You probably remember him from his role as Count Dracula in the smash hit Attack on the Clever Country. It ran from 1996 to 2001 and left Australia's educational institutions resembling a row of corpses. Now Dr David Kemp has lost the atrocious facial hair and re-emerged as the man whose mission it is to champion Australia's sovereign right to belch filth into the atmosphere.
It's a tough gig, but one this distinguished Tool is equipped to discharge. Keen Canberra watchers rate Kemp as one of the premier spinners in Federal Parliament, with an uncanny ability to front up and run his lines regardless of the questions asked, the public mood or the underlying illogic of his position. And when it comes to defending Australia's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, these are the basic skills required. Eight Six nations have ratified the Protocol which sets targets for Greenhouse Gas Emissions and establishes a series of incentives such as a global system of trading carbon credits. Under the Protocol Australia isn't even asked to reduce its emissions, just increase them at a slower rate. But that's not good enough for Kemp - it would require the sort of concerted action that is against his underlying philosophy. Australia sits outside the tent with the USA and few other global pariahs.
And so to Johannesburg, where Dr Doolittle would be the front man as the world asked Australia why it was being such a slob. Australia's official delegation of 50, included more than 30 civil servants, but none from the Australian Greenhouse Office. Given that Kemp has totally ridden over, with its efforts to rpepare the ground for greenhouse reductions ridden over by his much-vaunted Government-Business dialogue. This talkfest allows the major polluters in Australia to argue the Kemp Doctrine (ie inaction), even as the premier business forum, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, representing over 160 of the worlds largest multinational corporations including shell and BP, Dupont, General motors, Nestle, BHP and Rio Tinto, concedes the time has come to support Kyoto.
Of course the smart business providers are realizing that a sustainable energy agenda is not just a long-term, but also a short-term benefit. Smart businesses are reviewing their operations to take part in the carbon credit trade that will inevitably emerge. Within the Protocol framework, Australian companies could expand into new export markets, reduce environmental damage, and earn "credits" for Australia's national greenhouse gas emissions account, all at the same time. With nations like China and India coming on board the critical mass exists to create a new economy around environmental management. For a pro-business government, Howard's mob seem strangely asleep at the wheel on this one - Kyoto is a market-driven response to the issue.
Meanwhile, we face accusations from our Pacific neighbours like Tuvalu who are threatening court action to force us to stop practices that is turning their nation into a swimming pool. It's a real concern, after all if the Islanb go under we'll have to go to the added expense of issuing asylum seekers with floatees before we hive them off.
The real Dr Doolittle made his name from being able to talk to the animals. This one doesn't talk to anyone: his bureaucracy, the business lobby, the international community - not to mention the environmental movement are demanding action from Australia. Dr Doolittle is ensuring we do nothing.
Justice Wilcox granted leave for the substantive CFMEU case, arguing procedural unfairness and bias by Commissioner Terence Cole, to be heard in Sydney over the coming week.
The CFMEU sought Federal Court protection in the face of the Commissioner's decision to judge the complaints against himself at a hearing in Melbourne on Monday.
"We anticipate he will disqualify himself," CFMEU secretary Andrew Ferguson said. "But, if he fails to do the right thing, we will proceed to the Federal Court."
Union lawyers are seeking a range of declarations and orders that would effectively bar Cole from hearing further evidence or bringing down findings in respect to NSW.
Any level of success would make legal history as it would be the first time in Australia that a court had over-ridden a Royal Commission.
Cole's first report, handed down on August 5 and acted on with alacrity by Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott, seems certain to play a central role in the challenge. The union is arguing for it to be overturned.
In it, Cole said he was satisfied that evidence demonstrated 15 separate illegal or inappriative acitivites, including "disregard of the rule of law". It included a recommendation that an interim industry tasforce be established with an office in Sydney.
That report was delivered before the second session of Sydney hearings opened and, according to union lawyers, before Cole had called for, or heard, the evidence of their clients.
"The first notice that applicants received that the Commission had issued or was issuing a First Report was on August 20," they will argue, "by way of a media release from the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. No submissions were called for or received by the Commission from applicants prior to the date of the report."
They take strong exception to Cole's finding that "much of the evidence of such conduct is not in dispute".
"In New South Wales the entirety of the evidence presented to the Commission by counsel assisting of allegations of inappropriate and unlawful conduct is in dispute and evidence has been presented to the Commission disputing such evidence.," they will argue.
Lawyers are also expected to contend that the decision of Commission investigators and counsels assisting, not to interview a single CFMEU member prior to producing evidence, was unfair, and to question the whole basis on which Cole ran the Sydney hearings.
Star Commission witnesses, Steven and Barbara Strong, seem certain to get further attention.
Barbara Strong alleged that CFMEU organiser, Tommy Mitchell, had threatened to break her arms and legs; threatened her children; and that he and another union official had tried to extort significant sums of money from her.
Although eight people either attended or heard the meeting where some of these offences were said to have occurred, key elements of the Strong's evidence was either contested or not supported by each of the other attendees, including employers and sub-contractors.
Despite that, counsel assisting submitted that the Strongs should be believed and, accordingly, adverse findings made against Mitchell and the other union official.
Their demand had barely been lodged when the allegation unwound further.
First, the Strongs who claimed to have been driven from the industry by the CFMEU, were found operating a demolition site in Glebe. It was immediately closed down by Workcover and the local council because of health and safety deficits and their failure to obtain necessary consents.
Then, Telstra records and police files demanded by the CFMEU, raised further doubt over the stories.
Counsel Assisting Nicholas Green was backed by Commissioner Cole in his refusal to make those records available to the union.
Although Green confirmed the records didn't support allegations levelled by Mrs Strong, he indicated he would continue to rely on the bulk of her evidence for adverse findings against Mitchell and his associate, Brian Fitzpatrick.
The union is taking action under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act, the Judiciary Act and sections of the constitution.
Thirty five officials, organisers and delegates are seeking a range of reliefs - from Cole being stood down and his first report overturned, to an instruction that he conduct the Commission according to law.
The plight of the veteran hotel workers, among 267 sacked this week, comes as the ACTU launches a test case for a new redundancy standard for the entire workforce.
Hilton hotel management announced the sackings to a shocked workforce - many of whom face unemployment after 20 years service to the company. Casual employees will get no redundancy pay.
The Sydney Hilton will close for at least 18 months on November 29, with over $200 million budgeted for extensive renovations.
Wiwoho Sosrohardjono, a steward with 26 years service, says staff had cried this morning when told they would be terminated in November.
"I'm very upset. This is my second family, my second home," Wiwoho says. "I have two children and a mortgage. I don't know what I will do now."
LHMU delegate and housekeeper Patrick Holmes, who has worked at the Sydney Hilton for 12 years, gave the five-star hotel "no stars" for the treatment of employees.
"Management will continue to live well while we are out on the streets," said Patrick. "Many casuals have worked more than 30 hours per week for 10 years or more. They are to be left destitute."
The LHMU has won the support of the NSW Labor Council for a major campaign in defence of the Sydney Hilton workers redundancy rights.
Hilton Boss Squirms in Spotlight
The Hilton Hotel's top man in Australia, Oded Lifschitz, was squirming in his seat as he tried to avoid telling the Sydney media how much he would get paid in a golden handshake if his employer retrenched him.
Lifschitz went red and squirmed with embarrassment trying to avoid telling the world why he was to be treated so differently from the hundreds of low-waged workers employed by his flagship hotel in Australia.
Finally - after some hesitation - Mr Lifschitz avoided answering simply by saying "oh, he was not covered by the Award".
New Redundancy Standard
Meanwhile, the ACTUI has detailed its claim for universal redundancy rights through a federal Test Case to be heard by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission later this year.
Under the claim the minimum entitlement for employees made redundant after six or more years of service would be doubled from eight weeks severance pay to 16 weeks, with workers aged over 45-years-old to receive 20 weeks pay.
It would be the first time redundancy entitlements have been extended to long-term casuals (with more than 12 months service) and require managers to consult employees about job losses.
"Corporate failures and cutbacks have made 600,000 people redundant in the last few years," SACTU president Sharan Burrow says.
"One-quarter of them - 150,000 employees - received less than one-day's notice that they're losing their job. Many employees hear it first on the radio or in the newspaper that they're about to lose their livelihoods."
Burrow says the current eight-week cap on severance pay is inadequate when the average period of unemployment after redundancy is 22 weeks, and more than one-fifth of employees made redundant in the last few years lost their jobs after more than 10 years of service.
"It is unfair that 60% of casual employees, or about 1.2 million people, have worked in the same job for more than 12 months but have no redundancy entitlements," Burrow says.
"Extra help is needed for employees aged over 45 who face being unemployed for more than twice as long as younger workers, or 96 weeks of unemployment on average.
The Australian Workers Union today welcomed the decision by NSW Planning Minister Andrew Refshauge to approve a waste transfer station at Clyde.
Developers Collex had undertaken to pay the entitlements of the Woodlawn workers in full should the project go ahead.
Under the agreement with Collex the Woodlawn workers have already received 25 per cent of the money owing. A further 25 per cent will be paid on approvalof the project with the balance on completion.
"For the Woodlawn miners it means a long and sorry saga is finally within sight," AWU state secretary Russ Collison said today.
"This is a good result for the Woodlawn miners and a good result for the people of the Goulburn region.
"We look forward to seeing this project completed, with jobs to the area as well as the appropriate environmental safeguards."
After successfully moving motions at ALP State Conference around the nation, Labor for Refugees is preparing to present its policy to the special ALP National Conference to be held in October.
The meeting has been called to implement rule changes included in the Hawke-Wran review, including diluting trade union influence on the floor of Party Conferences.
Labor for Refugees wants a chance to put its platform to the Conference, claiming it too is a key finding of the Hawke-Wran review.
In their report the Labor Party statesmen recognised that the ALP's failure to articulate a compassionate refugee policies was a primary area of concern for rank and file members.
The resolution from Labor for Refugees calls for a six-point plan that:
- replaces mandatory detention with community-based processing and accommodation.
- restoring the integrity of the judicial system for refugee determination.
- recommitting to the United Nations Convention on Refugees which opposes forcible deportations and end Temporary Protection Visas.
- ending the so-called "Pacific Solution" and Australia's offshore detention and processing centres.
- re-establishing Australia's Immigration Zone as it was before the Border Protection Act.
- decoupling the onshore and offshore components of Australia's Refugee and Special Humanitarian Program
The Australian Workers Union has raised the issue as details emerge of how the industrial architect of the waterfront dispute, IR consultant Paul Hoolihan, is behind the plan to force shearers at the Hall onto Australian Workplace Agreements.
The AWU has officially black-banned the Hall's shearing shed and called on members to withdraw details from the historical archive.
But AWU president Mick Madden says the revelations of federal government funding raises issues about who is actually pushing the contract agenda.
"We know that the Hall of Fame is seeking federal funding of $32 million over the next 10 years.
"We know that the Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott has attempted to link federal funding to industrial relations practices on other projects.
"We know that the Hall of Fame is pushing the Federal Government's anti-worker AWA agenda.
"What we want to know is whether there is a link to the funding application and the industrial arrangements at the Hall of Fame."
The AWU says it intends to raise the issue in Federal Parliament this week.
Talkback radio jockeys, including Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett have taken aim at the MUA for the hard-hitting material, part of their ongoing campaign to save Australian shipping.
But the MUA says the adage "there is no such thing as bad publicity" has a lot going for it.
The poster prompted Mr Kennett to invite MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin on air to debate the issues, giving the union extensive airtime to argue against the Howard Government shipping policy.
The National Secretary began by explaining how companies like CSL were getting away with unfair competition and circumventing Australian taxation, migration and other laws. This, he said, had a domino affect.
"But today you've protested against the Prime Minister as opposed to CSL," said Mr Kennett.
"You've put a poster together and it's headed up what do these two men have in common? And there's a photograph of the Prime Minister and Osama Bin Laden," he added.
"Don't you think this is an abject insult to the Prime Minister and don't you think this will only upset people who might otherwise support your cause?"
"Well, I'm not sure the Prime Minister supports our cause," retorted the National Secretary, explaining how Bin Laden and Al Qaeda use flags of convenience ships because there's no accountability.
Mr Crumlin then pointed out how US President George Bush is making sure that flag of convenience ships don't go to the US and making sure that American seafarers trade their domestic routes, but the Howard Government is doing the opposite.
"There's a big difference between what George Bush is saying about border control and what John Howard is saying," Crumlin retorted.
Meanwhile MUA national office has recieved no calls protesting the poster, but legal officer Bill Giddins says he is preparing in case we do get a writ from Mr bin Laden or his followers for the comparison made with PM John Howard.
Read Jim Marr's backgrounder
The NSW branch of the meatworkers union is calling for such a list in the wake of allegations that a provider repeatedly asked an injured worker how she applied bra and pants.
