Long-term Workers Online readers would know we have been long-term Piers-Watchers - spending a full year analysing the fat man's work before being beaten into submission by his banal bigotry. But even we had never seen him stoop to the depths of turning the words of a 16-year-old school girl against the entire Muslim community. But there he was this week, as the world was trying to make sense of the horrendous events of 12 months ago - events that claimed thousands of innocent lives in the US and Afghanastan - doing what he's always done best: playing for the cheap political point.
The catalyst for the attack was a Letter to the Editor sent by 16-year-old Amira Sbbet from Miller, who described herself as a "Lebanese Muslim". It is not a particularly sophisticated letter, but it is one girl's reaction to the growing community backlash against her community. As Muslim social worker Paula Aboud told a recent NSW Fabians forum - "it's feral out there at the moment". There is a level of community abuse that has been orchestrated by the political and media elites. This girl tried to make sense of it all, defending the beliefs of her family from the current 'panics' of S11, the gang rape trials and the order to stone a Nigerian women for committing adultery. To this girl, the issues had melded into one narrative - that she and her family were not worthy of respect. In her instinctive, but clumsy defence, she opened herself up to attack from Piers.
Remember this is a 16-year-old girl writing a Letter to the Editor - not a community leader speaking on behalf of a constituency. But on the morning after the anniversary of September 11, it was she that Piers chose to pick on. Of course, we at Workers Online do not support this girls' views, but on a day we remember the dire costs of misunderstanding the Other, we could have expected a commentator in one of the nation's leading newspapers to display a little more sensitivity. Piers' shame is that he looks at a Muslim and sees a suicide bomber. At a time when the world is crying for peace, Piers' reflex is attack. On our reading Amira is no terrorist, just a schoolgirl who has been hurt by bigotry trying to stand up for a set of beliefs which she feels are under attack. Piers' subtext is the same sorry dog-whistle that has characterised much of the media commentary in recent times: Muslims are the problem, they have no place here, they are bad news. It is a mean, grubby and dangerous doctrine.
It's been a consistent theme from Piers who has been donning the fatigues in recent times, laying into Labor's erudite foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd. Rudd's drawn fire from Piers' for publicly arguing that the rule of international law - as opposed to Bush Law - should apply when considering whether to bomb the bejesus out of Baghdad. For this outrageous stance, Piers has dubbed Rudd 'Pixie' and thrown buckets of muck in his general direction - drawing Rudd into a reply this week.
Unlike Piers, Rudd did a bit of research on Piers recent work and came up with some interesting - though hardly surprising facts. Analysing 150 Piers articles written in the last 12 months (tough work - I know how it feels) they came up with the following score card: on 88 occasions he directly attacked Labor for its various crimes against humanity. On 31 occasions he endorsed Liberal policy. As for positive comments on Labor: zero, zilch, blotto. In 12 months, this so-called journalists could not find a single thing to agree on Labor about.
In these uncertain times, it is good to know there are some constants. One if Pier's one-eyed prosecution of the Howard Agenda by seeding the cracks through which he can drive his trademark wedge. For Piers peace, love and understanding are for wimps - and if a 16-year-old schoolgirl gets in the way of the war juggernaut, their is only one thing to do: run her over.
Armed with QC advice that a claim would be successful in the courts, the ACTU Indigenous Conference this week passed a resolution backing a claim for reparations against the Queensland Government.
The Beattie Government has offered to pay a one-off $55.4 million to indigenous workers employed under the Protection Acts, which governed wages and conditions for most Aboriginal Queenslanders.
Under the Queensland Government's offer, Aboriginal people over the age of 50 would receive $4000 per person as total settlement while people aged 45 - 49 would receive $2000 per person as total settlement. This would be backed by a written apology to all claimants
Those negotiations have broken down because the Queensland Government is refusing to negotiate further with those entitled to compensation.
Sorry History of Exploitation
From the 1890s to 1972 the Queensland Government controlled the wages of most Queensland Aborigines. Some Aboriginal workers lived on settlements or missions and most were not paid. .
Some Aboriginal people were sent out to work under a licensing system where the Government paid the wages. Most received around 66% of the white rate but at times adjustments were not made and this rate fell to as low as 25% of the white rate.
However, even with this reduced rate, Aboriginal workers only ever received 30% of their total wage with the balance going to tax and a number of forced savings schemes.
Permission was never asked for nor given for the deduction of money for these forced savings schemes. Some of the money was used to buy Aboriginal people clothing, dental work etc. Evidence is available that these schemes were poorly managed with all kinds of trustee and fiduciary implications.
Control over employment of Aboriginal people ceased in 1968, control over relocations ceased in 1971 and control over the savings of Aboriginal people stopped in 1972.
Workers Online understands that if successful, similar claims would be pursued by indigenous workers in other states and federally - although the claims will depend on the form of 'protection' regime that was in place in each jurisdiction
NSW Labor Council's Adam Kerslake, who attended this week's conference, says the whole issue of underpayment of indigenous workers is a can of worms that must be addressed.
"Beattie does deserve some credit because his Government was first off the mark," Kerslake says.
"The sting in the tail is that this will become an issue in every State in Australia. The challenge for the union movement is back the calls from our black activists."
That sobering estimation was provided by one-time Ansett employee, David Lupton, as he chronicled the human cost of Federal Government�s decision to cling onto millions of dollars of his former workmates entitlements.
"Over 50 percent of our people still either don't have a job or are getting by on casual or part-time earnings," he said in an emotional address to Labor Council.
"A lot of people are finding it difficult to survive and I know of six families that have broken up in the past four months because of the financial pressure.
"We still have people, one year on, who have received none of their entitlements although they went without wage increases for two years to fund them."
Lupton said he was disgusted by the "meanness" of a Government that continued to slug the traveling public $10 a ticket under the guise of helping redundant workers but refused to hand the money over to people in desperate circumstances.
He pointed out that the architect of the anti-worker Workplace Relations Act, Peter Reith, had quit Parliament with a $2.4 million payout, and that former Ansett boss, Gary Toomey, had walked away from the disaster with a $3.4 million sweetener.
He characterised former workmates as Australians and trade unionists who had worked hard throughout their lives and accused the Howard Government of "doing nothing for us at all".
To commemorate the first year of Ansett's demise and the long-running picket which won legislated minimum standards for Australians tipped out of their jobs, TWU members will hold a barbecue and picnic at Mutch Park, Pagewood, this Saturday.
The TWU is inviting anyone who supports the Ansett workers' battle to attend.
Workers Urged to Attend Creditors Meeting
Meanwhile, unions are urging former employees to attend the third Ansett creditors meeting in Melbourne later this month.
ACTU secretary Greg Combet said unions would push approval of a program of further payments of accrued entitlements owed to employees who still have $370 million outstanding.
The creditors meeting will be held at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre on Semptember 25. It will hear a report from administrators on the progress of asset sales.
Cole was alerted to the situation at De Lorenzo Ceramics, Baulkham Hills, during testimony by CFMEU NSW secretary, Andrew Ferguson, in June.
He assured Ferguson the situation would be dealt with but after three frustrating months the CFMEU and Labor Council took the matter direct to Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock.
Cole's failure to follow through underlines CFMEU bias allegations that will go before the Federal Court in Sydney, next month.
Throughout its time in Sydney, the Commission vigorously pursued anti-CFMEU allegations, often from dubious sources, while ushering hard evidence of immigration rorts, safety breaches, tax evasion and systematic employer corruption through to the keeper.
Before hearing evidence on the matter, Cole went on record saying that employer abuse of illegal immigration "would appear to be insignificant".
On the final day of his first session in Sydney Immigration officials rounded up 15 Korean and Chinese illegals employed by Modern Drywall at Waitara.
Last week's raid on De Lorenzo's factory showroom netted five alleged Korean illegals and another outpaced immigration officers in a foot race across surrounding paddocks captured by television news crews.
Angry union officials insist the six-person De Lorenzo haul was "merely the tip of the ice berg".
"They've got a lot more illegals and they use them, deliberately, to slash wages and conditions, and as strike breakers," the CFMEU's Phil Davey told Workers Online.
"These people are paid 50 percent of the going rate and they are forced onto sham sub-contracts that allow company principals to stand in front of the media and claim they are not the employers.
"This sort of set-up is not unusual in the Sydney construction industry but the Royal Commission doesn't want to know."
