarded on.
Web Key Medium
QCU General Secretary Grace Grace says the activities targeted at young workers were an extremely valuable exercise.
"Most young workers accessed information via the web, this is our most important communication tool with this target membership group and we should use it more effectively.
"All unions should also be able to provide tailored information to young workers in their industries that goes beyond school assignment help," she says.
And what is the biggest challenge? "Union leaders understand they need to become more relevant to young workers and some young people need to understand why they should belong to unions."
OPEN AUSTRALIA FORUM - A New Vision for the ALP
6.30PM WEDNESDAY MAY 1
- Lindsay Tanner MP, Member for Melbourne, Shadow Minister for Communications, Author of Open Australia
- Mark Latham MP, Member for Werriwa, Assistant Shadow Treasurer, Co-Author, The Enabling State
- Rebecca Huntley, Lecturer UNSW Law school, Co-editor, Party Girls
- Tom Morton, Producer Background Briefing, ABC Radio National
- Catherine Lumby, Associate Professor, Media University of Sydney, Columnist, The Bulletin
- Guy Rundle, Co-editor, Arena Magazine, Writer of Max Gillies' smash hit, Your Dreaming
Venue: The gallery, Berkelouw Books 70 Norton Street, Leichhardt,6.30PM
Admission: $20 and $10
Bookings: mailto:[email protected]
VISIT BY MALAYSIA ANTI-ISA CAMPAIGNERS
Labor activist, Irene Xavier and Mabel Au, women's rights activist, are currently in Australia on a speaking tour to support the abolition of Malaysia's Internal Security Act [ISA] and the release of political detainees held under the Act.
The ISA is used to detain without charge or trial, any voices of dissent. It has been used to detain trade unionists, political opposition leaders, journalists and social and human rights campaigners.Detainees are often subject to torture and denied access to family and lawyers.
COME to a meeting with Irene and Mabel to get an update on the international campaign :
Thursday 2nd May
10am, Labor Council, 377 Sussex Street
Detainees include Tian Chua, labour and human rights activist, Amnesty Prisoner of Conscience and Deputy of the Justice Party. Tian worked for labour resource centres in Thailand and Malaysia and was instrumental in organising workers following the tragic toy factory fires in Thailand in the early 90's. April 9 marked the 1st anniversary of the detention of six reformasi activists [including Tian] being held without trial under Malaysia's ISA.
Industrial Workers of the World - May Day Benefit For East Timor - 3 May @ the Gaelic Club, Devonshire St, Surry Hills, Sydney 8pm
Outspoken Australian songwriter Fred Smith will be heading the lineup for the Industrial Workers Of the World May Day Benefit for East Timor this Friday night (3 May) at the Gaelic Club on Devonshire Street.
Smith has blazed a trial to the forefront of the Australian Roots scene with extraordinary performances at the Woodford Folk Festival and his new album Bagarap Empires receiving critical acclaim along with extensive airplay on Radio National. The album recently won Fred an unusual distribution deal with Oxfam/Community Aid Abroad-one of only two white Australian acts on their roster- as well as the Sreensound Australia award for Best New Release at the 2002 National Folk Festival.
Fred has been described by a more than one critic as "Australia's answer to Billy Bragg". He is one of the more unusual figures on the Australian music scene. He released his first album Soapbox in 1998 with several songs from the disc receiving airplay on Triple J and ABC Radio. The album contained some mad comic tracks along with more serious ballads including the politically sharp Open Country, the song that won Fred the Australian Songwriter's Association's Ausmusic Award.
After acclaimed performances at the Woodford Folk Festival in 1998 Fred left to Bougainville and the Solomons to work with Australian run Peace Monitoring outfits in the Pacific hotspots. He recently returned to complete Bagarap Empires.
The album comprises eleven clean-cut ballads, some in English and some in Melanesian pidgen, telling stories of humour, dignity and compassion relating to the troubled recent history of Bougainville and the Solomons where Fred worked with Australian peace monitoring operations
The Sydney Branch of the IWW plans to celebrate May Day by raising money for their East Timor Community Computer Project.
An IWW Organiser is currently in East Timor coordinating this project. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and other unions have assisted in shipping recycled computers and parts to East Timor. The IWW organises to send computers and other plant and equipment to East Timor and coordinate their installation into computer schools and community centers.
After 12 months, computers have been distributed to Laga, Los Palos, Viqueque, Manatuto, Venilale & Autoro. In addition, computers have been distributed to various Libertarian groups around Dili. Our Organiser is also running a free computer school in Bebonuk with around 6 students per day. The IWW is currently organising to expand this project into Same, Suai and Oecussi.
To support this important work, the Sydney IWW is holding a fundraising concert on May 3 at the Gaelic Club in Surry Hills. Renowned singer-songwriter Fred Smith will be playing, alongside well-regarded political/folk singer Martin Doherty and for a change of pace, MC Ozi Battla will bring a hip-hop flavour to the night.
For info contact Adam: 0414 228 878
Workers of the world unite!
Industrial Workers of the World - http://www.iww.org-- Join the One Big Union!
THIRTY YEARS LATER: THE WHITLAM GOVERNMENT AS MODERNIST POLITICS
KEYNOTE SPEAKER: THE HON E.G.WHITLAM
The National Key Centre for Australian Studies and the Parliamentary Studies Unit School of Political and Social Inquiry Faculty of Arts, Monash University
A conference to mark the 30th anniversary of
the election of the Whitlam Government.
Monday 2 December and Tuesday 3 December 2002 Old Parliament House, Canberra
The conference takes as its starting point a consideration of the Whitlam era as a force in modernising the Australian Labor Party in the 1960s, Australian governance in the 1970s and Australian society at that time and beyond.
Sara Cousins, School of Political and Social Inquiry
Faculty of Arts, Monash University
ph: +61 3 9903 2651 (Mondays only)
fax: +61 3 9903 2795
mailto: [email protected]
Why did Lionel Jospin, the Socialist party candidate, get only 16% of the vote in the first round of Presdiential elections in france and over 30% stay away?
It wasn't because the revolutionary left split the vote. It was perfectly correct for the Trotskyist and revolutionary left to stand candidates. They stood because they disagreed fundamentally with Jospin's pro-capitalist anti-worker policies and wanted to give voice to ordinary working people. They received a combined vote of 13%.
Jospin won parliamentary elections five or six years ago on the back of massive strikes across France. Those strikes won him power and forced him to introduce a 35 hour week. But the 35 hours he introduced was a compromise and Jospin couldn't and wouldn't satisfy workers' expectations.
If Jospin had governed for workers rather than capitalists the revolutionary left would have received an abysmal vote.
There was massive disillusionment with Jospin's Government as it moved to become the French equivalent of New Labour in the UK.
On top of that Jospin ran a Beazley type campaign - he didn't differentiate himself at all from Chirac. This is because his politics are basically the same as Chirac's - pro-capitalist.
There was clearly a swing to the revolutionary left. 13% of French people consciously voted for Trotskyist candidates who talked about capitalism and revolution.
What we may be witnessing is the beginning of the decline of social democracy in Europe. As society fractures from the centre, some are moving to the far left.
As to the so-called swing to the Right, in fact the fascist Le Pen's vote increased only 2% over the last Presidential election.
This is not a massive swing to the fascist right, although the fact that Le Pen is the second candidate in the run off may (and I stress the word may) give him and his politics some added respectability.
The spontaneous demonstrations in Paris and other places against Le Pen show there is real hope.
But greater forces will be needed.
A united front of all the forces of the Left - the trade unions and the political parties - has the power to stop him. In that struggle it will be the revolutionary Left which proves itself the best fighter against fascism and for working people.
As student doing work experience with Sydney City, I was shocked to read your derogatory remarks and reporting on this Local Government body.
While I am not attending this business every day I have experienced enough of this organization to realise that it is a caring and sharing public body.
I am meeting some very nice people, who work in the libraries and they have been very willing to teach me, through experience, how to be very chary in my dealings with other employees and how they service in the environment which you describe as predatory.
While not a member of the Union, a Union Delegate**, has been very helpful in her tutelage through example, and has certainly shown how to entrench a position through some unbelievable Machiavellian machinations of playing one employee against the other.
I shall certainly be joining this union when I get my qualifications as a Library Technician, and am earning some wages.
I for one am delighted with this council, not only are they teaching me skills which cannot be bought in a $2 shop, unlike Howard's University I do not need to take out a loan to pay for this experience.
So, not only am I delighted to do unpaid work, I look forward to getting a permanent position so I can enhance and exercise my inherent skills of passive aggression through malevolence on the idiots* who already work and the young people who will follow my footsteps.
*By definition, one must be an idiot to permit himself or herself to be treated in such a manner, without complaint.
**It is my belief that this is permitted by the Union through close relationship with a previous Union Organiser.
Work Experience Student
Ed's Reply: We have no idea what you are referring to, but we think you'll go a long way at the Council. Don't be tempted to sign those individual contracts though ....
Your report about the massive strikes in Italy and India makes the point that they were undertaken to stop Governments destroying what we would call unfair dismissal laws.
The report also makes it clear that the conservative labour and social democratic parties are unwilling or unable to defend workers' rights and entitlements. This leaves only the trade unions to defend us.
I note that in Australia the Howard government is attacking unfair dismissal laws. I note too that in the past the conservative Labor Party has been at the forefront of attacks on workers. Workcare, the Accord, enterprise bargaining come to mind.
Unlike Italy or India in Australia there has been no real generalised strike activity to protect workers rights.
Isn't it time the leadership of the Australian trade union movement followed the Indian and Italian examples?
by Peter Lewis
Justice Lance Wright
If you had to give the story of the IRC's first 100 years in a sentence, what would it be?
It is a story of change and development. The members of the then Court in 1902, who were sworn in in the Banco Court on 30th April 1902, when the Registrar announced that the Commission was open for business, would not recognise the Court today.
The first case was a case heard leisurely over about four or five days in Newcastle. That is an unusual way for a case to proceed these days. Those learned gentlemen, and of course they were all men, wouldn't recognize the cases we hear today. The idea of having an equal remuneration principle - the idea of having a workforce, in effect half of which are women, holding not only jobs at every level of the occupational hierarchy, but including membership of the Commission, would be unknown to them. The significant thing is that the Commission over this time has shown enormous resilience and an ability to adapt itself to the practical needs of the citizens of the State, be they employees or employers, be they individuals or corporations.
What is your view on the climate for IR today? Even at Sydney University, the Department of Industrial Relations has become the Department of Work and Organisational Studies. What does that mean for your tribunal?
I don't know that there is that much significance in the change of names. I think that the greater significance is that the role of the Commission has adapted in two basic ways. One is that it has a much more diverse jurisdiction than it had in 1902. It was a more traditional industrial jurisdiction - conciliation and arbitration; disputes and awards affecting unions and employers. That is still most important part of the Commission's functions and jurisdictions. But today the Commission has a greater range and variety of other work such as occupational health and safety prosecutions, unfair contract claims, unfair dismissal claims on a large scale. And of course all this extra varied work informs the general - the main work of the Commission - the traditional conciliation and arbitration.
This is a different situation to that in 1902. The role and attitude of workers and employers to safety is profoundly different, and that reflects the fact that the ordinary member of the public is not prepared to accept that people should go to work and run the risk of not coming home, because they are killed at work or are seriously injured. The ordinary person in the street does not accept that that is appropriate, and as a result governments have, over the years enacted important laws that this Commission has an important role in administering. That informs our work in industrial disputes and other industrial matters.
But another significant change comes in the way the tribunal is regarded. Traditionally, it was thought that employers and unions took the view that if they didn't have a final responsibility to resolve their own differences. They could leave disputes to a tribunal to deal with and determine. I think that is probably a vast over-simplification of the history of industrial legislation in this country. The role of the tribunals in promoting and facilitating agreement was always great and there was a de facto collective bargaining situation under the aegis of the industrial tribunals. But even so, the tribunals are more conscious of their role in emphasising to the parties their responsibilities to themselves solve their industrial difficulties, to order their own industrial and employment affairs, and the Commission's role is more of a facilitator, a protection role, or a point of last resort.