AMIEU organiser Patricia Fernandez says she had witnessed first-hand a rehabilitation provider acting improperly towards a union member.
The rehabilitation provider refused to explain what his role would be in helping the member return to work and failed to ask crucial questions relating to the type of work she performed and what tasks she could and could not do as a result of her injury, according to Fernandez.
"Instead he concentrated all the questions about what she could or could not do at home, including asking her questions about her ability to put her bra and underpants on," she says.
After she asked the provider on more than six occasions to cut out the inappropriate line of questioning, Fernandez says the man became "volatile and offensive" and ordered her to leave the premises.
The NSW branch of the AMIEU has secured the backing of NSW Labor Council in taking its concerns to WorkCover and will lodge an official complaint regarding the most recent culprit.
Federal treasurer Peter Costello had refused to fund an award pay rise package for more than 10,000 non-government community workers, leaving some agencies facing the wall.
But the Carr Government this week agreed to a $100 million rescue, averting the closures and a strike planned for next week.
Australian Services Union state secretary Luke Foley says community sector employees have struggled for nine months to get the Federal Government to pay what it owes.
"This includes money urgently needed for services caring for people with disabilities and other vulnerable people including women and children fleeing domestic violence and other abuse," Foley says. "It's failed to do so and this is appalling."
"In contrast, the NSW Government met its share of funding in full and immediately after the new Award was handed down."
NSW Community Services Minister Carmel Tebbutt says the State Government will continue to seek to recover the $100 million from Canberra.
Sick of management spending more time in pay negotiations reading the Fin, the staff walked off the job and read the Tory rag themselves. The stunt got good attention, especially from a bemused AFR who didn't realize it was so useful to the workers.
According to Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) spokesperson James
Gardner, staff have had enough of DEWR management "dragging their feet" and are "turning up the heat" in their campaign for a better agreement.
"While the hats were a bit of fun, they also illustrated a serious concern about management's refusal to consider a different way forward," Gardner says.
Management's original bargaining proposal was formally rejected last month by a massive 90% of staff, one of the highest ever rejection of a public sector agreement.
"Management have barely changed their position since then. Which part of 'NO!' don't they understand?" says Gardner.
As well as increasing the 3.5% pay offer, staff also want DEWR to ensure the new agreement maintains access to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission for dispute resolution.
After a long and acrimonious dispute that brought out the worst in several Beattie Government ministers, the Queensland Council of Unions announced the deal this week.
"Health unions firmly believe that the above outcome was the best the result they could achieve from the government following a three month intensive industrial campaign and arduous negotiations with the Queensland government," QCU secretary grace Grace says.
"Through the combined unions campaigning and industrial action Queensland health workers have secured this outcome.
The agreement will be backdated to 1st June 2002 resulting in a whole of life agreement increase of 3.5 per cent per year plus additional benefits contained in the agreement.
Threats to hit struggling TAFE students with HECS-type fees, deregulate university charges, and stop the NTEU from pattern bargaining have outraged the unions, which are now determined to teach members of the education sector, government and the wider community what the result of such policies will be.
The NSW Teachers Federation, the National Tertiary Education Union, and the National Union of Students are co-hosting the forum, with NSWTF acting assistant secretary Al Svirskis arguing that Howard's greed will ultimately rob struggling students of a chance to grow their skills base.
"It's an attack on both educational and industrial aspects on higher education and equity for students from less well-off backgrounds," he says.
For more information about the event, contact Al Svirskis on (02) 9217 2308.
Wednesday September 10 6.30 - 8.00PM
70 Norton Street
September 11: One Year After
What has happened to our nation since then, including the war on terrorism, border protection and internal security?
What about the impact on our immigration and multicultural policies? On our defence and foreign affairs? On how Australians see ourselves?
Kevin Rudd, MP ALP Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister
Kerry Nettle, The Greens Senator for NSW
Kaysar Trad, Spokesperson, Muslim Lebanese Community
Dorothy McRae McMahon, Writer and broadcaster
Greg Barns, former senior advisor in the Howard Government
Meredith Burgmann President of the NSW Legislative Council
Liberal Government speaker (to be confirmed)
Tom Morton (Chair) Producer, ABC Radio National Background Briefing
$10 and $5
Bookings: [email protected]
Tuesday September 10 6.00 - 8.00PM
September 11: One Year After
What has happened to our nation since then, including the war on terrorism, border protection and internal security?
What about the impact on our immigration and multicultural policies? On our defence and foreign affairs? On how Australians see ourselves?
Bishop Pat Power, Catholic Auxilliary Bishop of Canberra
Professor Amin Saikal, Australian National University
Dr Bill Maley, Australian Defence Forces Academy
Professor Hilary Charleworth Australian National University
Chair: Louise Maher Canberra ABC Radio Morning Program
Bookings:Social Change Canberra on (02) 6262 9980
Melbourne Pluto Institute Events
Thursday September 26 6.30PM
Cnr Bourke & Swanston Sts
September 11: One Year After
What has happened to our nation since then, including the war on terrorism, border protection and internal security?
What about the impact on our immigration and multicultural policies? On our defence and foreign affairs? On how Australians see ourselves?
Damien Lawson, Western Suburbs Legal Service, Lobbyist against
Helen Hill, Senior Lecturer in Asia-Pacific Sociology at Victoria
Dennis Altman, Lecturer in Politics at La Trobe, author of: 'Global Sex'
Boris Frankel, Author of 'When The Boat Comes In', Professor of
Citizenship Swinburne University
Anthony Burke, Author of: 'In fear of Security' and Lecturer in
International Politics, University of Adelaide
Contact Russ Radccliffe, Readers Feast Bookstore
Reconstructing East Timor
A one day conference on Australian Initiatives in East Timor
Organised by the Australian East Timor Association NSW) with assistance from the Sydney City Council and supported by the Research Institute of Asia Pacific (Sydney University), Aidwatch, Otford Press, participating NGO's and the "Friends of Maliana" Project of Leichhardt Council.
One day Conference on Reconstructing East Timor
:Sydney Town Hall (Marconi Room)
Friday 30th August 9am-5.30pm
Cost : Register at the door $30/$15 concession ($10 for individual session)
Key speakers.....Frank Brennan (Jesuit Refugee Services/lawyer) James Dunn (diplomat/author) Shirley Shackleton, Max Stahl (filmmaker) John Martiunkus (author) , Timorese speakers from Dili include Flaviano Soares (Uni of East Timor) and Isabelle Guterres 'Reception, Truth & Reconciliation" Commission, East Timor)...
Twelve Months On From 9/11: Troubled Times and Their Implications for Australia.
An Australian Fabian Society conference on options for Australia in the light of the Afghanistan experience and American responses to the World Trade Centre tragedy.
9am to 5pm, Saturday, 14 September, 2002.
The Kaleide Theatre, RMIT University, Swanston Street, Melbourne (Entrance a few doors north of Storey Hall - look for the Commonwealth Bank ATMs)
Cost: Standard: $35, AFS Members $30, Students and Concession $20.
For a Sure and Easy Way to Make Certain of Your Conference Place - Return this Form to the Society by Fax to (03) 9826 0104, Mail to GPO Box 2707X, Melbourne, 3001 or E-mail [email protected].
For enquiries, ring (03) 9826 0104.
Speakers: Richard Butler (Diplomat-in-Residence, Council for Foreign Relations, New York), His Excellency Mahmoud Saikal (Ambassador for Afghanistan), Professor William Maley (Australian Defence Forces Academy), Dr Andy Butfoy (Monash University), Professor Bruce Grant (Monash University).
I'm a 19-year-old student (which is probably enough explanation for the patronising Mr. Moore) and I am writing in response to an article that he has probably forgotten that he ever wrote.
The article in question is his "Satire: Shit is a Four Letter Word, article that was published in July last year. I am hoping that I can perhaps provide Mr. Moore with an insight into the young adult mind seeing as he is obviously too fuddy-duddy (yes that is a technical term) over the hill, and well and truly out of the loop that is youth. This isn't something that I normally do, reply to vicious, hastily constructed and ill thought articles, but Love Is was such an amazing piece of Australian television, or even just television that I feel compelled to defend those involved with the project and those who thoroughly enjoyed the viewing experience. Perhaps Mr. Moore is hanging around with the wrong crowd, ie old duffers, because I know plenty of people who enjoyed the series as much as I did. I'd also like to commend Ruth Ritchie on her review, which I read last year. It is obvious that even with a slightly older perspective she can still appreciate "hip" television.
I am one of the first people to admit that there is very little of substance on the box, but for me Love Is really got into my veins. For the several months of the series I almost lived that show. And before anyone suggests that I get out more, let me explain that at the time I was going through the hsc (something that no one should have to go through) and to enter into the Disneyland as Mr. Moore so inanely called it, (that whole paragraph was contrived codswallop to me) was a break from my reality. The characters were so real, so interesting that it was at times hard not to think of them as real people. Love Is had great acting, great music, great styling and some brilliant script writing. Mr. More longed for a good plot, well you don't get a much more complex, exciting, twisted intricate plot than the one the script writers conjured up. Some may not consider it plausible, however, it was a lot more plausible than any Home and Away or Neighbour's storyline, AND a lot more !
entertaining. I get the feeling it has been a long time since Mr. Moore has been around a young, hip "Newtown" crowd because sometimes things really can get as twisted as a Love Is storyline.
It was refreshing to watch a show that was genuinely concerned with the "human" experience, rather than dealing with the same old clich�s of "class" or "ethnicity" that are so often dragged out in a patronizing manner. I can't watch The Bill without falling asleep. In fact, I can't watch The Bill full stop. The mere fact the Mr. Moore feels the need to label certain groups in society, e.g. "Wogs" or "blue collar workers" suggests that he is the one with issues, not the show. And while I'm looking at the particular paragraph of his article, can I mention that there are more important things in TV show, and in life for that matter, than talking about the type of movies or TV shows that we enjoy. Conversations about favourite movies or TV shows doesn't exactly make great viewing, although I suppose that Mr. Moore wouldn't really know much about that topic now would he? I also think that actually having bands play in the pub went one step further than the characters just talking about their favourite types of music.
In fact, I think that there is a good chance that Mr. Moore missed the whole point of the series, after all, it was aimed at a youthful audience. The nitty-gritty act of love that he perversely complained was missing is hardly a reason to say it sucked (excuse the pun). Does Mr. Moore know the difference between sex and love? I was personally impressed that the writers didn't succumb to cheap ratings tactics and have the characters "boof" in every episode in an attempt to make entertainment. I'd hardly say it was prudish, but if it is full on sex and women with "their gear off" that Mr. Moore wants, then perhaps he should direct himself to the adult section of his local video store. Love Is wasn't about infidelity as Mr. Moore suggests, but the way that love isn't always soft and mushy, but can hurt and be an obscenity, hence the title. Love Is wasn't meant to be a comedy, strangely enough South Park is, and the fact that he has placed, or tried to shove the two shows in the!
one category shows that Mr. Moore has no bloody idea.
Personally I would love to rant and rave for another couple of pages, but I have work of my own to do. You see, the reason for this belated response is not that I have been bottling up my anger for over a year, but that I only just found the article found while doing some research. At the moment I am in the drafting stages of creating my own TV series, and I was looking to Love Is for inspiration. It had some of the best scriptwriting that I had ever seen and I challenge Mr. Moore to write something better. I suggest that if he wants to watch a show with history he watch a documentary, or if he wants a story written by a novelist he read a novel. Better still, if he thinks it is so easy, why doesn't the old grump make his own TV series if he finds it so easy to insult the ones that are around now. It was a tragedy that Love Is failed to make it to a second series, I would have happily given a donation rather than have them "waste" Mr. Moore's precious tax dollars.
It is a shame that one viewing of the series wasn't enough for Mr. Moore, however if he would like to watch it a second time for a better understanding, I am more than happy to lend him a copy. I have the whole series on tape. I look forward to reading Mr. Moore's review of my own series if it ever makes it to air, perhaps I will post him a very simple press release so he can at least understand it before he insults it.
Yours in television, Peta
I would like to hear "Union Made" played outside the Melbourne Club
Like Sleeping Giants the Trade Unions of the not only the U.K. but New Zealand and the CFMEU and P.S.A. , in Australia have recovered from their anaesthetised sleep , and not unlike "RIP Van Winkle , they are baffled by what surrounds them.
Their organisations , have be hi-jacked by the ever present contemporise , of Lundy's , of Benedict Arnolds , of quisling and kupappa , the arse kissers , the fore lock tuggers , and the fellatio-aters who now shamelessly desecrate the Trade Union landscape with their presence and dispensation of personal indulgences that would make the "Bulldogs" , look like misers..
These new victories by the outcasts of the Union Movement, prove that when dealing with bastards, the sword is mightier than the pen .
"Figuratively speaking of course".
In New Zealand , On September the 4th, at Auckland Trades Hall, Nadine Rae, an organiser with the Service & Food Workers Union, will be presenting a video and report about the struggle to build fighting democratic unions.