Davey flagged a heightened union campaign against De Lorenzo, starting next week, in a bid to finish the job started by DIMA.
"We're sensitive about this whole issue because our union has been to the forefront of opposition to the Government's tough stance against asylum seekers," Davey added.
"But the way these people are used by De Lorenzo, and companies like them, is a threat to every building worker in Sydney. They win contracts because they undermine wages, conditions, superannuation, workers compensation, insurance and safety."
Interestingly, De Lorenzo uses a mix of legal and illegal Koreans. When the unionised workforce struck for industry standard wages and conditions in March, it was the illegals who undermined the action.
Davey said the ongoing campaign was at the insistence of legal Korean immigrants "sick and tired" of having their families' living standards undercut.
Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott has thrown down the gauntlet by linking ongoing tarrif protection to industrial relations �reform� in an industry setting records for productivity and export earnings.
The Abbott agenda is made clear by the direction of a Government-ordered Productivity Commission. In a position paper the Commission picks up the Minister's linkage of on-going industry support, due to fall to 10 percent in 2005, with severe restrictions on workers' rights.
Specifically, Abbott and the Commission, are backing Australian Industry Group (AIG) demands that would see ...
- bargaining periods terminated if protected action caused damage to any firm or industry
- protected action outlawed prior to the expiry dates of certified agreements
- the AIRC empowered to block industrial action by giving 24 hours notice with the right to suspend the registration of any union for non-compliance
- action in suport of "pattern or industry agreements" outlawed.
AMWU organiser, Steve Johnson, says the proposals mean the Productivy Commission has abrogated terms of reference requiring it to consider Australia's international obligations.
"It has considered our responsibilities to WTO and APEC but completely ignored binding ILO agreements Australia has signed-off on," he said.
"The most obvious are the rights to organise and bargain collectively."
Johnson says Abbott and the Productivity Commission make it clear that the AMWU has been added to to a target list headed by the Maritime Union and CFMEU.
He said there was no legitimate reason for the assault other than a philosophical opposition to effective trade unions.
"The linkage (between tarrifs and IR) is irresponsible and irrational," Johnson says. "The industry is achieving the highest level of productivity since records began and exports receipts are at record levels.
"Abbott is reacting to two high-profitle industrial disputes, including Tristar, where we fought for worker entitlements. We make no apology for that."
Statistics reveal that Australia is well down the list of days lost through industrial action in the auto industry.
In the decade to 2000, South Korea averaged 7250 working days lost per thousand employed through strikes and lockouts. Canada stood at 580, while Australia recorded 223.
Meanwhile, Australia and New Zealand were among seven countries censured for violation of trade union rights in the US-based International Confederation of Free Trade Union's 2000 report.
The others were Argentina, Chile, Swaziland, Turkey and Zimbabwe none of which, as the ACTU pointed out, was at the "cutting edge of competitiveness in the international automotive industry".
Countries like Sweden, Germany and Canada have successful car industries, and strong unions that bargain on an industry-wide, or pattern, basis.
Johnson called on Abbott to "drop the politics and join workers and manufacturers in a co-operative approach to ensuring the industry's future".
The AMWU wants Government to participate in an industry summit which would address issues that require an industry-wide approach.
Labor Council has pledged its support to the AMWU campaign.
James Calazzo will kick-in $10,000 towards lunch for the 470 workers in recognition of the service he has received during his stays in the George St hotel.
Calazzo has sided with LHMU members in their battle with the hotel chain because, he says, the service they provide is the best he has experienced in a job that takes him around the world.
The American told today's Daily Telegraph Sydney Hilton workers were the "finest staff I have seen. They are warm and not snooty like in other countries.
"I think it's just a shocking decision. I will do whatever I can in my power to push the Hilton to get them to have them all back."
Calazzo's is one of hundreds of people, across the globe, who have opted to side with the workers.
The boss of the Hilton Hotel chain in Australia and New Zealand, Mr Oded Lifschitz, has received so many e-mails, from all over the world, protesting his action - that it has been characterised as a blockade of his computer.
Academics from US Ivy League universities have written to protest, along with rabbis, pastors, reverends and mullahs -as well as the International Young Christian Workers' movement.
Emails messages, so far, have come from Austria, Canada, Fiji, Germany Holland, Israel, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Thailand, UK, USA, Zimbabwe.
The international support is a back up to a huge wave of support from Australian unionists and labour movement supporters.
Politicians have shown their colours, with a number of Labor MPs and their staffers e-mailing the Hilton Hotel - and there has been at least one US Democrat politician sending an e-mail from Chicago, Illinois.
" We've been overwhelmed by the massive wave of support we are getting for hotel union members," Mark Boyd the NSW LHMU Hotel Union's assistant secretary said.
In Canada a group of postal workers, who are about to hold a meeting at the Hilton Hotel in Bunbary, British Columbia, has organised a protest letter to be signed by all 135 delegates to be given to the local management - and asked to be passed on to the Sydney Hilton Hotel management
" We didn't request this - just a basic decent sense of solidarity among working people, which crosses international boundaries, has built this fantastic response," Boyd said.
The LHMU Hotel Union negotiating team is meeting with Hilton Hotel management and - depending on the results of the talks - could report to members on Monday.
The union team is demanding that the company:
- put a better retrenchment deal on the table
- give all its current workers the right to return to their Hilton jobs when the $400 million refurbishment and expansion is completed
- provide a better outplacement and re-training service to help people find alternative jobs
- sit down and negotiate a first ever union enterprise agreement
Mr Calozzo originally contacted the Hilton Hotel management with the lunch offer but, he says, management tried to talk him out of it. Instead, he will spend his money at the David Jones Family Restaurant.
The lunch offer to Hilton workers will be available until November 29 - the day the hotel is scheduled to close for refurbishments.
Abbott, who is also the local member, publicly accused Warringah Mall owners AMP of making a �greedy grab� for cash, after they applied to Warringah Council to charge the workers four dollars a day.
The Shop Assistants Union (SDA) is leading the campaign, arguing the move would wipe out recent Living Wage increases overnight.
SDA state secretary Greg Donnelly says it's the third time the shopping centre management has made the play to levy workers, in a move he labels 'provocative and disrespectful'.
If implemented it would mean retail workers would lose access to safe parking. "Our members are on modest incomes and many require access to their vehicle before and after work for childcare purposes."
"Enough is enough," Donnelly says. "Employees are saying they are fed up with this yearly incursion against their parking entitlements and are determined to see this application off just like the last two."
"This has nothing to do with good planning, nothing to do with better parking and everything to do with more money."
And joining the SDA on the barricades is Abbott - who has backed the retail workers on this issue previously.
He told the Manly Daily this week: "I think they (AMP) need to understand that for the comparatively modest amount that they will raise from the parking charge, for Warringah Mall employees there's millions of dollars in bad blood." A shop steward couldn't have said it better!
In separate instances last week:
- the NSW Teachers Federation had a billboard advertisement highlighting class sizes vetoed by CityRail on the grounds of political content
- the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association was banned from running an advertisement on air safety within the confines of Sydney Airport.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says the banning of billboard advertisements highlights the need for an independent umpire to regulate the outdoor advertising industry.
"This is a growing and currently unregulated section of the advertising market. Increasingly we are seeing authorities making value calls about what is appropriate advertising," Robertson says.
"While corporations and government departments can run campaigns that have strong political content, it seems that groups like unions must meet a higher standard.
"Unions are increasingly using paid advertising to supplement their grass roots campaigns. It is not acceptable that they are being gagged at the whim of faceless authorities.
"An independent overseeing body would guarantee the rights of all community and member-based groups to have their voice heard in the public domain."
The federal government is currently pressuring NSW to hand over control of tracks and allow a contestability regime, similar to the ill-fated British Rail experience.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union state secretary Nick Lewocki says the proposal - which would also see the loss of 600 full-time jobs - would create different systems, standards and procedures across the state rail network.
"We are concerned that, following Glenbrook, the industry should not return to the system of contestability where track maintenance work is put up for tender to the private sector and contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder," Lewocki says.
"During the period in which contestability was the policy of the NSW Government there was a significant decline in the quality and standards of the track infrastructure.
"When we warned of the safety implications of this at the time we were accused of scare mongering; Glenbrook showed the dangers of cutting corners in track maintenance."
RTBU delegates are working with local communities across the state to build a campaign against the plans.