In recent times the jurisdiction of the Commission is in effect shrinking with the spread of contract labour. Do you see an extension of the sort of principles around owner-drivers leading to an expanded coverage for the IRC of the workforce?
As a consideration of the history of the regulation of owner-drivers for shows, there were enormous difficulties of doing that in the traditional framework. It could only occur when there were quite significant changes to legislation. Changes, which I think occurred about 20 to 25 years ago, and which history would have shown, have worked very successfully.
So to a large extent, but not entirely, this will depend on whether government and parliament considers the legislation should change. But if you look at the academic commentators - I'm talking about the ones who really have their finger on the pulse, such as Ron McCallum at the University of Sydney - they see this area of the changing nature of the workforce, contract labour and so on, as the real challenge for industrial law in the future, and I suppose it is a question of whether governments agree with that approach and make legislative changes accordingly.
It is certainly the case that the Commission has the expertise and the history of a demonstrated capacity to deal with these areas, so that it could take on any changed jurisdiction appropriately. But that is essentially a policy matter and a matter for the politicians and the government of the day.
Of course, we have the Federal / State split in industrial relations, and in a lot of the significant cases like wage cases, the State tribunals have tended to follow the decision of the Federal tribunal. Do you see a point at some point where the NSW Commission would go it alone on those sort of issues?
I don't know that that is a useful way of approaching it. Significant cases have occurred in the State jurisdiction in my working lifetime as an industrial advocate, union official, and industrial lawyer - mainly as a barrister and Queens Counsel. Significant changes which have impacted on working conditions Australia-wide, occurred in the NSW jurisdiction. Double time and a half for public holidays first occurred in NSW. I remember the case being run, I think in the early seventies. Accident pay, which was also an important issue. Revision of the way in which shift allowances were handled. I think when you say that the federal jurisdiction has taken the running on wages, certainly in what used to be National Wage Cases, that is right, and the way in which we deal with those matters is to a large extent governed by the legislation.
But industrial tribunals are somewhat like the courts. That is, they can only decide the cases that are paced before them by the parties. They don't decide what cases come, and so the Equal Remuneration Principle case came to the Commission as a result of an application. We decided it in accordance with what the Commission considered the Act required us to do. In fact, I note with pride that his Honour Justice Kirby referred to it as an important decision tonight, and in fact discussed it in some detail in his paper - and the first case under that principle was heard and determined recently. It is an important case, and it should be read by people who practice in the field of industrial law and industrial relations, whether they practice in our jurisdiction or others.
But again, we weren't deciding that case to decide principles, we were deciding that case to decide issues posed to us by the parties before us. The parties in that particular case ran it very well, in a very efficient way and the issues were dealt with in a very efficient way and where agreement could be reached it was. It is a compliment, I think, to the way in which the Commission imposes very high expectations on the people who practice before it, whether they be professional advocates such as lawyers, or experienced union officials or employer advocates - we have a multitude of all of those appearing before us - and the way in which they respond positively to expectations we have.
That touches on another question I have for you, which is one of the great strengths of the Commission has been its ability to get things done. But there have been some murmurings about the legalistic nature of the current Commission. What is your response?
I have only heard this second or third hand. I must say I was a bit surprised because I don't think it is right. In fact I think the most legalistic people are usually what might be jokingly referred to as the bush lawyers. Someone said a worse thing than ignorance is a little knowledge. I don't think the murmurings arre right. There is a degree of formality but I wouldn't have thought this would be described as legalistic.
We have users groups which meet regularly and after a period in which we were concentrating on the Section 19 Reviews, where we didn't meet with the overall users group, but with particular parts of it, focused on the Section 19 Review, we are going to return to the more traditional model of consultation and that will provide an avenue for these matters to be raised and discussed in a very open environment.
Could I just add to that that there are mechanisms - informal consultative mechanisms - where as President of the Commission I am prepared to meet with the major players in the industrial relations situations, that is representatives of both the employers and the unions. If there are matters of real concern of that kind, or any other matters which could be discussed in that informal way, I would always be willing to meet at short notice. I think our responsiveness to those concerns has been well known, both through my presidency, that of my predecessors, Justice Fisher and Sir Alexander Beattie, and as I said, I welcome any approach that could be dealt with, with both sides of the record so to speak.
Finally, just looking into a crystal ball, what sort of cases do you think the NSW IRC will be hearing in 100 years if it is still around?
I don't know that I have thought that far ahead. I think the most significant lesson is the one I raised earlier, that our forebears of 100 years ago would have had no idea of what we would now be doing. They wouldn't recognise what we do, and be quite surprised that we have women members. I am focusing on the next few years and looking forward to continuing running an important institution, which I think makes a valuable, and often unnoticed contribution to the welfare of the ordinary member of society. It will change if Parliament wants it to change. In a real sense we are a barometer of that situation. As I said, I am looking at the immediate future.
I suspect that there will however be fewer industrial cases of the traditional kind, because so much is achieved by agreement between the parties themselves, or with our assistance. But although there will be fewer cases they will be more difficult, they will be more time consuming and they will need greater foresight and planning. The Commission is well equipped to do that, but of course what it doesn't have is the kind of notice that the recent practice direction I've published is designed to achieve. But in a real sense, it is up to the parties to respond to our practice direction and give the Commission greater notice of the cases they regard as important.
In many countries we have separate eight hour day holidays but for many workers around the world the major focus for workers celebration victories is May Day. In German speaking countries the 1st of May is a public holiday. What did May Day begin as and what do workers and activists do today to maintain the May Day tradition?
Origins in 19th century USA
In the industrialized world May Day was born out of the struggle for the 8 hour day. In the USA the struggle crystallized after the Civil War. According toAndy McInerney in "May Day, The Workers' Day, born in the struggle for the eight-hour day", in Liberation & Marxism, issue no. 27, Spring 1996, Karl Marx used the Civil War connection in his journalism and noted in 1867 that "the creation of a normal [fixed] working day is the product of a protracted civil war, more or less dissembled, between the capitalist class and the working class."
Following the Civil War, Reconstruction lifted the aspirations of thousands of former slaves.
This was accompanied by the widespread growth of the eight- hour movement. Marx noted "out of the death of slavery a new life at once arose. The first real fruit of the Civil War was the eight-hours' agitation, that ran with the seven- leagued boots of the locomotive from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from New England to California."
As evidence, Marx quotes a declaration from the 1866 General Congress of Labor in Baltimore: "The first and great necessity of the present, to free this country from capitalist slavery, is the passing of a law by which eight hours shall be the normal working day in all States of the American Union."
Six years later, in 1872, a hundred thousand workers in New York City struck and won the eight-hour day, mostly for building trades workers. It was in this rising ferment for the eight-hour day that May Day was born.
The movement for the eight-hour day was wedded to the date of May 1 at an 1884 convention of the three-year-old Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada - the forerunner of the American Federation of Labor. George Edmonston, founder of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, introduced a resolution designed to crystallize labor's support for the eight-hour day:
"Resolved ... that eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labor from and after May 1, 1886, and that we recommend to labor organizations throughout this district that they so direct their laws so as to conform to this resolution by the time named."
In recent years May Day has become an organizing focus for progressive groups protesting about the way capital is organizing the global economy. M1 is now a term well known to the media, corporations and protestors.
Modern Internationalism and the Celebration of Disobedience
Last year saw other forms of protest suggested and acted on. In Quebec, a protest against the Summit of the Americas last year saw the "anti-globalisation" or more accurately the people's international movement, respond to the mass police presence, aimed at preventing protestors taking action, by advocating a Phone In Sick Day. Phone In Sick Days have been held responsible for the "sick-outs" of two thousand British Airways employees in 1997, and of thousands of Irish policemen in 1998.. This was after their Phone In Sick Day was officially moved from 6 April to May Day.
In the UK last year London was turned into a real life Monopoly game. The idea was to subvert the whole notion of Monopoly. As the organisers saw it, it was an organizing focus for all sorts of activists groups and a way to encourage others to organize to subvert.. See their terrific guide to Monopoly Board and the history of those sites and what is happening at Old Kent Road or those railway stations now.
As they say in their guide, there are no rules, just as capitalism has no rules for the rich.
Mayday is the day above all others when we celebrate struggles against class society and demonstrate our internationalism. From its origins as a pagan festival, Mayday was a time to eat, drink, reject the control of our rulers and have fun. Our rulers responded by first trying to control and then banning the may fairs (see MAYFAIR). Later, May Day was adopted by the workers movement as the day to celebrate the general strike led by the anarchist Haymarket martyrs, who were executed in Chicago in 1886. Last Mayday saw huge demonstrations and strikes in many countries, including India and Iraq.
Labour bosses responded in the way of all would be rulers and turned Mayday into a safe bank holiday for speechifying. In the last few years there have been attempts to reclaim Mayday as a day to celebrate our struggles. We hope that Mayday Monopoly will continue this process. As we celebrate this year, we should remember that by acting collectively we have the power to bring the whole game to an end!"
In London this year the carnival aspects again the main focus: "This Mayday we are celebrating and commemorating our collective struggles and resistance, past and present, with a huge and vibrant carnivalesque action which will be in sync with those happening worldwide: from the Argentinian barrios creating a State-less future to posties in this country striking for better lives, from Afghani refugees hungerstriking in Woomera, Australia and Yarl's Wood, UK, to Turkish prisoners surviving daily torture in solitary confinement, from peasant farmers resisting enclosures, patenting and dam-propelled land evictions in Spain, India, Mozambique and China, to those fighting against health cuts, privatisation, ever-increasing state repression and xenaphobia. In every town, city, nation, workplace, classroom and field, our struggle continues, as it has done for centuries. On Wednesday May 1st we will accelerate our resistance, openly and defiantly, in ways small and large, quiet and loud, visible and invisible, our goal is a new world.
They urge people to take a sickie or nick off from school to celebrate the disobeyance of orders.
Jay Griffith, writing in Red Pepper in 2000, says that May Day was an opportunity for workers and others to rebel against the 24 hour society that is being imposed on us all. To go to Marx (once again he was on the ball) "To appropriate labour during 24 hours of the day is the inherent tendency of capitalist production.". Reclaim the Streets sought to subvert this ethic by doing just that, and Guerilla Gardening, armed with nothing more than trowels and seeds, will be reclaiming the earth too. This makes the crucial link between the festival of May Day, the Beltane festival of fertility. The Maypole of "dirty dancing" is the symbol of disorder so disliked by the capitalist advocates of the 24 hour society that wants us to work not play for all that time.
In Toronto the day is part of MayWorks a festival of working people and the arts: music dance film & video spoken word visual art from April 26 - May 6 2002.
Festival organisers are very aware of the change in focus of authorities since September 11 with it being the catalyst for increased police oppression and "criminalisation" of legitimate activities such as picketing and strikes. The provincial government has taken action to make it easier to get rid of unions from workplaces, and at the same time easing laws on occupational health and safety leaving unions to ensure basic protections which are shirked by government and employers. This has had the effect of re-radicalising many unions and activists and the festival celebrates this.
In the USA in New Haven, Connecticut the international significance of the day is a crucial aspect of the celebrations for what they call International Workers Day. The range of organizations involved illustrates the awareness of international solidarity with Forty area organizations, including Greater New Haven Labor History Association, CT Peace Coalition, Middle East Crisis Committee, Christian Community Action, MALIK and Food Not Bombs just a few of the groups involved.
The Soviet Union, as it then was, of course gave special significance to May Day, as it was the first Workers State (so-called). The All-Union Central Council of Unions published a handy little booklet in 1989 (and perhaps earlier but the one I have is a 1989 version). As they saw it, the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia (1917) and the fierce class battles between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the capitalist countries have vested May Day celebrations with a new content. May Day has become an expression and symbol of consistent struggle against imperialism, fascism and war, and for peace, democracy and socialism." Certainly take a sickie, monopoly and international workers day are in tune with this theme.