Nadine's presentation will also include discussion on > strategies for increasing union membership, grassroots participation in activities and decision-making, and building international solidarity. Perhaps a few Australian kupapa Union Bosses would find it prudent to attend.
Closer to home the CFMEU, is a least putting up feigned resistance, to its rape , in an attempt not to lose face,
In Ireland, the energies previously focussed on sectarian battles , are now being turned on the exploiters of the people be they socialist or capitalist, with the revival of the spirit of the "Larkin Philosophies."
In Scotland the recent Victory at the Glasgow Infirmary, has created a momentum, which will be hard to stop.
The cute partnership of the Unions and New Labour, know as the "Blair Affair" has a bigger crack that the "San Andrea Fault" running through it.
The 4 million unemployed in The German Republic are making rumblings sounding much like those in the early 1930s.
Is it not now time? For us, to beat our ploughs back into swords, regain some dignity and teach our oppressors a lesson?
I am not one to use biblical terms, but one must accept the will of a greater power than ourselves and this current oppression reminds me off the narration in Samuel 15; and particularly verse 33, of which Abbott and his cohorts, like wolves in sheep's crying out for civil discourse after pillaging the land.
When the going gets tough; then the tough get going;
Well! Let's Go!
by Peter Lewis
It's often been said that union and Labor politics really converge at the AWU, what's the difference between the two breeds of politics?
The Australian Workers Union represents its members industrially. One of the ways it can represent its members is through influencing policy in the Labor Party. But the AWU is not just confined to parliamentary politics. What the AWU is best at is getting out on the job, negotiating fairly, better wages and conditions for members, making sure that their workplaces are safe and protecting their job security. The face of AWU isn't politics; the face of the AWU is representing 140,000 members in every part of Australia and just about every industry in Australia.
By the same token, the AWU was one of the forces in establishing the Labor party, 100 years on. Is that still as important an avenue as it was?
The AWU helped found the Labor party through its struggles on behalf of miners in Victoria and NSW, and of course the very famous pastoral disputes between 1891 and 1894. The landowners of the day tried to actually force a wage cut upon the shearers of the day and in many ways dragged back old world standards into what up to that stage, promised to be a new world of a better deal for workers. The AWU as an outcome of that strike, saw some of its leaders jailed and saw a lot of its capacity to bargain taken away. So it, along with other progressive forces in the colonies, aimed to set up a political party. This new party, the Labor Party, would be a party of labour, to stand up for the issues of trade unions in politics.
I don't think the need for a political wing to stand for workers has diminished over time, there's new challenges, the loss of workers entitlements, corporate scandals, such as Enron, where hundreds of millions of dollars of workers' money was burned. I think there's still plenty of issues in workplace safety, and of course the job of bargaining goes on, and being able to collectively bargain and organise in the face of Conservative government attacks is harder than it's been in a very long time. So I think there's plenty of problems to solve, and if the job of the AWU is helping to keep the Labor Party focused on workers, well that job remains the same as it did 110 years ago.
By the same token, you have been one of those supporting a reduction in formal union influence within the party. Is that because you see less of a focus in political activity?
Whether or not the Labor party has 60/40 or 50/50 in terms of the size of union delegation for the ALP policy conferences, I don't think is the key issue. I think what's important is getting Simon Crean elected as the next Labor prime minister of Australia and getting rid of Howard. Crean has put out, very strongly that he believes that the party needs to reform. At the end of the day, I think we need to get behind the leader on these matters. I think that unions have been made to unfairly wear the blame for the loss of the last federal election, that was squarely the events around the Tampa. (and Howard pushed towards their failure) consider taking this out for readability Insecurity was what won the last election, not trade unions being a bogeyman for Labor.
I'm a bit frustrated about the ongoing debate about the relationship between unions and Labor; the Labor Party is very fortunate to have its trade union base. Trade unions are the largest community organisation in Australia, we have two million members plus their families. No other community organisation has anywhere near that power. We're the only organisation to actually take on corporations.
There's a line of debate that if you touch less than 60 per cent people say that's the end of trade union civilisation, as we know it. I don't believe that. I don't think it should decline below 50 per cent, but I think that sends a message about partnership, 50/50. People may not realise that up until 1971 trade unions in NSW and Victoria had 85 per cent of the conference delegation, there was only 15% from ALP branches. After there was federal intervention by Whitlam, the conferences became 60 per cent union and 40 per cent branches. The world didn't fall in on the Labor Party in 1971 and I don't think the world will fall in upon the union movement today, if it goes to 50/50. It's already 50/50 in South Australia, Tasmania and Western Australia. The effectiveness of trade unions depends on not being captured by factional machinations including the ALP, and ensuring that the trade union delegations speak up on trade union issues at the ALP. That's what our members expect to arise as a result of affiliation.
By the same token, Bill, you've been seen as one of those who likes to play factional politics. How does that sit with your responsibilities as a union leader?
I don't accept the assumption of that question; the responsibilities of being union leader come first and foremost on every occasion.
What do you see as the future of the factions in a post Cold War environment , do you see the emergence of a more industrial block within the party?
I think its premature to say there will be an emergence of an industrial wing. Certainly in the experience of the AWU and other active unions, quite often we end up fighting the same issues alongside unions, which when we go on the weekend to the ALP conference, vote differently, because of factional alignments. I think probably what is necessary is that trade unions promote trade union issues at the party conference rather than letting the agenda be set by certain people in the parliamentary wing. I just think, that's our big challenge to identify how we gain the most value out of our affiliation to the Labor part.
Traditionally party conferences are quite reactive meeting, where its more about the leadership asking the rank and file to agree to a change in policy. Do you see more scope for unions to cease the process?
Well, I think that what's important is that we have Labor governments elected, and that the Labor governments that get elected then deliver for working people and their families, the constituents that the trade unions represent. That's what is most important. The party conference and increasingly its resolutions seem to get ignored by different parts of the Labor Party. I think the unions' challenge to ensure we've got relevant ideas and then make sure that Labor governments, state and federal, implement the relevant ideas.
What are some of those ideas that you'd like to see more attention given to from politicians of all political persuasions?
I think certainly, tougher health and safety laws, the pendulum about deregulation of health and safety has swung too far. Certainly fair workers' compensation laws are very important. I also think that federally, there should be greater emphasis on the powers of the commission to arbitrate disputes, rather than forcibly tying the independent umpire's hands and not allowing them to get involved in disputes. I also think that things such as bargaining fees and the right of the primacy of collective agreements needs to be encouraged, in other words, tools and instruments which allow unions to go out and represent their workers fairly and bargain fairly for them. I think that the downgrading of the federal award system has been retrograde, what it's done is it's led to a race to the bottom and companies, who aren't covered by federal awards, are getting an unfair advantage. Also companies who won't bargain, we deal with a lot of workers in the rural and agricultural sectors, where enterprise bargaining hasn't penetrated. The federal government needs to plant mechanisms around a stronger award system with more than just minimum wage adjustments to be introduced.
Even their best friends would concede the AWU has had an image problem in the past, how have you been working to turn that around?
I think that the AWU image issue is more of a perception problem than a reality problem in many parts of Australia. We've got strong and active branches in many parts of Australia and it seems to me that when you look, total up the size of the AWU, its involvement in so many different parts of the economy and its achievements for its members are significant. All I've tried to do as national secretary is to provide a focus in terms of articulating that the AWU is a very good strong union which will go hard for its member. In addition, we've been involved in a number of national agreements, where the AWU has taken, what people would say, would be a very strong stand. Against Qantas, we took industrial action quite a while after other unions had reached agreements. I'm also interested in seeing that the AWU uses its formidable strength across the country, to create an industrial outcome which is better than what we could do as an individual branches. We're involved in promoting the use of Australian shipping on Australian coastlines, when they carry Australian cargos, and the AWU, because it works in so many sectors of the economy which involves bulk cargo, commodity cargo, has the capacity to sit down and talk to employers in those industries and help explain to them the benefits of using Australian flowing vessels.
Lets take an example where you went out on a limb for the MUA, what was the thinking behind that?
Sometimes it's important not to mark issues as being a particular union's issues. Where does one draw the line? If we're allowing guest workers to work on ships in Australian coastal workers, being governed by terms and conditions of the Ukraine or the Bahamas, as opposed to the terms and conditions of Australia, where do you stop? Why not allow, Corrigan, or Virgin Airlines, or Richard Branson, to use aircrews flying over Australia being paid under Bahaman or Ukrainian conditions? If we allow Australian coastal shipping to disappear, that's a problem for our economic independence and also our national security, so that's an issue, which no Australian can afford, not stand up on.
Back to the AWU history. There is a perception within the movement that there has been a tendency to yellow unionism, cutting the soft deal with the boss to keep the other unions out, is that something you reject?
The AWU, because of its size and its history and its industrial significance in many parts of the economy will always attract jealousy. We reject assumptions of yellow unionism. Traditionally the AWU was the only union who'd organise at the end of the tram tracks. We'd organise and protect workers who no one else could organise in the rural industries. In many of our heavy industries, such as oil, civil construction, or steel, or aluminium, we've led the way with the development of pace setting conditions, such as the introduction of superannuation. Many of our members have wages, which would be the envy of many other members of any other unions. Fundamentally the problem in the union movement is that we see some unions saying they are more correct, more politically pure, more ideologically superior. I think that's not trade unionism, that's some sort of cannibalism and I think one thing the AWU has always done, is its always stood for listening to its members, rather than telling its members what's written in a little red book, printed somewhere overseas.
You are the principal rural union, how much potential is there out in the regions where the union movement is working to rebuild?
Well, there's a lot of potential in the regions, and a couple of branches are staring to make inroads, such as the NSW branch, led by Russ Collison and the Queensland branch, led by Bill Ludwig. In NSW, we have more organisers operating outside the city than any other blue collar private section union. One of the difficulties is of course, many laws have been effectively deregulated, and there's a lot of exploitation. There's no good reason why workers in the bush should have a much greater significant wage differential lower than their city counterparts. I think that one of the disappointments of Pauline Hanson on one hand and the National Party on the other is they have tried to identify themselves with the battlers in the bush. But the only people who can really seek to improve the economic conditions of a lot of people in the country is the AWU, and what we've got to do is spread that message.
Finally, the trend lines have been down over the last decade, for union numbers, although its starting to sort of bottom out at least. Are you optimistic for the future, and what is the one step the union movement needs to take to have a better future?
I am optimistic about the future. In our Victorian branch we've grown from 16,000 to about 21,000 in the last 4 years. Growth is possible in unions. I'm very positive about the AWU, it's taken us some years to bed down amalgamation between the AWU and the Ironworkers, but that's now been accomplished, and I think we're certainly fairly high up the league table, in terms of being a unified organisation internally. In terms of the future, the best thing that we can do is empower and involve our delegates, give them the skills, give them the resources, give them the confidence to feel that the union that they belong to is a union which will go one day longer for them, but also one which they are very involved in.
Monday, 26 August 2002. It is 6 am in the Sydney suburb of Ryde. A cool morning. Rain threatens, and eventually comes in showers. Well before the start of the working day, thirty unionists and supporters gather and blockade the entrance to the local headquarters of the multinational Trane company.
This is a manicured industrial corporate world of landscaped gardens, lawns, tame trees, suits, label clothing, laptops, water coolers, and latte by the litre.
Trane is a global American company specializing in air conditioning equipment. Since 1984 it has been part of the transnational business empire of American Standard Companies Inc (ASCI).
Last year ASCI notched up sales worth over $US7 billion. The empire traces its lineage back to pioneering American industrial businesses in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including the railway and automotive industries. The railway interests were shed during the 1980s in a corporate battle with Black & Decker.
Today the empire milks its wealth from the labour of workers internationally in three areas: air conditioning systems; plumbing supplies; automotive braking systems.
The Dayson compressor remanufacturing plant in Rydalmere is part of the empire, being a Trane subsidiary. The company has been used to a non-union brand of industrial relations, and individual contracts.
However last year Dayson workers joined the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU). Since then, along with a lone member of the Electrical Trades Union already on site, the workers have been seeking to negotiate a collective agreement with the company including a pay rise, a better redundancy package, and entitlements protection.
Dayson refused to negotiate collectively with the unionists, and seven employees were terminated, including two union delegates. In response the majority of the small workforce went on an indefinite stoppage and formed a picket line outside the Rydalmere plant.
An Industrial Relations Commission recommendation that the company put aside its ideological objection and negotiate with the unions has been defied.
The picket line of eleven workers has now been outside the plant for fourteen weeks.
The Dayson operation has been drastically curtailed, with the majority of trucks refusing to cross the line, leaving deliveries to unbadged vehicles and furtive traffic movements.
Striking workers have worked hard to build support, and there have been heartening expressions of solidarity and goodwill, donations of goods, money, and physical help with maintaining the line.