"Our information is that many of them have not got the proper accredited training and licensing needed to do this key job," LHMU Airport Security national secretary, Jeff Lawrence, said.
"In a tough security environment it is not appropriate that half the screeners have no background in airport security work.
"And it is definitely not right that they are brought in to protect the lives of travellers by what seems to be a questionable labour-hire arrangement between Sydney airport's security contractor, SNP, and an outside firm."
Only 15 percent of the airport security workers at Sydney International Airport are full-time airport screeners. This compares to Melbourne where nearly half the airport screeners are employed fulltime.
The union has also called on the Sydney Airport Corporation Ltd (SACL) , the Department of Transport (DoT) and the NSW police to investigate whether fictional 'bodies' are sometimes written into attendance sheets to cover the fact that not all security bases are covered when casuals do not turn up for work.
The LHMU is demanding that all airport screeners and security staff should have appropriate clearance from DoT personnel - for aviation security training and security licensing.
"Concerns about the quality and the lack of appropriate skills of these casual airport screeners is so high that Air New Zealand recently asked for a group of screeners to be removed instantly," Lawrence reported.
"A few months ago the Department of Transport escorted between 20 and 25 security screeners off the airport site because they were found to be casual workers without the right paper work and qualifications."
While Sydney Airport is a problem the LHMU research shows that right around the country the trend is to use part-time and casual workers in airport screening.
There are no full-time airport screeners at Perth or Adelaide airports. The majority of security screeners in Adelaide are casual workers.
Canberra has slightly more casuals and part-timers than fulltimes.
Tasmania does better. Hobart has eight full-time airport screeners, four part-time and two casuals, while Launceston employs five fulltimers, four part-timers and two casuals.
More than 250 people are employed as airport security screeners in Melbourne. Just over fifty percent are brought in as casuals, the rest are fulltime, permanent airport security screeners.
Brisbane's airport also relies on a largely part-time and casual crew with only 38 fulltimers amongst 145 screeners.
Cairns - an important tourism gateway - has only one fulltime airport and employs 11 casuals and 8 part-time workers.
NSW bosses peak bodies, Employers First and the ABI, are arguing in the Industrial Commission that childcare workers should not receive the $18 Living Wage rise.
The national Living Wage decision was handed down in May to give a pay rise to workers on basic awards, including childcare. It is then put into awards in each state.
But when the NSW childcare union, the LHMU, tried to have the pay rise put into the state award, it was challenged by employers.
LHMU branch president Trevor De Costa said employers were trying to avoid paying what workers rightly deserve.
"Employers are arguing that because workers received industry settlements five years ago they are not eligible for a pay rise today," he said.
The case will be heard in October.
Pastry workers employed by Goodman Fielders Pampas division have told their bosses to get puffed - and voted to strike for an unprecedented eight weeks.
Supermarkets have begun to report shortages of the simple-to-prepare snacks as the 120 workers employed at the West Sunshine site in Victoria first walked off the job on September 4.
"The workers at Pampas instructed our union to tell Goodman Fielders we're walking out and won't be back for two months if they are not prepared to improve the pay offer," Oscar Lopez, LHMU delegate, said.
Workers were outraged by Goodman Fielder's offer enterprise bargaining offer of 2.8% per year, well below the average increase in current agreements of 3.8% per year.
Goodman Fielder this week reported a 12.2 percent jump in profits, with the baking division being the star peformer.
Goodman Fielders boasted the "strong 2002 result", based on a $21.8 million profit, to shareholders and flagged a five percent increase in bread prices to take effect next month.
"If nothing more palatable is put on the table we're ready to stay out," delegate Bianca Dovic warned.
The LHMU has been joined by union members from the AMWU, NUW and CEPU in the wages campaign..
Union sources say employers ordered vegetables grown so densely that workers struggled to reach them without damaging hand muscles.
Repetitive strain injury is the major complaint among the 400 strong workforce, which mainly consists of migrant women from non-English speaking backgrounds.
Already forced to endure a cold and dark work environment, employees paid on piece rates are inclined to work faster than is safe, according to an AWU spokesperson.
She says members have put bans on picking mushrooms from trays that are grown too closely together, pending the outcome of their Industrial Relations Commission case.
So far the Commission has stated that none of the workers should lose their average weekly earnings due to unresolved occupational health and safety issues.
The employer has offered more frequent breaks but the AWU is also pushing for penalty rates to be increased so workers do not have to work as fast to achieve their usual income.
The company has been listed on the Victorian Worksafe's list of 100 companies with the worst OHS performances.
The action will involve more than 100 staff from Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary who are members of the LHMU.
Victorian branch acting assistant secretary Connie De Nino said zoo keepers had been negotiating with management for a wage increase since January.
The union claim for a 15 percent increase over 18 months aims to bring workers closer to wage parity with zoo staff in other states.
Currently Victoria�s zoo staff are paid up to 29% less than counterparts in other states.
Rolling stoppages and work bans will begin in the next few days.
NSW Teachers Federation secretary Barry Johnson says his union is making the call knowing gay and lesbian workers still suffer violence and discrimination in the workplace, and community at large.
Johnson says the conference provides an opportunity for trade unions to show commitment to the rights of workers no matter what their sexual preference.
Organiser Frank Barnes says 60 percent of gay and lesbian people have suffered some form of workplace harassment and that NSW tops Australia in terms of unfair treatment.
This year's Workers Out! conference to be held from October 31 to November 2 at Sydney University aims to reach the gay and lesbian community both from around Australia and the wider Australasian region.
By displaying the safe place stickers during the conference, worksites will identify themselves as places where gay and lesbian people are able to seek help if threatened by violence.
Their design is inspired by the pink stickers used by the Nazis to mark target groups for persecution.
Few people hear about the Israeli peace mv't .Even fewer about the growing Refusnik mv't of Israelis who refuse to take part in the regular one-month terms in the Israeli Army, if they are told they must serve out this term in the Palestinian Authority Territories.
These people are jailed for at least a month. Each time they refuse the jail term increases. Next Tuesday in Sydney you can hear from a 20 year old Israeli who has served a jail term because of his refusal.
Rotem Mor's tour of Australia is sponsored by Jews 4 a Just Peace. Rotem was recently interviewed on the web newspaper Workers Online and has spoken at the Finance Sector Unions's NSW Council meeting.
Please invite friends and colleagues to attend.
WHO: Rotem Dan MOR
WHAT: Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue & Peaceful Co-existence
WHEN: TUESDAY, September 17TH at 7:00PM
WHERE: Rm 16, Lev 24 Tower Building,
University of Technology Sydney
For more INFORMATION call Vivienne 9357 2134; 0411 366 295 Rotem 0417 063 255Public Lecture 6-7pm + Discussion Panel
Writing Labour History
The Sydney Labour History Association is holding a free discussion on the subject of Writing Labour Biography, September 15, 2-5 pm, PSU HOUSE, Level 7, 191 Thomas Street, Sydney. Speakers include Harry Knowles, Peter Love, Professor Lyndall Ryan; their subjects include Edna and Jack Ryan, Frank Anstey. All welcome. For further information phone Julie on 9557 8097.
CONSUMERISM AND COUNTER-CONSUMERISM
Wednesday 9 October, 6-9pm
University of Technology Sydney, Broadway Campus, Building 3 (Bon Marche, cnr of Harris + Broadway), Floor 5, Room 510
Disabled Access. Refreshments available. Entry by donation ($10/$5). Enquiries: James Goodman, 95142714.
Panel: Tim Connor (NikeWatch), Peter Lewis (BossWatch), Julia Murray (FairWear), Vicki Sentas (Midnight Star Social Centre), chair, David McKnight (Research initiative on International Activism)
Thomas Frank is the author of 'One Market under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy' and 'The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism'. He is a founding editor of 'The Baffler', a magazine of cultural criticism (thebaffler.com).
Hosted by the Research Initiative in International Activism (international.activism.uts.edu.au) and the Transforming Cultures Research Group (transforming.cultures.uts.edu.au) with the support of the Australian Centre for Public Communication (acpc.uts.edu.au), Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (acij.uts.edu.au), and the Sydney Social Forum (www.sydneysocialforum.org)
Rally For Truth
A rally to draw attention to the truth about refugees and the threatened war on Iraq will be held Saturday 26 October.
The Rally will commence at 12pm from Town Hall, in Sydney.