The Soviet comrades also point out that the potency of the symbol of May Day still resonates with the ruling class. In the USA in April 1984 the White House announced May 1st as a Loyalty Day in an attempt to twist its meaning. This was in the country where the Day as a workers day originated with the Haymarket massacre.
In Australia the focus on peace, anti-imperialism and socialism is reflected in the 100 year commemoration pamphlet published in 1986. Australians were in the lead in the struggle for reduced hours but other aspects such as opposition to the Boer War, the fight against conscription, the victory over fascism, opposition to US action in Vietnam and Central and South America and the first installment of the Star wars program by Reagan are examples of how the symbolism of the day is used to highlight struggles by working people the world over.
If CFMEU organiser Duncan McLaren was so inclined he could shoot through and set up a second hand bookshop that would put some competitors to shame. Thankfully, he's not, and kids in Australia's appalling detention centres will get some recognition of their humanity.
McLaren is colonising offices around the union's Lidcombe headquarters as books for refugee children flood in from all parts of NSW.
He's got all kinds - from Little Golden Books and Dr Seuss, through dictionaries and encyclopedias, to high school maths and science texts.
The best estimate is 10,000 and more are arriving daily.
McLaren, passionate about Australia's treatment of refugees, picked up the book baton from Sister Mary Keely of Bellingen-based Rural Australians for Refugees, about a month ago
He liked her idea and thought "hey, this is something practical I can do to counter the Government's policy of dehumanising these people.
"I mean, no matter what you think about detention centres, surely nobody thinks these kids have done anything wrong, that they, at least, deserve a chance.
"So I sent out the call."
Hitting the Email
McLaren, taking time out from EBA enquires, hit the email trail but had no idea that one particular correspondence would elicit such an overwhelming response.
An approach to the Teachers Federation brought an encouraging return so he tried an organisation called the Primary Principals Association of NSW and hit paydirt.
Carton apon carton of good quality, English-language books flooded in from as far away as Dubbo and Wagga Wagga. There were 10 cartons from a Marrickville Primary library clearout, alone.
And not just books. There are cartons of obsolete ruled pads as well as good quality toys and videos.
It's left him with mixed feelings.
"I've learned one thing," he admits, "be careful what you ask for because you might just get it."
The CFMEU is supportive but the logistical problems of collecting, sorting and distributing the books are all his.
Offices in Newcastle, Wollongong, Central Sydney and Lidcome are proving effective collection points but he still hasn't been able to send organisers to Wagga Wagga or Dubbo.
And, while Villawood won't be a problem, the cost of getting the goods to Port Hedland, Woomera and Curtin is shaping as a headache.
State secretary Andrew Ferguson has penned off a note to the Transport Workers Union asking for suggestions.
Over the next couple of weekends McLaren will lock himself away in the union office and go through all the donations, trying to work out what goes where.
He's promising "as much coffee as you can drink" to anyone who will go in and help with the exercise.
We're All refugees
Overwhelmingly though, he's elated by the response. "I just think it's great, that despite all the propoganda, Australians are willing to do something for these kids," he says.
"Personally, I'm Australian-born of Scottish extraction and my great-grandfather came here from Glasgow out of poverty.
"Most Australians are here because their ancestors were refugees of one sort of another. I can't believe we have a Government that will villify the latest group of refugees simply to hold onto power.
"They have been successful, so far, because they have been able to dehumanise these people, not least by sticking them out in the desert.
"I think providing kids with books and toys is one small way we can counter that. I mean, parents give their kids books to develop their humanity and, hopefully, we can build on that in the detention centres."
McLaren came face to face with the dehumanisation process when he answered an appeal from the Bellingen group for Australians to become penpals with people in the detention centres.
When the organisation asked for a list of detainees so it could match them with interested Aussies, DIMA sent back identifications in Alpha Numeric code, not a name to be seen.
Accordingly, McLaren addressed his first letter to EME 74 at Port Hedland.
"I just thought - this is shit," he said, "but that's the way it had to be done."
EME 74 turned out to be a man called Amir Bashtin and the pair have since exchanged several letters.
Tales from the inside convinced him books would be a practical way of bringing some normalcy to the children of these people.
Basically, camp sources say, the job's done. He's got his hands on more than enough for their purposes.
Unfazed, the CFMEU is organising for the overflow to be shipped to East Timor where shortages of books and writing materials are a serious problem for the fledgling state.
"I don't need any more. Basically, I'm inundated," McLaren says "but don't worry none of them will go to waste. Schools in East Timor can use as much as we can get."
Just as well really because it's right about then that the receptionist rings from downstairs - could he come down and pick up another two cartons of books that have just landed on her desk?
Tony Abbott certainly believes if you repeat it often enough a baseless assertion becomes fact.
If you gut the Unfair Dismissal laws, for example, hey zippo, 50,000 new jobs miraculously materialise. Or by rabbiting on that pattern bargaining is an inherently evil, job-killing practice cooked up by those unreconstructed collectivists in the union movement who refuse to genuflect before the altar of the free market.
This year he has reheated the same old IR stodge the Coalition has put in front of the senate since sliming their way to power in 1996 aiming to gut unfair dismissal laws, outlaw pattern bargaining and undermine the commission's ability to resolve disputes.
This week an independent voice added to the concerns consistently raised by unions about a central feature of the Government's changes - the undermining of our international obligations.
Justice Michael Kirby, a former Deputy President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, highlighted the important role of international human rights standards in ILO and international conventions have to play in Australian IR law.
Delivering Sydney University's annual Kingsley Laffer Lecture, Justice Kirby said that when Australia knocked down its tariff walls, abandoned compulsory arbitration and opened up its borders to international trade it also opened up the borders to the influence of other international ideas and forces.
'Amongst those ideas are those in the ILO conventions. And amongst the most powerful ideas affecting our planet at this time are those that assert the common obligation to respect and defend fundamental human rights and human dignity in all aspects of life,' he said. 'With global markets come global forces of basic rights.'
An ACTU submission to the senate inquiry on Abbott's proposed changes suggests the Government is swimming against this tide. The ACTU points out that no comparable country imposes the same restrictions on industry-wide and multi-employer bargaining and agreement making as Australia. In fact industry-wide bargaining is the general model in most European countries.
These restrictions have been the subject of ILO criticism in recent years and are taken to even greater levels with Abbott's new laws.
Abbott's attempts to prevent unions charging bargaining fees to non-union members benefiting from union-negotiated agreements are also contrary to the ILO's commitment to freedom of association.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow says with its new laws the Government wants to put the playing field on Mount Kosciosko with the bosses kicking downhill.
'These rehashed bills are about reducing the rights of employees particularly those who work in the most vulnerable jobs and increasing the power of employers. And by turning his back on ILO conventions he's taking our growing international isolation into even new areas,' she says.
Summary of the ACTU Submission to the senate inquiry
The ACTU is opposed to the passage of all five Bills currently being considered by the Committee.
The subject matter of each of the Bills has been before the Parliament and/or the Committee on at least one occasion, reflecting the lack of any positive thinking by the Government, and its reliance on pursuing the same discredited line of attack on unions and its political opponents.
The ACTU Submission incorporates some relevant material put to previous inquiries.
Each Bill is directed towards the Government's two key objectives in industrial relations law "reform":
First, to reduce the rights and entitlements of employees, particularly those who occupy the most vulnerable positions in the labour market; and
Second, to strengthen the bargaining position of employers in disputes with unions and their members.
The ACTU supports real industrial relations reform, and urges the Committee to recommend legislation to:
· ensure all employees receive fair and relevant wages and conditions;
· strengthen the role of the Industrial Relations Commission; and
· bring Australian law on freedom of association and collective bargaining into conformity with international standards.
The Genuine Bargaining Bill
· There are no industrial circumstances to justify the Bill.
· Common claims and similar outcomes are a normal component of bargaining, engaged in by employers as well as unions.
· The Bill would have the effect of prohibiting common claims.
· The Bill would create a presumption which would operate to fetter the Commission's discretion.
· The ability to bargain on a multi-employer or industry-wide level is available in every developed nation internationally and is integral to the ILO's core labour standards.
· Industry-wide bargaining is not a barrier to employment or productivity.
The Fair Dismissal Bill
· The Parliament has already rejected a small business exemption from the unfair dismissal laws.
· There is no evidence for a link between small business employment and unfair dismissal legislation.
· There is no economic justification for special treatment for small business, particularly where this affects the rights of employees.
· Small business operators do not identify unfair dismissal laws as a major problem.
The Fair Termination Bill
· The 12 month employment requirement for casual coverage is outside the "short period" permitted by the ILO Convention.
· There is no evidence that casual employment is linked to unfair dismissal legislation.
· Encouragement of casual employment is, in any event, undesirable.
· The filing fee operates as a barrier to access to justice for low paid employees.
The Secret Ballots Bill
· There is no evidence of a demand from employers or employees for mandatory pre-strike secret ballots, not is this justified by the level of industrial disputes.
· Pre-strike ballot legislation in Western Australia was an abysmal failure.
· The changes in the 2002 Bill from earlier versions do not make the system significantly less cumbersome or restrictive.
· The proposed system is very substantially more restrictive than the UK model, particularly with the requirement to obtain an order from a tribunal prior to the ballot and in the form of the question to be asked.
The Compulsory Union Fees Bill
· The issue of bargaining fees and related questions are currently before the Commission and the Court, which should be allowed to make their determinations without pre-emptive legislation.
· Parties to a collectively bargaining agreement should be entitled to include provision for bargaining fees.
· Coercive conduct is already unlawful, as is compulsory unionism.
· Bargaining fees are permitted in other countries with a strong commitment to freedom of association.
· The ILO does not see as bargaining fees as inconsistent with freedom of association.
· It is only fair that non-union members contribute towards the cost of union-negotiated collective agreements when they benefit from such agreements.
The entire submission can be downloaded from the ACTU website.
I was glad to read Andrew Casey's account of how horrified he was at the news of the Passover bombing. I feel that perhaps now he and others can get an insight into what it feels like to be a Palestinian watching the news. He has now gained a small insight into what it feels like to hear that families have been living with the corpses of their loved ones for days because an Israeli curfew is prohibiting them from burying their dead.
Perhaps now the news of mass graves being filled with Palestinian bodies will not fall on deaf or unsympathetic ears. Perhaps now Mr Casey gets a deeper sense of what it feels like as a Palestinian to be sitting down at work breaking down almost daily because the enormity of the crimes being committed against his or her people are totally overwhelming. Perhaps now, more people have an insight into the notion of Occupation. Dispossession. Of War Crimes and who is capable of perpetrating them.
I have no issues with the Israeli peace movement, other than they are fighting a losing battle alongside with many Palestinians. Furthermore, I have no issue with the diversity of Israeli public opinion. However, I return to one thing and one thing only whenever I consider the opinions of the Israeli street: Ariel Sharon is enjoying 70-80% support according to the latest poll in Israeli newspapers. So for all the nice talk about opposition in Israel, they are faced with the same issues as the Palestinians: a racist Prime Minister with quite a few massacres under his belt, a Labour opposition (currently allied with Sharon in his national unity government) that is responsible for a few massacres themselves, not to mention the collusion in the current massacres taking place, an unshakeable alliance with the United States of America that pretty much gives carte blanche to the Israeli government to do as it pleases, and illegal Israeli settlers armed to the teeth acting as vigilante groups in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Now before dealing with the core issues that I believe we, as workers, should be most aware of, I would like to address one particular issue that was raised in Mr Casey's 'lighting of the darkness'. Most offensive of all that Mr Casey penned is the notion that the Palestinians have only themselves to thank for the election of Ariel Sharon. Mr Casey's comment that the second Intifada "helped to bring down the Barak Labour government and install Sharon as Prime Minister" is a classic case of blaming the victim for the mess in the oppressor's home. What helped bring down the Barak government was that he totally failed in bringing about a decent peace plan. What helped install Sharon as Prime Minister were the basic demands of the Israeli electorate to adopt a "hard and violent line" with the Palestinian people. The second Intifada is a mere accessory in this fashion disaster known as Israeli domestic politics.