Monday's ambush was part of the campaign. The blockaders called upon the Trane-Dayson management to negotiate with the unions. It was a reminder to management and its corporate masters that the Rydalmere Eleven are real people. They might be suburbs away in the lawnless sweaty world of industrial Rydalmere, but they are unionists, and they are not going to disappear.
Monday's symbolic action brought the dispute to the front door of the American cleanskins and their Australian managers. No one got through the blockade, apart from a few who scuttled through a hidden back door. For the duration of the action a management honcho remained out in the cold, sheltering under an umbrella, a mobile phone clamped to his ear. The unionists and their supporters were civil, the police who attended were civil, and the management representative seemed queasily uncertain.
At 10 am the blockaders decamped and were led off site by the Rydalmere Eleven, union flags held high.
It is understood that since Monday's action management has agreed to begin talks with elected representatives of the striking workers and with union representatives to seek a way forward. In the meantime there will be no resumption of work, and the task of building support continues.
Supporters can attend the picket at 30 South Street, Rydalmere, Monday to Friday, 6am - 5pm. To contact the relevant AMWU organiser, phone Harry on 0419 402 650.
There was the man himself, Terence Rhoderic Hudson Cole, QC, lording it over procedings in the hearing room, and an ageing Sydney Morning Herald journo named Malcolm Brown spilling the beans on the game plan, on a near daily basis, in the adjacent media centre.
The mood swings of the latter, primed on Commission tactics by spin doctor Rick Willis, were enlightening.
Usually, in the morning, he was upbeat and optimistic. This was the day the CFMEU would be nailed he would confidently inform fellow scribes. Terms like "criminal" and "conspiracy" would follow, before deep disappointment set in.
Even, yesterday, on the very last day of hearings, the light of optimism still shone. This, in fact, he suggested would be the day of CFMEU secretary Andrew Ferguson's fall.
"Why?" the informed one was asked. "I know but I can't tell you," he replied.
A couple of hours later, the black funk was back.
"He's answered everything. There's no story in this, there's no #$@/ story," he stammered
And, indeed, on the day after the union launched a sensational challenge to Cole's very right to stage his proceedings, in the Sydney Morning Herald, there wasn't, save for a paragraph in the briefs.
When anti-union evidence had previously been led, much of it later discredited, the SMH had never restricted coverage to its briefs column.
But, believe it or not, this is not a tale of the media. Our man from the Herald was reporting proceedings the way the Commission intended. They didn't pay $700,000, predominantly for Willis, for nothing; and, to be fair, they got value for money.
This is about Cole and why the Federal Court will hear that he rigged the game.
Workers Online has already brought you an in-depth report of the abuses of fair play in the firstCommission-CFMEU Test (Issue No 146) and, from the moment Counsel Assisting Nicholas Green, took the new ball on the opening morning of the second showdown, it became apparent nothing had changed.
Green used his televised opening to full effect.
"May it please the Commission," he began. And there can be little doubt that, if nothing else, it pleased the Commission and Commissioner.
Green announced: We shall examine ...
- the conduct of CFMEU organisers and site delegates on building and construction sites in NSW ...
- whether the CFMEU uses its position in the industry to extract monies ...
- internal workings of the CFMEU.
- the extent to which the CFMEU executive has instructed, encouraged or endorsed the conduct of its officials ...
- sources of revenue for the CFMEU
- the CFMEU's fighting fund
- compliance by major contractors with CFMEU demands
- money laundering and payment to union officials
We will lead/adduce/present evidence, he further promised ...
- of specific examples of compliance by major contractors with demands of the CFMEU to make substantial payments of monies to the union ...
- of alleged corruption by individual CFMEU officials, including organisers and site delegates
- of a concerted campaign by the CFMEU, from about 1996 onwards, to take advantage of the enterprise bargaining process and the use, or threatened use, of industrial action ...
- of the nature and purpose of these donations in respect of CFMEU Picnic Fund, the Honest Uionism Fund, the Cuban Solidarity Fund, and the CFMEU's Fighting Fund
- from an accomplice to such an arrangement who, in collaboration with union officials, used a company of which he was a director to launder money.
What Green, typically, forgot to mention in his opening was that key evidence on funds, and alleged corruption, would, in fact be led, from two former officials investigated and dumped by the union for their own corruption.
Nor did he bother to reveal that he was in possession of four statements from separate employers that these star Commission witnesses had accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in corrupt payments; sold Viagra on worksites; and engaged in a conspiracy with a group of employers and underworld figure, Tom Domican, to unseat the very CFMEU leaders now firmly in the Commission's sights.
Cole over-ruled objections to that effect and dealt similarly with protests about the partisan nature of Green's opening.
Every TV channel in the country had its item for that night's news bulletins.
Now, try to neutralise all your critical faculties for a moment; forget this was supposed to have been an Inquiry into all parties in the industry rather than a Prosecution of a single player; and stay with us.
In order to pursue the allegations made above, the Commission settled on a tactic of ambush.
Without warning anyone, other than selected journalists, of what was to come they called union witnesses to the stand and hit them with claims and allegations they had never seen or heard before.
It began with allegations over industrial action to extract $142,000 from principal contractors to pay the entitlements of dozens of workers with a failed tiling company. The Herald, duly, and prominently, ran Commission claims that thousands of dollars had been diverted into union fees.
Union secretary Andrew Ferguson showed the following day that a complete misunderstanding of the settlement, and faulty mathematics, had led to the Commission relying on "wildly exaggerated" figures. Counsel Assisting reluctantly accepted his point but it sailed right past the Sydney Morning Herald.
They were still at it on the final day, alleging, somehow, that the union had diverted millions of dollars in back pay claims into its own funds. It was Ferguson's comprehensive destruction of this theory, even without warning of what was coming, that provoked the "no story" concession from the Herald's man at the Commission.
Perhaps the most telling moment, however, came mid-innings, in an exchange which sparked little or no media attention.
Counsels Assisting and the Commissioner, himself, were conducting a fishing trip throught the waters of union accounts.
Hellbent on landing the big one, they probably felt a bit like that Eskimo on the television ad who hooked a killer whale, when Ferguson's replies started coming back.
What, the Commissioner wanted to know, should he make of a number of payments to the CFMEU from state health and safety body Workcover?
Counsel Assisting, Ron Gipp, broke in to suggest there was a "plausible" explanation as Ferguson served on various Workcover boards and committees.
"They are my fees, I don't pocket them," Ferguson explained. "I regard, as I am working for the union, they should go to the union."
Then they turned their attention to BWAC - a CFMEU - Master Builders Association joint venture established to look after unemployed building workers.
"Why" Cole inquired, "would it make a donation to your fighting fund?
Same thing, apparently. Ferguson receives $5000 in directors fees but donates them back, in their entirety.
Then, the Commissioner wanted to know, how the witness could explain a $25,000 payment to his union's fighting fund from the Nine Network Australia?
"I sued Channel 9 and donated $25,000 to this fund and (the other) $25,000 to help the MUA fight the Federal Government," Ferguson explained.
Cole and his counsels, more familiar with that part of society inhabited by Ray Williams, Jodee Rich, Brad Cooper and co, appeared somewhat non-plussed.
The point is that all this nonsense could have been avoided if the Commission had sought to behave in an even-handed manner. Instead of leaping to flawed conclusions and trying to bushwhack union witnesses with concealed evidence, they could have simply asked for explanations and saved themselves a lot of time, and taxpayers millions of dollars.
Instead, their three-man attack of Green, Gipp and Dr Matt Collins were often left to look innocuous and, sometimes, embarrassed.
That really shouldn't happen when your own man doubles as both groundsman and umpire.
In the circumstances, nobody was really surprised when union representatives decided to appeal to a higher authority. Not even the man from the Herald.
Aiming to integrate the 'social dimension' into all aspects of sustainable development, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions is using the Johannesburg summit to highlight what needs of workers must be taken into account during any shift to a more sustainable system.
These include work-based strategies for sustainable development, employment and social transition programs, and a recognition of the close link between public and workplace concerns.
The ICFTU says that because the engagement of workers is a primary requirement for effectiveness, this success can only be extended to sustainable development "if workers see clear evidence that proper attention has been given to the social dimension of change, especially to employment and poverty issues".
Workers and trade unionists were first designated as a Major Group of Agenda 21 at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. At that summit the UN Commission on Sustainable Development recognised that "changes to unsustainable patterns of production and consumption must begin at the workplace and must involve workers and their trade unions".
Since then 17 framework agreements have been signed between global union federations and multinational corporations. No love has been lost over that time and at the current summit it is corporations that clearly have the upper hand.
Corporate Cowboys Given The Reins
Corporations have been encouraged at the United Nations forum to negotiate voluntary agreements to regulate themselves, using codes of practice to reign in their own environmental pillage.
Meanwhile, the reluctance of governments to adequately legislate against environmentally and socially irresponsible corporations has been the source of continued and escalating frustration on the part of unions and environmentalists alike.
This has culminated in international unions calling for no less than a total redefining of the term sustainable development, with as much emphasis placed on social sustainability as corporations are placing on economic factors. They are also calling for governments to back up the new direction with the full force of the law.
This push and pull forms the backdrop to a broader argument that practical environmental solutions are the real casualties of the summit.
Unions Call For Equity
In light of the ongoing struggle, the unions' push for poverty and social issues to be addressed at the conference seems no more or less ambitious than any strictly environmental goals.
The ICFTU is arguing that taking action on these issues would "serve as an auspicious start for a new deal, and capture the imaginations of people everywhere, giving a boost to poor working men and women all over the world".
It adds that any realistic attempt to deal with poverty must address the problem as it relates to the workplace, by addressing low pay, marginalised employment patterns, and discriminatory pay patterns, such as those affecting women and youth.
Items on the ICFTU's conference outcomes wish list for poverty eradication include:
� an affirmation of "governments' role in implementing policies and mobilising resources to improve investment in the local economy, with progressive systems of national taxation";
� the implementation of mechanisms that will control capital flows with clear, transparent rules;
� an assurance that globalisation will not lead to counter-productive outcomes for development; and
� that debt reduction and relief measures will be improved, with priority given to social services, employment, gender awareness, and workers' rights.
Safety = Sustainability
Another major focus of the unions' agenda is the inclusion of occupational health and safety in the definition of sustainable development.
The ICFTU says work-related illness and injuries are a major drain on world resources but is assuring governments and the international community that strong unions will ensure workplaces are "cleaner and safer" and therefore more sustainable.
The ICFTU reports that unions, employers and governments have already started working together to steadily adapt the focus of joint union and employer health and safety committees that integrate environmental issues with responsibilities to the community.
A Smooth Transition?
One of the main areas where unions are finding a role in sustainable development is during the transition to more sustainable industries. The problem of workers being displaced after environmentally unsound operations are forced to close is unlikely to be fairly dealt with unless unions are able to continue playing a significant role in protecting their members' interests during this time.
Research into more sustainable industries, integrated strategies for retraining, and the consideration of social and cultural issues are just a few ways in which unions have been assisting workers experience a smoother transition to environmentally sound industries.
However, the system has been far from perfected yet and it is crucial that unions around the world develop clear plans to ensure their role in the process is as effective and proactive as possible.
But the ICFTU is arguing that before there can be advancement in any other areas, the definition of sustainability must be brought back to the negotiating table.
by Neale Towart
He was the journalist who broke the story of story of Colonel Redl the man who was highly regarded employee of the Austro-Hungarians, double agent for the Russians, French and Serbians, a story recreated in the 1980s film. Kischs' fame in Australia resulted from his being banned from entering the country. He was invited to speak at the Congress Against War and Fascism.
The conservative government wasn't too keen on this opposition to the sound policies of herr Hitler. He was required to sit a language test in Scots Gaelic (one of the few European languages he didn't know). He made a dramatic leap from the Strathaird onto the Melbourne docks and was hidden in various places around Australia by supporters (mostly CPA members). During this time he wrote many of his perceptions of Australia. His style is jovial, almost whimsical, as the dust jacket of the 1969 Australasian Book Society says, but this masks some of the disquieting things he has to say.
His chapters on the treatment of Aboriginal people and the working conditions of miners are particularly striking. The following is bit more upbeat but still gives the flavour of his style. One section was called "The Continent of Trade Unions." Trade unionists were of course, under attack in the Germany he was from, and trade unionists were involved in sheltering him. Trades Hall in Sydney and Melbourne seem to have been his accommodation. He gives some great walking tours of the buildings.
The trade unions of Melbourne possess a gabled palace, with pillars and a flight of stairs and a sloping terrace, comparable to the houses of parliament in the capitals of Europe. In Australia the kangaroo and emu are included among the heraldic animals, and they are not forgotten in the bas-reliefs around the Melbourne Trades Hall.
The "House of the Trade Unions," just as it stands, suits the imagination of those who have heard Australia described as the "workers' wonderland." For Australia has borne many such names - it was the "future state in reality," the "continent with the highest wage scale," the "socialist paradise." Generations of reformists pointed with outstretched forefingers to this continent: Workers, look at Australia! See what can be done without revolution...