Unionists are encouraged to attend the event which has already been endorsed by NSW Labor Council, the FSU, the AWMU, the CFMEU, Labor for Refugees, Children Out of Detention, Jews for Ethnic Tolerance, Refugee Action Committee, Free the Refugees Campaign and the Palm Sunday Committee.
Dear comrades and friends,
CFMEU: a racist union for racist workers?
As reported by the ABC, five undocumented migrants from Korea were taken into custody after the Department of Immigration raided ceramics factory in Sydney. One of them escaped. This action was the result of tip off given to immigration officials by union officials from the CFMEU.
As person of the left, I believe that the role of trade unions is to defend the workers interests and rights regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity and visa status. In this the CFMEU has not only failed abysmally to provide protection to these Korean workers, but also has become complicit with the war waged by the Australian government against refugees and undocumented immigrants.
This once again is proof how the rhetoric of "refugees are welcome here" is so meaningless in a context where trade unions themselves are enforcing racist exclusion against undocumented immigrants. The distinction between the refugee and the undocumented is one defined by our enemies with the goal of dividing us.
The minimal thing we can accept from the CFMEU now is not only an apology, but the immediate resignation of those trade union officials responsible for the tip off. We should demand a public statement by the CFMEU that this collaboration with Ruddock won't happen again. For those who stand for the defence of human dignity, the first thing we should do is to organise a loud protest against racism in the union movement in front of the CFMEU offices.
Dr Sergio Fiedler
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
University of Technology Sydney
I wish to respond to your diatrabe
I am hoping you will lead by example and resign from your job immediately. You will then be in the same position you wish building workers to be in- unable to pay your mortgage or feed your family.
You see, I know a Korean bloke, a Doctor of Social Inquiry. He is here on a tourist visa and has no work permit- but hey I know that is of no concern to you- he wants to stay in Australia and work. He can do your job and is able to do it for less than half what you are paid. I know it will be a sacrifice for you to resign so this guy can get a start, but hey- you wouldn't wish to be accused of hypocrisy now would you? Please lead by example and resign your job immediately.
I hope you will also apologise publicly for your laughable slur that the CFMEU is a racist union for racist workers. Categorising 100,000 CFMEU members in the construction industry (who are themselves at least 70% of non English speaking background) wouldn't be a sweeping generalisation now, would it? Maybe even a racist sweeping generalisation, given the ethnicities of the workers you are generalising about?
For your information, the Koreans arrested yesterday were brought to this country by organised crime, the Korean triad to be specific. They were used earlier this year to break a strike at Baulkham Hills by other (legal) Korean Australian workers. This is in fact what you are defending;- organised crime syndicates bringing workers into this country to break strikes and undercut unionised workers.
As an academic you of course have impeccable left credentials. Please also consider making yourself available to the nice men from the triad (I could give you their names but the aliases can get confusing) to explain to them how things should be in the world according to Sergio. I will be interested to see how they take your fascinating world view. I suspect they have a different definition of "protection" of Korean workers to you.
You are welcome to come and protest at the CFMEU office. We are situated in Lidcombe. Please come out when you have looked up where Lidcombe is. Just let me know via email when you are coming and I will arrange for some of the Korean Australian workers whose strike was broken by the organised crime gangs to be there, so you can explain your position to them directly. I am sure they will advise you of who exactly was deported yesterday so you don't have to take my racist word for it.
I hope you have the decency to forward on my response to all the anarcho e groups you so helpfully defamed us to.
Oh, and don't forget to resign. This doctor mate of mine is very enthusiastic about starting work in the Humanities faculty at UTS.
PS The real world is sometimes a little more complicated than it appears from the UTS tower building.
The hypocrisy of some private organisations/ multinational conglomerates in relation to their vandalism of our environment, while not acceptable, can be understood at least contextually in our current worship of the "Almighty Dollar" but offences should still be classified as Crimes against the people and punishable by imprisonment or in deliberate acts of poisoning our environment, with capital punishment, with executives, Ceos' or company directors, being held responsible.
Sadly it is in the public sector that appears to have , a total disregard for community health , and ratepayer values , these not only being ignored, but in many cases the ratepayers and residents being confrontationally fingered.
Recently, Parramatta Council was caught exposing the Parramatta River to pollution, through inadequate catchment in their Morton Street , North Parramatta Depot , this is a circumstance that had for years , either been deliberately ignored or those charged with responsibility for this depot , were negligent or incompetent or perhaps both.
Yet when one visits Parramatta Council web site, it is sprinkled with motherhood statements of how they are protecting the environment and in particular the river and creeks.
Then there is the Collex Waste Facility, at Clyde, which was touched on by Kel Livingstone in last weeks Workers Online. (Not Red Ken?)
According to "Kel", Parramatta Council, ALP councillors, along with some others have waffled on about opposing the use of Western Sydney as a dump for the North Shore Waste, and well they may have! But were these the same ALP councillors, on this same council, who organised the use of their transfer depot at Mary Parade, Rydalmere, to recycle the hundreds of tonnes of carcinogenic asphalt road chippings for North Shore councils, processing them with lime, cement, concrete and other toxic chemicals and then returning these chippings as road base. While experimenting with my new digital camera, and on a photographic expedition, looking for exciting graphics for a new Web Site, I happened to drive through Mary Parade, late last week, and was confronted on a public street, with large trucks and bogies causing obstructions, rubbish in the form of blue metal and road chippings, on the road from uncovered loads, truck drivers wandering around like stunned wildebeests in the Serengeti desert after a lion attack.
The effects of this inappropriate use of public property could be measured as environmentally dangerous to the immediate community as the Old Sydney City Council, Asphalt Plant with it asbestos roofing, its asbestos and fibre insulation, and the bottomless tar pit, that was situated on top of the tidal swamp at Wattle Street , adjacent to Black Wattle bay.
In fact, I think that even after using water sprinklers ,in this Mary Parade , Rydalmere site , it would be appropriate for the EPA, to check out the pollution, Work Cover to check the disregard for High visibility clothing, ear and eye protection, chaotic traffic control, and if they have time in their busy schedule , perhaps a cursory glance at the heavy machinery being used and the method of Safety Guards against moving parts , and DUAP, to exercise their responsibilities in respect to their obligations to the community, with an emphasis on not only the possible misuse of this land, but also the legality of the use of this land for anything other than "Parkland".
While in the broader society here are always those who believe that they are, not like the rest of us, made in the image of God, but that they actually are God, local government appears to be overly populated with these individuals , along with refugees from "Richmond & McClure" .It is only through every citizen accepting the reality that; we are our brother's keeper, that we can stop any of these Bastards continuing poison us all by polluting the ecosystem, thereby ensuring a sustainable environment for future generations.
Or is this just a simple case of reaching a local government level of incompetence and another precursor to Sartor's destiny as Il Duce of the Regions , or is that legions?
I think Not!
Has your organisation considered supporting legal action against politicians who lie in order to involve us in war?
I have in mind, as an example, the lies that conned many Australians into suppotine the war against Vietnam. I suggest there is sufficient evidence available for the Vietnam Vetrans to gain compensation and an apology. This would also apply to the families who lost a member or members in that war.
Should we not also consider legal action against those who lie to demonise an intended victim?
Finally, should we not demand of our governments that they observe the Charter and laws of the United Nations and that rule by law be the fundamental principle for governing relations between peoples? Should we not consider any act or proposed act, by any government or politician, that is contrary to the UN Charter and laws as a criminal act and subject to court proceedings?
How has life changed for cabin crew since September 11 last year?
Cabin crew have always put safety and security first - ensuring passengers are safe, aircraft are safe and our lives are safe. September 11 clearly reinforced that role. This is now at the forefront of everyone's minds. Cabin crew really enjoy their job and part of the job is the fun of interacting with customers, that's more difficult now. For instance there is no longer a possibility of visiting the flight deck and having some interaction with the flight crew there. So some of the fun has gone out of flights for passengers and crew.
Do you have members who were worried about continuing their jobs after the events last year?
Not necessarily continuing their jobs, but there was certainly a bit of a fear of flying to America and back. For quite some time after September 11 it wasn't quite clear how the security in America was going to be standing up to the new challenge of terrorism in aviation.
Immediately after September 11 there were predictions about the demise of the aviation industry and I know that your union and many others were told that things were going to be very tight over that 12 months, particular in the context of your pay talks. Were the threats actually realised?
