Indeed, Berlusconi could be the first individual - including Janette - to ever show any physical affection to John Howard. As he groped then kissed our glorious leader, Berlusconi exposed Howard as the amateur arse-licker he is. And while he grinned sheepishly at the physical proximity with his Latino lover, he was clearly out of his comfort zone. For a stodgy Methodist from Earlwood the touchy feely embrace reminded us of our favourite Wesleyan joke: why don't Methodists have sex standing up? It could lead to dancing.
The Rome meeting was the latest set piece in Howard's victory lap of Europe, that also included a most curious audience with the Pope, where the PM was forced again to get up close and personal to interpret the spittle. It had been a trip of war grave photo opps and failed calls for trade access to Australian farmers. Dammit, he didn't even get to Wimbeldon to yell 'c'mon'. Like many an Aussie caught on a Kontiki tour, Europe was proving more movement than action.
But then he met Berlusconi - Italy's cross between George W Bush, Rupert Murdoch and Mel Gibson. Howard found a kindred soul, albeit one with a far more interesting CV. While Howard has hacking away in Canberra, Silvio has pursued more diverse interests including buying the nation's leading soccer team, AC Milan, building a $14 media empire that includes three TV networks - commanding 90 per cent of the viewing public - publishing houses, PR firms and investment firms. The small section of the Italian media he does not control describe him as 'Citizen Kane on steroids'
Between business deals, he established Forza Italia Party (meaning Go Italy, which is a chant at soccer games). It too is more of a commercial enterprise rather than a Party - founded in 1994 and revolving around Berlusconi. The Party has no platform, branches or conferences. The membership of the party have no say over the policy and direction of the party. Rather Berlusconi draws on PR and Advertising professionals from his own media empire to develop policies and campaigns. Candidates are selected by PR "headhunters" and only can be endorsed by Berlusoni himself.
Berlusconi won power in 2001 in alliance with the National Alliance which emerged in the post-cold war era from a small group in the 1970s which stood in the tradition of Mussolini. Also in Alliance with the "Northern Alliance" which seeks to separate the rich northern half of Italy from the poorer south. Both parties have links with neo-Nazi groups and are xenophobic in their nature.
So where's the common interest? Silvio is currently at war with the union movement - with recent general strikes bringing literally millions of workers onto the streets. Howard may not have the resources to buy the Central Coast Bears or even the Prime TV network, but he knows how to trash unfair dismissal laws. At this week's media conference Berlusconi told him how much he admired Howard's IR 'achievements' Howard replied that he'd just LURVE a three year freeze on unfair dismissal claims. They were talking dirty and didn't care who was listening.
So there they were, seated side by side in the Eternal City. The palms were sweaty and the furtive glances resembled a couple of teenagers at a formal - but do they really have so much in common?
Here's a comparative snap-shot of Australia and Italian industrial relations (special thanks to Neale):
* the Italian Government has tried to get up dismissal laws which replace reinstatement provisions with financial compensation. Howard and Co want dismissal laws that don't allow any compensation or right of employees to appeal
* The Italian Government has proposed 'on call' allowances for workers whose jobs require them to be on call. The on call jobs are all defined by collective agreements, which remain the basis for all employment in Italy (except for a largish black economy sector. We have a government that is doing its level best to remove all collective rights and agreements.
* Italian proposal will require labour disputes to be conducted in accordance with the "principles of fairness". Abbott and co probably see merit in this as it's a pretty slippery term as the unions recognize. Unions object to this as they say arbitration decisions should be based on legislative provisions and on collective agreements, not a reference to "fairness"
* There are social partners in Italy- business unions, governmentt, a concept that the Libs here couldn't cope with.
* Italy also links a wages guarantee fund with active labour market policies so workers have the right to skills training and income support, not the threat of a cut off of all income if they don't follow the increasingly ridiculous and arduous social security rules that apply in Australia. Italians are also looking for a mobility allowance for unemployed workers who are re-skilling and seeking employment away from their current location.
* In Italy a cooperative approach to industrial relations is pursued between employers and union on to foster employment, as opposed to Tony Abbot's notion that there is war going on and employers should use all means possible to win the war. In Milan a new "pact for employment and growth" was signed in May 2202, after the general strike against the central govt, between the three main union confederations, municipal government and employers. The pact aims to:
� Support innovative sectors and production activities with a view to a Europe wide role
� Improve citizen services such as health care, transport, environmental
� Raise the employment rate with emphasis on the weaker category of workers (older workers, migrants)
� Increase citizen participation all aspects of life
� Regularise irregular and clandestine employment
� Foster continuous training and adaptability of workers and firms
� Devise Municipal action program to foster local economic growth and employment growth
* After the general strike negotiations resumed and the Italian Government signed a statement of agreement with two of the three major union confederations which meant that negotiations could continue on the unfair dismissal laws (and social security law reform and tax reform) were not implemented except for new employers of more than 15 people, who were still required to pay financial compensation rather than reinstate. The Italian government had been proposing an experimental change to just give compensation. Italian unions have agreed to limited experimentation.
* And NB: Even though Berlusconi and co are Far Right of the Italian spectrum, they still negotiate labour, pension and tax reforms with unions, and they weren't trying to remove rights to any comeback by dismissed workers, only allowing them cash rather than reinstatement. Anyone dismissed in Australia has no automatic right to cash, has to wait for social security payments, beg for any money in the meantime and faces ridiculous job search rules to keep getting social security.
* Despite govt intransigence, it did talk to the unions before the general strike and after it indicated its willingness to negotiate on the provisions. When did Howard and Abbot last have a talk with union officials here? And while the dismissal law is the big sticking point, but the Italian government's position, which the unions firmly oppose, is a better starting point than anything Howard and Abbott want.
So the message for Howard is that before he gets to second base with Silvio, he might be just another Latino Lotharo who is more talk than action. Despite the big claims, gold chains and hairy chests, he's just another flaky ideologue without the streak of hatred that Howard is looking for in a relationship. If George W just wiggled his butt, Sylvio is a sweet-talker. Be warned Johnny, he'll tease ya, but he'll never deliver.
None of those councils, all hosts to clothing industry sweatshops, bothered to attend a meeting organised by Local Government minister Harry Woods this week, to discuss their responsibilities under new factory registration regulations.
TCFUA official David Tritton said his organisation was "bitterly disappointed" that only three Sydney's councils - Auburn, Fairfield and Marrickville. - showed up for the information session.
"The new regulations mean sweatshops and outworkers have to register as factories," he explained. "It is then up to councils whether they allow them to continue operating out of residential addresses or push them back into industrial zones.
"We are primarily concerned with worker welfare but councils have wider responsibilities. These factories are a residents' issue and a public liability issue.
"Some of them operate all hours. What happens if one catches fire and damages adjoining properties or, worse still, injures people. Where are these councils going to hide then?"
In the last three years clothing factories, employing people in often-unsafe conditions, have gone residential, springing up across suburbs from South Sydney to Penrith.
The TCFUA has gone to the trouble and expense of preparing a graphic 25-minute video, highlighting the reality of what is happening behind the bolted doors of houses across the western suburbs.
It includes footage of :
- an ordinary looking Yagoona cottage in which 12 Asian workers were locked in against their wills
- two large brick workshops constructed in a Cabramatta backyard. When union officials approached, 15 people scarpered in all directions.
- a fullscale clothing factory in the backyard of a Canterbury house being powered by a line strung from the home to the sheds, via a clothesline. It blows in the breeze and rubs against guttering. Inside, more than 20 workers were being paid $6 an hour, all-in.
- a barred and gate Canterbury cottage in which every room is used for clothing manufacture. The kitchen houses industrial reels, the bedrooms are full of sewing machines, while halls and the lounge house racks and racks of clothing. Documentation showed it was supplying a fashion house in Surry Hills.
- A Fairfield house registered for pressing. Inside big industrial fusers are visible. The paper trail reveals it is producing thousands of garments valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars.
There are also shots from inside factories set up behind shopfronts across the western suburbs, graphically illustrating health and fire hazards. The worst examples on film were recorded at Chippendale, Bankstown and Belmore.
Tritton picks the location of such operations will become a hot political issue in affected neighbourhoods.
"We put a lot of resources into this video to help these councils do their jobs. If they don't care one way or the other, we will probably make it available to the media. The information is too improtant to ignore."
Glassworkers employed by Pilkingtons � suppliers of windows to Australia's export motor vehicle manufactures - have walked off the job in Victoria and will be joined by colleagues in New South Wales from Monday.
One of the key sticking points is the workers' determination that the Australian Industrial Relations Commission be given the power deterline disputes that arise under the enterprise agreement.
Workers want the company to commit to abiding by the independent umpire if a dispute arises during the life of the agreement.
Without that commitment the company can be selective or discretionary about whether it chooses to go to the AIRC, and if it does, whether to actually abide by the decision.
Australian Workers Union national glass convenor Cesar Melham says workers the present situation makes a mockery of the Commission and a waste of both parties time trying to negotiate an outcome that may or may not be adhered to.
"We want a commitment, a formal commitment, that the company will stick to future decisions of the AIRC if and when disputes arise during the life of the next EBA," Melham says.
While such power was traditionally vested in the AIRC, it has been severely curtailed by the Howard Government.
Other key sticking points in the EBA remain job security and a modest pay rise.
Under an ACTU-designed scheme 87% of working mothers would be eligible for 14 weeks� leave on full pay, with others receiving at least average weekly earnings.
Currently only 24% of private sector employees have access to paid maternity leave, which spans an average of just six weeks in state agreements and two weeks in federal agreements.
According to an ACTU submission presented to sex discrimination commissioner Pru Goward this week, payments up to the minimum wage would be funded by the Commonwealth, with the difference between this sum and actual average weekly earnings met by a $1 employer levy.
The scheme would bring Australia into line with international paid maternity leave standards and would cost the federal government about $100m less over four years than the current baby bonus scheme.
The ACTU says its model recognises the importance of giving mothers a chance to recover from childbirth, gives time for parent/child bonding to occur, and gives breast-feeding the best chance of success - without forcing mothers to endure economic hardship as a result.
Aside from addressing the discrimination many women suffer when they "seek to combine their re-productive and productive roles", the ACTU says there are significant economic benefits to its scheme.
According to ACTU president Sharan Burrow, the paid maternity leave scheme would deliver "significant economic benefits to employers who need to retain skilled employees while providing some much needed balance between work and family for many women, and their children and partners.
"Paid maternity leave is long overdue in Australia as we are one of the last countries in the developed world that still tolerates discrimination against women for having families," she says.
Nine months after Fastline Proprietary went belly-up, the first of 50 displaced workers are seeing some of their entitlements; but they are still being dudded up to eight weeks on redundancy.
TCFUA secretary, Barry Tubner, said the Fastline experience showed up "glaring inequities" in the Government's determination to have taxpayers fill the shoes of failed bosses.
Fastline went bust last September, leaving production manager, Tony Chia, to start again with the same machinery, in the same premises, but having flicked watered-down worker enititlements to the taxpayer.
"These people had been grossly underpaid, they hadn't received their super for 12 months before the union was alerted," TCFUA organiser Steve Davies reported.
He said the bureaucracy hurdles to extracting money out of the federal 'GEER' had proved almost insurmountable for the mainly Chinese, Vietnamese, Indonesian and East Timorese workforce.
They had been required to attend creditor's meetings or oganise proxies, then lodge proofs with the administrator or liquidator. If it hadn't been for the union, Davies argued, most of them would have walked away from the process.
"Most of these women marched alongside the Ansett workers, they were going down at the same time. Only now, this week, are they starting to see the first of their entitlements," he said.
Davies said, however quick GEER operated, the Marrickville workers were always going to be "robbed" because the Federal Government only pays eight weeks redundancy whereas they were entitled to up to 16, under the state award.
Labor Council will write to the Federal Government, urging 100 percent cover of entitlements when employers fold.
Secretary John Robertson said it was "ridiculous" for workers to have to wait nine months before collecting any of their entitlements..
Commission secretary Colin Thatcher's admission to Senate Estimates this week has prompted Labor Council to seek a public assurance from the Attorney General that telephone interception warrants are not being used to monitor conversations related to civil or industrial matters.
The Commission, set up to investigate "illegal or improper" activities in the building industry, has turned into a "show trial" of the country's largest construction union.
During five weeks in Sydney its public hearings concentrated almost wholly on alleged worker wrong doing.
Workplace Relations Minister Abbott bankrolled the commission to the tune of $60 million and put the services of the Federal Police, National Crime Authority, Office of the Employment Advocate and a phalanx of high-paid lawyers at its disposal.
He is paying Commissioner Terence Cole $660,000 a year, plus perks.
The Commission, itself, cannot obtain warrants under the Telecommunications (Interception) Act, but officers of the federal police and national crime authority can.
Besides admitting it has received information obtained under telecommunications interception warrants, the commission has refused to answer all questions concerning "operational matters".
Given the resources at its disposal, the commission came up with little evidence against union officials in Sydney that would stack up against objective analysis.