Do they not feel the thrilling pride of ownership, those workers who climb the staircase of the Melbourne palazzo, coming to ask for work, and finding none?
The Trades Hall of Sydney is far less imposing. Situated in Goulburn St, quite near the docks and industrial suburbs, it traces its origin back to the days of long ago, but even when it was built the trade-union leaders had a reputation among the authorities, and in society, and were proud of it.
How do we know? As we entered Sydney's Trades Hall for the first time, we paused to recover our breath at the gate, because our shoulders were aching from the pressure of the crutches. Seizing the opportunity, we read on a marble tablet that the foundation-stone was laid in January, 1888, in the presence of His Excellency the Governor, the Right Honourable Earl Carrington, P.C., G.C.M.G. ...
The memorial plaques along the staircase are not made of cardboard either; they praise not only those trade unionists who were killed in the War, but all who have fought - and fought heroically, as we shall learn.
With all convenient haste, away from these milestones on the road of trade-union development, we mount the stairs.
This Trades Hall is the organizational center for one hundred and thirty thousand workers of Sydney and its environs. The highest body is the Trades and Labour Council, consisting of more than one hundred members. The offices of the twenty-eight members of its Executive Committee are in the building. The departments include one for functionaries who appear as advocates for the unions before the Arbitration Court; also the accident insurance department, and the Enquiry Office, which latter deals with questions of factory hygiene, accident prevention, statistics, and the filing of overseas newspapers.. The management of the broadcasting station 2KY is also located here. Twelve hours a day this station broadcasts to 500,000 workers - reports about cricket, horse races, football, a little tennis, swimming, orchestral and jazz music, news, humorous and serious pieces, advertisements, with occasionally a political review.
The individual unions have their offices in the Trades Hall, the building workers, printers, food-industry workers, textile workers, metal-trades workers, timber workers, municipal employees, transport workers of sea and shore, "miscellaneous," and the pastoral workers.
The last-named, like the powerfully-organised miners, inclne towards the Left. But the "pastoral Workers Industrial Union" embraces only a small minority pof the mass of agricultural workers; most of the "sowers and mowers, the shepherds and shearers" are organized in the A.W.U.
A.W.U. stands for "Australian workers Union," but some, not excluding A.W.U. members, hasten to assert that the three letters mean: "Australia's Worst Union." It refrained from affiliating to the Australian Council of Trade Unions, as it regards itself as a federation of trade unions, a trade-union center. The A.W.U. owns buildings in many towns, it is more Right Wing than the other unions, it is one of the oldest workers' associations, and from its ranks came many of the pioneer Labour politicians. Even to-day it has a decisive influence in the Labour Party.
We remember the Australian trade unions with gratitude. They supported the mass movement against the prosecution of the anti-war delegates by the authorities, and repeatedly put up bail. In the Trades halls, of which there is one in nearly every industrial town, we had given lectures for the officials about General Schleicher's plan to form a coalition government supported by the trade unions and the Reichswehr, and about the illusions held by the German trade-union leaders even in the Hitler Government - until May 1st, 1933. The questions and discussions disclosed an anti-fascist tendency in all of them. Nevertheless, they have always proved to be as "peaceful and liberal" as Lenin designated Australian trade-union officials back in 1913. Partly from private sources, and partly from Who's Who in Labour, wherein they publish their biographies each year, we became acquainted with their hobbies - watching football matches, collecting stamps, betting on the races, listening to the wireless, fishing, or gardening.
"If Labour had been in power in the Federal parliament," they said again and again, "all this would never have happened to you."
And if it would have happened even then?
"Then the Government would have had its reasons."
Egon Kisch. Australian Landfall. With a forward by Sandy Yarwood. Translated by John Fisher and Irene and Kevin Fitzgerald. Sydney: Australasian Book Society, 1969. First published by Secker and Warburg, 1937
'There is no clear evidence from experience that the investment which is socially advantageous coincides with that which is the most profitable.' - John Maynard Keynes
The first thing anyone can notice about so-called 'public-private partnerships' -- or 'PPPs' -- is that the subject presents itself as both exceedingly complicated and very boring; so complicated and boring that even editors with the Australian Financial Review have complained to me at times about being 'PPPed out'. Indeed, the topic can be so complicated and boring that one suspects this is a deliberate part of the political marketing strategy adopted by the advocates of these policies. If the editors of the Fin find the topic tedious, what hope can critics have of raising public awareness and debate about this direction?
Let me try to cut through some of the complexity, even if I cannot promise to be entertaining. Actually, when preparing this paper I spent some time searching cyberspace for some jokes about PPPs, without any luck. I naturally thought this was because the topic is so dry and complex that it simply doesn't allow for humour. But, on second thought, it occurred that the reason no one bothers to think up jokes about PPPs is because the policy-makers have already done the job for us.
The first joke in all the policy papers that have been released by our State Labor governments is an insistence that PPPs are not privatisation. The Western Australian PPP paper, for example, states in the opening paragraph of its introduction that the government 'has a clear policy position that it does not support privatisation'. Likewise, the NSW document says that the policy 'does not mean privatisation of public services'.
These statements must be a joke, because all the papers are all about, and all of them are only about, privatisation. No, this does not mean that the policies are about 'privatisation by stealth' -- the promoters of these policies don't really mind them being described as 'privatisation by stealth', since it helps them to keep up their running joke, which is that these policies are not about privatisation, pure and simple.
Let me insist, and we all should insist, that they are about privatisation, no more no less. This point must be hammered. A close reading of the PPP policy documents reveals that the only public activities that they all exclude from privatisation are school teaching and clinical services within hospitals. Mind you, the schools and hospitals can be privatised, but the governments have generally promised that they will still continue to employ the teachers, doctors and nurses who work in them. Some governments have gone a little further. The Victorian government has also ruled out privatising the judges within the court system, as has the Western Australian government, which has also ruled out privatising the police and 'offender management'.
This then is the first important point to be made. Read at their widest, the policies that have been represented as PPPs amount to a New Right Utopia. There is no barrier within these policy papers that can prevent State governments being reduced to the point where they own nothing, and their sole direct tasks will be teaching school children and tending the sick. In Victoria and Western Australia, they will also continue to employ our judges. Bravely, Western Australia also promises to continue to employ police and manage 'offenders'. Let's be clear: these policy papers supply no other limits. Beyond these slender commitments, PPPs amount to open slather for privatisation.
I lie. The truth is that the policies don't even supply these slender limits. A close reading of the Victorian policy, for example, reveals that the government has only promised to remain directly responsible for 'core' services. The problem here is that, when we go to the definition of 'core', we find that this does not necessarily even include education and hospital services. The policy does not make a clear statement that these are core services, and that they are therefore not subject to the PPP policy. Rather, what the policy says is that these tasks 'are widely regarded as core services'. Note, the policy does not say that the Victorian government regards these services as 'core', only that others do. Given that the paper also explicitly states that the definition of core services will be decided on a 'case by case' basis, strictly, the policy remain utterly open-ended.
This is, perhaps, a form of stealth. Yet it is not 'privatisation by stealth'; rather, it is pure and simple, in your face privatisation, plus a good deal of 'stealth' in defining the real limits of the policies. This is true of all the States. Despite their qualified allusions to protecting so-called 'core' services, all the policies emphasise their open-ended scope. The Western Australian government's policy is perhaps the most explicitly open-ended. In contrast to the vagaries employed to describe the very few functions that the government intends to keep, the policy paper presents an explicit list of areas that the West is actively seeking to privatise. These are: transport and port facilities, health facilities, education facilities, water supply and waste water treatment, electricity generation, transmission and distribution, gas supply and distribution, housing development and new housing estates, land development, and major construction processes. This list, the paper emphasises, is 'non-exclusive'.
So this is the first Orwellian-style joke that the State Labor governments are enjoying at the expense of their citizens. In the tradition of 1984's Big Brother, who insisted that war is peace, that freedom is slavery and that ignorance is strength, our State governments have all released policy papers that set out privatisation policies, which they insist are not privatisation policies. Again, let's be clear. Privatising water, electricity and transport can only mean privatising water, electricity and transport, regardless of whether the government does or does not continue to directly employ judges and police. Likewise, privatising school and hospital facilities, which presently appear to be at the front-line of the PPP policies, can only mean privatising school and hospital facilities, regardless of whether the government does or does not continue to employ schoolteachers and nurses.
Of course, the reasons why our State Labor governments are refusing to say that their privatisation policies are privatisation policies are plain enough. Despite the fact that the Australian public has been barraged by 20 years of bi-partisan pro-privatisation rhetoric, accompanied by a privatisation program valued at around $120 billion -- a program that has placed Australia at the top of the world privatisation rankings -- the public has remained implacably opposed to the policy. Opinion surveys always show - always show -- that between 60 and 70 per cent of Australians are opposed to privatisation; an opposition that stretches across all demographics and voting intentions. So entrenched is the public's opposition that even the majority of Telstra shareholders are opposed to the further privatisation of Telstra.
Given the unpopularity, our politicians have simply removed the word; they have scrubbed out 'privatisation' and replaced it with a new descriptor called 'partnership', and continued to advance their privatisation policies under this new banner. We will come to the new banner, and then to some of the issues that arise under the new policies. But first, let me quote from a speech made by the Australian Auditor-General in April, which goes to the most general concern about the cheap assurances the State governments are issuing about so-called 'core' services and the continuing privatisation of the nation's public sector:
Outsourcing and privatising areas traditionally considered public sector activities indicates that the size of the core is shrinking. A broader issue is whether, over the longer term, the public sector might diminish to a point at which it no longer constitutes a credible, effective or viable arm of sound governance.
This brings us to the second running joke in these policies, which is the insistence that they are not promoting privatisation, but 'partnerships'. Now we all know what partnerships are. We have tennis partners, marriage partners, bridge partners, business partners and so on, and in every case -- in all conventional contexts -- if the term is to have a distinct meaning, 'partnership' must carry connotations of equality, with both parties working toward a joint goal.
The truth is that almost nothing in these latest privatisation policies can be fairly described as providing for the formation of partnerships, apart from the frequent rhetorical assertions that the policies do have this aim. On the contrary, almost all the detail of the policies testifies to the fact that they primarily aim to establish long-term commercial contracts, provided these represent so-called 'value for money'. This is made unequivocal by the universal stipulation that private firms will only be contracted to supply specified 'outputs'. This automatically necessarily means that the governments will remain solely responsible for the 'outcomes' from the deals. The inescapable conclusion is that the policies thus provide for the establishment of asymmetric business relationships; relationships so starkly asymmetric that they cannot be defined as 'partnerships'. In fact, the policies amount to nothing more than conventional principal-agent contract relations, and principal-agent contract relationships are not, and cannot in any reasonable sense, be described as 'partnerships'.
Thus, it seems obvious that the role of the 'partnership' rhetoric is simply to hide the unpopularity of privatisation behind a term that implies equality, and therefore evokes a friendly glow. There are dangers in this policy marketing rhetoric that go beyond just fooling poor old dumb Joe Public. The danger is that the terminology will also fool the governments themselves. The risk is that the positive connotations of equality and joint goals that are associated with the rhetoric of partnership will confuse and tend to disarm the governments and their officials. There are places for genuine partnerships with government. But falsely characterising garden variety principal-agent contracts as partnerships only encourages institutional capture, allowing select private firms privileged access to market and political intelligence and generally interfering with the necessarily hard-headed and unprejudiced evaluation of whether or not the proposed privatisations are socially beneficial.
Costs and Benefits
Given that in discussing PPPs we are actually talking about various forms of privatisation, what can we say about the costs and benefits? Let's leave aside the actual open-ended character of the polices, and assume for the moment that we are just talking about the present agenda to privatise schools and hospitals. The first thing to say is that it is mistaken to think that private provision will bring additional funding for these facilities. On the contrary, privatisation is merely a more expensive alternative to funding the infrastructure through public borrowing in the traditional way.
There is some inescapable arithmetic here. Irrespective of whether the infrastructure continues to be collectively funded through the public sector, or is funded by select private firms, there is no doubt about where most of the money will come from: it will be borrowed from the managers of the nation's swelling superannuation funds. The inescapable arithmetic is that the funds will lend money to the government by purchasing bonds for a return of less than 4 per cent, whereas they demand an additional risk premium of 6-8 per cent from consortia that offer private infrastructure bonds.
Moreover, with private firms, someone must also fund the additional cost of raising the capital, involving the structuring of the projects, undertaking risk evaluation, carrying out debt and equity placement, and so on, which is usually 3 to 4 per cent of the total cost. Further, although this is rarely mentioned, we must remember that additional costs also arise because, unlike State governments, private firms must pay tax. While quasi-taxes or tax equivalents may theoretically be applied to the 'public sector comparator' (in the name of 'competitive neutrality' - yes, the national competition policy lurks behind PPPs), this does not remove the private tax disadvantage; it merely transfers its manifestation from the comparator to the Treasuries.