Well it was a difficult time to predict. Internationally there has certainly been some impact on the aviation industry in terms of business and the frequency of flying. In Australia of course, events have overtaken that somewhat with the demise of Ansett Airlines. So I don't think the impact that the companies were predicting was quite as significant in Australia.
There were the record profits of Qantas in Australia, so something's gone right for them. What's been the story behind Qantas success?
Qantas has done very well, in the last 12 months, mainly because of the demise of Ansett and picking up their market share in Australia. Qantas cannot claim they've been hard done by and we would expect staff to be compensated for the pay freeze of the last 12 months.
There is another round of pay talks coming up what are your priorities for that round of negotiations?
There will be EBA talks starting in December. We are currently surveying our membership to find out what their priorities are and we will assess our position once the results are in. Clearly pay will be one important issue because our members told Qantas last year that while they were accepting a pay freeze there would need to be a substantial increase at the end of that period.
Any other issues on the table?
Job security has always been an issue for our members and that will continue. I would also see safety as an important issue for us, particularly with the new low cost airline entering the market: Australian airlines, which is wholly owned by Qantas.
We have recently seen headlines that Qantas wants to increase the ratio of cabin crew to passengers where's that coming from?
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is conducting a general review of all their regulations; part of that review is the passenger to crew ratio, which is currently at 1:36. Airlines like Qantas have made an application to increase that to 1:50. The FAAA of course is opposed to that because it is self-evident that that would decrease safety and security, particularly in light of the events of the last 12 months.
Is that the sort of issue that would be fundamental to your members?
Yes that's fundamental. Safety and security are the big issues for our members and will be the main priority. But that is not to say that they should not also earn a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.
There have been comments from Qantas in recent weeks that failure to increase foreign ownership in the airline will mean they'll have to cut labour costs. Is there a logic in that that you accept?
It's evident with the record profits that Qantas is a very profitable company and is competing very well in the international market, so I cannot see any issue about international competitiveness.
About 12 months ago you launched your campaign on the status of cabin crew. Do you think flight attendants still have an image problem in the community?
Well I would say so, even if you read the headline in the Australian about the cabin crew ratios, we are called attendants not cabin crew, which we see as an important distinction. When people think of us as attendants on board they think about us serving drinks and meals. Cabin crew implies a much broader set of skills and responsibilities; we are an integral part of the crew on board.
How helpful for your professional status, were Virgin cabin crew posing in men's magazines?
I don't think it has done our professionalism campaign any favours, we don't really want to see those images, but I guess Richard Branson has his own approach to this. But I don't think most cabin crew would want to see themselves on the cover of a men's magazine.
Of course Virgin had an impact on competition in the market. After the Ansett demise it's probably good to have competition and keeps Quantas honest to some degree. But when you look at their initial fairs such as Sydney to Melbourne for $30 there is no doubt in my mind that no airline can keep up those sorts of fares and maintain a safe operation. So, in the end, I think passengers will lose out because no airline can operate on these kind of deals.
So what in your view is the perfect structure for the Australian Aviation industry?
There is certainly a place for two airlines in the Australian market, I don't know if it can sustain anymore than two and of course ensure some level of competition between the two operators. The role of government is to protect the market generally and particularly employment in Australia.
Another airline union, the LHMU, has been running hard on the need to increase resources for airport security on the ground. That would also be an issue for your members?
For cabin crew their workplace is the aircraft so, of course, security has to be at its highest and that really starts with maintenance and security on the ground, in particular the screening of passengers and freight. So we recognise that the workers on the ground are vital parts of the equation.
'The question to ask ourselves as we journey into the 21st century is this: is each of us at heart a businessman, or is each of us at heart a human being. On our answer will hinge the fate of the earth.'
Nearly six months before the WTC and the Pentagon were rammed by jet planes full of fuel the Fairfax press ran an article authored by Australian writer, Richard Neville. Entitled 'American Psycho - Oh say, can't they see' Neville closed the article with the above question having detailed in very colourful and pointed prose the many excesses of the American people and how the American way of life posed a threat to the world's trade and every country's security. Neville questioned what lay beyond Uncle Sam's mask of sanity. He then proceeded to peel away that mask in an unquestionably critical piece that was designed to provoke comment.
The article was predictably met with howls of outrage from some quarters and just as predictably was warmly welcomed by others. In itself, that is no surprise, because America has a way of polarising opinion. So much so, that the September 11 attacks seemed to some on another part of the world a necessary response to America and the actions that form up her foreign policy.
That obscene statement felled the economic, military and political symbols that represent the American way of life. In doing so, the opponents of America took the lives of around 3000 human beings; not all of them American; and few, if any, of them guilty of proposing the foreign policy objectives that so offended her opponents. Three hundred and forty three of those people were firefighters who, for the first time found themselves firmly in the front line of international terrorism. If for no other reason, that is why Australian firefighters need to take heed of the lessons learned and why we need to broaden our interests past the home, past the fire station and past our national borders.
What, we all ask, could so offend? What drives people to act with such ferocious disregard for humanity? And what, we must seek to learn, is this thing called American foreign policy? That last question is the most relevant because very few in America-and elsewhere-really understand the needs America has created for herself.
"The American way of life is not negotiable"
That statement was obviously not made by a diplomat yet it's a sentiment that holds true for most of America's sons and daughters. Appropriately, perhaps, that statement with all of its absence of diplomacy was made by George W. Bush. Those words also encapsulate past and present US administrations' approach to foreign policy.
The American way of life is held aloft by an enormous dependence on energy needs. With a population that demands the right to consume, to create wealth and needing the where-with-all to continue its way of life the primary job of an American President is pre-determined.
Point your foreign policy towards keeping up the oil supply and deal with domestic policy after that.
Six billion people are currently grazing on the global paddock. Of those America has less than 5 % of the world's population yet she consumes 30% of the world's resources. Twenty five percent of the world's petrol is consumed by America, which on a per capita basis is some 27 times more than an Indian national. That same American citizen chews through 10 times more coal than a Chinese citizen does. She vomits greenhouse gas emissions into the air at a rate greater than anyone else does and it's no surprise that her partner in resisting signing the Kyoto treaty, Australia, comes in a close second in polluting the planet.
Like America, Australians are amongst the fattest people on earth and if anyone saw the light hearted BBC doco on America "Fat, Dumb and Rich", there is little doubt that Australians are set to follow all the way with the USA. We are also following the US in ensuring that the greater proportion of the national wealth is held by few as we face up to a future of unsustainable welfare needs. Poverty is rife and wealth is becoming more concentrated.
I'm not sure if Americans and Australians are dumb or just mute. It may be that people just don't want to know. They want to go to work, do their best, look after their families and serve their own needs. But most of all they expect to consume the world's resources as they see fit. And most are either too busy or disengaged to recognise that their leaders wage war to ensure that their citizens can continue to consume more, much more, than their share. If America is the greedy fat kid at the world's table then Australia is looking to cop the fat kid's 'hand me downs.' A little bit younger, a dress size smaller perhaps, but keen to emulate the older dumber kids.
George W. Bush is not fat but he sure understands consumption. This short, thin Texan also understands oil better than most. As a former oil executive, George brings his interests and his past with him into the White House.
September 11 was the start of something and no-one knows where it will end. But before that, America was already preparing for it's future. With an insatiable appetite for oil, the US has learned to shop smart. In recent times the US reduced it's dependence on Middle East oil - an obvious reaction to the instability in the region. That instability is partially fuelled by America's unquestioning support for Israel over other Arab nations and that support extends to allowing Israel to flout a sack full of United Nations resolutions aimed at ending Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land. But now we hear that Iraq's refusal to comply with UN resolutions means that it must be militarily attacked in order that Saddam Hussein is ousted.
Why the double standards? Oil, comrades, oil.
The US is smart enough these days to draw most of its energy needs from the oil basins of the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere in it's region - an important policy shift in recent times. But they still need the Middle East to make up the balance. About 20% of US oil needs are still serviced by the Arab nations, most of it from Saudi Arabia. Now Saudi Arabia is a long term US ally with a significant US military presence stationed within its borders. That US military base was strategically important the last time another Bush waged war on Iraq.
Saudi Arabia is also the birthplace of a bloke called Osama bin Laden and 11 of the 19 hijackers that proved that America was no longer immune from war on their own soil.
And this is where it gets worrying. In Iraq we are not talking about a bombing raid to flush out and round up the terrorists. There is simply no link between Saddam Hussein and September 11. None.