Now on to the other attempts at shedding light.
CAMP DAVID II
First and foremost, we must always remember that the Camp David II offer was little more than a renegotiation of the terms of the occupation. It did not effectively address the Palestinian issues, nor did it offer anything of real significance. It was not even going to be written down! This being the most generous offer that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak could muster up says more about Barak than it does about Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. If we say nothing good about Arafat, then we must at least commend him on rejecting Camp David II.
With that said, I will summarise the Camp David II offer, hopefully once and for all dispelling this myth of generosity that even Mr Casey, in his enlightenment and progressive union politics, has failed to reject. The Oslo Agreement was signed on the basis that the Palestinians would get 22% of their historical homeland in order to form a Palestinian state. Conceding 78% of historical Palestine was obviously not generous enough for Mr Barak nor Mr Casey, it would seem. Barak proposed, as part of the deal, that 69 Israeli (illegal) "settlements" - more like militarised colonial camps - populated by 85% of the West Bank's settlers would be annexed as blocs to Israel. If you do the math, this would leave the Palestinians 10% less of their 22%. These settlement blocs - and the "Jews Only" roads that have been built for them - would have effectively divided up the remaining territories into three bantustans. The word 'cantons', just like the word 'settlements', is extremely benign in describing the actual reality on the ground and therefore I reject both. The third aspect of Barak's generosity came in the form of a unique notion: "Temporary Israeli Control". Effectively, Israel would control a further 10% of Palestinian land for an indefinite time. The remaining 17.6% of the land would also have its borders controlled by Israel; even the roads designated for the Palestinians would be riddled with check points and Israeli soldiers with the full power to control who comes and who goes.
This brings us to the issue of Jerusalem and the so-called sharing of the city. East Jerusalem is, according to international law and UN resolutions, an occupied area. Barak's Camp David II offer gave the Palestinians minimal control over a few streets in Occupied East Jerusalem, but refused to permit the Palestinian Parliament to be placed in Jerusalem. Generous? For the Israelis, maybe. For the Palestinians, never. (For an excellent presentation detailing and demonstrating the full effects of the Camp David II proposal, check out the website of the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom (http://www.gush-shalom.org/media/barak_eng.swf)).
And so Mr Arafat took the only option available to him: to reject this fig leaf peace plan. He did not endanger his equal status with Barak when he did so. That's an absurd assertion. Neither Arafat, nor the Palestinians, have EVER been placed on an equal playing field with Israel. Israel is the region's most powerful military. Israel is the region's ONLY nuclear power. Israel has the full backing of the United States of America. Israel has been acting with impunity for decades, despite countless UN resolutions that have been passed and never implemented.
This is not a war amongst equals. This is a war between two unequals. Israel, all-powerful, Palestine weak, but with a determination that goes along with all liberation struggles. And so we, as trade unionists, must always have this in mind whenever we see anything to do with the Palestine-Israeli conflict. That the violence is coming FROM both sides does not mean that violence is equal ON both sides. We must all feel horror when we hear of a suicide bombing, but we must feel ten times as much horror when we hear of Israeli atrocities. The Israeli Occupation Forces have been using American made and funded tanks, helicopters and battle ships to subdue a rag-tag guerrilla army and almost 3 million civilians. There is no equality in the negotiations, and there certainly is no equality in military power.
THE CONFLICT TODAY
We must never forget the word "Jenin". It is now what defines Palestinian demands for justice, Palestinian struggles for freedom. The massacres that have taken place in Jenin have a horrible story to tell. And it is quite possible that it will never be told. Just this morning, I have heard on the news that Israel is refusing to let in the UN investigative team because they have "issues" with some of the investigators. It is clear to anyone who has seen glimpses of the news that Israel has a lot to hide. It is clear to anyone who wants peace that what took place in Jenin must be told to the world so that we may cross the impasse we find ourselves in.
It is important for all of us to take away something from this message. My message today isn't about essentialising either one side or the other. I have no problem with standing side by side with Israeli brothers and sisters who support a free Palestine based on justice, equity and freedom for all. All the more power to the refuseniks! The more refuseniks there are, the less bullets flying out and hitting Palestinian civilians. However, I do not wish to be distracted from a few major points. The first point is: (1) This is a War of Terror, not a War Against Terror. (2) Palestinian civilians are paying the ultimate price: having homes demolished (sometimes while they're still in them), living under curfew, enduring extreme humiliation and being presented with peace proposals that do not address any of their core issues.
What we have now is a direct result of decades of being on the receiving end of Israeli angst. We are currently witnessing a situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories that goes beyond the simple Left / Right division of politics. We have Palestinian workers that are little more than a steady supply of cheap slave-labour to the Israeli industries. We have the Histradut that absolutely refuses, point blank, to even raise its voice in any effective way against the bombing and besieging of "fellow workers". Let us not be taken up in this socialist democratic Shangri-Lah that Mr Casey wants us to believe Israel is. Palestinian citizens of the state of Israel are second-class citizens, according to studies conducted by B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights (http://www.btselem.org/). There is no equality in the status of Palestinians and Israelis ANYWHERE in Israel, whether they live under occupation, or if they live in Israel proper. We must struggle through all the jargon and myths presented in order to get to the truth. It will set us all free!
The second Intifada is the most public expression of Palestinian frustration with the ongoing humiliation at the hands of the Israeli Occupation Forces. The second Intifada is the ultimate rejection of all these fake peace plans and proposals that have done little more than legitimise Israel's occupation of Palestinian land, Palestinian homes, Palestinian lives. It is our responsibility, as active members of the trade union movement, to begin to understand this conflict with a level of analysis and depth of understanding that does the issue more justice. It is no longer good enough for anyone in the Australian trade union movement to simply surrender their responsibility to Know and Understand in the face of shallow propaganda and spin doctoring. This conflict is not about one side hating the other and that's all there is to it. This is about people struggling for basic human rights. And we must do all in our power to support this struggle. This does not mean alienating our allies in the Israeli camp, but it should not mean that we sacrifice our message and our support for justice and human rights so that we can keep a few people happy. We must once and for all embrace courageously the need of the Palestinian people to be free from military aggression, occupation, humiliation, arbitrary killings and arrests, curfews and racism. Do not simply read and accept. Find out for yourself. Read. Listen. Ask. But never...ever...forget the word Jenin.
The result of 19.88 % for incumbent conservative Jacques Chirac, 16.18 % for socialist Lionel Jospin and 16.86 % for the far right nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen means that, for the first time since 1945, the second round of the presidential elections, due on May 5, will be contested by two right-aligned candidates.
The defeated Socialist candidate was Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, an uninspiring technocrat with a patchy and unusual political background that includes time in the 60s with an underground Trotskyist sect known as the International Communist Organisation. Jospin, who has announced his intention to quit politics, is sure to be remembered as the man who led his party to it's most glorious defeat since World War I.
Many are hailing the significant result as a great personal victory for Le Pen and aa a signal that the far-right is on the rise in Europe.
However, all is not as it seems. The rise of Jean-Marie Le Pen is not as "meteoritic" as some are claiming. Le Pen has stood for the Presidency four times and his "National Front" party has been on the mainstream political scene for over 25 years. Le Pen received a result of 14% in 1988 and 15% in 1995. So an increase of his vote to 16.86 % is not surprising in light of the post September 11 environment and the rising French unemployment rate.
Despite some commentators claiming in the lead up to the election that Le Pen had "mainstreamed" his policies he still calls for the isolation of France through withdrawing from the European Union, re-establishing the Franc as the national currency, stopping immigration, restoring the death penalty and for the doubling of current defence spending to name a few.
However the reality for Le Pen is that this result is nowhere near what he should have received. In 1999 Le Pen's National Front went through a devastating split resulting in the formation of a "split" party known as the National Republican Movement led by Le Pen's former deputy Bruno Megret. Megret received a modest but not insignificant result of 2.34 % at the election. Had the split not taken place one could assume that Le Pen's vote could been as much as 19.2 % only 0.6 % behind Chirac.
In fact, the "Le Pen" factor is not the major point of change in this unusual crisis. What is interesting is the splintering of the Left vote, which has not happened in such a major way since the 1970s, through the genuinely meteoritic rise of the Trotskyist far left, whose combined vote amounted to an astounding 12.29 % and the collapse of the Communist Party vote.
The death of the French Communist Party (PCF) is not anything to be over-looked in this result. The PCF was the largest party in the National Assembly from 1945 until the late 1980s and has dominated the French Trade Union movement and the left in general for decades. The PCF was known as a "Euro-Communist" party, it distanced its self from the USSR following the 1956 Hungarian Uprising and evolved into a moderate left social democratic party which was in a de-jure coalition with the Socialists since the early 1980s.
The high profile PCF candidate Robert Hue scored a result of 3.37 % (957,385) compared with the a result of 4.25 % (1,203,757) for the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist League's (LCR) candidate, a relatively unknown postal worker Olivier Besancenot and overall fifth place winner Arlette Lagullier of the far left sect Workers Struggle (Lutte Ouvrière) who received 5.72 % (1,621,096) of the vote. Lagullier is a cult figure of the French Far Left and is also a Member of the European Parliament.
Over all, the Left vote was 44.77 % (including the Greens), the moderate right vote was 36.05%, and the far right vote 19.2%. Presuming all Left preferences would have flowed to Jospin and all Right preferences would have flowed to Chirac, with the rest split evenly, the eventual result would have been close to 44.77 % for Jospin and 55.23 % for Chirac.
If France had a preferential system of voting similar to our system in Australia the two party preferred result would be 44.77 Socialist and 55.23 Conservative compared with the result of the 2001 Australian federal election 48.97 ALP and 51.03 Coalition it doesn't look so bad.
Not to mention that the Socialist Party still governs the National Assembly whose powers supercede that of the Presidency. It is likely that the Socialist's coalition with the Greens and Communists is likely to continue and based on the results of the Presidential election it is likely that their coalition will retain power.
With the Second round of voting only one week away the French Left are mobilising to re-cover as much ground as possible in the lead up to the National Assembly elections I June. Massive demonstrations are planned for May 1, which will clash with National Front demonstrations planned for the same day.
Leaders of the French Left with representatives of the Catholic Church and French Jews are rallying around the conservative Chirac calling on their respective constituencies to put their support behind Chirac to "save the republic". Realistically Le Pen does not stand a change and will be lucky to increase his vote beyond 19.2 % Far-Right vote given Chirac the largest majority for a French President since De Gaulle.
So whilst the debates are sure to rage in cafes across France on how to resurrect the Socialist Party surely another debate needs to take place on how to reform the French electoral system to ensure this farce does not take place again.
Awesome - This is how a visiting intern from a large New York hospital described the doctors of Cuba.
"They just don't have enough texts and reference books to go around," he said. "So they've memorised whole volumes of medical information. It's mind blowing. We just don¹t do that. We go and look things up all the time. They keep it all in their heads."
The intern cannot be named because of Washington's restrictions on US citizens travelling to Cuba. While there are exemptions for study under strict guidelines, tourist travel is not allowed and failure to comply with the regulation can result in criminal prosecution upon return to the United States.
In the Caribbean the Cold War lives on. For four decades the US has imposed an economic embargo on Cuba. Even the tourist dollar is off limits.
In 1996 the blockade was tightened to include other nations trading or investing in Cuba. Ships from other countries are banned from US ports for six months after visiting Cuba. Requests to purchase medicines from US companies or their foreign subsidiaries have been routinely denied - in violation of international human rights accords, according to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission.
In 1989 World Health Organisation highlighted a profound economic crisis in Cuba brought about by the embargo and the collapse of the Eastern bloc where Cuba sourced 85 percent of its trade. GDP fell 35 percent and exports 75 percent.