The inescapable arithmetic therefore is that the cost to the public of capital under privatisation is at least double the cost of raising the funds directly through the public sector in the traditional way: instead of the government rate of less than 4 per cent interest on the capital; private consortia must receive between 9 and 16 per cent. In turn, this means that the only way that PPPs can be profitable to private firms is if the service quality is dramatically reduced, the taxpayer gets severely gouged, or large-scale efficiency gains can be found.
It beggars belief to imagine that large-scale efficiencies can be found by privatising social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals. The most likely prospect is that the services will decline. In the UK, where private financing has been operating for some years now, the diversion of funds to cover the additional costs for private hospital development has led to a 30 per cent reduction in bed capacity and a 20 per cent reduction in hospital staff. An extensive study of the record was also undertaken last year by Tony Blair's favourite think-tank, the Institute of Public Policy Research. Although heavily criticised for being a deeply interested attempt to 'talk out' the policy's opponents, the report nevertheless found that the British results showed no significant efficiency gains in hospitals and schools.
This stands to reason, for it has long been recognised that the major opportunity for capturing efficiencies in this area is in the construction phase, which is already conventionally put out to private tender. Conceivably, there may also be some gains to be made by tendering for maintenance, or bundling the maintenance task with the construction tender, although these gains are only likely to be small and they are, in any event, hotly contested in the literature. Regardless, there is no need to flog private ownership rights or long-term private franchises for schools and hospitals in order to capture these gains.
So how do the policies justify the additional costs? The magic pudding that bridges the cost gap is referred to as 'risk allocation'. We don't really have the space to delve into the infinite complexities of risk allocation, but let me make some quick points.
Firstly, the idea that substantive risk transfer occurs in these deals is another PPP joke. As mentioned, construction risks, the major risks in physical infrastructure, have already been privatised. And as has also been mentioned, the policies explicitly stipulate that the governments will remain fully and solely responsible for the outcomes in all the privatised policy areas, with the private firms only being responsible for so-called 'outputs'. In other words, if the privatisation of schools and hospitals has adverse impacts on education and health, the governments will continue to carry the can.
And the major risk that all normal private firms face, the risk that actually gives an authentic meaning to the notion of private enterprise, is non-existent in these cases. This is, of course, the risk that there will not be sufficient demand for a firm's product, or that it will be undercut by competition. In the case of PPPs, this risk will be completely born by the governments, since they have all undertaken to guarantee demand for 25-30 years. It is this remarkable government guarantee that underwrites all PPP policies. This is the river of gold for which the private consortia are bidding. Note the contrast between the extraordinary 25-30 year public income security that is to be granted to the new owners under the privatisations and the receding security it entails for Australian workers? From this perspective, we can say not only that PPP policies are about privatisation; we can also see that, in the most vital sense, they are not about private enterprise.
If none of the major risks are transferred under the policy, how can risk be used to justify the policy? The answer is that the State governments have adopted an idiosyncratic definition of risk. Ever since Frank Knight (1921), conventional economic literature has defined risk as an actuarial concept, applying to randomness that may affect returns that can be specified in terms of specific insurable numerical possibilities (as with the likelihood or rain, or lottery tickets). Beyond, this strict definition, the probability of random occurrences affecting returns is a matter of subjective belief, or the concept shades into the broader concept of 'uncertainty'.
The widespread use of subjective risk assessment, defined in a way as to include any and all possible imaginable uncertainties, is cause for serious public suspicion. A major study of risk allocation in the UK, for example, found that risk transfer was the critical element in proving the 'value for money' case for privatising public hospitals. For the six hospitals subjected to the study, the value of the allocated risk varied by between an extraordinary 17.4 and 50.4 per cent of total capital costs, yet, as it happened, in each case this just amounted to a cost that was sufficient to close the gap between private and public options, often favouring the private proposal by less than only 0.1 per cent. Since there is no standard method of measuring the values of non-calculable risk, and the UK government has not published the methods it uses to arrive at its figures, the study concluded that the 'value for money analysis seems to be no more than a mechanism that has been created to make the case for using private finance'.
The final point on the costs and benefits of the policies is that we should appreciate that PPPs also create new and potentially very costly risks. Given that the policies cannot, and explicitly do not, transfer the residual risks to the private firms, this means that the governments are automatically exposed to moral hazard -- or the practice of regulatory gaming in order to shift any unspecified or unanticipated costs back onto the public.
Opportunities to exploit moral hazard are encouraged by the unavoidable and therefore inevitable reduction in public accountability that comes with the attribution of private rights in public infrastructure. This follows by definition, since the public monitoring of private performance, including 'step in rights', can only ever amount to partial supervision; that is, if monitoring is not less than partial, than the government would effectively still remain the manager, or a shadow manager, of the infrastructure -- a costly duplication that would, of course, completely destroy any possibility of efficiency gains. The incentives thus encourage partial monitoring. And to the extent that monitoring is partial, private firms capture opportunities to exploit the government's continuing responsibility for the actual policy outcomes.
Aside from the risks that come with moral hazard, the arrangements also create new technical risks. Anyone who has read my book on the failures in the Sydney and Adelaide water infrastructure, or who has been following the corporate crisis in US, will know that there are many ways in which firms can increase their earnings without enhancing productivity by exposing the public to additional risks. Many of the technical and accounting risks that comprise the actors in Water's Fall are applicable within privatised public schools and hospitals, where we can also find other specific risks.
In hospitals, for example, the current proposals will divide the ownership and control of the buildings from the clinical services, yet there is an obvious relationship between the two, since the level of building hygiene is a direct cause of hospital-acquired infections. This introduces a direct conflict. It will be in the new operators' interest to minimise expenditures in all areas, but it is in the public interest for investment levels to be technically optimised. Assuming the private operators are risk-neutral rational-maximisers, as PPP policies themselves generally do, at the least, this ensures service losses at the margin. In the UK other risks have also emerged. At the privately financed Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford and Gravesham, nurses have complained that the design was not conducive to effective care, and equipment was not working properly when the hospital first opened. At the new Princess Margaret Hospital in Swindon, the recovery room is located 80 metres from the operating theatre.
Similar risks will be opened up in schools. In the UK, where the Blair government is openly subsidising school privatisation, last month one school discovered that, at the urging of the UK Treasury and education department, its new 25-year contract didn't include the cost of 'furniture and equipment', 'access for wheelchair users', or 'cabling and IT provision'. Nor was provision made for the costs of emptying the classrooms, storing equipment, or replacing it after refurbishment. Other hidden additional costs have also been discovered in the UK's schools. For example, the classroom size set out in the contracts is now too small for the curriculum needs in at least three schools.
The necessary variations that must be made to the original UK contracts will now add substantial new costs on to the schools, which reminds us that among the real risks created by the polices here are those which are presently unforeseeable, since they relate to the continuing development of educational and health standards. Remembering that the policies involve 25 to 30 year contracts, we must also remember that, as standards change which require changing building space or servicing requirements, governments will have to deal with today's competitive private provider, who by virtue of the contract will have automatically become tomorrow's private monopoly exploiter.
Why have governments gone this way?
If all of this is true, if the policy is nothing but virtually open slather for privatisation, which is deeply unpopular within the community, more costly, leaves all the substantial and residual risks with the governments, and creates new risks, we are left with one question, which is why on earth have the State Labor governments gone this way?
There appear to be two interlocking reasons. The first is simply the opportunity PPPs present to exploit an accounting quirk, whereby the liabilities incurred are entered into the public accounts as expenses rather than debt. Here it is important to appreciate that all the fiscal characteristics of the PPPs are exactly the same as public debt, except these funds are more expensive and less flexible. While strictly this means that they increase the exposure of the governments to financial risk compared with debt, they are not accounted for in the same way and therefore do not incur the same scrutiny or criticism.
The contemporary refusal of the States to maintain let alone increase public borrowing has thus opened up the way for PPPs. Let me stress that the present zero public debt policies are driven by nothing but pure populism, or economic irrationalism. There is no reputable rationale in any economic theory for our State governments not to borrow. Australia's public-debt to GDP ratio is ridiculously low, at 6 per cent compared to an OECD average of 40 per cent. There is no microeconomic or macroeconomic justification for eliminating this remaining skerrick of debt. Leaving aside empty populist blather about mortgages, bankcards and baby boomers, the common justification that gets trotted out by grown-ups in this area is that public borrowing 'crowds out' more valuable private borrowing by raising interest rates. This is an entirely irrelevant consideration in this case, and it is theoretically wrong in any event.
As John Quiggin has pointed out, the macroeconomic effects of infrastructure investment will be exactly the same whether the investment is made collectively through the public sector or by select private firms. This is to say, whoever does the borrowing, the effects on firms outside the infrastructure sector will be identical. And as Kenneth Davidson has recently reminded us, in any event public borrowing levels do not determine Australia's interest rates. Rather, in globalised financial markets, interest is determined in relation to the world rate, with adjustments for inflation and currency risks. This is an easy point to demonstrate. While Australia has one of the world's lowest levels of public debt, our interest rates are among the world's highest. By contrast, Japan has the world's lowest interest rate, yet at 135 per cent of GDP has one of largest public debts. Likewise, the US has lower interest rates, but carries three times the level of public debt. Plainly, there is no straightforward relationship between public debt and interest rates.
Thus, the only available conclusion is that, effectively, our States have become imprisoned within their own populist anti-public debt rhetoric. Under the present circumstances, where pressure for public infrastructure investment is intense, PPPs are attractive because they offer the governments a way to take on debt-equivalent obligations, while avoiding the appearance of having done so.
This motivation dovetails with second reason why the States have gone this way, which is that the policies are simply a consequence of the direct political pressure from vested financial interests on the current Labor premiers. PPPs are attractive to the politicians as a way of pacifying or buying off the local lobbies, which, of course, are simply seeking secure public rents. Labor Premiers always seem to be vulnerable to these kinds of pressures from the so-called 'big end of town'. This stems from the somewhat absurd but nevertheless lingering idea that Labor is somehow anti-business, or a poorer economic manager than the conservative parties. Labor governments always dread local business charges that lead to headlines like 'the go-slow state', the 'shut-down state', and so on, and hence they are always keen to prove their business credentials.
All this is to say that, as far as can be divined, the policies have not been driven by the State Treasuries. This follows because PPPs deeply offend one of the most basic of Treasury operating principles: the law against hypothecation. All Treasuries hate hypothecation, or the ring-fencing of parts of the annual budget to particular areas. There are two levels of objection. The first and milder objection is to using hypothecation to raise additional money. This is bad, but not so very bad as the second objection, which is to hypothecate existing moneys.
It is not difficult to understand the Treasury objections. The more of a budget that gets immunised from annual management, the less room they have to move and the harder their annual budget task becomes. The more that certain areas are walled off from discretion, the less room they have to adjust for annual variations, and - by definition - the more that the pressure will fall on the remaining parts of the budget. This is an important point to appreciate, and is not well understood in the general community. To restate, the more public money that is hypothecated (tied) to the operation of physical infrastructure, the more that pressure will be automatically placed on the funds that are provided for the remaining services. And when we come to PPPs, we are talking hypothecation big time, since we are talking about hypothecating funds for the operation of the infrastructure for periods of up to 30 years. The value of the fixed-capital stock in NSW schools alone is some $17 billion. By definition, the continuing hypothecation of budget funds to pay expensive rents to private firms for this infrastructure must continuously mount the pressure on the remaining service areas. In this sense, PPPs are analogous to those smart bombs that preserve buildings but kill people.
So if we can assume that the professional Treasury officials are opposed, or at least policy neutral, we must look to the political pressure that has been placed on the premiers by the business lobbies for the second part of the policy rationale. And of course there are no mysteries about why lobbyists are pushing so hard for the policies. Private consortia will always seek to purchase the benefit of a very secure income stream, with risk characteristics similar to a government security, but higher returns. And who can blame business for chasing the security of government contracts, as they always have?
For business, PPPs amount to a form of corporate welfare, which brings us to my final point, which is to recall, as one of my economist colleagues has recently reminded me, that the ideology of private enterprise originated specifically in opposition to governments allocating private monopolies. This historical perspective lends a sense of perspective to the objections to PPPs raised in this paper, which are scarcely radical. To insist that private firms should stick to private enterprise is to insist on nothing more than a policy that has historically been most strongly advocated by Adam Smith. In The Wealth of Nations, Smith explains why governments, as masters, cannot turn over exclusive responsibilities to private commercial servants:
The real interests of their masters ... is the same as the country... But the real interests of the servants is by no means the same with that of the country, and the most perfect information would not necessarily put an end to their oppressions ... Such exclusive companies, therefore, are nuisances in every respect ...
This paper was presented at an Evatt Foundation Seminar on 16 August 2002
IS THIS "MY COUNTRY"?
I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror- The wide brown land for me!