CFMEU organiser, Phil Davey, urged Labor Council delegates to get along to commission hearings when they return to town next month.
"It's certainly an experience," he said, "especially for those of us who have never seen a show trial before.
"Within a kilometre of the hearing there are almost certainly companies employing illegal immigrants, rorting tax and running phoenix operations but none of them are of any interest to these genius policemen.
"It turns out, they're too busy bugging us."
As drivers representatives screamed blue murder over their employer�s thumbs-down for early-morning beanies, Labor Council secretary John Robertson recalled that STA�s last foray into head fashion saw them ban Sikh workers from wearing turbans.
Labor Council is seeking an urgent meeting with Transport Minister Carl Scully to remonstrate over the "no beanies" edict, released last week.
"It's quite reasonable on a cold morning to be allowed to wear a beanie, especially one that's consistent with State Transit's uniform," Robertson argued.
The blue broke out as Sydney recorded its coldest morning of the year, with temperatures below zero as drivers started up buses for early-morning runs.
Drivers are particularly upset because one of their number went out and ordered blue beanies, complete with authority monicker, to fit in with State Transit uniforms. Drivers buy them for $20 a throw, with half the sale price being donated to the Children's Hospital.
A State Transit Authority spokesperson explained on 2BL this week that beanies were considered inappropriate because bus drivers were expected to convey a "corporate image" to the public.
"We want bus drivers to maintain a corporate look," she added.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union secretary Nick Lewocki threatened a campaign of civil disobedience if State Transit failed to "wake up to the cold light of day".
Early morning rail workers were already wearing multi-coloured beanies around city stations in defiance of the STA edict, he revealed.
"Coca-Cola seems to want to create an industrial fracas over this issue. After years of providing free tea, coffee and milk they've screwed down the lid on the tea and coffee jars," Brian Daley, LHMU Victoria Branch Secretary said.
The 120 LHMU members at the Moorabbin and Clayton sites have now signed individual letters authorising their union to negotiate for the return of this amenity.
Instead, Coke has announced its intention to install beverage vending machines.
The union has initiated a bargaining period and is seeking to do an enterprise bargain over milk, tea and coffee.
"Our members have collectively written to the company saying that if they want to create an issue then the return of the free tea, coffee, milk and hot water should be an enterprise agreement," Daley said.
"We believe Coke has breached our members' employment contracts because, without any discussions, they have reduced entitlements they have received for years.
"We are not prepared to let the company unilaterally remove a contractual condition.
" It really seems quite silly for the company to act in this way - or it maybe that it is deliberately trying to pick a fight over a small issue."
The Maritime Union of Australia says Bush is lending strong support to shipowners' efforts to dismantle effective international trade unionism, targeting the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union as part of an intense bid to further downgrade conditions of employment for dockworkers.
The ILWU is now facing an "enormous potential threat", according to the Maritime Union of Australia, which is urging NSW unions to show solidarity during the coming struggle.
MUA central NSW branch secretary Robert Coombs says the ILWU gave "tremendous support to Australian maritime workers during the Patrick dispute, including their action against the 'Columbus Canada' where the scab-loaded vessel was sent back to New Zealand during the dispute to be discharged and loaded again by union labour".
Unionists are invited to send emails of support to the ILWU at: [email protected]
Not Immigration Officials
Transport workers should not be expected to be immigration officers when confronted with asylum seekers attempting to cross borders, a meeting of European transport trade unionists heard this week.
At a meeting convened by the International Transport Workers' Federation
(ITF), trade union delegates from France, Belgium and the UK met to discuss
the particular problem of asylum seekers attempting to cross the English
Channel by rail link, but delegates from maritime, railway and airline
unions also contributed their experiences.
Delegates expressed concern that states, like the UK, imposed fines on
transport companies if asylum seekers managed to cross borders using their
transport. To avoid fines, companies have asked their employees to prevent
asylum seekers boarding, effectively making them immigration officers. In
road transport, sometimes fines have been passed onto workers themselves.
Delegates also said the safety and well being of transport workers was being
put at risk. Some had had to witness horrific accidents involving asylum
seekers attempting to board transport. Others had been threatened by
desperate asylum seekers fearing their attempt to cross a border would be
The meeting heard that it was a failure of governments to deal effectively
and humanely with asylum seekers that was contributing to problems for
The NSW government convened conference called together stakeholders from 11 industry groups to discuss and agree to recommendations for improving the occupational health and safety performance of each sector.
AMIEU organiser Patricia Fernandez said the summit went "a long way in repairing some of the damage caused by the introduction of the new Workers Compensation Act" and urged the government to "look carefully" at the recommendations made for WorkCover and the government.
Some of the recommendations included establishing a Safety Towns program across NSW and introducing an accreditation system for contractors undertaking government work.
"We call on the government to look carefully at such recommendations and put a plan together which will ensure that such recommendations are implemented," Fernandez said.
Unions also praised the NSW government's commitment to form a special taskforce within WorkCover to investigate workplace deaths.
Queensland Council of Union general secretary Grace Grace says the state government has set up the review without consulting unions.
A meeting this week passed resolutions condemning the Queensland government's approach to public sector bargaining and the setting up of a public sector bargaining review without consultation.
The resolution also states that public sector unions will not cooperate because:
- The QCU and Public Sector Unions have not been consulted over a possible review.
- The Terms of Reference of any review are not agreed Terms of Reference.
- In any event the Government's model would introduce a dual system.
"This appears to be a panic reaction from the Government resulting from the incompetence of the Government in their negotiations with nurses and other public sector unions," Grace says.
In a Pastoral Letter the chair of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, Bishop William Morris, highlights the increasingly insecure and precarious nature of employment for casuals, most of whom would prefer permanent employment on a full-time or part-time basis.
Bishop Morris points to the steady growth of casual employment to about 27 percent of the labour force.
"It is a matter of grave concern that between 1984 and 1997 over 60 percent of new jobs created were casual jobs," he writes in his Pastoral Letter.
An important development states Bishop Morris, is the increasing number of employees engaged as casuals for extended periods.
"Sometimes, these workers are mistakenly referred to as 'long-term' casuals when in fact they are more properly viewed as full-time or part-time employees," he writes.
"They are engaged as 'casual employees' but in fact work on a regular and systematic basis, sometimes under the same pattern for years.
"Such employees often have the same workplace continuity as their permanent counterparts, yet are engaged without the same entitlements, such as sick leave, holiday leave and parental leave."
The Pastoral Letter stresses Church teaching that work is the key to building a just society.
"As far as working conditions are concerned, arrangements should provide as extensive protection as is possible for the dignity, safety and health of workers, rather than being geared only towards the realisation of profits.
" Australia cannot be described as a fair society if a growing number of workers are engaged on an uncertain, irregular and insecure basis without access to the basic rights of more permanent workers.
"There is a place for casual employment, but not as a substitute for ongoing employment.
"Workers need to be able to make a free choice between casual and permanent employment conditions."
Church as an Employer
The Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations has just produced a useful resource to assist Church employers and managers to conduct employment relationships in a way that reflects the Church's own teachings in this area.
Copies of The Catholic Church as an Employer Today are available from the Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations at: [email protected]
Excerpted from Justice Trends the newsletter of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
It says a renewed commitment is needed to provide practical assistance to disabled workers - currently 10% of Australian workforce - and help must be provided where and when it is needed most.
Speaking at the ACTU's Workers With A Disability Conference, council president Sharan Burrow said workers with a disability were the "neglected sector", struggling to be heard while enduring discriminatory wages and conditions and often being forced to deal with on the job abuse.
Burrow said it was vital for unions, the government, employers, and community groups to work together to break down the barriers for workers with a disability.
She also praised IBM's diversity programs, which are given "focus and attention from the highest levels of the company".
IBM CEOs chair diversity councils that are established to integrate into the workplace people with disabilities.
The company has a recruitment process for sourcing and attracting people with disabilities and supports its program with flexible work practices and policies.
IBM also awards managers who help create an inclusive environment in their teams and runs a regular audit program to ensure all IBM buildings are accessible for people with a disability.
Burrow said the federal government's proposed changes to the disability support pension - which lowered the wage people could earn before losing their benefits - were evidence of its continuing lack of support for workers with a disability and said the ACTU was pleased to see the "cold and compassionless" budgetary cuts were currently under review.
Mehdi, an LHMU delegate with Complex Security Management, the company that provides security officers to the Gandel Group, owners of Chadstone and Northland, said members wanted the company to provide the shots as a matter of principle.
"It's a health and safety issue, so our employers should be responsible', " Mehdi said.
The company agreed to provide the shots after meeting with union representatives.
"LHMU members at other security companies should think about doing the same thing.
"A needlestick injury is certainly one of those things that you don't want to happen, but if it does then it's good to at least have protection against Hepatitis B.
"It's a very serious disease and the most common to be passed on in these kinds of injuries," Mehdi said.
Once, only doctors and nurses needed to worry about needlestick injuries, but now accidents like stepping on a discarded syringe worry many employees.
Recently, syringes have also been turned into weapons, which is a worry for security officers, shop assistants, bank staff, police and other frontline workers.
Wednesday Politics at Berkelouw
Organised by the Pluto Institute and the NSW Fabian Society.
70 Norton Street, Leichhardt
Wednesday, 17 July 2002
6.30 - 8.00 pm
Beyond Corporate Globalism: Is Another World Possible?
Launch of the new book from Pluto Press, Protest and Globalisation: Prospects for Transnational Solidarity
Public Interest Advocacy Centre and Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network.
Lecturer in Social Policy, University of Sydney
Professor of Politics and International Relations, University of NSW
James Goodwin (Chair)
Lecturer in Social Inquiry, University of Technology Sydney.
Wednesday, 7 August 2002
6.30 - 8.00 pm
Local Heroes: Australian Crusades from the Environmental Frontline
Seminar to launch the book that tells the story of ordinary people who become environmental heroes in taking on large corporations and governments to make their communities safer.
In the process of seeking justice, these citizens learned how to become passionate activists for disenfranchised communities and to articulate a vision for a cleaner planet.
The Ecopella Choir conducted by Miguel Heatwole will give a specail performance at the opening.
Refugee Rally in Solidarity with the Woomera Hungerstrikers
Wednesday 17 July 2002, 12.30 pm
Martin Place, Sydney (Pitt Street Intersection)
Organised by the Refugee Action Collective. For more information Ian on 0417 275 713.
Crisis in Corporate Governance - Ansett, HIH, One.Tel
Sydney Politics in the Pub
26 July 2002, 6.00 pm
Gaelic Club, 64 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
Hear Stephen Mayne, Publisher of www.crikey.com.au, discuss the crisis in Corporate Governance.
See http://www.politicsinthepub.org for more details.
Here is the text of my letter providing a critique of Mark Latham's stand on "aspirational voters".
Latham - Leader or follower?
Having been returned to the front-bench as the ALP "head-kicker", Mark Latham has made a habit of attracting headlines for his often weird and always, in his opinion, wonderful ideas. Unfortunately his ideas are almost always either recycled from his first-year economics textbooks, copied from similar policies employed in the USA, or strongly against the interests of working Australians.
In the first category is his idea for "education endowments" that parents could contribute to and which children can only access once they reach 18. More concerning is his continued advocacy for the ALP to adopt a policy approach to attract "aspirational" voters and his repeated claims that it is for politicians to follow, rather than lead, public opinion. It is the conflating of these beliefs that makes Mark Latham a potentially very damaging influence on public policy in Australia.
Latham's enthusiasm for the aspirational voter was demonstrated, once again, on the Sunday program of June 30, when he took the Channel 9 journalist to an up-market housing estate within his electorate and stated that the labor party should be "putting the next rung on the ladder for these people". He also stated that his branch of the ALP would have "cheered" a decade ago if someone had told them "this would be the way working people would be living in 10 years time".
One failure in Latham's logic is demonstrated by his own words. It is doubtful that the cheering at his local ALP branch would have been quite so loud if they were told the awful truth: this is the way working people will be living in 10 years time and they will still not be satisfied. They still want to stomp on the heads of the underprivileged to further their own materialistic instincts!
This is also where the conflating of Latham's belief system becomes very dangerous. A certain (unmeasured) proportion of his constituency has developed Gordon Gecko "greed is good" tendencies. A politician faced with such a situation has three choices. Embrace and encourage the will of the constituency, ignore the constituency and pursue policies that ensure the greatest good for the largest number, or attempt to convince the constituency of the error of their ways.
Mark Latham has quite obviously adopted the first of the possible strategies, which is consistent with his view that a politician should be a follower, rather than a leader. By embracing and encouraging materialist values Latham is pushing his constituency to the shallow end of the lake. A psychology that places physical possessions above the higher-order human needs is damaging to both the individual with a materialistic affliction and also damaging to those without the ability to acquire such physical possessions.
For my former students in the Accounting and Finance faculty at Macquarie University, being possessed with a materialistic affliction usually meant subjecting themselves to employment by Macquarie Bank, Arthur Anderson, Anderson Consulting, or KPMG. My straight-A students would then proceed to work 12 hours days, often including Saturdays, for pay of about $35,000 per year.