Yet there are clear indications that Saudi Arabia has some questions to answer. At least twelve of them - but obviously many more. Questions that will be asked as soon as the US can find another source for the oil currently provided by the Saudis.
Is that why there needs to be a regime change in Iraq? Could it be so that a new regime in Iraq more 'friendly' to America will provide the oil the US needs? Once freed of the shackles of Saudi oil dependence, there is little doubt that the US foreign policy objectives as they currently apply to Saudi Arabia will undergo a very significant review.
So far we know that 343 firefighters died in New York. Western newspapers were less precise in counting dead firefighters in Afghanistan so we just don't know what the score was there. Their deaths didn't make the world a safer place after September 11. Quite the opposite. Along with every other death by violence it has been proved to be utterly needless.
With John Howard joining the bellicose ranting that is unnerving the planet he is placing 11, 000 Australian firefighters and many more other emergency personnel in a position they have never before faced. And our deaths won't make the world a safer place either.
You are now involved.
To quote a familiar Talking Head on the world's stage.... "And you might ask yourself, well, how did I get here?
Even if you used to turn a deaf ear to the leftie, greenie, tree-hugging, pinko, do-gooders you might now be able to see what they are on about even if you don't agree. If talk about globalisation, geopolitics, United Nations, foreign policy, the Middle East, wind farms, solar energy and global warming leaves you cold, your current body temperature is warmer than a New York firefighters corpse. If you just want to do your job, provide for your family's future and serve your own needs then the way to do that most effectively is to get out of your comfort zone and speak up against this selfish stupidity that says war, any war, violence, any violence, is a necessary response to anything.
This day - September 11 - is redolent with symbolism and emotion for all of us. For one year ago we witnessed a shocking loss of human life, which triggered the circumstances we find ourselves in today - on the cusp of a major conflagration in the Middle East.
But without in anyway detracting from the horrific actions of the state less and mandate less Al-Queda network we should keep September 11 in some sort of perspective. It was an extraordinary act of terrorist violence because of its magnitude in terms of targets, logistical organisation and numbers of people affected. But it was not the first act of world-stopping terrorism. Many of us will recall the senseless kidnapping and killing of members of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich in 1972. Or the IRA's Brighton Hotel bombing ten years later.
The point to make is that we need to consider why we are now sanctioning wholesale trampling on civil society by governments in the US, UK and Australia all in the name of an indefinite and indefinable 'War on Terrorism.' And why are we rushing at this moment, more than any other in the last ten years, to invade Iraq?
I would suggest that the answer to these questions lies in this fact - that we have allowed the Al-Queda's actions to spook us. The events of September 11 have achieved one of their aims - to dismantle the liberal democratic tradition that the West has enjoyed in varying degrees since the Age of Enlightenment. We are also seeing the institutions of global governance that have done much to champion the liberal democratic cause in the last fifty years at least now being undermined by the very nations that established them. And Bin-Laden and his network has also achieved one of its other objectives - to light a match on an incendiary Middle East.
Australia - under the Howard government, sometimes aided and abetted by Labor - has been a willing participant in the erosion of the architecture of global governance and liberal democratic principles since before September 11. In fact, September 11 merely gave our politicians, with the notable exceptions of the Democrats and the Greens, the chance to kick along what I believe is a disturbing trend that has been evident since the election of the Howard government in 1996. This is a retreat from our traditional willing participation in, and rigorous subscription to the principles of, institutions of global governance such as the UN or multilateral efforts to deal with pressing matters such as climate change or human rights abuses.
Yes there have been exceptions to this but even they have been tarnished and compromised. Take our recent agreement to sign up for the International Criminal Court. Here the 'good guys won the day' in the government but before the ink was dry on our signature along comes revelations that we are prepared to do a deal with the US to ensure that we never hand over any of their personnel involved in war crimes to the Court!
In short, what I am asking you to consider is this - Is Australia now a rogue state amongst nations with whom we share the liberal democratic heritage? I would argue that we heading dangerously close to such a labelling.
And if you want some concrete evidence to back up what sounds of itself a fairly stretched assertion, then you need cast your minds back only a week to Australia's continued refusal to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Even Canada, which as the Financial Review's Paul Cleary pointed out last weekend, 'faces a much tougher target' than Australia in terms of what is expected of it under the Protocol - a 6 percent cut in emissions between 1990 and 2012 whereas Australia proposes an 8 percent increase over the same period - is now prepared to revisit its refusal to sign. And developing countries like China are now on board.
Unfortunately this continued bloody mindedness by Australia is not isolated. In the last two months we have sign other egregious examples of this newfound testosterone filled contempt for global governance.
First, there was the report by the UN Special Envoy on Human Rights, Justice Bhagwati, on the conditions in our detention centres for asylum seekers. Justice Bhagwati report confirmed what hundreds of others have observed - that Australia is not meeting its obligations under international human rights standards. The response from the Immigration Minister Mr Ruddock and his cabinet colleagues was question the motives and modus operandi of Justice Bhagwati - a distinguished Indian jurist - and rant about busy bodies in the UN keeping their nose out of our business.
Then only a fortnight later the Howard government acted with swift vengeance against the UN by refusing to sign the Optional Protocol on Torture on the grounds that we are affronted by the UN having the power under that statute to randomly visit countries where it suspects there are human rights abuses occurring. Here we were happy to line up with 8 other nations including China, Egypt, Nigeria and Libya!
But it's not just in the area of international treaties and protocols where Australia has developed a more selective and reactive stance. It is in the way we conduct our domestic politics. Whilst we are today remembering the events of September 11 only two weeks ago we reflected on the Tampa incident.
The hysteria generated by the Howard government and the extraordinary buckling by Labor that saw a shameful 'me-tooism' approach between then and the November election, was isolationist, inhumane and xenophobic. And the resultant Pacific Island Solution demonstrated a total contempt for our near neighbours (as does the Kyoto Protocol refusal given the likely disaster about to befall Pacific micro-states this century as a result of melting polar caps) and a selfishness that one might expect to emanate from a tin pot regime like that which currently exists in Zimbabwe.
Let me know turn to Australia's September 11 legacy because in my view it is helping to craft a new Australia that is prepared to turn its back on our region and more importantly, on active leadership in the vanguard of the struggle to achieve as widespread a liberal democratic tradition as possible in the world.
Despite our Prime Minister's comment that we do not 'click our heels' just because the US tells us to, this is hard to reconcile with his fawning performance in Washington in July or his sadly absurd suggestion last year that we are the 'deputy sheriffs' of the region for the US! And Mr Howard was happy to allow the Foreign Minister Mr Downer to indulge in bellicose sabre rattling on Australia's participation in any conflict with Iraq until the opinion pollsters obviously told him that the public was just a little nervous about the prospect at his point.
And Australia has not been prepared to take an independent and cautiously sympathetic to legitimate grievances in West Papua or Aceh where the legacy of repressive Indonesian imperialism is beginning to wear very thin. In fact, the Howard government has given our near neighbours every indication over the past five years that we are joined at the hip to the US.
At no stage has the government, unlike many European countries, stopped to ask the question - should Australia support the US on its Iraq strategy? Perhaps its is in our interests to oppose a War? Why not have this debate.
In summary, let me put this to you. Australia was once regarded as the world now regards New Zealand and Canada - as a nation strongly committed to the univeralist project of liberal democracy. After all, it was former Labor leader Bert Evatt, who as External Affairs Minister in 1946, insisted that the Great Powers establish a civil and political rights jurisdiction for the fledging UN in addition to its security role.
And it was an Australian Prime Minister in Malcolm Fraser who crafted the Lancaster House Agreement to bring equality to the indigenous people of Zimbabwe, and it was Bob Hawker and Paul Keating who recognised that Australia must lead in the region in which we live - Keating even appointed a Minister responsible for Pacific Island issues.
Australia is heading to rogue state status amongst our traditional peers - yet who seems to care? Such a stance seems to win elections and confirms the view I have had for some time that John Howard did not see off Pauline Hanson, as his supporters like to boast - he simply morphed into her. And in doing so, he and his government are helping to erode the global governance arrangements of the liberal democratic tradition. September 11 has only exacerbated this conduct.