But where like far horizons, our minds were once so wide
We'd welcome all and sundry, live with them side by side
The jewel-sea's load we fear now, we scorn their ragged clothes
And beauty turns to terror if your eyes stay tightly closed
So if your land's been swept away by droughts and flooding rains
If you seek a new beginning to escape from terror's reign
Don't come to our horizons, if we see you coming near
We'll stand and sing our anthem, and this is what you'll hear
" Australians all - watch us rejoice -
But we won't hear your plea.
The Taliban may do their worst -
We'll tow you back to sea!
Our land abounds in nature's gifts
That we don't want to share.
In history's page, the world's outraged
But we don't really care.
We'll show them we forget how to
Advance Australia fair."
I'm going to be blunt for a moment. Despite the fact that Newtown's favourite sons 'The Whitlams' are named after one of the greatest PM's this country has ever known, I consider them pretentious, tragically hip and well... rather boring. They did however make a great point with the oh so subtly titled, but nonetheless entrancing, 'Blow Up The Pokies'.
Pokies are nothing less than a form of urban blight, false prophets to the lonely, the bored and the gullible. 'Make sure you gamble in moderation' indeed. As well as destroying countless lives of mainly working class people, pokies have also left a gaping hole in Sydney's live music scene. Garage Days, from acclaimed Director Alex Proyas (The Crow; Dark City) is a timely work set against the background this background of artistic decay and shattered dreams.
Freddy (Kick Gurry) is a young singer dreaming of rock n roll stardom. He has the voice, he has the look, and he even has a band, thing is he and his mates can't get a gig. Why? Well to quote Freddy 'pokies and pretty boy DJs'. But when he meets the slimy Shad Kern (Marton Csokas) , Australia's top rock manager, he sees an opportunity to hit the big time. Now all he needs to do is find the money for a demo to entice the master manager. But, and in rock n roll there is always a but, things aren't that simple.
Freddy has fallen in love with Kate (Maya Stange), who is Joe (Brett Stiller), the guitarist's girlfriend. Of course this doesn't sit well with his partner Tanya (Pia Miranda) who just happens to be the bassplayer for the outfit. Adding to Freddy's headaches is drummer Lucy (Chris Sadrinna) who spends most of his time searching for the ultimate chemical high, and Bruno (Russell Dykstra), a manager/roadie/con artist who makes causing trouble an art form. Damn, achieving fame is hard work!
Overall Garage Days is a great little Aussie comedy, and a film that in its own way provides a great insight into the social fabric of Sydney. One of its greatest strengths is an ability to laugh at the often-humourless local music scene. Occasionally it gets a little corny, the character of Shad Kern borders on unintentional parody, but then again if you were to morph the entire music industry into one person, the Kernster (sadly) may just appear.
So next time you're at the pub and you see a line of pokies, think of Garage Days, and raise your voice in favour of our local scene. Surely going deaf due to excessively loud pub music is infinitely preferable to suffering hearing loss due to the incessant chatter of those infernal machines?
The union's legal play may seem out of left field, but Commissioner Cole has invited the challenge by recommending the establishment of an industry task force based in Sydney before allowing the NSW branch of the CFMEU to test evidence on which the recommendation was made.
While it's unlikely that the Commissioner will find himself biased, sit tight for some interesting exchanges in the federal and possibly even the High Court.
What is at stake is the executive's powers to use the legal system as part of a concerted political agenda, issues that go to the very heart of our Constitution.
We've been saying it for some time and now the justice system will be given the chance to make its judgment: the Cole Commission is a fundamental subversion of the Royal Commission process.
Royal Commissions have special extra-judicial powers because they are inquiries to uncover the truth. In contrast, the Cole Commission has been conducted in a manner more consistent with a pursuit to prove a particular theory.
Throughout the CFMEU has been cast in the role of defendant: officials ambushed by allegations from Counsel Assisting, evidence from disgruntled sub-contractors and former officials selectively delivered and all the while no right of cross-examination at the time allegations are made.
The Commission has played for maximum media effect, some journalists being briefed about allegations against CFMEU officials before the union's own lawyers.
The feeling from union members who have viewed proceedings is universal exasperation as the good name of their union is clinically dragged through the mud.
And the winners? Well, the Howard Government obviously, who can embark on another round of union bashing. Plus the building industry that will see the one effective police of industrial and safety law neutered.
As for ordinary building workers, like the 10,000 who rallied outside the Commission this week their jobs will be more dangerous and less secure as a result of the Abbott-Cole agenda. They're the one's who are going to get hurt - and they're beginning to realise it is them, not just their union, who is being set up for the biggest sucker punch in recent political history.
It would be an incredible and historic victory if the application as upheld but make no mistake: this legal challenge is no stunt. This Royal Commission has struck at the heart of our democratic system by sidelining the very processes designed to ensure our democratic rights.
In a national interest that goes far beyond picnic days and accounting systems, beyond the criminal conspiracies to take over an honest union, beyond even the ambitions of a certain Tory minister: close it down!
"Change excited him. In what others saw as comfortable and familiar, he saw decay and lost opportunity. ....He liked movement, progress, crashing through, overturning, giving the slip to history and his enemies in a single bound."
There is no intellect required in quoting another person's words yet, looking ahead a bit, there may be a valuable lesson in absorbing them. The passage above appeared in a recent biography of a dear departed political leader.
The words are such that they could have been written about a capitalist go-getter like Chris Corrigan, an inspiring trade unionist, a corporate ladder climber, or a dyed in the wool communist. Love them or hate them, leaders of high calibre have the ability to grip the imagination; to make people feel that they've been swept up and carried in a direction of great promise.
Some of the people might feel a little uncomfortable along the way -even scared - but it's the sort of fear that can also inspire. Others will, and should, provide strong opposition and line up against a leader's direction. In the end, there is only one standard of proof for those that claim to be a leader.
Depending on who you talk to, this animated portrait of leadership could have just as easily captured the 'firebrand' former Trotskyist and NSW Labor Council secretary cum Police Minister, Michael Costa, as readily as it might apply to a crime crusader, quasi-legislator and shock jock, in former Liberal candidate and social agitator, Alan Jones.
And it leads me to ask? What happened to the easeful knowledge that the 'ants in the pants' radical agitators sat gingerly on the left side of the table while the stodgy, immovable conservatives took up comfortable lodgings on the right side?
That's the problem with politics these days. The more you look the more it's getting difficult to find a lazy conservative. Or a sluggish fat, cigar-smoking capitalist. Or an idle boss content just to be powerful and rich.
Nor can you find a slow-moving, complacent trade union official whose daily thoughts were captured by ambition. But it hasn't always been the case - has it Simon?
So Simon the aspiring PM says that we need to "modernise" the ALP if it is to be electable-and you'd be hard pressed to argue against that. There is no doubt if ol' Ben Chifley appeared today, his electoral appeal would be hampered by his role as a trade union official. Howard and Abbott would continually lampoon his past; call him a dinosaur and that'd be that. It'd be back to the locomotive sheds for Ben.
But then again, the photo of Ben with the first ever Holden (and every other modern car that followed it off the production line) might never have been seen nor would the nation's bankers never experienced that rare bout of fear.
In a newer political environment Simon has lead us back to the drawing board for the ALP to consider - not how to leap the enemy -but to measure the electoral implications of their teasing. Apparently a period of cowering is needed prior to contemplating crashing through. So while the exhausting process of questionable internal reform is carried out 19 million voters are waiting for the great leap forward.
Putting that aside, if we accept that everyone from every corner of politics is now wide-eyed, modern and on the move the contest is no longer one of sorting the radicals from the conservatives. Many could be forgiven for believing that everyone in a position of influence today has given up their traditional positions in favour of smoking crack, such is the penchant for change- and I'm sure many do.
Believe that, I mean.
Its 'game on' everywhere. The challenge for the rest of us should be to turn our minds to the next layer of scrutiny, to (Jargon Alert) drill down to the bedrock and determine who amongst the champions of change is going to improve our lot, as opposed to improving their own lot.
To do so we need to work out where the benefits of good leadership will flow, how far and to how many. And even before that we have to work out whether that leader is capable of looking through the windscreen whilst checking the rear view mirror without writing off this thoroughly modern new car.
"Politics was full of them: people, he said, with brains like sparrow's nests-all shit and sticks."
An insult of that severity is designed to wound. It is also more than capable of providing encouragement for those in the upcoming generation but not yet involved in politics. Nobody wants to think their brains are made up of shit and sticks. That withering assessment of politics was made when the ALP was last in power.
But maybe that's what Simon means by 'modernising' the ALP. Getting rid of all the sparrows' nests. And quite possibly the sparrows as well, by giving the hawks a look in.
Like Beazley in the election before, Simon is looking for answers. Along with his opponents on the other side, the only recognisable target spelt out so far to the media by Crean has been trade union influence. With all that sorted, some believe, modernity is all but achieved.
Sadly for another political leader in young 'Tash, she was about as modern as politics gets and yet she was ruthlessly crunched by the new radicals with a history of warming to the energy of Peter Reith, Tony Abbot and John Howard.
So maybe us trade unionists should gasp our last breath while we can. It's all done and dusted now and we are quietly told that a challenge to the 50-50 rule will be read as a challenge to Simon's leadership. Oh dear... A combination of external blame, guilt and threats is what passes for modern political debate. Anything to avoid any questioning of the leadership and a close look of what made the party the preferred government.
George Dubya wheels out the same maxim in saying that anyone against the killing tens thousands of innocent citizens is against the President, against the US and certainly against peace and freedom.
Trade Unions are very much part of the ALP's tradition. Through that relationship we have delivered electoral success and a strong contribution whilst in government. Equally important to success, is strong purposeful leadership. In any review you cant look at one aspect of tradition whilst ignoring another.
As a firefighter of a couple of decades standing I've never feared the light and heat of a roaring flame as much as I fear being led away towards the certain death that follows blinding, choking smoke.
The Locker Room thought it would be appropriate to approach someone excellently positioned to comment on the salary cap, and to suggest a creative solution. Who better to speak to than a lifelong fan of the game.
Derek Heywood is from Richmond and barracks for Balmain, or he did until someone decided to marry his team off to its ugly cousin from Campbelltown. Stranger things happen, and not just in Rugby League. Nonetheless he still follows the black and white Tigers, or the Balmain Magpies, or whatever they're called this week, and he recently came up with a novel arrangement for the salary cap that introduced a bit of lateral thinking into the debate.
This column caught up with Derek at the Red Cow Hotel in Penrith where he expanded on his proposal.
The idea is a simple one: The salary cap is reduced by $350 000 for all clubs. This money is then paid into a pool, which is then paid out to players from each team in every game as weekly bonuses.
The player with the most tackles for each side receives $1000; the player who takes the ball up the most, $800; the player of the game receives $2500, with second best getting $1500 and third best $800. The players from the winning side receive $500 each, which is split if the game is tied.
Cash amounts would also be given to the top three try-scorers for the year to supplement these payments.
"When Penrith had this scheme at the beginning of the year where they were giving $1000 a try, people came to see that," said Derek - who is also keen to see player payments equalised across the board, with a nominated figure for a maximum allowable range between the highest and lowest paid player.
"The basis of the proposal is to have weekly bonuses to make the players play for their money as opposed to getting a fee at the beginning of the year and possibly not performing throughout the year. So it's based on performance and the idea coming out of the salary cap is to even up the salaries, according to the performance." Said Derek. "I think the clubs would have to administer the individual awards, but the NRL would administer it in the same way they administer the salary cap."
The point he is making is that fans come to see entertaining and creative football played by motivated players. People know that the current player payments scheme has spiraled out of control and is unsustainable, threatening the game as a whole. Many fans, especially those that have stuck with the game through Super League, the loss of Souths and now the latest disaster are keen to see an element of reality and fairness introduced into the administration of the game.
"Every player will say they play for the love of the game, but they really do play for the money.
My structure is formed in a way that it is fair for each individual player and each individual club," says Derek. "A team like Souths that won't win as many games will be able to receive bonuses whether they win or not."
"The salary cap is an amount that the NRL allows the clubs for its players, the reduction of the Salary cap would be pooled so it's money they wouldn't have anyway."
If the NRL doesn't address the cost of running clubs in a time of declining revenues for those clubs then they won't have any salary cap troubles to worry about, because they won't have any clubs.
John Berger of Forbes is another fan calling for a bit of market regulation. He came up with the novel idea that the NRL pay the players directly. It'd create a bit of transparency, but if they were really honest they'd just put the players directly on the News Limited payroll and be done with it. After all, they own the game.
Phil Doyle - on the blocks in lane three for the 100 metres freestyle
PS - See, you can have a discussion about the salary cap without mentioning Canterb...damn!
At the same time as US leaders turn up the volume on their demands for war against Iraq they announce plans for a conference, next month, that will examine why their country is so disliked by foreigners.
Well shucks, old buddies, we could suggest that you've got the chicken before the egg, but, really it's a question that deserves some answers.