The firms would brainwash them into believing that they would ALL be partners "within 12 years". My objections regarding the mathematical impossibility of such an outcome were always readily ignored. A firm with several thousand partners? The usual outcome for such students was burnout after three years, often coinciding with a sudden realisation that partnership was not a forgone conclusion.
The damaging influence of the materialist infliction upon middle-aged Australians manifests in ballooning household debt and divorce rates. Official statistics show an incredible blowout in credit card debt in the past 5 years. The average size of mortgages has also experienced a massive jump in recent years. Much of this money has obviously been ploughed into European taxicabs to park in the driveways of newly renovated houses. The social impact of such indebtedness is demonstrated by evidence suggesting that disagreements about money are one of the two main factors that lead to the breakdown of relationships. We only hope that the BMW and the renovations impressed their neighbours / relatives / friends whilst their marriages lasted!
The materialistic affliction clearly works in the employer's favour, by throwing a ready supply of cheap labour in their direction. Doyen of the finance industry in Sydney, Bill Norton, liked to sum up this tendency in intelligent working class kids as "being hungry". I was once described by Mr. Norton as "hungry" myself! I got off lightly. John Hewson was told: "I know every economist of substance, but I don't know you".
The damaging impact of materialist influences is readily obvious to those with knowledge of the economics of development. In South America and Africa it is apparently not uncommon to find starving families consuming expensive luxury products marketed by American multinational firms. I have personally witnessed a similar effect in several Western Sydney households. It is not at all uncommon to find a family surviving on a Salvation Army food hamper with a $20,000 home entertainment system, Nike shoes and designer clothes. Even more ubiquitous are the unemployed single people with massive wardrobes of expensive designer clothes and shoes. It is very common for such people to go without food for several days, or to be unable to afford essential university textbooks, due to their insatiable desire for designer-wear.
The behavioural patterns I have witnessed, and outlined above, are termed "emulative" by development economists. Poor people emulate the external appearance of the wealthy when popular culture has decided that a display of wealth demonstrates the dominance (or "success") of a certain member of society. Poor people cannot be criticised for this behaviour. It may even be the best possible course of action for a person faced with a strongly materialistic culture. At least one female acquaintance of mine claims she was "snubbed", at a Labor-left function, by another friend of mine, because her clothing was not suitably elaborate! A reasonable level of financial expediture is obviously required to achieve social acceptance, even in otherwise open-minded forums.
Labor leaders should not be encouraging materialism and snobbery. Turning to the alternatives, I have said that we can ignore the aspirational voter, or try to convince them of the error of their ways. Twenty years ago Australian culture strongly embraced the later of these choices. Gratuitous displays of wealth were generally considered crass and would probably have the new owner of a European car labelled a "wanker". Not exactly the desired effect! Whilst a return to that type of culture would be refreshing, the middle choice is probably the most desirable from a political viewpoint for three reasons:
1. The liberals will always have more to offer the aspirational voter than does labor. They will always be able to offer bigger tax-cuts for business, lower taxes on luxury goods and better middle-class income tax cuts. The cut in the tax on luxury goods from 32% Sales Tax to 10% under the GST is a prime example.
2. We could attempt to convince the aspirational voter of the errors of their materialistic inclinations, but this would be a high risk strategy. This would involve appealing to the compassionate side of their personalities to convince them that "extending the hand back" to help their poorer brothers and sisters is more desirable than simply accumulating more "stuff". Our current political leaders probably lack the oratorical skills to successfully pursue such a strategy.
3. The aspirational voters may not be large in number. The 1990 World Values survey showed a majority of people in developed countries have post-materialist values, and that the trend is running against materialism. Assuming that this applies equally to Australia, and that Australia continues to experience economic growth and development, materialists should be a shrinking minority.
In conclusion, materialism is a very damaging influence on society in Western Sydney. By encouraging materialism Mark Latham is damaging the interests of the aspirational voters themselves, who should be encouraged to pursue higher-order satisfaction, such as financial security and healthy relationships, rather than expansive houses and the ownership of European taxicabs. He is also damaging his wider constituency by making a majority of people less satisfied with their socio-economic status. Mark Latham: Leader or follower?
Darren Magennis B.Ec(Hons)
Have you noticed that, despite seven successive cuts to income tax rates and a strong economy, every social program, from subsidised medicines to care for the disabled, now seems to be unsustainable?
Perhaps the real reason for this sudden concern for the sustainability of programs is to lay the groundwork for the inevitiable rise in the rate of GST, from 10% to 15% or 20%. There is a view amongst many economists that, at the current rate of 10%, the bureaucratic costs of collection do not make the GST worthwhile.
Union leaders should respond strongly the next time any Liberal Minister claims that any existing government programs are unstainable.
The recent statements by Senator Amanda Vanstone in her speech to the Australian Legal Education Forum in Adelaide, on support for an Australian Republic, must fill al Monarchists with euphoria. With politicians such as the good Senator advocating a Republic we are assured of mediocrity in this campaign of change for the sake of change.
Even Bonnie Prince Charlie the multicultural, Defender of all faiths and master of none has now,a chance of being King of Australia, although my money is on William V being the next King of not only the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland but also Australia.
It was also a revelation to see the humorous side of the Senator, as she paradoxically, stated
"The monarchical system jars against the Australian sense of merit."
If this is the reality! Why is Amanda a Senator, or is this statement, in reality a reflection on the Australia senate?
The senator also made comment on their abilities;
"All they have ever done is their job," she said.
And I say to the Senator "A lot better, and with more empathy with the common people, than you have done yours!"
A comment on something the Libs have overlooked in their quest for the Liberal "Holy Grail" (voluntary self funded slaves)
Unlike their misguided view of life, we in Australia WORK FOR A LIVING, we do not LIVE FOR WORK.
Therein lies a basic difference in business operators and "EMPLOYEES".
We rent our time and skill to obtain a reasonable life for "OUR FAMILIES" not the employers.
Employers only hire a person if it will make them a "PROFIT".
What is wrong with the employee doing the same?
We work to enhance our lives and in doing so we, through "OUR SKILL" bring wealth and prosperity to those we "CHOOSE" to rent our labour to.
Tony Abbott would have us believe that we should be grateful to have a job.
I say we are the skilled workers that he and his unions (employers and chambers of commerce etc.)need to make the country work.
We are the ones with the ability make laws through OUR politicians that will leave Abbott and such greedy heartless tyrants on the other end of the stick.
Abbott follows Howard's style of Divide, Start several fights and asign blame to workers.
This has to addressed and reversed if we are to move forward as skilled work force in a 'Clever Country".
I asked Ursula Stephens, at a recent dinner where she was speaking, What will the federal labor party do to ensure state Labor Premiers can never send mounted police against a picket line as happened in Victoria.
She had no answer, but agreed something must be done.
These and many other issues including instruction for our own pollies on the "Separation of Powers ACT" that supposedly stops ministers interfering with the police and Judiciary and vice versa.
I hope we can someday all be working towards a better and smarter future.
Fighting achieves nothing but negotiation and compromise by all parties achives continued prosperity for all.
by Peter Lewis
There's been a wave of corporate collapses around the world, is capitalism in crisis?
In January I was at the World Economic Forum, there was an obvious kind of cautionary note in the language of business that I've not seen in previous forums. I think now with Worldcom, with the threat to social democracy, more broadly in Europe, making business and government nervous. It matches the feel of people who are nervous about the implications of globalisation like the mobility of labour and loss of identity. Right across the globe, there are degrees of uncertainty.
Has there, at this stage been a coordinated global union response to these collapses?
There is ongoing work from global unions in regard to how you manage social responsibility within the business community, capitalism and multinational corporations more broadly. For example, we have endorsed the Global Compact, which lays out nine principals supporting a base of decency for multinational corporations. The global reporting initiative is to report on the indicators that they believe businesses should report against and the UN has sponsored that work. Now I can't pretend to accept the unions will be happy with the degree of toughness of those indicators, but at least the cultural shift is there.
If I just go back to the World Economic Forum in January, what was most interesting was if you like, the difference in approach from the investment community and from business. In business there's still a bit of gung-ho, "we're going to tell them we're terrific" attitude. The investment community on the other hand, are saying well, wait a minute, we need to make sure that we look after our shareholders, that investment is secure, that they're confident that their money's being used for socially responsible and secure financial investments.
How much responsibility do the union representatives on industry super funds have to play? They are part of the game that's demanded these double digits profits every year. Have they been pushing an unsustainable agenda as well?
The superannuation industry argues that if you take a long term view, the decline in the equities market for the last 12 months is not something that they're pleased about, but that it is in the context of profits being made over a decade. I think that they are very cautious about looking at the analysis to see how you secure investment returns. I don't doubt that anybody could confidently argue that they would be as expectant of those huge returns as we had been in the mid 90's to the late 90s. I think more people are going to be more cautious and be looking for sustainability, even if it's at a lower return.
Pension funds do though, don't they, have an incredible amount of power in the global economy. Is their discussion internationally amongst unions on what can be done to maybe take a bit more control back in the way the system works?
The ICFTU has a committee called the Worker's Capital Committee. It's particularly popular in North America where unions have been far more aggressive about using the power of pension funds and the union's stake in pension funds on behalf of their members, to bring about cultural shifts in the way the investment managers make decisions. For example AFL-CIO has a key vote survey, where if you get less than a certain rating about the way you vote, then you're not seen to be a good investment manager on behalf of working people. We've also seen a lot more stakeholder activitism, such as against Unical, which is the major energy company in Burma. This was based on the democracy struggle as the use of forced labour in breach of ILO standards. It was a deliberate strategy undertaken globally but managed by the US unions, and they got 35% of the vote. That's historic, that's what you call not yet a majority but a critical mass. And it is shocking for corporations, because they suddenly realise we're serious about this.
Now this stands to what John Howard has been saying recently, that basically as a bit of warning to Alan Fells, we shouldn't confuse robust business activity, I thinks the phrase he used, with crime and fraud. Now I don't know what the message is there, but it seems to me that it's almost a reindorsement of Tony Abbot's bad boss, bad father stuff. The attitude seems to be: look, a bit of this will go on, but business has got to be let loose, it is from their perspective, letting business, and particularly multinational corporations operate in an unfettered way.
Now nobody should be above the law, and that's our message as international unionists. There are laws around Trade Practices Act and corporations but there are also ethical standards which are becoming community law and people who invest and the stakeholders in partnership want to see companies act responsibly.
But that is a pervasive view isn't it? That we've got to turn a blind eye because it's better to have dodgy investments than no investments?
I don't think a civilised world can operate on that basis. If we were to say the law of the jungle rules, whether it's in your private life, in your community life, or indeed in the world of business, then we might as give up. That's why you have democracies underpinned by the rule of law. The ugly end of globalisation, which is unfettered multinational power, must be tempered by the demands of the people: ethical investment, social responsibility, sustainability, triple bottom line, whatever you call it, the push is on. At the end of the day, what they mean is that people want companies to act decently in regard to respecting human life, to ensure labour rights are adhered to and to protect our environment.
What about the issue of executive pay, is the big push into share options, actually something that's adding to the instability of the system?
No question, executive salaries are out of control, and I think you'll even find Australian CEOs are starting to hold that view themselves. But the trend toward share options or stock options as part of your salary package is a concern. If you just take the finance sector, every time you cut staff your the shares went up. Well that's got to be a conflict of interests, its got to add to instability, and at some point adding shareholder value is not sustainable at the kind of double digit figures that we were talking about previously. Of course, the equities market has shown that in the last 12 months, almost nobody has made a sustainable profit, certainly not a profit over above two or three per cent.
We're seeing domestically the Labor Party really have a struggle trying to work out what they stand for. Is that something that is consistent with the experience of other left leaning parties around the world?
You'd have to be concerned, you'd have to think social democracy is in need of resuscitation, if not in its very death throws? I know that sounds extreme, but something is going on where politicians and political parties are not able to communicate ideas on the subject of opening our borders, on the subject of the best part of internationalisation, on the subject of mobility of labour. You can't be totally critical of what some of those European democracies have tried to do, and yet people are buying the same messages here of fear and insecurity that John Howard's pedalling. So it's close your borders, retain your own currency because that somehow defines your identity. We've got to work out how you exist in a multi cultural world, where diversity is respected, but where people are able to live in harmony and coexist. Whether that's in the world of business, across borders or whether it's just in our communities.
So what is the response from a social democratic perspective?
Transparency. Because governments have increasingly failed to debate, almost are frightened to debate the issue with people, then they alienate themselves from people. We've not had a debate here based on any set of pros and cons about the broader refugee issue. We've not had a debate about what our government is negotiating in terms of free trade agreements with Singapore or Thailand or New Zealand. You'd have to ask why that is, and largely it's because governments are either becoming increasingly arrogant or they're frightened of debating those issues with people, because people will say no.