SPEECH TO FABIAN SOCIETY/PLUTO PRESS SEMINAR
11 SEPTEMBER 2002
On September 11, 1648, the Levellers submitted the Large Petition with 40,000 signatures to Parliament. The deed was decisive because it set in motion the terrible events that culminated four months later in the execution of Charles Stuart, King of England, and because the Levellers, the first popular democratic political party in European, if not world, history, announced their opposition to the enclosures of the commons, or the privatisation of the English land.
It seems to be a pure coincidence that the Large Petition and the attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers took place on the same day and month, though the former was three and a half centuries earlier. The coincidence arises like magic from the dull miasma of created amnesia. We have forgotten the history of freedom and the commons. This is not accidental either: the ruling class dumbs us down, and the dumbing starts at the top.
Ten days after the 9/11 attack President Bush addressed the nation, the Congress, and Tony Blair, prime minister of England. "America has no truer friend than Great Britain," he said. "Once again, we are joined together in a great cause," referring as he often would in the speech to Churchill and Roosevelt and the Anglo-American alliance of the Second World War. What was the cause? Here the amnesia sets in, and the tragedy becomes farce. The terrorists "hate us for our freedoms our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech." This was the lie, because the cause which Churchill and Roosevelt expressed was fourfold, the Four Freedoms. Bush gets two right, the two "of" freedoms (speech, worship), but he gets two wrong, mendaciously omitting the two "from" freedoms, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear.
Freedom from want summarized social security, unemployment insurance, workers' comp, aid to families with dependent children. Freedom from fear summarized our legal protections against the midnight knock, the police state, and the 'strange fruit' of Southern trees. These were the freedoms of the poor, the powerless, the parents, the old, the sick, the injured. These were the four brass chords of mobilization trumpeted "everywhere in the world" (Atlantic Charter). Against them is Bush's squeaky baby fife, tweet, tweet. Despite his disgraceful omission the commentators oohed and ahhed. History was not being made; it was being re-written.
We do not blame Bush's English history profs at Yale I doubt he had any. Anyway, the problem is not confined to the Ivy League. After all Judge Rehnquist (Stanford, '48) gets the date wrong of the English Habeas Corpus Act of 1679. Remember Clinton, who eviscerated habeas corpus, cruised to power amid a fleet of Rhodes scholars. Against the contented smirk of self-loved ignorance of the President, or the haughty sneer of arrogant calculation of the Chief Justice, the Harvard English literature scholar, Steven Greenblatt, sighs that English history has disappeared from American education. This is true, true at the top. The answer to amnesia from above is history from below.
We have to learn about the Magna Carta from subcommandante Marcos. English history comes to us from indigenous movement; it was the liberation fighter of the Shawnee, Tecumseh, for example, who said, the Indians must reclaim the common, "Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth?" he cried. The Irish adage, English history happens elsewhere, also applies. The alert Ms. Bridget Connelly, single parent and Toledo journalist, brought to my summer school class the Large Petition of the Levellers, not as coincidence, but asking its meaning. Its meaning is extraordinary because it deals directly with the two planetary discussions which were put an end to by the terror of 9/11, namely, the commons and reparations.
In the summer of 2001 people from around the planet gathered in Italy and South Africa to discuss the issues of our time. In Genoa, answering Thatcher's vulgar determinism of TINA ('there is no alternative'), people affirmed that 'another world is possible' to the enclosures and privatization schemes of the World Bank, IMF, and WTO. Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, caused the young activist Carlo Giuliani to be run over, shot, and killed. Meanwhile, in Africa, home to homo sapiens or wo/man the wise, the UN conference on "racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance" raised reparations. On September 5, 2001 the African countries called for an apology for slavery, debt cancellation, the funding of health care, the return of plundered objects, and the acceleration of overseas aid. In response, the U.S. withdrew. A week later, terror on the Twin Towers, and Bush, the plutogogue, piped in the dystopia of oil and terror.
The Large Petition was emulated across the length of England, from Tyneside to Somerset weavers, and in between, e.g. thousands of lead miners of Derby in the midst of industrial dispute. The principle behind it was an arrow shot by the Leveller, Richard Overton, "all men are equally and alike born to the like propriety, liberty and freedome" he wrote, specifically including cobblers, tinkers, chimneysweepers, and bellowesmenders.
The Large Petition contains 27 demands. I'll discuss them under six heads. The first is popular sovereignty or "the supreme authority of the people" contrasting with the judicial sovereignty of Bush where Rehnquist designated him President despite the scandal of the Florida balloting. The Levellers called for annual elections, fixed times of meetings, and demanded "all persons alike liable to every law of the land so all persons even the highest might fear and stand in awe." "There is nothing more opposite to freedom," they said, than the "power of pressing and forcing any sort of men to serve in wars." Two years earlier and again a year later the Levellers mutinied against the invasion of Ireland, a signal instance of anti-imperialist solidarity recognized in the tradition that claims that the Irish color green originated in the colors of the Leveller soldier, Rainborough.
The second group of demands pertain to freedom of worship and speech. They demanded the exemption of "matters of Religion and Gods worship from the compulsive or restrictive power of any authority upon earth." that people not be divided or affrighted from liberty, by superstitious laws concerning blasphemy, heresy, and the supernatural" because liberty is necessary to discover corruption and tyranny. They tolerated Catholicism and atheism, as well as Muslims and Jews, in advance of Milton and Locke. One of Bush's body guards in Detroit dirtied the walls of a suspect's home with "Islam is Evil" "Christ is King."
The third heading refers specifically to reparations: "full and ample reparations to all persons that had been oppressed by sentences in High Commission, Star Chamber, and Counsel Board, or by any kind of Monopolizers or Projectors; and that out of the Estates of those that were Authors, Actors, or Promoters of so intolerable mischiefs...." These lines can apply today, when instead of royal courts, the court system of the U.S. by snitch evidence and racial bias sends the poor to prison. As for "Monopolizer or Projectors" the meaning of these words would be conveyed into today's terms as entrepreneur, and at the time in 1648 the first commercial English "triangular" traders set sail for slaves from West Africa. Intolerable mischiefs indeed!
Lord Gifford summarized the issue in the House of Lords, "The underdevelopment and poverty which affect the majority of countries in Africa and the Caribbean, as well as the ghetto conditions in which many black people live in the United States and elsewhere, are not, speaking in general terms, the result of laziness, incompetence, or corruption of African people or their governments. They are in a very large measure the consequence the legacy of one of the most massive and terrible criminal enterprises in recorded history, that is, the transatlantic slave trade and the institution of slavery."
The slave ship, the plantation, the ghetto are followed by the prison as the location for slaves and the descendants of slaves. Therefore, the fourth heading is more essential than ever. It concerns the elementary liberty and individual safeguards against the despotism of King or cop, judge or jackboot. The Levellers were led by John Lilburne, hero of habeas corpus, otherwise sullied by Clinton, mocked by Rehnquist. The Large Petition required that "all tryalls should be only by twelve sworn men." Plea bargaining was unacceptable. Walwyn the Leveller said, "take a Cobler from his seat, or a Butcher from his Shop and let him hear the case." "No conviction but upon two or more sufficient grown witnesses," thus removing the hidden mainspring of the American criminal justice machine, the snitch. Free all people "from being examined against themselves." Free people "from being punished for doing that against which no law hath been provided." The Levellers demanded the release of the thousands who are ruined "by perpetual imprisonment for debt." Victimless crimes and indeterminate sentences were thus proscribed. As a principle the Large Petition demanded that Parliament "proportion punishments more equal to offences." "Abbreviate the proceedings of the law." Congress passed the Patriot (Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act of 342 pages. Its scandalous provisions (tracking telephone and internet communication, sneak and peek searches, mandatory unnamed, uncharged detention of 1,100) together with TIPS (Terrorism Information Prevention System) brings back everything but the King's Messengers, the branks and thumbscrews of Star Chamber. Our Bill of Rights, like our Declaration of Independence, owes an unacknowledged debt to the petition of 9/11/1648. It is time to acknowledge it, and no better time than 9/11.