The first group would probably consists of large chuncks of whole nationalities - Vietnamese, Kampucheans, Chileans, Hondurans, Salvadoreans, Nicaraguans, Palestinians, Iraqis, Iranians, Saudis, Koreans, Greeks, Egyptians etc etc, who have either been required to dodge US bombs or live under the heels of regimes armed, financed or otherwise controlled by good ol' US of A.
Then there's probably another consitituency altogether that just thinks nations should co-operate for a better world and are a bit miffed by Washington's rejection of anything remotely resembling internationalism. Their particular interests might range from Fair Trade and the environment through opposition to torture and the arms to something like an international court. Just some of the areas on which George Bush has welshed since rorting his way into the White House.
Still, he must be might pleased that, at least, Australia remains kitted out in the stars and stripes, bellowing its support from the otherwise deserted bleachers.
Which just about gets us to Johannesburg where people are hoping against hope that the rich might make some tangible concessions at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Environment Minister David Kemp has rolled into town with a 50-strong delegation to put the Howard Government's views. He is said to be hoping its refusal to ratify the ground-breaking Kyoto Protocol on Greenhouse Gas Emissions will be held over to a smaller gathering.
Australia, the US and Canada are quickly branded "isolationist" and accused of trying to stymie progress. We get a particularly strong serve from some of our Pacific "friends" who allege that our environmentally unfriendly policies threaten their very survival.
Back home, Howard's domestic agenda has centred on scapegoating refugees. He seems barely concerned when it is revealed that, on our behalf, his Government has been charging these people $130 a night for being held in a detention centre.
Imagine Shahid Qureshi's shock when he gets a $26,460 bill for accommodation at Melbourne's Maribyrnong detention centre where he shard a small room with three others and had a guard shining a torch in his face every half-hour of the night.
Qureshi is prevented from working by Government and has no way of meeting the demand.
This week he became the first asylum seeker to challenge costs at Howard's Hotel, alleging in the Federal Court that the bill was unconstitutional.
Meanwhile, the UN reports that an international campaign to block funding to the Al Qaeda terrorist organisation has largely failed. By all accounts, it reports, Al Qaeda is "fit and well and poised to strike again".
It has been documented by Lloyds List, amongst others, that Flag of Convenience shipping has been a key method by which outlaw organisations move terrorists and money.
Osama Bin Laden runs a FOC fleet and court evidence reveals that he used such vessels to get operatives into East Africa for attacks on US naval ships.
Howard's Government, still driven by a desire to smash militant unionism, remains an unabashed fan of Flag of Convenience shipping, suggesting that he fears the MUA rather more than OBL.
On a more positive note, NSW and Victorian premiers, Bob Carr and Steve Bracks, join forces to open the Mowamba aqueduct, between Jindabyne and Dalgety, doubling the flow in the upper reaches of the beleaguered Snowy River.
When the $300 million plan to rehabilitate the region is completed the Snowy should contain about 25 percent of its original flows, enough, environmentalists say, to sustain the habitat.
While Federal Labor militantly refuses to come out with anything remotely challenging the the Liberal's economic agenda it does reject Government's amended ASIO bill.
Under Government proposals the spy agency could have held children as young as 14, with a guardian present, and detained other citizens for the first 48 hours without access to a lawyer.
Federal Labor, distressingly, also remain moot about the abuses of the Cole Commission into the Building and Construction Industry which winds up its second Sydney session.
Costello Washes Hands of Corporate Muck
Treasurer Peter Costello this week shied away from directing the corporate watchdog to chase up companies that failed to disclose shares and options paid to senior executives. Twenty two 22 of Australia's top 100 companies are breaching the Corporations Act by not disclosing details of options allocated to their executives. But he ducked and weaved when asked in Parliament whether he would direct the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), using his power under Section 14 of the ASIC Act, to investigate the alleged breaches. Unlike colleague Tony Abbott, Costello says he wants to wait until after the HIH Royal Commission reported next February before implementing changes to lift audit standards. This rejects advice from Melbourne University Professor Ian Ramsay that the government could make changes to lift audit standards immediately, using proposals in the report he gave government last October. (Source NineMSN)
... But Moves to Cut Corporate Tax
Costello seems more proactive when it comes to cutting corporate tax rates. With the chorus of Australian companies threatening to go offshore growing louder in the wake of James Hardie's move to the US, the Government has outlined several proposals to cut corporate taxes for both local and foreign investors. Compared to OECD economies, Australia's corporate rate is low - lower than in Japan, the US, Canada and New Zealand - but it is high compared to some of its fiercest competitors in Asia, including Singapore and Hong Kong. Among the options being canvassed is a suggestion to let Australian companies maximise the allocation of imputation credits on foreign sourced income for the benefit of local shareholders. For instance, the government could reintroduce dividend streaming, despite the Government's attempt to crack down on the practice over the past five years. (Source: SMH)
AMP's Batchelor in Options Tangle
AMP chief executive Paul Batchelor was in a spin this week over a push to extend his potentially lucrative options package. Mr Batchelor was given 1.3 million options priced at about $15.83 when he took on the top job at AMP in 2000 With AMP shares now at $14.31 Batchelor made a bid to rework the package. But amidst cries from the media and investors, the Board rebuffed the plan, leaving Batchelor wioth options egg on his dial. (Various Sources)
HIH Fat Cat Had It Easy
No such problems for HIH chief financial officer Dominic Fodera, who managed to negotiate a $1.8 million cash signing on fee. In a statement tendered to the HIH Royal Commission, Dodera says when he joined HIH on September 1, 1995, the income component of his package (about $400,000) was close to what he was getting as an audit partner at Arthur Andreson .To compensate for the extra risk, he did a deal with HIH's Australian managing director, Terry Cassidy, to give him the cash equivalent of 500,000 HIH shares, or about $1.8 million. His statement says he had no idea until the royal commission that the board was unaware of the terms of his package. (Source: The Age)
Welfare for Sugar Industry
They may not like dole-bludgers, but canegrowers have` no problem holding out their caps for taxpayer subsidies. The industry has scored a package of around $100 million, following a $60 million assistance package just two years ago. The subsidies have been approved despite warnings from the nation's largest sugar consumer, Coca-Cola Amatil, has warned against a government levy on sugar that a levy could double the price of domestic raw sugar, driving users to overseas markets. (Various Sources)
Westpac Swallows BT
Westpac has announced the major acquisition of funds management company BT Financial in a deal worth $900 million. Westpac has confirmed it will buy BT Financial from the US-based Principal Financial Group, making the bank the fourth largest retail funds manager in Australia. There is speculation that the integration of the business into Westpac will lead to about 200 job losses. (Source: ABC)
Former Enron Executive Pleads Guilty
A former Enron finance expert has pleaded guilty to money-laundering and fraud, becoming the first Enron executive to admit to a criminal role in the collapse of the giant energy company. Michael Kopper has also said he will cooperate with prosecutors as part of a plea agreement. The deal with prosecutors requires him to surrender $12 million obtained illegally in his dealings with Enron on behalf of the off-the-books partnerships; $8 million of the total will go to the US Securities and Exchange Commission in a separate settlement.SEC lawyer Luis Mejia says the money, to be paid within 30 days, will go to "Enron victims", who may include shareholders and former employees. (Various Sources)
NAB Loans Linked to Enron Schemes
The National Australia Bank was involved in a controversial $US400 million ($737 million) deal with the scandal-ridden Enron Corp, now under the spotlight in two class actions filed in the US on behalf of thousands of Americans who lost money in the company. The deal, given the name Firefly, is described in one of the legal claims as a scheme to move hundreds of millions of dollars in borrowings off Enron's books in 1998 and 1999. A claim filed in Houston by America's leading class action lawyers, Milberg Weiss, describes Firefly, along with other similar schemes, as "manipulative devices". National Australia Bank's involvement in the Firefly deal has only surfaced after hundreds of confidential internal bank documents were released by a congressional committee investigating the Enron scandal a few weeks ago. (Source: SMH)
Warning! Warning! Fraudsters detected!
Finally, after automating much of the finance industry, we may be on the verge of cyber-auditors. Given the reliability of the human variety, it may be a step forward. Professor Robert Jensen, who teaches information systems at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, says there are "more than enough incentives" for accounting firms and companies to create automated auditing aids using current technology. He envisages individual transactions having cyber "tags" that could not be removed and which automatically spotted attempts to cook the books. He believes that within five to 10 years the business world and accounting firms would be forced to develop much better automated systems for auditing. (Source: Bloomberg)
About 400 people gathered on Ngunnawal country at the Canberra Convention Centre for three days this week to kick off a conversation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians about the shape of relations between us into the future.
Under banners of 'Treaty: Let's Get it Right!', well known and new generation Indigenous activists, joined with non-Indigenous activist religious, a scattering of trade union delegates and individuals from ANTaR or Reconciliation groups to exchange ideas on ways forward.
No-one at this gathering was hung up on the Treaty word: the emphasis was rather on the second part of the title: "Let's get it right - for black and white", as one speaker said.
However, with nothing happening in the two years since millions marched across bridges in support of Reconciliation between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous, there was also a feeling of a need to move on these matters, now.
Before the Conference, ATSIC had visited some local Indigenous communities to hear their views. This week was an opportunity to begin those conversations with non-Indigenous people.
But there was evident feeling from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants that there needs to be extensive conversations at a grassroots levels in all communities yet.
And that these matters need to be sorted with respect for each other, as well as wisdom and diplomacy -- to ensure that the process benefits Indigenous peoples and cannot be misused to frighten off non-Indigenous people.
Singer Kev Carmody set the tone, when he reminded listeners of the words his uncle told him: 'Always listen to the wind, boy' - dream your dreams, but keep your feet on the ground. To find the right answers, make sure we ask the right questions, he warned, before singing his Vincent Lingiari song: 'From little things, big things grow'.
Steps already taken
The Conference gathered an impressive range of speakers covering topics from the 'Unfinished Business' Indigenous peoples continue to live with, through to Agreement Making and the Economics and Social Impacts of a Treaty or agreement(s).
From those papers, it is clear there are plenty of international precedents for this process of agreement making between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
There are also already existing examples of agreement-making within Australia to draw on - both regional agreements and agreements at a more local level between particular communities and local authorities or institutions.
The NSW Government's moves to maintain Indigenous languages, announced this week, marks the beginning of a development, which if applied on a national scale, as Lester-Irabinna Rigney told the Conference, might ensure the protection and transmission of Indigenous cultures that would benefit all Australians.
Plus there are numerous studies and reports on Unfinished Business issues from the past few decades within Australia: as Mick Dodson reminded participants: "We don't have to reinvent the wheel" to start moving on these matters again.
Ideas for a process
Conference speakers also provided some useful ideas for dealing with the agreement-making process. Recognising that 'to treat' or make an agreement or agreements involved negotiation between parties and the consent of both parties, was one important element.
It should be a conversation about ideas, not positions, said long-time activist Michael Mansell.
Northern Ireland loyalist para-military turned peace activist, David Irvine suggested it must be a conversation where people abandoned the old feelings of superiority and inferiority; where we worked to achieve equality of outcomes (not equal opportunities, which too often simply maintains the status quo); where equality, justice and diversity were the core values against which new legislation and agreements were constantly measured.
Non-Indigenous Australians might ask themselves: what are they afraid of? And deal with all the 'old shibboleths and myths' they have about Indigenous people, as majority Protestant loyalists have had to do in negotiating with Irish Republican Nationalists.
Bearing in mind the lessons of the Republic Referendum, constitutional lawyer George Williams suggested four things people might find useful to keep in mind when considering a Treaty or agreements were, that it involved:
1. an acknowledgment of past and current situations
3. incorporation of rights, and
4. is about opportunities.
On the positive side, surveys about the Treaty have already shown majority support for it, especially among young people. Changing emphases in international law also suggest Australian sovereignty could be significantly enhanced by being rooted in a lasting agreement with our Indigenous peoples, Justice Commissioner Bill Jonas told the Conference.
Much more to be done
If these conversations were a first step, everyone recognised there is also a huge amount to be done to move us towards those envisaged new relationships.
Trade unionists might notice that ACTU President Sharan Burrows committed the ACTU to the Treaty process, saying that a "just and sustainable Australia goes to the heart of the Australian identity", with justice and equality obviously among the core values of the trade union movement.
Burrows said the ACTU would make sure that its agreements were in partnership with the aspirations of Indigenous Australians, particularly with regard to employment matters.
"As people committed to decency we can do something about racism in our communities, schools and workplaces to make sure it is explored, chopped up into little pieces and sorted out.
"Democracy is about forcing our politicians to hear our voices," Burrows reminded us.
"We are not talking about fear, but about partnership and of respect for decency. We can make a stand."
"That means taking up the challenge within our own organisations as well," Burrows said, "accepting that union leaders must also debate the challenges to the status quo, so that we can create a decent nation that respects all our differences."