Well that's what a democracy is, I mean if people don't say no, then those of us who might agree or disagree have a right to express a view and through leadership you can change people's perceptions. Now, we need to do a lot of debating about free trade because nobody can shut they're borders to trade, just as in my view, we can't shut our borders to people. But we do have a right as a nation to protect public services, to make sure that there are level playing fields in regards to human rights and labour standards, and that our environments protected and those values should underpin whatever we decide the Australian people will tolerate in terms of open market.
The debate at the moment about the relationship between, about the ALP and how much influence unions have, have you had any feedback from union membership on their attitudes towards to union's link to the ALP?
I think you'd find a mixed debate about the ALP and the union relationship right across the country. But if you go back to the history of why the Labor Party was formed, unions formed the Labor Party because they recognised that the industrial advocacy that unions could implement wasn't enough; that you needed to marry that industrial representation and advocacy with public policy and legislation that can only be generated through government. The needs of working people would only be delivered by a government in tune with working people and that was through a Labor government. The conditions that existed to underscore that partnership haven't changed today. Many of the issues are the same: a decent living wage, reasonable hours of work, how to balance work and family, how to provide opportunity for your children and yourselves through public education, whether the public health guarantees them.
While some of the issues may have shifted, the demands are the same. We want a decent society, we've got to have people who understand the needs of working folk and you're not going to get that from Tony Abbot and John Howard. They've attacked everybody from single mums to people on disability pensions, unions are now fairly in their sights and they don't even believe that you should have a fair industrial relations context, where people are able to bargain together, to bargain collectively, for a fair share of the wealth that they helped to generate. So, is the argument the same? Not entirely. But is it still necessary to have party of Labor, a party that represents the needs of working people? In my view, absolutely. In the view of union leaders, absolutely. So if that means again we have to debate those issues with the membership, well then we should be doing that.
Finally, we've got one former ACTU president in the hot seat, weighing up all these issues at the moment, how would you be playing it if you were there?
Well, I don't think that's a reality. I'm not, and I don't expect to ever be. I think the one thing that's really good about having Simon Creen in that position, is he has been in this chair, he has had the responsibility for leading the union movement and he understands that in order to represent the needs of working people you have to sit down and work out what the priorities are, and how you best implement them. He's worked both in this position, with ex prime ministers and of course he's been part of the Labor team in Opposition. So in terms of experience, in terms of background, you'd have to say we expect that he will remember his roots, that he will continue to be proud of this relationship with the unions and continue to see it as the fundamental part of the Labor Party.
Outwork and the textile, clothing and footwear industries seem inextricably intertwined. Consumer and NGO pressure do make some impact, as the concessions of Nike to the NikeWatch campaigns show (although they do their best to claim good practice whilst blaming their contractors for poor conditions for workers). Naomi Klein has shown brilliantly in No Logo how these companies work and now the new internationalist movement is starting to find ways of combating them.
That the problems remain is shown in a recent article from Morocco where the working conditions of workers in the TCF industry are deteriorating. The general secretary of the Morocco Labour Union (UMT), Khadija Rhamiri says that most female workers earn less than the minimum wage and are not registered with the national social security fund. Many work more than 48 hours per week and do unpaid overtime on top. Sanitary and safety conditions are appalling. Over 80% of workers in the TCF industry are women and many work for family-run businesses where there is no attempt to abide by labour codes. If workers do form a union, the bosses immediately declare ar and fire all union members. They also close factories illegally and set up another one down the road. Many female workers, particularly in the carpet industry are under 12 years of age and are not allowed to pursue apprenticeships. Rhamiri says that some employers bring in armed mercenaries to deal with unions. In China manufacturers often pay about 13 cents per hour to a seemingly unlimited flow of workers moving into manufacturing zones from the country, considerably less than the legal minimum of 33 cents per hour.
In Australia we don't reach that level but sweatshops are all too common. An estimated 300,000 workers are employed as fashion outworkers, many working long hours at very low rates in poor conditions. This is despite many attempts by unions and government to regulate the industry. The NSW government has release a report, Behind the Label, in the latest attempt to deal with the problem. The aim is to pressure retailers to deal only with ethical subcontractors. There is a new code of conduct and a plan to name and shame those who do not abide.
An Ethical Clothing Council with representatives from unions and the government has been established and the code of conduct is a step up from the previous code, developed in 1996. The previous code did little for outworkers, despite the best intentions of its originators. Alistair Greig has been closely involved in the development of the new code, and points to the problems of the industry and how to tackle them in the latest Journal of Australian Political Economy.
Greig looks at the key participants in the clothing commodity chain and goes on to argue the need for manufacturers and large retailers to take on greater responsibility. He also strongly argues the case for government to take greater responsibility for regulating wages and conditions.
A legislative approach has been tried over recent years whereby outworkers have been deemed employees. However subcontractors have been able to continue to mask the real relationship with their employees so that they appear for legal purposes to be self-employed. Some outworkers do feel that they make more money this way too.
The post-Fordist views of the late 1980s and early 1990s also tended to inform those involved in plans for the textile industry at the time. The TCF Plan was seen as a way to "shake out" the industry. Lower tariffs were supposed to drive out low quality, low unit cost manufacturing and replace it with a leaner meaner high quality approach. The union endorsed tis approach too, showing a sadly touching faith in market rationality. Capital and knowledge intensive work was the way of the future.
Subsequent reports from the Evatt Foundation, NSW DIR and the Victorian government have confirmed that outwork remains a big structural component of the textile industry.
The growth of outwork has been a viable response to the free trade, deregulation agenda, according to Greig. Factors that ensure this is so include:
� The assembly stage of the commodity chain requires a sowing machine that individual workers hire or purchase. Clothing components are very transportable and seasonal fluctuations in demand all go making small scale production an attractive option
� Outworkers and child care go together for employers (they don't have to worry) and employees (who can't afford child carer places)
� Outwork has always relied on a pool of new migrant labour who are faced with various problems in the standard labour market - ie language barriers, lack of knowledge, discrimination and recently changes to social security which makes it harder to access welfare
Asian Women at Work quite rightly claim that these factors make it necessary to treat outwork as a social problem, not just an industrial one.
Stuart Rosewarne in the late 1980s wrote in the Journal of Political economy of the way large retailers dominated suppliers in the clothing industry. This remains the case with the clothing industry classified as buyer-driven. Coles-Myer and Woolies dominate. The SMH this week have been highlighting the same companies dominance of food markets, a more recent development. They have also become clothing label owners in their own right, importing directly.
The TCF Plan had assumed manufacturers would exit the low cost areas. Hey did in a sense. As Naomi Klein outlined in No Logo, they stopped being manufacturers themselves and got others to bear that cost and risk. Thus they have been evading responsibility for the way in which goods are made. They say they are not in a position to verify whether their subcontractors are employing outworkers. Greig says that there is no reason to doubt that the retailers can possess the knowledge of their production and distribution networks necessary to ensure the products are produced in fair circumstances.
Katie Franklin has recently run a good series on the problem (see http://abc.net.au/news/indepth/featureitems/s582846.htm) on the ABC website. She also highlights the success of the Melbourne retailer and Manufacturer Hunter gatherer who do produce clothing and accessories ethically, to the horror of rivals.
Compliance with the fairwear approach has been a big issues since the TCF unions and allies launched it some years ago. The is one reason why the NSW government has been active on this issue and the reason for the launch of the newer No Sweatshop label http://www.nosweatshoplabel.com/
The proposals point out that the free market approach has been a failure. Focusing on transparency they can expose the bad faith of retailers and others in the clothing commodity chain. Manufacturers and retailer highlight this point by the old threat of "capital flight". This emphasises the need for a co-ordinated approach at least across Australia to address outworkers exploitation.
Governments and commissions have commended a national code around the No Sweatshop label. However it remains voluntary. Unions and supporters see it as a necessary but insufficient mechanism to improve conditions. It's only effective if it has universal support. The Australian Retailers Association has already withdrawn. Only 4 of the original 140 firms who had signed on to the original code of practice has signed on for accreditation by March 2001, with 5 more beginning the process.
The NSW legislative approach included:
� An ethical clothing council that has a broad function to make recommendations and makes quarterly reports
� Has a responsibility to report on the efficacy of industry compliance with voluntary mechanisms
� Provision for enforcement of obligations imposed by the code
� Amends the IR Act to allow recovery of unpaid remuneration by "self-employer" outworkers
Voluntarism remains an issue but it has acted to heighten awareness by government and consumers.
Consumer action via Fairwear has been a significant factor for some years, and some successes by public protest and lobbying have been chalked up. International consumer lobbying is also a part of this, and international labour codes have had some impact on clothing manufacturers worldwide. NGOs and campaigns such as NikeWatch and other US based anti sweatshop moves (from some US universities especially) have been important factors in keeping the issues to the fore.
The major changes still have to come at the point of production, a lesson for all social movements who tend to discount the role of real people at the "coalface" as it were. Manufacturers and retailers have been reforming the commodity chain by Quick Response and Supply Chain Management and have made big steps in quality assurance and accountability. The have been far less willing to act on the situation of workers who d the actual manufacturing and assembly.
Each part of the campaign for outwork reform is necessary but is in itself insufficient to ensure wage justice and better conditions for workers. Union and consumer action, codes of practice and the actions of some manufacturers and retailers are great beginnings but national and international co-ordination remain the keys.
Greig, Alistair (2002). The Struggle for Outwork reform in the Australian Clothing Industry. in; Journal of Australian Political Economy no. 49, June.
Lamont, C�celia (2002) Morocco: the textile industry goes underground. in; Trade Union World, no. 6, June.
Klein, Naomi (2001). No Logo (Flamingo)
Rosewarne, Stuart. Retailing in the 80s (two articles); in; Journal of Australian Political Economy a few years ago now.
Boxall entered the contest with dual nominations from the CPSU and LHMU and backers attributed his success to "a thoroughgoing commitment to bastardary".
It is in his professional role that Boxall has raised the hackles of CPSU members, most recently in an aggressive push for a non-union enterprise agreement which it is claimed will cut conditions whilst delivering an "inadequate" wage rise.
Boxall has been accused of "spamming" employees after sending unsolicited emails, urging acceptance of his agreement. Boxall's emails used individuals pay records in an effort to argue they would be better off.
Dozens of concerned staff have objected to the CPSU while others have taken their concerns to MPs and the Australian Electoral Commission, which is running ballots on the proposal.
"The fact that this blatant push-polling is happening at the same time as delegates are being obstructed from distributing the alternative viewpoint highlights just how desperate DEWR management is," according to the CPSU's Jenness Gardner.
She said members were referring to Boxall's actions as an "invasion of privacy" and an "appalling misuse of personal information".
"It's no wonder Tony Abbott is such an expert on bad bosses. He's got one running his own department."
According to the Public Sector Informant, Boxall's beer money offer is the subject of a champagne bet between himself and fellow big-dollar mandarin, Peter Shergold.
Shergold, who failed to get an LK agreement up when he sat in Boxall's chair, has bet the current encumbent a bottle of French champagne that he will be no more successful this time around.
In his previous role, as Finance Department secretary, Boxall won a national outsourcing award. That award, jointly sponsored by F Corbett & Associates and Business Process Outsourcing, recognised his efforts in farming out corporate support activities to multi-national PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Interestingly, the sponsors, Business Process Outsourcing, were, in fact, an arm of the PricewaterhouseCoopers operation.
But that's not all.
In his spare time Boxall tries to shaft domestic workers on behalf of one of the nation's upper-crust private schools.
Boxall was a board member of Canberra's elite, Church of England Girls Grammar School, when it tried to contract out the jobs of long-serving catering, domestic and maintainence staff last year.
The school, which charges fees of $6000 - $10,000 a year, tried to flick their work to commercial giant, Spotless, sparking a major row with the LHMU.
The move came after the 35 workers went public about a long-standing overtime row with the board.
We can promise our readers that if Boxall gets up for the Worker Online Bad Boss gong there will be no conflict of interest in the judging. Then again, he won't be receiving a bottle of French champagne either.
`The Right Wing Won't Write' - Labour History in 1962
The first issue of Labour History, then called the Bulletin of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, appeared in January 1962. There were to be two more produced in 1962, one in May and one in November. This commemorative note looks at these first three issues and the circumstances surrounding their publication.
Bob Gollan and other labour historians established the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History in a lecture room at the University of Queensland in Brisbane in May 1961. The meeting was held against the background of a Congress of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS).
British labour historians formed a similar society in 1960 and the visit to Australia of its inaugural president, Asa Briggs, encouraged the Australians to form their own society. Australia's political and intellectual environment also assisted the foundation of the Society. The conservative ascendency in Australian post-war politics heightened the need for historians to assist the labour movement by examining the `lessons of history' and highlighting the positive contribution of labour to Australian society. Further the decline of the Communist Party in Australia and Britain had resulted in the disarray of the Left. The weakening of ideological divisions also encouraged dialogue between Marxist and non-Marxist labour historians. The Australian society provided a focal point for labour historians and drew in political scientists and industrial relations practitioners. As Robin Gollan later noted, `the Labour History Society was a kind of popular front, politically and intellectually'. While the use of `labour' rather than `labor' in the name of the Society reflected a preference for the English rather than US spelling, there was a desire avoid the Society being viewed as an `offshoot' or `adjunct' of the Australian Labor Party.