The US embargo compounded the problems, preventing Cuba filling the vacuum by trading sugar and other goods with the United States. But two years later, the downward trend was reversed with GDP showing modest growth since 1991.
A report published in the American Journal of Public Health in 1997, examined the impact of the embargo on the health of Cubans. Food shortages in the early nineties had led to a fall in birth weights and anaemia affected more than half of pregnant women as well as infants aged from six to 12 months.
House to house distribution of vitamins and freeing up of agriculture so that people could cultivate fresh vegetables, pigs and poultry, even in their city backyards and bathtubs has helped alleviate food shortages, if adding to housing problems. What is more remarkable is that the WHO report also showed that despite the economic hardships, the Cuban health system has ensured its people enjoy health as good or better than those in the world's most developed nations. And as it boasts a surplus of health professionals, Cuba has also exported around 10,000 physicians to help out in other developing countries.
"In Cuba the State assumes full responsibility for the health care of its citizens. Health is considered the key ingredient for quality of life and is seen as a strategic objective in the development of society," the report states. "The Cuban health system comprises a network of institutions that are easily accessible and provide coverage to 100 percent of the population."
The American Public Health Association representing over 50,000 members made this statement in the US capital in 1996: "Public health professionals who have served in other countries have long held up the Cuban health care system as a model... in Cuba all citizens have a right to high quality health care, to education, to (child) day care and to other social services. The infant mortality rate, life expectancy and other health indicators in Cuba match those in the world's richest countries. While other countries including the US respond to economic problems by cutting back on resources for health, Cuba has steadfastly maintained its commitment to health."
And so our US intern made his pilgrimage to Cuba, befriended and lived among the people, learnt some Spanish and visited hospitals.
Included on his tour was the William Soler Children's Hospital, where the ACTU's union aid abroad agency (Apheda) has helped raise over a half million dollars in funding and life saving equipment as part of its Funds for Cuban Children alliance.
For this, the Department of Pediatrics Cardio Unit Professor Dr E Selman Housein Sosa is grateful: "It's good to know that people are interested in what is happening in other parts of the world, people with open minds and open souls," he said. "It's good to know people take an interest in things so far away. We¹re very thankful."
The Cuban Children's Fund was founded in 1998 to support the Cuban public health system and to develop bilateral links between the Australian and Cuban health sectors. In 1999 the fund entered into an alliance with Union Aid Abroad and since then more than $200,000 has been raised in funding with a further $300,000 worth of equipment supplied to the hospital.
The equipment and funds help save the lives of newborn babies and young children with congenital heart disease.
"Thirty percent of these babies would die in their first year if we did not operate," said Dr Selman. "If the operation is a success they can go to school and most of them can lead normal lives. I think it is important that the Australian people know what they are helping us do here."
Heart surgery on infants is risky, with a 10 per ent mortality rate. But the alternative is a life cut tragically short. Australia is the major donor to the cardio unit, with Italy a close second. Canada, England and Germany also give help from time to time.
"But only Australia and Italy ring in every six months and ask what we need," Dr Selman says.
Leading the mission to provide the hospital with much needed equipment is Apheda chairperson, founding member of the Cuban Children's Fund and former secretary of the Waterside Workers¹ Federation (now the Maritime Union of Australia) Tas Bull.
Cuba is a beacon for socialists the world over, with many making their way there if they can get the money together, and many more all too willing to give to a Cuban cause.
"Donating to the hospital was the then consul Marcelino Fajardo's idea," said Bull. "A Greek Australian comrade, Jim Mitsos, kicked it off with a half million dollar personal donation. That was the genesis of the whole thing."
Dr Andrew Refshauge, then NSW minister for health, officially launched the Cuban Children¹s Fund. Bull was the first chair, with other founding members including Joyce Clark, a communist and former principle of Kogarah Girls' High and Dr Alf Liebhold of the Doctors' Reform Society. Peter Sago from the Trade Union Medical Centre was its first secretary.
"Then we looked around and invited eminent people onto the committee. They include Dr Meredith Burgman President of the NSW Legislative Council and John Menadue, a former Immigration Department Secretary," Bull said.
Bringing the fund under the umbrella of the ACTU aid agency, has helped ensure that all donations are tax deductible and that the fund has a wider reach.
Sean Chaffer, from the Maritime Union led a contingent of wharfies and seafarers to the World Youth Festival in Cuba in 1997 and is now the fund's secretary.
Some of the cardio equipment donated to the hospital was purchased outright in Japan and Germany. But Tas Bull also discovered that due to restructuring and centralising of the NSW health system some equipment became surplus and available for aid organisations.
"We were able to send 15-20 pallets to the hospital gratis," he said. "The French airline OAM, agreed to fly over the first batches, then after they withdrew from the Australian run, we got on to British Airways and they agreed to take over. I've got no idea how much it would have cost if we'd had to pay freight. One shipment alone weighs nearly a tonne. Imagine how much a tonne of air freight to Cuba would come in at! I know how much they charge for excess luggage."
Dr Selman to Sydney is currently in Australia meeting with Australian cardio specialists, briefing them on the work of his hospital and exchanging information.
The US embargo still proves frustrating for the cardio unit at the William Soler Hospital. Dr Selman says the hospital must still obtain equipment in Europe and fly in technicians from the other side of the world to service it
Lately the Secret Life of Us has been looking distinctly like a television program that has it all. It's got an engaging cast, powerful acting and a newly emerging storyline so pregnant with potential that it is beginning to shape up as a must not miss event.
One of the main characters, the headstrong yet hypersensitive Gabrielle, has recently got a job working as a union organiser with the conveniently titled Australian Collective Workers Union.
So far her duties have involved trying to get an unscrupulous employer to sign a bullying in the workplace code of practice after a young apprentice was tied up in the sun and had burning toilet paper thrown at him in his cubicle.
When Gabrielle informs the young man's boss that a formal complaint has been lodged, the uncaring oaf laughs the incident off as a routine initiation ceremony and a valid part of workplace culture. The next time the apprentice visits the union he is covered in cigarette burns and bruises.
The injustice of it all propels the incensed Gabrielle back to confront the boss, where she threatens to take him to the Children's Court, launch an anti-discrimination suit, take him to the IRC, and go to the police to get assault charges laid.
When Gabrielle later informs her own boss of her actions, she is taken by surprise to be reprimanded for behaving like a "loose canon" and sacrificing the union's chance of running an effective media campaign. He tells her the trade union is a group and must take action as a group.
Workplace bullying is a larger issue than a lone apprentice's experience, he says. Working Gabrielle's way the apprentice may have been assisted but by running a successful campaign the entire workplace culture could have been changed and the broader issues highlighted.
The story's message hit its mark and left this reviewer hungry for more.
But then comes the catch. Gabrielle has the hots for her "Mr Wonderful Married Guy" boss and it has recently been revealed that the feeling is mutual. Could the meaty union yarn really be sacrificed for a cliched and very doomed office romance scenario? Will one or both of them cross the line from platonic to problematic? Are sexual harassment proceedings in the air? The fate of a very promising storyline hangs in the balance. Watch this space.
Rating: *** (Dangerous liaisons)
The unions need you and me to join in unity
and stand hand in hand to expand our community
I disagree with the way - our rights distintegrating
who's with me? play your part - start participating
unions brought about lots of what you are handed
benefits and rights that you might take for granted
unions are the voice and silent we'd be stranded
you should be treated fairly stand up and demand it.
WHO will represent me when I'm left on my own?
WHO will fight for fairness when no caring is shown?
WHY's my pay shrunken to the size of a gnome?
WHY must I kill myself just to keep my home?
while the rich get richer - poverty's overgrown
savings is a term which is no longer known
getting fair healthcare's like getting blood from a stone
only wealth creates the wealth that tax shelters condone
meanwhile the hardest workers are all worked to the bone
just to pay the interest off their mortgage & loans
you own the choice to make sure you have a voice
ensure a better future for your girls and your boys
take the first step - talk to your union rep
make a change together or they'll assume we accept
keep your workplace safe - and your conditions correct
and approach your own future with a clear intellect
understand you need a union if you want to be heard
work hard to earn your pay - and get what you deserve.
MAYDAY MAYDAY - solidarity's the only way
MAYDAY MAYDAY - It's about time we had our say
MAYDAY MAYDAY - we won't be held back no way
MAYDAY MAYDAY - our voices won't fade away
MAYDAY MAYDAY - solidarity's the only way
MAYDAY MAYDAY - It's about time we had our say
MAYDAY MAYDAY - we won't be held back no way
MAYDAY MAYDAY - our voices won't fade away.
Mayday Mayday - make a stand without malaise
we come in peace - why can't police come the same way?
a sad state of affairs our cries met with blank stares
caught by the curly hairs to obey what the bank says
the fact is if you think it's fine? - you gotta be blind
Austudy is well below the poverty line
now the cost of education is a life of debt
and you wonder why some have turned to crime instead
just to pay for books let alone pay the rent
while most these hypocrites have never paid a red cent
not investing in our future rather spend on defence
hospitals shut for velodromes just don't make sense
employees are expensed - intense pressure on those left
to reach the benchmark set - stressed to an early death
downsizing a rising trend - redundancies abundant
casuals see no currency - after all you're just a number
directors plunder funds until the company goes under
they're paid more than 10 workers - so really it's no wonder
let's turn the power of one into one unified power
to fight in unison and shout in spite of John Howard
MAYDAY MAYDAY - solidarity's the only way
MAYDAY MAYDAY - It's about time we had our say
MAYDAY MAYDAY - we won't be held back no way
MAYDAY MAYDAY - our voices won't fade away
MAYDAY MAYDAY - solidarity's the only way
MAYDAY MAYDAY - It's about time we had our say
MAYDAY MAYDAY - we won't be held back no way
MAYDAY MAYDAY - our voices won't fade away.
Lyrics Written and Performed by - Adam Dunn (Swarmy G)
Produced by - Petar Branko Jovanic (ASIP)
With its roots in the struggle of US workers for an eight-hour day, the May Day message is less international revolution than collective action for basic rules. It's a simple idea, but not a simplistic one.
Today, the idea of an eight-hour day is again a dream for many workers - for casuals who can't get secure, stable hours and for the overworked, for whom refusing to work unpaid overtime is akin to letting the team down.
The workplace of 2002 is far removed from the struggles of the 1860s; the competition between enterprises today to meet shareholder expectations on a global scale has created a new justification to attack the rights of workers.
But there are also similarities: in the face of excessive management power and feeling of powerlessness on the shop floor there is a demand for rules to bring some humanity back into working life.
Rules like the far-reaching guidelines in NSW that for the first time make government departments responsible for the behaviour of firms they contract to, ensuring public money is not used to undercut wages and conditions.
Rules like the reasonable working hours principle that the ACTU is currently pursuing; or the equal remuneration principle that has been applied recently in NSW.
And rules that put a bar on the global auction for cheap labour that is sending living standards spiralli8ng downwards in both the developed and developing world.
As High Court Justice Michael Kirby noted in his Kingsley Laffer address this week, labour law has been a driving force in establishing international principles of human rights.
In the workplace at least, international conventions on decency and dignity are recognised and applied by industrial tribunals like the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, which celebrates its centenary this week.
For trade unions, the challenge is to imagine new ways of applying these universal rights in a way that has relevance to today's workers: from protection from email surveillance to regulating new areas like call centers and IT to the way women workers are treated.
And from there, the more fundamental step: an acceptance that work rights are human rights; and like human rights, the denial of work rights hurts us all.
The message of May Day is that the workers united will be in the best position to demand fair rules at work. It may not lead to the downfall of the state, but then neither did the eight-hour day campaigns that are its inspiration.
Many Australians like to see issues solely from the viewpoint of their own country. This is true, whether the issue concerns sport, culture or economics. Partly because of inclination and partly because of experience I tend to see issues from a different perspective. I incline to view them from a broader focus. Each viewpoint is legitimate. Neither has inherent intellectual ascendancy over the other.