The Society was based at the Australian National University (ANU) and published the first issue of its journal, the Bulletin of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, in January 1961. An important objective of the Bulletin was to combat the `yawning chasm' of writings on Australian labour history. The founders of the Bulletin did not see it as a rival to established journals such as Historical Studies, but as covering an underdeveloped niche in Australian history. The Bulletin also provided an important medium for information on the Society's activities. There was an interest in developing a bulletin for Society news and a separate academic journal, but this was viewed as beyond the Society's resources. Eric Fry, from the History Department at the ANU, was the editor of the first three issues.
In the first issue of the Bulletin, Gollan, the inaugural president of the Australian Society, reviewed the state of Australian labour history. He expressed concern about its narrow limits - the emphasis on biography and political history. However, he noted that there was still work to be done even here. For example, there were no suitable biographies of trade union leaders. Gollan called for a broader approach that included the social history of the working class, class relations, the history of popular culture and histories of major trade unions.
Given Gollan's call for a broader approach, what did the first three issues contain? Excluding Gollan's review, there were 12 articles, the focus of which was generally on the history of the Australian labour movement. Bede Nairn looked at the labour movement in NSW in the 1870s, while Joe Harris provided a brief sketch of the labour movement in Queensland before 1920. Ian Turner examined socialist political tactics from 1900-20, and J. Robertson looked at the internal politics of state Labor in WA 1911-16. Sam Merrifield, Victorian Labor parliamentarian and labour history stalwart, examined the Melbourne Anarchist Club 1886-91. Echoing the contemporary interest by Australian labour historians in local labour history, Geoffrey Bolton looked at the arrival of the labour movement in Charters Towers, Queensland, during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. There were three biographical pieces looking at George Beeby, George Foster Pearce and Peter Tyler, the `first known trade union secretary' in Australia.
Bill Wood, whose father, Professor George Wood of the University of Sydney had taken a controversial stance opposing the Boer War, examined the anti-war movement against the Sudan contingent of 1885. Fred Wells explored the King Street Riot, which occurred in Sydney during the 1949 Coal Strike. Len Fox provided a cultural dimension by examining the early Australian May Days. There were bibliographies drawn from Historical Studies, The Economic Record and the Royal Australian Society Journal and Proceedings. Labour History was a male domain at that time: men wrote all the articles, while Miriam Dixson, a research scholar in history at the ANU, Jill Eastwood, a history tutor at the University of Melbourne, and Mollie Lukis, a librarian at the J.S. Battye Library in Perth, contributed bibliographical material. Of the authors of the thirteen articles, seven were academics and six non-academics.
The early leaders of the Society were concerned that the Bulletin should achieve a political balance, and a balance between academics and non-academics. There were concerns that to maintain the `popular front' underpinning the Society there had to a balance between the Left and Right. The Society had always to be `broad' and `open to all strands in the labour movement'. Eric Fry, the first editor, noted that the political balance was difficult because the `right wing won't write'. Despite this, Fry argued that to ensure neutrality it was necessary to create a forum to canvass debates and replies. In order to achieve this, the early editors were prepared to accept material written by non-academics, as some members of the Society perceived academics to be drawn largely from the Left. There was an informal understanding that the Bulletin would receive 50 per cent of its material from non-academics.
The early editors were not in a position where they could pick and choose and they had to make the best of what they received. There were few scholars around then researching labour history and the editors had to scout around for people doing interesting research. This meant `painstaking' work to ensure that non-academic authors were brought up to a `useful standard of scholarship'. This care helped the Society and its journal survive accusations of being a Communist front in 1964 by the Crucible, a publication of the ANU Labor Club, and the resignation of Bruce Shields, its first Secretary, `who used the cry of anti-communism to justify his dissension'.
There were other problems with the early issues including financial and publication concerns. Individuals gave donations to get the journal started, and while the ANU assisted with postage costs for the early issues, this dried up at the end of 1962. There were complaints from libraries and bibliographers that the Bulletin's full title was too clumsy. Eric Fry suggested the shortening of the title to Labour History, which was adopted for the fourth issue in May 1963. Volunteer labour was used for the first three issues which were roneoed and collated by hand. There were no satisfactory printers in Canberra and the local Canberra Times printers produced little confidence because of continued typographical errors in each issue of the newspaper and issue no. 4 of the journal was printed at the Richmond Chronicle in Melbourne. Despite these early problems, the optimism of the journal's founders was to be rewarded as the journal in 2002 celebrates its fortieth year with the publication of Labour History, no. 82.
On-line Access to Labour History
Labour History has joined the History Co-operative, which will provide an online edition of the full text of each issue. Subscribers will continue to receive their print edition, but will have the benefits of a digital edition as well. This will begin officially in the 2002-2003 subscription year (issues 83 and 84), but there will be a trial run with this issue (Labour History, no.82, May 2002).
What are the benefits? Through the History Co-operative's website, individual subscribers will be able to select individual terms or sets of words to search the content of the issue, and previous digitised issues, as well as being able to broaden the search to other journals in the History Co-operative. These currently include The American Historical Review as well as our sister journal Labour/Le Travail. The site also produces an automatic citation of an article for users. Only individual subscribers, and those who access the site through an IP address at a subscribing institution (for example, an academic or public library) will obtain these benefits.
Non-subscribers will be able to access the table of contents of each issue, and if they want to access the full text purchase an online Research Pass (currently $US10.00 for two hours access).
By joining the History Co-operative our journal will be making its scholarship available in a new medium, in association with leading international scholarly journals and publishers of history.
There will be no increase in the subscription for individual subscribers, trade unions or secondary schools. However, because university and public libraries that subscribe to Labour History will have the capacity to make the journal available online to their readers (who will be able to download the journal), there will be an increase in the subscription rate to these institutions, in line with the practice of commercial publishers of journals.
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The template for it was created way back in 1917 when the United States entered World War I in response to an earlier three-headed Axis of Evil. Despite its instinctive isolationism, pro-war unity was achieved in ragtime America when Germany, Japan and Mexico seemed to be about to violate its sacred soil.
The events of 1917 are a classic example of presidential politics at work. Befitting their significance, they are well covered in the American writer Barbara Tuchman's classic 1959 book The Zimmermann Telegram. Now lately and happily republished, it is an all too timely work. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the provenance of the war on terror.
Tuchman's wartime presidential protagonist is Woodrow Wilson. Though a high-minded domestic reformer, Wilson as a Democrat politician was an acquired taste. He became president in 1912 because of a split in the Republican Party. His reelection was determined, Bush-like, by voters in a single sunny state (California).
Wilson was narrowly reelected because he had kept America out of the murderous European war. But in April 1917 he was transformed into an international caped crusader and world saviour who was bent on waging war against war.
Tuchman shows how this change in direction resulted from the stalemate on the Western Front. Germany, in desperation, was forced to contemplate the use of unrestricted submarine warfare. The danger was that this strategy would drive neutral America into the Allied camp.
Needing to create a diversion, Germany dreamt up an imaginative scenario beginning with a hoped for pact with Mexico, the victim of many an American land grab. Texas, Arizona and New Mexico were offered as bait. The third member of this projected alliance was to be Japan, long irked by racist policies in America. If threatened from the south and west, America would not be able to fight in France.
In Berlin Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann sent a telegram setting out this bold strategy to Germany's Ambassador in Mexico. This was a fatal step because Western intelligence, though far smaller, was much more effective in 1917 than in 2001. The British, having broken into the German codes, decoded the telegram. It was released to the media and, once verified, aroused furious indignation in America.
America was all too willing to believe that Japan planned to colonise its Pacific coast and take over the Panama Canal. Mexico was another stressor. It was the Afghanistan of 1917, great power interference fuelling local nationalist irritation. Threats to America's interests, including access to oil, had already inspired a military expedition to hunt down the obligatory elusive and exotic villain (Pancho Villa).
Zimmermann was a diplomatic dud. His telegram created unanimity in America where it had not existed before. Its midwestern heartland, in particular, was deeply isolationist. Milwaukee and Minneapolis did not much care what happened on the Atlantic Ocean. It took the Zimmerman telegram, which envisaged a direct Prussian-led threat to its territorial integrity, to unite the United States.
Faced with American rage, Mexico swiftly reaffirmed its neutrality but the war with Germany which followed had far reaching consequences. Intolerance and anxiety gripped the United States during the Wilson presidency and beyond, leading to restrictions on immigration, an anti-Bolshevik "Red Scare" orchestrated by a young J Edgar Hoover and Attorney-General Mitchell Palmer (the John Ashcroft of the silent movie era) and inspiring the rejuvenation of the Ku Klux Klan.
1917 was the matrix for all later three-headed axes of evil. In 1940 the tripartite Berlin-Rome-Tokyo Axis was proclaimed. There was no coordinated plan among its members yet they undoubtedly embodied evil and broke the taboo, dating back to George Washington, on a third presidential term.
Anxiety generated by conjuring up of the factitious threesome of Iran, Iraq and North Korea could also do wonders for President Bush's longevity. It has the capacity to keep him in office until 2009. A second term was something that the first President Bush, having refused to convert the 1991 Gulf War into a full act of exorcism, failed to achieve.
His son is keen to learn from history and we should follow his example as well. Uncovering the original format of the Axis of Evil, as revealed in The Zimmermann Telegram, makes its intimate association with modern US presidential politics all too evident.
Barbara Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram, Phoenix Press, RRP $24.95
Stephen Holt = Canberra author
Eru, the footballer, is the nephew of dying Tuwharetoa tribal elder, Joe Eru, a man who carved out an honourable place for himself in the history of the Sydney Olympic Games. That contribution was recognised last week by presentations from SOCOG, Labor Council and CFMEU representatives.
Four years ago, Eru was central to resolving the problems of 400 Kiwis, mainly Maori, flown to Sydney under the false pretence that they would have Olympic-related security jobs.
When they arrived they found the companies who recruited them hadn't even got their security licenses, much less jobs.
Working closely with SOCOG, Labor Council and affiliated unions, Eru used his influence to calm the misled workers and have them placed in jobs around a city buzzing with Olympic preparations.
In return, CFMEU members turned their hands to transforming the old Arnotts biscuit factory at West Ryde into livable accommodation that became known locally as "the Maori village".
In the end, the New Zealand contingent, was central to the success of Games opening ceremony, being rushed in to manually lift tonnes of timber when it became obvious, during secret last-minute rehearsals, forklifts couldn't do the job. That story is covered in The Collaborative Games, a book outlining the secrets to the organisational success of the Sydney spectacular.
Today, the dynamic healer of four years ago is failing. He is staying with Auckland-based family, hundreds of kilometres from his central North Island home, to be closer to doctors fighting a losing battle against his cancer.
It was Eru's predicament that drew Rob Forsythe (SOCOG), Chris Christodoulou (Labor Council) and CFMEU reps Brian Parker and Steve Keenan across the Tasman. It was his standing in Maoridom that convinced New Zealand television to converge on the plain, working class home.
In a simple ceremony in his family's living room the visitors presented him with Olympic pins, union flags and jackets, a framed montage of photographs and the Collaborative Games book.
Christodoulou related the central role of unions in a collective approach to organising the Olympics. He said Eru's contribution, at a time of potential turmoil, had fitted the approach to perfection.
He recalled the rousing, traditional welcome turned on by the New Zealanders when officials visited them at the converted biscuit factory.
"We never expected such an honour because all we did was our jobs," Christodoulou said. "There is a wonderful story in this book that shows Joe did more for the Olympic Games than he will ever know."
Parker told the family the old man's efforts had won him recognition "across the ditch".
"He did his people proud and he did New Zealand proud. This honour we are paying him today is only small recogniton of the large role he played in the success of the Sydney Olympics," the CFMEU assistant secretary said.
"This man taught Australians a lot about Maori culture. In the words of my tradition, I am proud to call Joe a good mate."
Forsythe spoke of statesmanship, saying Eru had stood up to be counted when his people in Sydney found themselves in trouble.
"He sorted things out in a way that helped his people and absolutely suited SOCOG and the trade union movement," Forsythe explained. "I have come here to thank you on behalf of the organising committee and to recognise you as a statesman."
Eru, a union member and power board worker for 38 years, was clearly moved by the unexpected recognition. So, too, was his family, some of whom openly cried as the Australians told their stories.
Christodoulou said the visit had been an opportunity to present to New Zealanders the merits of a co-operative approach to major projects, through the efforts of one of their own.
More important, he added, was the desire of all parties to pay their respects to a humble man while he still lived.
"It was hard to see Joe in that condition. He was such a livewire when we last met him," Christodoulou recalled.
"When we were leaving one of his daughters told us it was the brightest the family had seen him in three months. She said the visit gave him a real lift.
"If that's the case, then it was well worthwhile."
On the one hand Shostak uses, on his front cover, the word 'transformation'. On the other, he quotes, on a flyleaf, the words of that personification of 19th-20th century business unionism, Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor, 1886-1924. Gompers asked and answered his own question: 'What does labor want? More.'. This was a quantitative answer to what had earlier been, and today may again be, a qualitative matter. So the question is raised, with respect to this book, as with his previous one (Shostak 1999, reviewed Waterman 1999:33-6) whether Shostak wants faster unions or transformed unions.
This is an edited and commented collection of mostly short pieces, written primarily by US union officers/activists/specialists, and divided into the following rubrics: 1) Surveying the field; 2 Getting started; 3. Email and list servers; 4. Websites; 5) Becoming a cyberunion; 6) Employing futuristics; 7) Innovations; 8) Services; 9) Honoring traditions; 10) Promoting democracy; 11) Promoting militancy; 12) Promoting organizing. There are preliminaries and conclusions. And then there are some 50 pages of appendices, offering: Labor website reviews; An internet resource guide; An annotated bibliography; An extensive index. (For the complete contents, see Appendix 1).
There is no doubt that this is the biggest and most detailed book in the field and that anyone involved seriously with inter/national labor computer communication should have one. Whether 40-50 accumulated chapters amounts to a handbook rather than an anthology may be in question. But Shostak's introductions to the book, to the parts and to each chapter individually are clearly intended to provide a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.
Having recommended that readers buy this book, I now have to recommend how to read it. Not from front to back because: it is not an integrated overview; nor does it present an integrated argument or strategy; the contributions are often just 4-5 pages and mostly anecdotal. Possibly the book should be read by rubric title, if and as relevant to reader needs. Possibly, it could be approached by reading Shostak's introductions. He has, indeed, done so much work here that one wonders why he didn't write a short book and put all the illustrative material elsewhere! Readers could possibly use Shostak like the handbook it claims to be and work from the extensive index. They will certainly be able to make use of the appendices, though resources here are often predictable and redundant, such as the many union e-dresses one can find on many labor websites.
Strong on how-to and can-do, the book is weak on critique of hegemonic practices/discourses and on any alternative to such. The author thus handles informatization - a capitalist revolution that is simultaneously an epochal transformation - as if this were a change in the weather (though, as we know, weather changes are today themselves decreasingly natural). And he identifies with the existing union organizations, including an AFL-CIO leadership now seriously running out of reformist puff. It is not that he has no democratic values (so, possibly, did Gompers, alongside his racist and imperialist ones), nor that he is unaware of anti-democratic use of computers by employers and government. But Shostak does seem to believe that the severely shrunken, customarily top-down and often corrupt US union organizations, once powered by this new communications technology, can be 'transformed'. There is here a serious case for skepticism.
Let us consider the rubrics on Traditions (history? values?), Democracy, Militancy and Organizing. (Although without expecting too much, perhaps, from someone who puts Marx and Gompers on one line as 'alike' aiding internationalism (29)).
Shostak's introduction to Traditions is less a summary of, or commentary on, the following items than a series of - worthy - injunctions on how electronic media might be used in recording and propagating both historical and contemporary events and personages. (He also misses what has to be the inter/national labor history site, http://www.iisg.nl/. The following pieces, on training in internet use, and on an independent labor media center, are nonetheless useful expositions. The second one, by LaborTech coordinator, Steve Zeltzer, is one of the few that integrates the international into what is largely a national (not to say parochial) collection.
In his introduction to Democracy, Shostak cites Lane Kirkland (another AFL-CIO oligarch) but otherwise shows himself somewhat more attached to the matter than Kirkland was. He favors chatrooms, even unmoderated, as a space for rank-and-file members to express themselves. He favors equal space for a 'Loyal Opposition' (216) and, finally, when all else fails, he favors unofficial web sites and lists. The last is evidently a necessary recommendation, given that space for feedback and discussion are notably absent from most of the union sites reviewed in Ch. 46 (280-97).
Shostak's option for democracy is powerfully reinforced and advanced in the contribution by Matt Noyes, from the Association for Union Democracy. This is a complex and insightful argument about the relation of democracy to US unions and then of the internet to democracy. Noyes describes US unions, in passing, as customarily being one-party systems (239). Indeed, one gets from this contribution alone a good understanding of why they need 'transformation'. Noyes also gets the space (18 pages) to develop a radical position that does not require any own-trumpet-blowing. His piece also belongs - it strikes me - to a quite different tradition of writing about computers and unions, one that stands on the ground of radical democracy (rather than within the parameters of US-unionism-as-we-know-it) and which then considers the possibilities and limits of computerization.
The Militancy and Organizing sections again reveal Shostak's awareness of their current shortcomings in the USA, and of the capacity of computers for supporting strikes, for other protest activity, and for reaching both informatized and the non- or even anti-union workers (who can be the same). William Puete, in his contribution, states:
They say strikes aren't what they used to be, but more to the point, strikes can't be what they used to be in simpler times.Half of the US workforce regularly used a desktop or laptop computer at work as early as 1997, and the Internet is still recasting labor-management relations in fundamental ways. (252)
These two sections seem to me to get closer to where the bone is buried. Whilst contributions may continue the somewhat frenetically upbeat tone of the editor, they address themselves to the matter at hand with a strong feeling for what is new at work, in public life and even in the home. This sense of what is new, and an energetic engagement with it, is evident also in the Epilogue contribution of Peter Lewis, webmaster of Workers Online, a sophisticated and effective Australian site. Lewis is clearly aware of the difference between an old-economy organization and a new-economy network. And argues for unions to provide space for worker self-identification and organization, rather than trying to force cyberspace to conform to the institutional logic of the traditional union.
Having ploughed through this extensive work (and without even visiting the most interesting sites mentioned), I am still somewhat puzzled by its limitations. I think that these may have to do with its initial parameters (America/Unionism) as much as with Shostak's particular way of articulating these with cyberspace.
Unionism-as-we-know-it has to be understood as the means for self-defense and assertion of workers under the national-industrial phase of capitalism (a word curiously absent from this pro-labor book, though not from the daily discourse of anti-labor capitalists). 'National' implies that relations with other unions were literally inter-national, rather than trans- or supra-national. Often it has also meant imperial or racial (try these or related keywords, along with either 'Gompers' or 'Kirkland', in a Google search). 'Industrial' implies workers of mines, mills and factories, customarily with decreasing articulation over time with the community, non-unionized workers, womenfolk. (The AFL-CIO's 'Working Families' logo is a recognition of the problem but articulates it with the hegemonic discourse of 'family values'). Add to this company and/or state corporatism, with unions primarily focused on bargaining (a market concept), often putting a subordinate 'partnership' with employer and state - or a political party - before a democratic and egalitarian relationship with the rest of society, and you have a nutshell specification of the extent and limits of the creature that needs, at least in Shostak's title, to be transformed.
Mention, within the book, of community, social-issue movements, even the anti-globalization movement, is largely in terms of what unions can gain, or learn, from these - not of any more organic articulation that is surely necessary if unions are to even defend workers under contemporary conditions. Thus IndyMedia - an exemplar of cyberspatial networking, multimedia creativity, inspired by a global solidarity ethic, Born in the USA, coeval with the anti-globalization movement that created international awareness at the Battle of Seattle, multilingual, existing in Nigeria, Russia and Argentina as well as in Philadelphia, Kalamazoo (kidding!) and Boston - receives here no more than one reference, and then, misleadingly, as 'independent media centers'. Now, go online and compare http://www.indymedia.org/ with http://www.aflcio.org/, or even with http://www.global-unions.org/. And weep. Or, better, consider the challenge the former presents to the latter.
America. Or, to be less megalomaniac, the USA. This may be the birthplace of our globalized, informatized, financial and services capitalism. And there is no doubt that it is the belly, brain and brawn of the globalized beast. But the privilege, or provocation, this might provide to re-inventing the form of labor self-articulation has to be set off against a USAmerican sense of superiority, and a consequent insularity, that also powerfully affects its unionism. (I am not proposing, as alternative, the breast-beating syndrome in which anything non-, and especially anti-, USA is definitionally superior). The 'international' enters this book but rarely, and then almost solely in terms of what one might call North Atlantic Treaty Unionism (Korea, mentioned by Steve Zeltzer is an exception). International labor communication by computer has important North American roots. Mostly at the margins of the unions! But it has these equally in the UK, Hong Kong, continental Europe, and elsewhere. So has anecdotal evidence and critical reflection on the matter (see Bibliography below). Shostak's evident lack of awareness about such means that his positive commitment to the problem under consideration remains to a considerable extent parochial and simplistic.
After praising this book with faint damns, I do nonetheless again recommend it to the reader. It is full of interesting experiences and political/technical initiatives - such as that of Eric Lee's 'Labor Newswire' (167-71). It may not be State of the Art, but it is State of Play, and if the nuggets are not exposed to the naked eye, they are there to be dug for.
Arthur B. Shostak (ed). The CyberUnion Handbook: Transforming Labor Through Computer Technology. Armonk (NJ): M.E. Sharpe. 2002. 359 pp.
by David Peetz
The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, the Honourable Tony Abbott, made all of us sit up and think with his statement that "Most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little like a bad father or a bad husband." Clearly, many of us have had it wrong thinking that workers should fight against bad bosses instead, we need to love them. To find an anthem to go with this revelation, we have tracked down a fantastic song written by maths professor-cum satirist Tom Lehrer, and substituted a few words of our own. The tune is Lehrer's Masochism Tango, which you can hear at http://members.aol.com/adamant316/novelties.html. Anyone care to dance with Tony?
THE MASOCHISM TANGO
How I ache for the touch of your quips, dear,
But much more for the touch of your whips, dear,
You cut personnel,
Like nobody else,
As we dance to the Masochism Tango!
Let our love be a flame, not an ember,
Say my work team you want to dismember,
Blacken my eye,
My pay falsify,
As we dance to the Masochism Tango!
At your command,
Overtime pay's been banned
We're grossly undermanned
It's here that I must be.
My heart entreats,
For sixty hour weeks
Yes go put on your cleats,
And come and trample me...
Your heart's hard as stone, filled with tyranny,
That's why I'm in such exquisite agony,
My job is dire,
My soul is on fire,
As we dance to the Masochism Tango!
You caught my nose,
In your left castanet, love,
I can still hear the threats, love,
Every time I hear drums...
And I love how you froze,
Our pay, yes, we were fleeced, love,
Then you called your 'police', love, And they broke both my thumbs...
Your eyes cast a spell that bewitches,
I'm euphoric that you get all those riches
From swinging that lash
And taking my cash
And I won't ask how far masochism can go?
Bash in my brain,
And make me scream with pain,
And kick me once again,
And swear we'll never part.
I know full well
I'm underneath your spell,
But darling, when you tell
Me I'll quietly depart
Take your cigarette from its holder,
Burn 'AWA' in my shoulder,
Fracture my spine,
And swear that your mine,
As we dance to the Masochism Tango!
by The Chaser
"This is a clear violation of the Staid Practices Act," said Commission chairman Professor Allan Fels. "As a result of this proposal we could see two weather channels reduced to one and four finance channels reduced to two, not to mention the devastating potential effects on the various home shopping networks."
"Make no mistake, this deal means less consumer choice - less choice about which channels to flick past hurriedly and less choice about which channels to randomly watch when stoned."
The competition watchdog has been monitoring both pay TV networks carefully since their inception for signs of monotonistic behaviour.
But the Commission's hand was forced by the latest deal, offering unprecedentedly low access to Australian television for shithouse programming.
Of particular concern to the ACCC was Foxtel's potential acquisition of Optus' content in the advent of Optus' commercial failure. "That would mean Foxtel would acquire a virtual monopoly in boutique country music programming," said Fels. "Then nothing could stop them."
Foxtel and Optus have already entered negotiations with the regulator, offering a wide range of suggestions designed to increase the levels of inanity of any joint venture.
Amongst the proposals on the table are tripling the number of hours each consortium spends advertising itself and quadrupling the number of Gilligan's Island marathons.
The media is fascinated by NSW Premier Bob Carr's eggheaded interest in American history and fine literature, but this stress on his originality is a trifle exaggerated. More than a century ago Carr's colonial predecessor, Henry Parkes (a fellow journalist), showed that it was perfectly possible to pursue these same two high-brow passions while governing NSW.
Thoughtlines, Carr's recently published selection of speeches, reviews and essays, is important despite the gush. Along with extracts from an unpublishable novel (Titanic Forces), which reads more like a film script, Carr's best occasional pieces present crucial insights into the making of a keen political mind. If there is originality in Thoughtlines this is where it is.
Carr was a Laborite but, except for a few months, he was hardly a "teenage Whitlamite'', although he describes himself as such. When he joined the party in the 1960s he was inspired by Arthur Calwell and Professor L. F. Crisp's biography of Ben Chifley.
Carr started off as a "democratic socialist'' who believed in the old-fashioned virtues of government ownership, but his youthful collectivist faith withered under the impact of Calwell's electoral defeats in the 1960s. He ceased to be a 1940s-style socialist and instead embraced Gough Whitlam's revisionist brand of Laborism.