Australia is a unique country with its own responsibilities to its own people. But it is also part of its geographical region and part of the global economy. So each viewpoint has something to contribute to the whole. At different times, each viewpoint will be accorded more or less legal and social significance.
My own experience, in seeing legal problems from a global perspective certainly did not arise either in my course in law or in economics at this University. Law, in particular, was invariably confined to a particular jurisdiction. More often than not, that meant one of the subnational jurisdictions of Australia. In most matters of private law, in the 1960s, we still lived in our colonial enclaves.
But then, shortly after my appointment to the Arbitration Commission, I was seconded to help establish the Australian Law Reform Commission. In the performance of that task, I soon became aware of the need to adopt an international perspective to law. Moreover, I came to recognise the dynamic forces of international human rights. Work in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) relevant to privacy, in the World Health Organisation relevant to HIV/AIDS and in UNESCO relevant to the rights of peoples to self-determination were a prelude to involvement in the International Labor Organisation (ILO) about which I now wish to speak.
The ILO was established in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles . Its original Constitution (incorporated into the revised Constitution in 1946) included amongst the basic principles acceptance that "labour should not be regarded merely as a commodity or article of commerce"; that there is a "right of association for all lawful purposes by the employed as well as by the employers"; a duty to ensure "the payment to the employed of a wage adequate to maintain a reasonable standard of life as this is understood in our and country"; the "abolition of child labour" and respect for the "principle that men and women should receive equal remuneration for work of equal value" .
When it came to re-establishing these principles after the Second World War, there was added a commitment to non-discrimination:
"All human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual deployment in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity".
Both during its phase as an organ of the League of Nations and since its re-appearance as an agency of the United Nations, the ILO has set out to protect fundamental human rights in the context of employment. It has done this in many ways. But crucial to its efforts has been the negotiation of international treaties to set down the basic standards of behaviour to be observed by member countries, out of respect for fundamental human rights.
Australia has been a member of the ILO since 1919. It is a party to many of the conventions of the ILO. Amongst the most important of these are the Convention on Freedom of Association (No 87) ; the Convention on Collective Bargaining (No 98) ; the Convention on Equal Remuneration (No 100) ; and the Convention Against Discrimination in Employment (No 111) .
Federal governments in Australia have been fairly conservative about the ratification of ILO Conventions. In part, this has been because of specific disagreement with some of the policies contained in some of the Conventions. Thus, the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention 1957 (No 107) revised by the Indigenous and Tribunal Peoples Convention 1989 (No 169) was resisted by Australia because of the doubt that the subject matter fell within the competence of the ILO and of its procedures. There was also a concern in some quarters that some of the language of the instruments reflected assimilationist policies, not now adopted in Australia with respect to racial discrimination generally and the rights of indigenous peopleS in particular .
In part, the caution that has existed in the ratification of ILO Conventions has also been attributed to the federal character of the Australian Constitution and the complex, inter-related system of federal and State regulation of industrial relations. Almost without exception, under successive governments of differing political persuasions, Australia has observed a consistent policy of obedience to the international obligations that are binding on it as a nation. Whilst Australia is a party to a treaty (and without denunciation of its obligations), it takes its international duties seriously. Unlike some countries, it does not join, or remain in, international treaty systems unless it is willing to fulfil the requirements that come with the text of the treaty.
In part, the ILO Convention system has also been important in Australia for constitutional reasons because of the respective constitutional responsibilities and entitlements of the Commonwealth and of the States and Territories. The founders of the Australian Constitution did not provide to the Federal Parliament a general legislative power with respect to employment or industrial relations. Instead, it conferred a power to establish (as was soon done) a national system of conciliation and arbitration . And it conferred particular powers with respect to trade and commerce and certain corporations that have lately proved important. But there was also a power to make laws with respect to external affairs .
The lastmentioned power was recognised, quite early in the history of the Commonwealth as a valid source, through the ratification of ILO Conventions, for the enactment of federal laws. Such laws might be concerned with aspects of industrial relations that would otherwise have been thought to remain within State regulation. Back in the 1930s it might have been possible for the High Court of Australia to take a restrictive view of this head of power. It could have done so on the footing that it was granted "subject to this Constitution" and had to be read down lest, viewed expansively, the unilateral assumption of international obligations by the Federal Government could be used to dismantle the federal division of powers in the Constitution.
However, in The King v Burgess; Ex parte Henry , a majority of the High Court rejected such a narrow view. In an influential joint opinion, Justices Evatt and McTiernan made specific reference to the possible use of the external affairs power to give effect to ILO Conventions:
"And in our view the fact of an international Convention having been duly made upon a subject brings the subject within the field of international relations so far as such subject is dealt with by the agreement. Accordingly ... Australia is not 'a federal State the power of which to enter into international conventions on labour matters is subject to limitations [within the meaning of Article 19(9) of the ILO Constitution]'. A contrary view has apparently governed the practice of Commonwealth authorities in relation to the ratification of the draft Conventions of the International Labor Office. In our opinion such view is wrong".
Once this stepping stone to the acquisition of permissible subjects of federal legislative regulation was acquired, the ILO Conventions (and other treaties) took on a much broader significance than otherwise they might have done. There remained constitutional limitations inherent in the federal character of the Australian Constitution and in the High Court's duty to characterise a law as being truly one with respect to external affairs and truly one within the subject matter of an external obligation that Australia had assumed . But the lesson of the decision in Ex parte Henry was that Australia's future federal legislation, specifically in matters covered by ILO Conventions, was bound up with international law. Whatever might be the position under other national Constitutions, with different powers, and in other nations with different approaches to the ratification of international treaties, the Australian national polity was inextricably tied to freely assumed international obligations binding on the nation.
The extent to which this is still so can be illustrated by reference to the more recent decision of the High Court in Victoria v The Commonwealth . That decision upheld the constitutionality of several provisions, involving radical changes to the federal system of industrial relations, established by the Industrial Relations Act 1988 (Cth). Many of the changes in question rested on international instruments, including ILO Conventions. Most importantly, the Termination of Employment Convention 1982 (No 158) was used as a source for several provisions of the new federal Act . The High Court, in a case heard before I joined it, by the affirmative decision of six of the Justices, upheld the validity of the legislation with only minor exceptions .
Since 1996, the present federal government has, in several ways, reduced Australia's involvement in, and utilisation of, the work of the ILO. Its intention to do so was signalled during the federal election campaign that preceded the change of government . Nevertheless, like its predecessors, the present government has not altered the Australian attitude to compliance with the nation's existing commitments under international law. Indeed, a number of the provisions of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth), a centrepiece of the government's industrial relations strategy, derive their constitutionality from the external affairs power and do so by reference to relevant ILO standards .
One of the principal objects of the Workplace Relations Act is stated to be to "assist in giving effect to Australia's international obligations in relation to labour standards" . The Government elected not to denounce Australia's ratification of the ILO Convention on Termination of Employment (No 158). It did this, although there were legitimate complaints and grievances concerning the departure from normal practice when the Keating Government ratified that Convention when no State or Territory of the Commonwealth had agreed to ratification .
Despite rhetoric on both sides of politics and undoubted differences of emphasis, strategy, interest and empathy with respect to ILO Conventions and international law generally, Professor Breen Creighton has concluded that the present legislation "does not mark as dramatic a break with the previous regulatory regime as either the proponents or the opponents of the legislation might like to suggest" . According to him, the Workplace Relations Act "still draws upon the external affairs power for its constitutional underpinning."
Professor Creighton has concluded:
"International standards, especially those adopted under the auspices of the ILO continue to serve as the constitutional foundation for the legislation in several areas - notably unlawful termination of employment, equal remuneration for work of equal value, workers with family responsibilities and discrimination in employment and occupation. The government also appears to have been at some pains to maintain compliance with ratified Conventions in framing its legislative changes. It may have done so with a degree of reluctance, but it has done so nonetheless" .
No Australian judge or tribunal member should forget the important step stated in the reasoning of the High Court in Mabo v Queensland [No 2] . The Court was there faced with the question whether the common law refusal to acknowledge native title to land could still be accepted as the law, although it was so clearly discriminatory and unjust. In his reasons, which were endorsed in this regard by Chief Justice Mason and Justice McHugh, Justice Brennan pointed out :
"The opening up of international remedies to individuals pursuant to Australia's accession to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights brings to bear on the common law the powerful influence of the Covenant and the international standards it imports. The common law does not necessarily conform with international law, but international law is a legitimate and important influence on the development of the common law, especially when international law declares the existence of universal human rights. A common law doctrine founded on unjust discrimination in the employment of civil and political rights demands reconsideration. It is contrary both to international standards and to the fundamental values of our common law to entrench a discriminatory rule ...".
This principle is not, of course, confined to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is one of general application. It extends to international law as declared by other binding treaties, certainly those to which Australia is a party. It therefore includes the international Conventions of the ILO which Australia has ratified.
Where the common law has no exact precedent, where a statute is ambiguous and, in my view, where the Constitution yields competing interpretations, universal principles of international law may be used to resolve the judicial uncertainty . Use of this principle with respect to constitutional interpretation may still be controversial. But use of it in the elucidation of common law principle and the ordinary functions of statutory interpretation is, in my view, wholly orthodox. The common law application is expressly endorsed in Mabo [No 2]. The use in elucidating ambiguous statutory language is conformable with a longstanding principle of interpretation that attributes to parliaments a purpose (in the absence of clear and express language to the contrary) to respect and uphold the fundamental civil rights of the people .
In Australia, industrial relations courts and tribunals have already made use of this approach in exercising their jurisdiction and discharging their powers. Thus in Re Equal Remuneration Principle , five members of the Full Bench of the Industrial Relations Commission of New South Wales made explicit reference to the fundamental principles of human rights in the course of their reasoning. By that decision, the Full Bench established a new equal remuneration or equal pay principle intended to provide remedies for gender affected under-valuation of wage and salary rates involving workers in the State of New South Wales subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission. In the course of giving its reasons, the principle enunciated was founded squarely on a human rights approach. I am aware of no more explicit recognition by an industrial tribunal in Australia of the significance of international human rights norms for Australian industrial relations law and practice.
The following paragraphs in the reasons of the Full Bench explain what was done :
"Every person has a basic human right to be treated equally and fairly in the sense that the person should not be dealt with on the basis of irrelevant considerations such as the person's sex, race or age and with a right not to be discriminated against by reference to such considerations ... This right is reflected in various statutory provisions in New South Wales. The fixing of a rate of pay for, or the payment of a wage or salary to, a women where that rate of pay, salary or wage has been fixed differently because of the woman's sex is presumptively an infringement of her human rights and inconsistent with the provisions of the 1996 Act.
The right of women to equal treatment irrespective of their gender generally and specifically in relation to the question of equal pay is also recognised, essentially for the purpose of the protection of the right, by a variety of international covenants ...
The statutory provisions which are particularly relevant for our consideration in the present proceedings are provisions which exemplify human rights and the human rights concepts and which protect or enforce such rights. Both the High Court and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission have emphasised the special responsibility of courts and tribunals, in construing such legislation, to take account of and give effect to the statutory purpose whether found in a statutory object or otherwise".
Later in the Full Bench's reasons appears the following paragraph :
"We have concluded that it is appropriate to adopt a principle, albeit not one in the terms proposed by the various parties, which deals with the issue of equal remuneration. We have done so for a number of reasons. The first is the considerations we have earlier referred to. That is the significance both in policy terms and the requirements of the Act ... reflecting as they do important human rights, and that wage fixing principles in relation to the question of equal pay reflect the priorities, importance and the failure hitherto of some awards to address appropriately the issue of equal pay for equal or comparable work ...".
An illustration of the way in which principles of human rights can inform and influence construction of legislation may also be seen in a decision of the Federal Court of Australia in Italiano v Bethesda Hospital . The case concerned discrimination and harassment at work. It raised the question whether the hospital, as employer, had unlawfully terminated a worker's employment in contravention of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (Cth) . The hospital's defence was that the applicant had resigned of his own volition. The evidence suggested that he had done so in reaction to persistent harassment that he had suffered from other staff of the hospital.