The failure of the Whitlam experiment in the mid-1970s drove Carr further to the centre. He became, as he explained in Quadrant, a "social democrat'' of the sort encountered in Europe. Society was to be reformed in an unambiguously pluralistic spirit. Faith in state ownership needed to be wound back lest voters confused Labor with the Cold War tyrants of Eastern Europe.
Carr was a courageous ghost writer in the lead-up to John Ducker's presidential address to the 1978 NSW party conference. He drafted a speech calling on the ALP to repudiate a "bogus militant style''. Labor should regard socialism as a Marxist-Leninist bugbear; it had to rise above claptrap and convince voters that it could outperform the conservatives in prudent economic management. Labor had to be competent as well as compassionate.
Ducker repudiated Carr but the aborted draft speech was prophetic nonetheless. It pointed to Labor's current post-Hanson challenge because it was all about the need to target the concerns of "rural and provincial Australia''. Carr wanted Labor to uphold the pragmatic strategy originally forged by NSW Labor leader William McKell back in 1941. Steering carefully between Labor's conservative opponents and its industrial wing, McKell swept into office on the back of a swag of successful rustic candidates.
Carr once dreamt of becoming a foreign minister but factional machinations blocked his path to Canberra. He never matched the federal career of Paul Keating, hailed in a 1979 article as Labor's "chief emissary to the boardrooms''.
Long confined to state politics, Carr still champions McKell as his political hero. He hopes to emulate him by sticking to a Labor style carefully suited to a deeply conservative people. A Labor leader must be "non-abrasive'' and politically sensitive, with reform emanating from the middle ground. Applying this template brought Carr electoral success in the 1990s just as Keating's once brilliant star was fading.
Carr's approach is presented in Thoughtlines as the product of a post-Whitlam era. More relevantly it is also a non-Keating vision. His version of party history makes it hard to revere McKell's erstwhile ALP rival J. T. Lang. Paul Keating, in contrast, drew strength from the ever-divisive Lang cult. This poisonous legacy defined his status as a true believer.
Downplaying the tribal importance of the lugubrious Lang allows Carr to distance his state government from residual unpopularity generated by dark memories of the late Keating years. It makes it easier to become identified as a voter-friendly political persona. Carr favours a sunny Sydney Olympics-style ethos of community service. The task is to keep things ticking happily along in "the world's most favoured nation at the best moment in our history''.
State politics is, as Carr readily admits a "provincial'' affair, but it provides a perfect locale for a cautious Labor leader wishing to do better with less. Practical yet non-market-driven reforms can be pursued in areas such as conservation and reconciliation. Federation year praise for "our British heritage'' adds to the aura of sweetness and light.
Bob Carr's career shows that new laurels can still be added to the six-decade saga of an impressive tradition of centrist Labor politics. Thoughtlines is his third-way road map.
Thoughtlines: Reflections of a Public Man, Viking, Paperback, 416pp, $35. ISBN 0670040258
The man who cheated himself into the most powerful position on Earth can talk tough on ethics, but when he's been caught playing the loans-for-shares game himself and his deputy is up to his neck in dodgy dealings, it's a bit hard to take it all seriously.
But isn't this America? The land where reward and enterprise has created a system that has bought wealth to the world and killed off the Commie beast? Isn't the inevitable rise in stock prices the inherent strength of capitalism?
The big difference now is that investors are beginning to fear it's all a sham, as corporate giants crumble under the weight of fraudulent profit projections, inflated share prices and dubious auditors with stakes in the firms they are meant to be scurtinising.
Retirement savings, fuelling the world economy with the massive pension fund investments, are beginning to yield negative returns. Once they lose an incentive to pump in the billions the game will really be up. What comes next won't be pretty.
The remuneration of executives is not the only problem the system faces, but it is a big one. The multi-million packages have created a Lotto Economy where sums far beyond the comprehension of normal workers have become the norm.
We are told we need to pay these obscene amounts to have the 'best' people running our businesses; yet the businesses continue to fall over leaving the failed managers secure with their multi-million dollar golden handshakes.
Yep, it stinks. But how does one regulate greed?
There are no easy answers but there are some simple first steps. Like preventing firms offering CEOs options that give them an incentive to inflate share prices with short-term tactics like slashing jobs; like forbidding firms from lending managers money to buy back into the firm; like encouraging shareholder scrutiny of these grubby arrangements; like giving regulators increased powers to jail individuals who cheat the system.
While Bush at least talked tough, our own Prime Minister was taking the opposite tack this week, hosing down proposal to increase the ACCC's powers to punish market collusion.
He's also refusing to debate an ALP Bill to increase the powers of the ASIC to pursue holding companies whose mismanagement lead to the collapse of a subsidiary.
Meanwhile, his workplace relations minister continues to advocate for bosses, while turning his Rule of Law on any worker who cares to stand up for their rights.
A decade after the Cold War ended a new set of political battle lines are being drawn; instead of the split between the State and free enterprise; there is the philosophical debate about whether the system needs regulation or unfettered freedom.
A political agenda skeptical of the free market, with limits and controls on executive pay, setting community standards for corporations and prepared to treat corporate criminals the same way as bank robbers would have increasing political appeal.
It's a point that Simon Crean should be pondering as he strives to redefine Modern Labour.
One of the curious trends in Australian politics at the moment is the flow of commentary against the Federal Labor Party. Sure, after three election losses, this is not the easiest time in our history. But political success never comes from the easy times. It never comes from taking the soft options.
If reform of the Labor Party were easy then it would have been done years ago. In truth, Simon Crean is showing more courage and determination than any Federal Leader since Gough Whitlam in taking on the tough and bruising task of organisational reform. So too, Jenny Macklin is undertaking a genuine policy review, opening the Party to new ideas and new directions.
In both cases, they are laying the foundations for the next Labor Government. This is why modernisation matters. In a world of new technologies, new industries and new allegiances, political parties need to find new ways of broadening their base and reviving their relevance. Modernisation is not an optional extra. It is an electoral necessity.
We are Australia's oldest and greatest political party. But this does not mean we have a guaranteed future. We cannot afford to stand still and ignore the demands of a fast changing world. Indeed, the reason the Labor movement has survived for so long - since the great strikes and struggles of the 1890s - is that we have been a movement of modernisers.
Organisational reform has always been an essential element of Labor's success. Our political dominance in the 1940s was based on John Curtin's efforts to unite the party's factions and splinter groups in the 1930s. Whitlam's success at the 1972 and 74 elections relied on the modernisation of the party's structure in the 1960s. These reforms made us fit to govern. In many respects, they made the election of the Hawke and Keating Governments possible.
In the long cycle of Australian politics, the electorate has never doubted Labor's credentials for compassion and social justice. This is never a problem for parties of the Centre-Left. Rather, the challenge has always been to show that we are tough enough to govern.
Since Federation, our political opponents have had one constant theme: toughness. That we would not stand up to the socialist tiger. That we lacked the discipline to deal with depressions and recessions. That we would not fight the communist threat. And most recently, that Labor lacked the ticker to handle international terrorism and illegal migration.
From Opposition, the best way of proving that we are tough enough to govern the nation is to demonstrate that we are tough enough to reform ourselves. Organisational reform is usually thought of as an internal process. Its main political impact, however, is external. It is one of the basic tests voters use to assess our credentials for government.
Most of the media debate, of course, has focussed on Labor's links with the trade union movement. In practice, however, this is a side issue. The primary purpose of modernisation is to democratise the ALP. That is, to decentralise power within the Party, away from the factions and numbers men and towards the local branches and members.
It is now 35 years since Labor substantially reformed its rules and structure. In that time, the dominant trend within the Party has been the centralisation of power. The factions have become more rigid and powerful. Our conferences have become more stage-managed and predictable.
At the same time, rank-and-file membership has declined, both within the unions and the branches. Control of the Party has moved upwards, concentrated in the hands of the few, not the many. The purpose of modernisation is to flatten the pyramid, to push power downwards and re-enfranchise the rank-and-file.
Instead of Party conferences run by 12 people, I want them run by 12 hundred. I'm happy for 100 percent of conference delegates to be trade unionists, as long as their local branches and assemblies have democratically elected them to that position. The issue is not trade union power per se but rather, the distribution of power within the Party - whether decisions are made by a handful of faction leaders and union secretaries or by the Party's members.
This is why organisational reform is hard. It rubs up against one of the golden rules of politics: people with power never give it up without a fight. In its final form, modernisation is a struggle between political insiders and outsiders, between those who have accumulated power in the past and those who want it for the future.
It is not possible to broaden our base without making ALP membership more attractive. People are not interested in going to political meetings unless they have a direct say in the decision-making process. This is a logical consequence of the Information Age. People want to use their skills and express themselves as often as possible. An information-rich society demands a participation-rich politics.
If the Labor movement is to succeed in this environment, we must attract new people and new thinking. A movement needs to be just that - it needs to move, picking up progressive ideas and influences along the way. It needs to invite participation and creativity, and not close them down when they say something new.
Modernisation is vital to Labor's success. In particular, it allows the electorate to compare the values of a reformed ALP - open, modern and democratic - to the decrepit structure of our Tory opponents.
No one can pretend that the Liberals and Nationals are real political parties. They are, in fact, the last examples of feudalism in Australia, with power concentrated exclusively in the hands of the Prime Minister. The Government party room never votes on policy issues - much like a library without books or a church without prayers.
John Howard picks his policies and makes his Ministry, without reference to any form of party democracy. He's the Feudal Lord of the Liberal Party, the ultimate insider.
This is why the Liberals and Nationals have such a weak culture, why people walk in and out of their show without any sense of political history or conviction. Just look at their next leader, Peter Costello.
He's still in his forties, yet he's been a member of Young Labor, the Monash Social Democratic Association, the HR Nicholls Society, the Parliamentary Liberal Party and now, we are told, he's remaking himself as the LOM, the Leader of the Moderates. He's had more makeovers than Madonna, more image changes than Gary Glitter. What next for Costello? Membership of Falun Gong or the Hari Krishna?
This is why the Tories are so shallow. At a parliamentary level, they represent a loose coalition of elites (like Alexander Downer and John Anderson), Labor rats (like Costello, Brendan Nelson and Helen Coonan) and Jimmy Swaggart-types (such as Ross Cameron and Tony Abbott).
At a branch level, it's a blue-rinse bitch session. Even Abbott has described Liberal Party meetings as "tea-and-scones places" that "no one takes seriously."
These cultural weaknesses have been exposed at a State and Territory level, where the Liberals are out of office everywhere. We know this much: our opponents are weak and shallow. But this is not enough. We also need to make ourselves stronger, to win the culture war in Canberra. This is why modernisation really matters. It is fundamental to the election of a Federal Labor Government.
The Culture War
The US Democrat, Tip O'Neill, famously declared that all politics is local. Increasingly, however, I get the feeling that all politics is cultural. We live in an era of public cynicism about organised politics, a time when many voters have given up on the problem-solving capacity of government. The big picture issues simply wash over people, lost in the public's distrust of politicians.
In this environment of low expectations, the electorate is looking for a sense of shared values - that our leaders feel the same way as we do, that they share our concerns as well as our aspirations. In short, that they share our culture. And what might these values be? I put them under three headings:
Democratic Fairness - that political decisions are made in the national interest, that special interests do not receive special treatment, that the underdog gets a fair go, that governments value public opinion and participation.
Economic Aspiration - that governments reward hard work and thrift, that our children get the very best education, that each of us can leave something better for the next generation.
Social Responsibility - that people are responsible for their own behaviour, that governments demand decency and responsibility across society, that we do things together as a community (once others agree to do the right thing).
These are the values of the Australian working class, values that have always been basic to the cause of Labor. No one joins our Party without learning about these values. No Labor Government has ever been elected without presenting them to the electorate.
These are the values on which we still fight the Tories. Increasingly, the Liberal Government is vulnerable on the question of political culture. It has a remote and undemocratic party structure, removed from the needs and aspirations of working Australians. As Howard showed on his recent trip to the United States, he is more likely to embrace the American political elite than Australia's national interests.
So too, the Government's waste and mismanagement is damaging the Australian economy. Deficit budgeting has led to higher interest rates, hurting homebuyers and small businesses. This is the price of Costello's $5billion gambling habit.
The Government is most vulnerable, however, on the issue of social responsibility. It has a lopsided view of our obligations as citizens - it only applies them to the poor and powerless. The Liberals have exempted the corporate sector from the demands of social responsibility.
Last week, Tony Abbott said that we should excuse the behaviour of bad bosses because they are no worse that bad husbands or bad fathers. This is typical of Abbott's view of society. He has spent a lifetime preaching responsibility to the poor but never practicing it. In a perceptive cartoon in The Australian newspaper, Bill Leak summarised Abbott's mantra as follows: "A bad boss is like a bad husband or a bad father, he should be able to walk away from you any time he likes..."