Mr Bill Italiano was employed as a part-time chef at the hospital. Six months after commencing that employment he disclosed to other staff members that he was homosexual. From that time until his employment ceased two years later, it was found that he was subjected to "ongoing and systematic harassment" on the grounds of his sexual orientation, (called in the applicable federal legislation his "sexual preference"). The harassment ranged from derogatory name-calling, to mocking the applicant with "extreme mannerisms" in a "derogatory representation of a homosexual male" . In one incident, Bill Italiano was locked in a cupboard. He was told "now you are going back in the closet". He alleged that this conduct continued in spite of his objections. The evidence established that he was significantly affected by the harassment. Medical evidence was brought that his poor relationship with his manager, Ms Harberger, had contributed to ongoing depression. It was found that he eventually resigned as a result of the harassment.
The Judicial Registrar deciding the case concluded that, for the purposes of the Act, Bill Italiano fell within the phrase "termination at the initiative of the employer" . Of course, a narrow construction of that phrase would have warranted the conclusion that Bill Italiano's termination was on his own initiative. But a broad construction would bring him within the protection of the Act. In deciding between the narrow and the broad, the Federal Court has held it to be legitimate to take into account the purposes of the legislation. Where a person is driven to resign, so as to terminate intolerable conduct caused or sanctioned by an employer, it has been held possible to classify the cause of the termination as the antecedent conduct, not the act of resignation to which that conduct gives rise .
When the high importance of upholding the purposes of the protection of human rights and fundamental human dignity expressed in the legislation are kept steadily in mind, the adoption of a broad interpretation may more accurately carry into effect the protective legislative purpose. The adoption of a narrow construction would frustrate the achievement of the objects of Parliament. Where those objects are designed carry into effect in Australian domestic law, ILO or other Conventions having a high human rights purpose, it is not unreasonable to prefer the meaning that accomplishes such purpose over that which would frustrate and obstruct its attainment.
It is sad indeed, in this day and age, to read a case such as that involving Bill Italiano and his workmates at the Bethesda Hospital in Richmond, Victoria. That such irrational conduct could still happen strikes me as appalling. That it could happen today in Australia, the land of the "fair go", is astonishing. Those who say that there is no need for legal protection against such conduct have never themselves been on the receiving end of cruel harassment, denigration and humiliation. But many women have. Many Aboriginal Australians have. Many people of non-European race have, and not only in South Africa. Many of minority religions have. Many homosexuals have. Many living with HIV and AIDS have . Some have suffered on the grounds of age . Others by reason of disabilities irrelevant to their work performance.
Discrimination of such kinds can manifest itself in almost every aspect of life. But in so far as it appears in the context of employment, fundamental issues of human rights and human dignity are presented. To do nothing may be to accept the intolerable. A just society, as I believe Australia to be, will not permit such wrongs to go unanswered whether at work or anywhere else. Statute and the common law will respond. Where the law permits it, the courts and tribunals of the nation will uphold the principle of justice protecting individual human rigths and human dignity.
The influence of ILO Conventions in our polity will wax and wane. The utilisation of their principles in Australian law will vary over time. The greatest challenges for the ILO lie not in countries such as Australia but in lands where even the rudimentary rules of human rights are not obeyed and where minorities are killed or suffer other most grievous deprivations. In such countries, as I believe my mission to South Africa showed, the ILO still plays a most useful role. In the field of industrial relations, its Conventions and standards afford a stimulus to industrial justice that is truly beneficial.
In Australia, the human rights standards of the ILO and those stated in other international instruments will play a lesser role, simply because our representative democracy and independent courts and tribunals will generally ensure that, ultimately, industrial justice is attained. The growth of global and regional markets makes it likely that, in advanced societies and developed economies the global principles of human rights will continue to influence to some degree our own industrial relations law. In a sense, the one is a counterpart of the other.
Of course, there will be plenty of room for political debate and difference of opinion concerning the extent and content of that influence. But the great lesson of the new century, already taught, is that no nation today can totally go it alone. Now, truly, no land is an island, entire unto itself. The days when Australia could hide behind tariff walls cocooned in the national system of compulsory arbitration have gone forever. Yet in opening up our borders to the forces of international trade we inevitably open them to the influence of other international ideas and forces. Amongst those ideas are those in the ILO Conventions. And amongst the most powerful ideas affecting our planet at this time are those that assert the common obligation to respect and defend fundamental human rights and human dignity in all aspects of life .
The scene of industrial relations has changed markedly since Kingsley Laffer taught the subject at this University half a century ago when I was here. But the quest for justice and human dignity in work, as in other human activities, is even more powerful today. And some of the power comes from the global dynamic of universal human rights.
There are those who dislike this message and wish to have nothing to do with the ILO and its works. But with global markets come global forces of basic rights. This is what China is discovering as Russia and other nations did earlier. And the lesson is universal. It is even relevant to Australia.
Kingsley Laffer would be surprised if he could see the world of industrial relations today. The diminished role of the tribunals and their awards. The heightened concern with the workplace enterprise. The renewed attention to conciliation and agreement. The falling membership of industrial organisations. Calls for a return to the ordinary courts, applying the general law. And so on. Yet I do not think he would be specially puzzled by the changes. After all his discipline was always an intensely practical one. It always responded to the changing moods of politics. And in the end it was always about securing the best possible outcomes to the struggle between economic profit and industrial justice: two wild horses locked together in a harness that commits them to eventual harmony and a common direction. Now they gallop in a global arena sniffing the breeze of global forces. For industrial relations today, the venues of Australia are no longer big enough.
This is an editted version of the Kingely Laffer Lecture delivered on Tuesday April 22 at the University of Sydney. A full version of speech can be found at http://www.acirrt.com
I remember that he was taller, younger and faster than I was. He was also playing on his home field. I had only recently arrived in the remote northern community. It was the middle of summer, 1974. We were playing Aussie Rules in bare feet and we were on opposite sides. As he ran past I threw out a desperate tackle, not expecting to make any difference. But the timing was perfect and to my surprise he went down. Straight down! Normally being tackled and winded in a game wouldn't make any difference but this was no ordinary, southern game. As he lay there everything stopped. Players sat on the ground and waited, his mother ran onto the field with a bucket of cool water and the umpire found something else to interest him. The fallen player swore a few nasty things at whoever had tackled him, as did some of his fellow players, and suddenly I realised I had stepped over a definite, but invisible, boundary. The thought of a spearing didn't appear attractive nor did any apologies seem helpful. So I excused myself before the game finished and walked very gingerly back to my temporary home.
Ever since that day I have wondered about the culture of Indigenous football, the particular and often exciting ways that Indigenous men play this 'Aussie' game. This article is about that. Within the AFL, in 2001, there were more than 50 registered Indigenous players. Their statistical over-representation, approximately three times what might be expected, was matched by an under-representation of informed commentary about them as players. The media were all too ready to present them as possessors of "magic", bearers of "silky skills" and constantly being either "mercurial" or "enigmatic". Often they were depicted as "doing the unexpected" while, at the same time, "they always seem to know where to find each other".
These commentaries, struggling to invent new phrases of praise for these talented footballers, reveal little knowledge or understanding about the origin or nature of their skills, where they were born and how they were nurtured. Stereotypes are regularly introduced to describe this football behaviour, giving little room for Indigenous players to be different from one another or even similar to non Indigenous players. One consequence is that Indigenous footballers can be presented as exotic. Their play can be expected to be always 'different'. Another, and perhaps a more serious result, is that whatever they bring to the game can simply be appropriated by the dominant culture of the game. Such assimilation leaves little room for consideration about the particular gifts which Indigenous footballers bring to football and what it is they offer to others who play or watch this distinctive Australian game.
I need to state some things at the outset. Firstly, I am not an Indigenous person nor claim to speak for those who play Aussie Rules. I have been closely involved with Indigenous men in the area of Aussie Rules for more than 25 years and in different Australian States. My involvement has included playing football with and against many, coaching with and being coached by them and being active with them in the area of sports health. As I have got older I have found myself, like many ex-players, umpiring games. But even here the umpiring can be quite different and distinctive from how it is performed down south.
Secondly, Aussie Rules, as a TV programme theme song and the title of a recent book suggest, is "more than a game". It can be understood as a metaphor for the social, economic and political forces which influence and dominate Indigenous society. For example, no serious comment about football and Indigenous players can simply avoid reference to issues of race . When Nicky Winmar lifted his jumper and pointed proudly to his skin when facing abusive Collingwood supporters in 1993, or Michael Long accused Damian Monkhorst of racial abuse in 1995, the sensitivity and importance of race as an issue within Aussie Rules could not be denied. The question as to how and why some Indigenous footballers play distinctive styles of the game has, as a result, been rarely addressed. It lies in a politically, very sensitive area.
In the case of Aussie Rules, any fear we experience in talking about the particular gifts of Indigenous footballers holds within it a challenge to carefully examine our history and the broader consequences of it. When asked by a radio commentator about the ability of Indigenous players to 'perceive' players around them, Chris Lewis said quite simply: there were mobs of us as kids and we only had one football. You had to learn where the others were if you wanted a kick. For many Indigenous footballers skills were not learned within the arenas of privilege. Not only can we, as outsiders, endow Indigenous footballers with large doses of mystery, where there are none, but we can also forget a larger, social and political picture. Ovals, particularly Aussie Rules ones, are incredibly large. They require enormous maintenance and cost if they are to be established, grassed, watered and mown. Jumpers and footballs are costly and the majority of Indigenous players come from families and communities which are materially poor when compared with most Australians. The skills which we admire in Indigenous players are skills born in our post-colonial Australia. As Indigenous Researcher, Darren Godwell, reminds us, "Sport may be a revered site in Australian society, and Indigenous peoples may have achieved much, but we should not blindly accept its stereotypes."
The last point I want to make is that the following reflections are based on personal experience. While my involvement with Indigenous people and football has included North Queensland and Victoria the following reflections arise mainly out of football as I have experienced it in the NT and particularly in the western desert of WA.
Aussie Rules - Early Origins
Whether Aussie Rules football originated as an Indigenous game, and even within the context of important meetings and corroborees, is not entirely clear. Descriptions of early games played by Indigenous people in western Victoria talk of a contest where a ball made from possum skin was used. What is more clear is that Aussie Rules has developed as a very different game from the other major forms of 'football' played in Australia. Not only did it develop as a more free flowing game, as expressed by the different ways by which the ball could be carried, passed or kicked, but it gave greater freedom for players to move ahead of the ball. It relied on a larger playing surface, and a larger number of players, than either of the Rugby's and Soccer. It is a game that can be practised in alley ways and backyards but it is a game that can only be played in the open. It is also a game where the pairing of players is an essential ingredient.
The Culture of Pairings
If one ever watches the 'pairings' (or 'match-ups', as commentators prefer to call them) that often begin an Indigenous game one notices that they are often formed by men who are friends or close relations. Being 'paired' for competition can reflect the importance of 'pairings' in other cultural contexts. Unlike non Indigenous society, which strongly values a person's individuality and independence, unmarried Indigenous men (and women) often move or travel around with someone of the same sex who is their best friend. Many of the Tjukurrpa (Dreaming) stories are stories of two principal actors who travelled the land together (eg. the Wati Kutjarra, Tjiitji Kutjarra etc). Many Indigenous languages, unlike English, possess a dual number where the actions of two people are described, inclusively or exclusively, in relation to a larger group of people. Being 'paired' for a game of football confirms an already important cultural context and awareness for competition.
When Indigenous men enter the arena of football they already come with a set of values around the ways men can and should relate with one another. Being 'paired' or 'matched up' for a game of football does not have the same overtones of opposition and domination that can be experienced or valued by non Indigenous players.