Indeed, Abbott is always walking away. As a young man he became a Hereditary Disappear. Then he walked away from his responsibilities as a priest. Then he walked away from the DLP and joined the Liberal Party. Now he wants to walk away from Australia's unfair dismissal laws and the responsibility of bad bosses to do the right thing by their staff.
That's Tony Abbott, always attacking the weak and defending the strong. Always giving special treatment to special interests.
When George Pell and Peter Hollingworth, two of the most powerful men in Australia, faced serious allegations of covering up paedophilia in the church, Abbott jumped to their defence. Yet when the poor and powerless in our society struggle to find employment, he calls them job snobs.
This is not the Australian way - slagging the underdog and propping up the tall poppies. At a time when people are looking for a stronger sense of community and connectedness, Abbott spends most of his time trying to destroy Australia's leading community-based organisation, the trade union movement. He wants a dog-eat-dog industrial environment, full of bad bosses and bad practices.
This is not his only double standard. For all his claims about corruption in the building industry, Abbott appears to have no problem with corruption in the legal industry. Especially when it involves his Warringah campaign manager, Ian Harley MacDonald.
Abbott is a regular visitor to the Kirkconnell Prison in western NSW, where MacDonald is serving five-and-a-half years for embezzling $7million from his legal practice (including trust funds held on behalf of elderly clients). The Bad Priest, it seems, is quite fond of bad bosses and bad lawyers.
Labor has no time for any of them. If government is to demand responsibility from the weak, the same demand must also apply to the powerful. Unlike the Liberals, we don't believe in means-testing mutual obligation. Rich people, poor people and everybody in between have a basic responsibility to assist each other and to put something back into the community. This is what we call a good society.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Labor politics has always involved a critique of the private sector. With the end of the Cold War, however, the economic efficiency and productivity of capitalism is beyond dispute. Our critique now needs to focus on the social responsibilities of the corporate sector. We can be pro-market without necessarily being pro-business.
In particular, the globalisation debate has raised new questions about the ethics of the corporate sector. People still live in local communities yet so much of economic activity has gone global. Not surprisingly, people are asking about the obligations of global capital to themselves, their families and their neighbourhoods. They are looking for a bridge from the local to the global, for a connection between communities and corporations.
The ALP needs to build this bridge. We need to demand from the private sector good corporate citizenship. This is a key part of the mutual responsibility agenda. In recent decades, companies have won many more rights, especially the right to trade and invest on a global scale. These rights need to be matched by the exercise of social responsibility.
It is immoral for governments to require unemployed people to meet the requirements of mutual obligation, yet to ask for nothing in return from global companies. If the market system is to work properly it needs to be founded on the responsibilities of the privileged, not just the poor. The reform of capitalism is no longer an economic question. It is an ethical issue - a point confirmed by the outbreak of corporate corruption in the United States.
This is fertile ground for Labor policy making, ensuring that corporations and their executives comply with decent industrial, environmental and social standards. At the last election, for instance, we advocated a social charter for the banking industry. This principle should be applied to other parts of the private sector, such as the petrol industry. There can be no excuse for bad bosses and bad corporate behaviour.
I believe we can be optimistic about the cause of Labor. Our culture is stronger than the Tories and, as we pursue organisational reform, it can only get stronger. The democratisation of the Party will attract progressive people and ideas to our membership. It will give us new energy for the battles ahead.
None of this, of course, requires the abandonment of Labor values - democratic fairness, economic aspiration and social responsibility. Rather, it is the best way of strengthening our beliefs and policies for the next election.
The ALP has always been a big tent party, with plenty of room for people committed to social justice. This approach saw us through the troubled 20th Century. It is just as relevant for the coming century. It's time to modernise.
Speech to the Western Australian Fabian Society Perth, 12 July 2002
"There's always been more money in Sydney. Not just for sport, but for cultural things too, like organised crime." Barry Dickens, 'League of a Nation', 1996.
The haircut with a whistle, Bill Harrigan, was dropped the other week for robbing Parramatta of not only a win, but also their dignity. God knows; one thing Parramatta needs is Dignity.
I remember when they burnt down the old wooden grandstand at Cumberland Oval after they finally managed to win a Grand Final, and even that was over Newtown. Where's the dignity in beating Newtown?
They still have the best moniker - the Eels. It always raises a chuckle when those bozos at the NRL Marketing try to produce a savage looking eel. It ends up looking like some kind of snarling bicycle tube.
Of course they had that wonderful monogram of the bloke in the canoe spearing eels in the Parramatta stormwater drain, but they couldn't very well call their team the 'Blackfellas'; the marketing people wouldn't hear of it, which is a shame.
So from the days Darcy Lawler (who was as straight as a coathanger) through to Hollywood Hartley and onwards they've always been cruelled by the refs.
The referee is a strange kind of fish; a sort of professional unpopular bloke. Professional is the operative word as these guys are paid a bit more than your average nurse or schoolteacher.
When I was growing up a lot of them were cops, which made sense, as cops are unpopular anywhere.
The best I've ever seen was the Grasshopper, Barry Gommersall. What a champion; he was there to referee the Rugby League, so he let the fights continue on in the background, and the kiddies love that kind of thing.
You could tell he was a member of the ALP.
Even in the Australian game the white maggots have been having a bit of a sook because people have been threatening to come around and burn their houses down and that sort of thing.
Idle threats are as part and parcel of footy as warm beer, cold pies and the smell of Dencorub.
Maybe they could recruit people like serial pest Peter Hoare. They'd love the attention of the few hundred or so souls that actually make it out to the games these days, and everyone would be happy.
On the subject of crowds, there was a doozie of a report from a recent
Melbourne Storm game where a spectator watched one of the attendants as she spent some time swiping a ticket over and over again at the turnstile. The witness asked the attendant if she was trying to break the ground record single-handedly, only to be met with a smile by way of reply.
Have we ever had a more loathsome champion than Llittle Lleyton. To think that other kids his age are working part time while trying to finish school while this little turd carries on like some three-year-old on steroids - it makes a body want to vomit.
Footy is the answer for these brats. Richmond's Richardson was sent back to Coburg after his little dummy spit. He should have been sent further - Coburg deserves better.
Speaking of Richmond, if the meek shall inherit the earth then their entire backline may well end up being property developers.
Phil Doyle - squeezing out a handball in the forward pocket.
Read wierd libellous shit and craziness dressed up as sanity
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The impenetrable grey that dominates the English summer sky seems to share a lot of characteristics with the body politic these people find themselves stuck with. The odd shower or ray of sunshine may occasionally crack the veneer, but sure enough, it doesn't take long for a depressing consistency to reassert itself. The vacuous pragmatism of the Blair Government is the ultimate post-modern politics. There is no black and white, and the prospect of offending any section of the community severely is considered worse than leaving everyone moderately disenchanted.
The Government's recent plans for law reform in regards to cannabis are classic New Labour. On Wednesday, July 10 British Home Secretary David Blunkett revealed his plans to Parliament. Based on a trial in the South London suburb of Brixton, individuals found in possession of cannabis are now given an informal caution, taking away the maximum gaol term of five years for possession of a class b drug. With marijuana reclassified under the overhaul as a 'class c' drug, the substance is now considered less dangerous. As the Home Secretary was careful to point out, the reforms stop short of full legalisation or decriminalisation. The police are still endowed with reserve powers if an offence involves children, public disorder or 'flagrant disergard for the law'. Hash cafes are unlikely to pop up in the middle of Kent.
Despite this apparent liberalisation, the paranoia of the spin-obsessed Blair Government means that a progressive move such as this can not be left standing on its merits, to be debated and sold to the public. Instead, the Government wants to have a few bob each way, by doubling the maximum prison sentence for dealing class c drugs to fourteen years. For users, this creates the perverse situation of having to purchase drugs from criminals, but then effectively having the green light to smoke.
The glaring inconsistency of the reform package sends mixed signals, and the tabloid media reflects the polarities that the drug issue throws up. On Thursday, 11 July, dailies such as 'The Sun' and the 'Daily Express' ran with headlines such as "Great News for Dealers, Grim News for our Kids" and "Middle Class Under Attack". By way of contrast, 'Daily Mirror' columnist Paul Routledge exclaimed "Britain has to be a safe place to live - and to get stoned. That's why I back this leap in the dark." One can only conclude that the lack of uniform opinion on the topic is actually the aim of Blairite spin doctors. It seems the only way the Government knows how to deal with such a sensitive issue is through obfuscation.
In justifying the move, Blunkett argues that whilst drug use is dangerous, the use of marijuana is not 'widely dangerous to one's future and mortality'. Blair has remained consistent to a line he first formulated in his role as Shadow Home Secretary, "Attacking crime and attacking the causes of crime", adding "Reclassification allows police to focus on drug dealing of any description."
There is merit in these arguments. The logic of tying up policing resources in arresting and charging fifteen year old adolescents for possession of one gram of Marijuana is clearly lacking. Policing resources are of much better use when directed toward crime prevention and the arrest of hard core criminals. However, as media pundits and liberal democrat politicians have pointed out, if the Government considers marijuana to be a relatively harmless substance, why is the penalty for profiting from the sale of this substance being increased?
Surely if the Government were to remain consistent to its own logic, the way forward would be State sanctioned sale of dope. That way the substance could actually be taxed, allowing for cannabis users and dealers to make an indirect contribution to the public health system their actions may place greater stress on. Of course in the 'New Labour, New Britain' world, such arguments don't stack up. After all, where's the 'tough on crime' headline going to come from with that sort of policy?
Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock's is proving an adept student of the American art of obfuscation. You know the sort of thing - "collateral damage" as code for killing 40 innocent wedding guests.
Ruddock describes as "humane" a new detention facility in which escapees are zapped by 9000 volts of electricity. Officially, the isolation block at Baxter will be known as "the separation unit" while the 9000 volt electric fence arrangement is to be called an "energised detection and deterrent system'.
Kind of appropriate really, given that the media, normally barred from detention facilities, was given an official guided tour at a time when no inmates were actually in residence.
The Teflon John uses a meeting with controversial Italian PM, Silvio Berlusconi, to back Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott's outspoken support for bad bosses.
Howard endorses the hardline right winger's three-year freeze on the rights of Italian workers to mount unjustified dismissal claims. He urges Labor and the Democrats to support him in removing protections from Australians who lose employment without justification.
Meanwhile, good ol George Bush is dishing up the biggest load of hogwash ever heard on the subject of corporate responsibility. Denying his status as a wholly-owned subsidiary of US Inc, Bush lectures big business on morals and American values.
It is Bush's response to Enron, World.Com and other corporate failures casting a pall over the US economy. Trouble is, the Bush administration is packed with hand-picked big business executives and he owes his entire political career, at state and federal levels, to the support of the most extreme end of US capital, men like his one-time personal buddy, Enron's "Kenny Boy" Lay, who demand, and get, complete deregulation.
Bush also neglects to mention the examples set by himself and vice-pesident Dick Cheney. The President is at the centre of a storm over selling $800,000 worth of shares in an energy company he was a director of just weeks before the price plumetted. Cheney, meanwhile, is being sued over claims of fraudulent accounting at the giant oil field services company, Halliburton, which he ran for five years. Cheney was chairman and chief executive of the company during the years in which the suit alleges it overstated revenues by $US445 million.
A US shareholder-support organisation is also suing for access to records of the Cheney-led energy taskforce that drafted the Bush administration's energy policy.
Meanwhile, there is no oppostion from either Bush of the Teflon John when their allies in the Israeli Government enact legislation that decrees certain towns will be "Jews Only", specifically barring Arabs from buying homes in them.
The bill effectively overturns a landmark decision of the Israeli High Court which had ruled that the one million plus Israelis of Arab descent were entitled to live on settlements on state land.
The Israeli cabinet also passes special legislation denying Palestinians the right to claim compensation for damages sustained during the army's invasion of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
When first we practice to deceeive ... and all that.
Poor old Cheryl's had a shocker. Not only is she no longer Speaking For Herself but just days out of a media campaign designed to sell the book, she is warning journalists who approach her that they will be breaching her privacy.
Workers Online wonders if you can flog yourself about print, radio and television outlets one week, then unilaterally pull up stumps and declare the game is over?
Honest, just one week after putting herself in the hands of a publicist, she's decided she would be better served by lawyers who warn that anyone from the media caught "following loitering near, watching, approaching, contacting in any way (whether by telephone, mail, email, facsimile or through the use of any other technology)" Kernot, or any member of her family, will be donkey deep in the smelly stuff.
Meanwhile, back in Sydney town, the Ayotollahs at State Transit are not being very nice to their bus drivers. In the middle of a cold winter they've come down like a tonne of bricks on the wearing of anything warm, like beanies or unofficial jackets, even in buses without heating.
Some drivers, starting shifts at five in the morning, are less than impressed by a message from the office wallahs which instructs: "Please note that when on duty only standard issue uniforms are permitted. Non-standard uniform items, including headwear such as beanies (with or without STA logos), are not to be worn on duty."
We're not suggesting this makes STA a candidate for Workers Online's Tony Awards, the competition from the private sector is far too hot, but still, you'd reckon, they could do better.