The Skills of Hunting
Indigenous men come to the arena of football with a number of cultural legacies and traditions. One is that of being 'hunter' . At one level it is easy to see Aussie Rules football as a modern form of hunting. The animal being hunted, and a football, might once have shared a common origin, as it has been suggested in those early games in western Victoria which used a ball made from possum skin. But hunting is about a particular use of one's body. It involves the use of physical skills, with a keen awareness of the land, while using a variety of forms of non verbal communication with other hunters. Hunting is the combination of finely honed skills which Indigenous men have developed in this land over thousands of years and which many continue to use today. Hunting is learned and it is learned from an early age. It requires the concentration and focus of many senses, the balance of physical movement with strength and speed, the use of precise timing with careful bodily coordination. Chasing a fast moving target in bare feet amongst spinifex grass is probably as good a training exercise for football as a coach has ever invented. And if you have ever hunted goanna, a black headed python or a blue tongue lizard you would know what I mean.
As Indigenous men pursued those low lying, or sometimes low flying, objects of their desire they did it with others. Hunting in small groups, often with other men, they communicated silently as they went, using a wide range of hand and facial signs and gestures. The slightest movement of a body, a glance, sign or facial expression, all part of a highly developed skill of non-verbal communication. Whether it be over short or vast distances nothing needed to be said or shouted. Hunting concentrated non verbal skills as the hunted was observed, tracked, trapped and then caught by men who learned to move quietly and powerfully together. As a person's body works moved in concert with the land, the weather and the object of attention it also works moved with other 'bodies' of men, forming a concentration of energy and purpose to achieve the final 'goal', when the object was caught.
Hunting is much more than a precise physical or biological skill. It is a social, mental and physical technique nurtured within ancient connections to the land and in relationship with other men. As we wonder about the connection between this modern game of football and the techniques of hunting we might remember Desmond Morris' descriptions of ancient body skills where "the chase became an essential part of male existence and required athleticism, stamina and a temperament that encouraged persistence." Some of us might have forgotten our ancient hunting heritage, but for many young Indigenous men today that heritage exists and is passed on.
Aussie Rules also connects important aspects of men's kinship and men's business. This is not to say that women do not play football or should not be involved in it. But it is to suggest that what men negotiate outside the football arena, in terms of relationships with other men, is carried onto the football field. Kinship, for example, does not cease as one enters the playing field. Most men will have precisely defined relationships with each of the men on his own side, as also that of the opposition. Such relationships can be noted when the single men camp at a football carnival, side by side. Different relationships mean different codes of affection, familiarity, avoidance and respect. One's older brother, one's uncle, one's brother-in-law, one's cousin. Different ways of relating but at the heart of all of these relationships lies the key ingredient of 'respect'. Not too hard a tackle, not too hard a bump. Playing it fast and sometimes playing it very hard. The art is developing the skill of avoidance as the ball is being 'hunted'. Not going over that fine invisible line where being accused of playing 'too hard' or 'too rough' provides the ingredients for a more serious accusation and confrontation. And sometimes confrontation does result when the tackle is experienced as too personal or aggressive and the ball is believed to have been ignored.
There are also other relationships at work on the football field. Most of these are hidden to the non Indigenous world for these relationships are born and nurtured in men's Law ceremonies. These relationships reflect an even deeper bond between men and they demand even further respect, even avoidance, for some men from others. Visitors to communities will not know of these relationships and might wonder as a player appears to hang back from tackling another too aggressively. Strong men's business can exist even here on the football field. Learning this art of skilled avoidance, while still putting enough physical pressure on one's opponent, is high art indeed.
On Anzac Day 2001 when Essendon played Collingwood, the newspaper and television commentator, Dermot Brereton, drew an analogy between the diggers at Gallipoli and modern footballers. He draw some relevance between today's game and the ANZAC heritage. In essence he said that football was more about combat than skill, winning more important than losing, violence more valuable than respect, confrontation more commendable than avoidance. "It is apparent", he wrote, "that Australian servicemen were feared and respected by their foes. Their virtues sound very much like the virtues of our great sporting heroes." This view of the game of Aussie Rules is a construction of a very different game to that which is played in parts of Australia by Indigenous men. It is also the view of the game where the boundary around appropriate male behaviour has been shifted and significantly re-drawn.
Some years after my first northern football encounter, and important cultural lesson, a group of us, including the same young man I had tackled, met over a few drinks. We talked about the past and the various things we had shared since we first met. Without any warning he turned to me and asked, "That time on the football field. It was an accident, wasn't it?" Whatever had happened that day, those years before, had not been forgotten. And not by myself either.
Since that game, on a dry, dusty oval in the north, I have reflected on the way Indigenous footballers provide something that is distinctive and different for our Australian game. At the heart of what they bring is a great enjoyment for Aussie Rules. But they also bring their culture with them: hunting that low lying and flying object of desire, the art of skilled avoidance and holding to that fine line which puts pressure on an opponent but also offers him respect. Football can be an important area of men's business where skills and relationships are strengthened and the use of aggression is negotiated. Without a more reflective sense of what is being enacted in this game of Aussie Rules we run the risk of carelessly assimilating Indigenous footballers into the game without appreciating what it is they bring and how their cultural strengths can enrich our game and ourselves.
Brian F McCoy is with the Centre for the Study of Health and Society at Melbourne University. This article is based on a paper given at the Australian Anthropological Society Annual Conference, La Trobe University, AFL Grand Final Day, September 29th, 2001.
MPs Front Rio Meeting
TWO federal MPs have fronted Rio Tinto's shareholders meeting in Melbourne to demand an end to a protracted legal battle over the reinstatement of 206 sacked miners. The coal miners were sacked four years ago from Rio Tinto's Hunter Valley and Mt Thorley operations in NSW, and the Blair Athol mine in central Queensland.
The Australian Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) has made three separate rulings in favour of the miners being reinstated, but Rio Tinto has appealed against all three decisions. Capricornia MP Kirsten Livermore, whose central Queensland electorate includes the Blair Athol mine, Charlton MP Kelly Hoare, who represents the NSW miners, and NSW state MP Kerry Hickey used proxy votes to attend the shareholders meeting.
Uranium Mine on Hold
Meanwhile, mining at Rio Tinto's controversial Jabiluka uranium site will remain on hold until the traditional owners of the land endorse the project. Rio Tinto chairman Sir Robert Wilson said the company's position was clear - there will be no development at Jabiluka without the consent of the traditional owners. Sir Robert told Rio Tinto's AGM that the company was discussing environmental issues with the traditional owners of the Jabiluka site, the Mirrar people. Sir Robert's comments followed demands by shareholder Dave Sweeney, representing the Australian Conservation Foundation, that the company guarantee uranium mining would never be carried out at Jabiluka, in the Northern Territory's Kakadu National Park.
Ford Threatens To Use Imported Steel
While BHP has secured access to its US markets, it is facing pressure closer to home. Resentment over BHP Steel's proposed price rises has provoked Ford Australia into considering importing as much as $8 million of its needs. The struggling car maker yesterday unveiled its second consecutive operating loss and president Geoff Polites made it clear the proposed price rise was not welcome. About 18,000 of the 66,000 tonnes of steel used to make Falcons every year are supplied by BHP Steel. As much as half that volume - worth about $8 million - could be sourced elsewhere by a switch to imports.
Yallourn To Outsource Maintenance
Yallourn Energy is set to contract out its mine maintenance operations and retrench 50 maintenance workers from May 15. The future of mine maintenance staff has been at the centre of a three-year dispute at the power station which has seen the station close down twice during the critical summer period. Dean Mighell, Victorian secretary of the Electrical Trades Union said the company had no right to simply retrench excess workers. Mr Mighell said the contractors would not be able to introduce major cuts in pay and conditions for workers moving over from Yallourn Energy.
Jobs Under Threat At Optus
More jobs are set to go at Optus, Australia's second largest telephone company, as revenues in key divisions collapse. Up to 100 employees face the axe from the company next week, possibly as early as Tuesday. But Optus denies the number is that high, saying there was going to be a "change in employment" for about 60 employees, with 50 being offered new jobs within Optus.
Cuts As GE Giant Slows
In the US, General Electric plans to cut 7000 jobs and reduce expenses by about $US1 billion. The jobs will go from GE Capital, based in Stamford, Connecticut after a six per cent slowdown for the quarter. The slowdown "shocked a lot of people, and now they're responding to it by taking headcount out", said analyst Rich Turgeon of Victory Capital Management. "Why is growth slowing? It's a little disappointing."
General Electric shares have declined 14 per cent since Thursday, when the company said net income had fallen for the first time in more than seven years and first-quarter sales were little changed. The drop fed investor concern that profit growth is slowing at the world's largest company by market value.
Citigroup Severance Vote Fails
Citigroup Inc chairman Sanford Weill, who earned $US30.3 million last year has overcome a dissident shareholder move to limit executive severance payments after the biggest US bank said the plan would hurt recruitment.The proposal to require a shareholder vote for any pay for an ousted executive that exceeds three times annual compensation garnered 46.5 per cent of shareholder support. Shareholders, including SEIU Master Trust, proposed the measure after the collapse of Enron Corp fuelled investor concern that executives were putting their personal interests above shareholders. Former Citigroup co-chairman, John Reed, took away a $US30 million package plus $US5 million a year for life after he was forced out of the bank in 2000, according to the Journal of Accountancy. Bloomberg
As a New Zealander who has chosen to live in, and enjoy, Australia this was a watershed week. As rarely before, questions like why, and on what terms, hovered over the decision.
To proceed, it is perhaps necessary to explain that key motives for crossing the Tasman included improved access to footy and horse racing.
Back then, when the media started giving attention to rusty boats lobbing up on the coast, I have to admit, the first reaction was - what a bloody cheek!
As more background was revealed that required reassessment and the unarguable facts of recent days have turned it on its head.
Two smoking guns have been discovered leaving Australians, considering Anzac Day, a dilemma in terms of how they see themselves and their country.
The first went off with something of a pop as the Senate Inquiry into Children Overboard meandered along its predictable, party political route. It came with revelations that Peter Reith's office had forbidden Government photographers to publish pictures that, in its words, "humanised" refugees.
It wasn't until seven days later that the report from this shot rang around the country with a bang.
The gruesome reality of state sanctioned "dehumanisation" was laid out for all to see when the ABC's Lateline aired a tape shot by management at the Curtin Detention Centre.
Beamed into living rooms, for those willing to see, were pictures of desperate people smashing their heads into the walls of isolation cells, hyperventilating, knocking themselves unconscious, hurling the last vestiges of self-respect to the wind as they wrestled dehumanisation and went down for the count.
These people were Hzaris. There has been no argument, even from Government or its apologists, that they were victims of a brutal Taliban campaign of persecution, verging on genocide. Reports from Afghanistan suggest that while the Government might have changed, their status has not because, apparently, by and large, they aren't considered devout enough in the Moslem department.
Yet, when they flee their persecutors, Australians turn on a welcome that is equal parts degradation, desparation and dehumisation.
The comments of the Government-appointed man in charge of monitoring Western Australia's penal system, that such management oversight would have brought criminal charges in his jurisdiction; and a leading psychiatrist, that the nation was stacking up mental health problems for its future; were damn-near superflous.
Clearly, American-owned ACM which runs the detention centres, needs to be punted, and soon. Not just because it is a disgrace but, more importantly, because Australians need to take responsibility for what is being done in their names.
Obviously, there has to be a rigorous assessment of people landing on these shores. But, surely, there is a better way than replacing names with Alpha Numeric code, then locking them up in the desert, behind barbed wire for years on end.
I really wonder whether our fore-fathers, and don't forget there is still an NZ in ANZAC, would have lain down their lives for state-sanctioned dehumanisation?
It's not the business of outsiders to tell Aussies what they should do on key policy issues, even when they have lived here for years.
All this Kiwi can say, with some reluctance, is maybe there are more important things in life than horses and footy. Didn't think I'd be saying that when I took a punt on life across the ditch.
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