The fifth heading perhaps is the most interesting, pertinent, and needed, and for that reason it has been most arduously forgotten. It concerns subsistence. The petitioners told Parliament to "keep people from begging and beggary in so fruitful a Nation;" they instructed Parliament to "abolish excise and all kinds of taxes." Free "all trade and merchandising from all Monopolizing and Engrossing," they said in a direct reference to the pattern of customary consumer conditions known as the 'moral economy.' "Restore the Comunalty of London to their just Rights." Now we come to the C word that has caused a deal of trouble. The twelfth demand of the Large Petition commanded Parliament to "open all late Inclosures of Fens, and other Commons, or have enclosed them only or chiefly to the benefit of the poor"
The fens drained, forests emparked, fielden and champion lands surveyed, fenced, and hedged, and wretched misery followed. Yet hunger will break through stone walls, and tears dissolve the foundation of country houses, said the Levellers. Subsistence depended on common right and common good. William Walwyn wished "with all his heart that there was neither Pale, Hedge nor Ditch in the whole Nation." Winstanley the Digger said "there is no reason that some should have so much and others so little." Women led a vigorous anti-enclosure movement. In addition to Captain Ludd and Captain Swing, the social imaginary of the English class struggle produced the terrific phantoms, Robin Hood and Skimmington. The debate was exceptionally rich in 1649. The inventor of the forceps, Peter Chamberlen, wrote, "Meum et tuum divide the world into factions, into atoms." An equality of goods and lands, an agrarian law with annual re-division, called for in August 1649, in a great pamphlet that George Orwell republished. Carrots, parsnips, and peas planted which as fodder could keep cattle alive through the winter. Then came the Rump, regicide, and the republic, and to these we could add the ranch, for cattle raising became the rule for rapacity.
The Parliament of landlords which took over politics in 1640 was not interested in preserving a peasantry engaged in subsistence production. Winstanley's communist project dated four days before the execution of Charles I. Digging started two weeks before kingship was abolished on St Patrick's Day (March 17). Two months later England was declared a commonwealth. Brailsford believed the real reason for the defeat of the Levellers was their failure to remedy the plight of the peasantry. 1656 was the last time Parliament tried to legislate against enclosures; for the subsequent three centuries Parliament enacted enclosures.
The freedom from fear and the freedom from want are logically related. Losing the commons leads to the criminalization of the commoner. Hence, individual safeguards of liberty against tyranny of the courts and the police are necessary when the collective responsibility of the common welfare has been corrupted. The Leveller newspaper The Moderate on August 7, 1649 when some poor men were executed for stealing cattle said such crimes originated in private property. "We find some of these felons to be very civil men, and say, that if they could have had any reasonable subsistence by friends, or otherwise, they should never have taken such necessitous courses for support of their wives and families. They argue it with much confidence that property is the original cause of any sin between party and party after civil transactions. And that since the Tyrant is taken off, and their government altered in nomine, so it really to redound to the good of the people in specie." Laurence Clarkson took the argument a step further, "if the creature had brought this world into no propriety, as Mine and Thine, there had been no such title as theft, cheat, or a lie"
Alongside the planetary discussions at Genoa and Durban, Al Haber and Staughton Lynd, veterans of SDS and SNCC, called a series of regional mid-western meetings. Our discussion foundered when we raised the issue of "the commons." The late Marty Glaberman (Buick worker, C.L.R. James' comrade, counselor to the Black revolutionary union movements of Detroit) opposed it altogether, finding it idealized. Staughton Lynd offered the experience of the legal suits based on eminent domain against U.S. Steel but he excluded the term 'the commons' saying it was particular to Britain without any meaning at all for Americans. One sees the point. On the one hand, those Founding Fathers repressed the term (Madsion was frightened of "levelling," and Jefferson quoted Levellers but refrained from identifying the party), because the Founders pretended to "find" the boreal forests of the Algonguians and the prairies, woods, and waterways of the Shawnee, the Pottawatomies, at the moment that the indigenous people were confederating on the basis precisely of the commons, or 'the dish with one spoon,' as Joseph Brant of the Iroquois put it. The Founders might accept Leveller formulations of liberty of individuals (Bill of Rights), but not against enclosure. On the other hand, the 20th century anthropologists approached 'the question of the commons' with a Victorian touch, as cabinet specimans Icelandic fisheries, Botswana grazing, Bornean swamps. Thus, the narrative has been blocked.
The Levellers, too, made an issue out of the commons. The 18th demand of the 9/11 petition specifically bound all "future Parliaments from abolishing propriety, levelling men's estates, or making all things common." They disclaimed the religious doctrine of communism which was rife indeed. Abiezer Coppe pointed out that true communion "is to have all things common." John Wycliffe, the first to translate the Bible in English, just after the Peasant's Revolt of 1381, translated the early Christians practice (Acts 2:44) to "hadden alle thingis comyn," a wording (but not a spelling) kept in subsequent renditions, though the practice was specifically prohibited by the Prayer Book of the State religion. The earlier Christians "had all things common as every man his need," a view that entered Marx's definition of communism, 'to each according to need.'
In the tactical conjuncture in taking on Parliament, an assembly of landlords, this compromise was felt necessary, if they were to get the Roundheads to prosecute the King. They demanded the execution of "Justice upon the capital authors and promoters of the former and late wars" and they pressed for immediate trial of the king. The Levellers on 9/11/1648 believed they could obtain some redress by killing the King. However, capital punishment backfired, inciting a spirit of revenge and creating a Royalist party where there had never been one before. The parallel is to the destruction of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They were no more merely symbols of finance capitalism or imperialism than Charles Stuart was actually a "Crown." To gain support for regicide, the Levellers compromised the universality of the commons.
Yet, the repressed has returned. There is a deep historical practice, that is world-wide, and within memory: shared labor of cooperation, common uses of the product of labor, shared use of common pool resources (land, water, air, oil, electro-magnetic spectrum, bio-sphere), and in the event of disaster, scarcity, famine, common deprivation. With this practice there is also the historical experience of intentional transformations such as the Levellers and the Diggers (England) or Babeuf and the Equals (France), or Marx and Engels and the communists (Germany). From the Sem Terra movement of land occupation in Brazil ("seeds are the property of humankind") to the digital commons, or free software movement, of the hacker Richard Stallman, who created a "little puddle of freedom," from Papua to El Salvador, from Pakistan to Nigeria, from Chiapas to Amazonas, the migrants remember and must remind "Americans" that the story is only half told. The Greens have recalled the commons; let them recall the Levellers too, their color cognates.
In the mid-west, the welfare of some commons is threatened by two forces: nuclear power (war) and genetic modification (plants). 25 miles from Toledo on Lake Erie squats the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant. The profits are private, but the cost is common. Boric acid has eaten away the reactor head. Only three-eighths of an inch of steel stands between us and a Three Mile Island or Chernobyl. The NRC intervened shockingly so, for it protected private profits, ignored the risks, and failed to shut it down. It is incapable of acting for the commons. The hole in the head has only grown.
Readers all over the country this summer have been startled by the grave and tender warnings Barbara Kingsolver makes on behalf of bio-diversity. The genetic modification of corn is destroying the strains which were first brought to the Ohio country from meso-America a millenium ago by the Hopewell people. Once it is understood that the GM corn has contaminated the Mexican land-mass our anger must confront the genetic terror. The planetary germ-plasm is a commons befalling generation on generation, and it is at risk. Winstanley "For if ever the Creation be restored, this is the way, which lies in this twofold power. First, Community of Mankind. Second, Community of the Earth. These two communities, or rather, one in two branches, is that true Levelling." Naturally, John Evelyn, the royalist diarist, hated the Levellers and the Diggers, and yet he loved his fruits more than he hated the commons, and thus the aristocratic pomologist stated flatly, "We do seriously prefer a very wild orchard."
Two towns have been named after the Lessing family in Nottinghamshire, a county where the Levellers had once been strong, and before them, Robin Hood. One is Lexington, Massachusetts, and the other is Laxton. In the former, the shot heard around the world was fired, in the latter, open field cooperation still prevailed at the time of the Atlantic Charter. Then, H.N. Brailsford, the historian of the Levellers, tramped about the muddy ploughed lands of the last open field agriculture of England, while in Placentia Bay FDR instructed Churchill as to the Four Freedoms. The seed-bed of 'the freedom from want' lies precisely and historically in the commons. That is English history from the ground. What was remarkable is that where Brailsford last heard of commoning practices, England apart, was among elder Pathans of Afghanistan, which the Americans are so intent now on destroying.
An older school of historical materialists said the Levellers were ahead of their times. The only trouble with that is that they were ahead of ours as well. How can we catch up? The answer to this, as well as to Ms Bridget Connelly's question, is this: reparations for harm done cannot be re-paid by capital punishment of those on thrones or in Towers, and the commons must be advocated unequivocally "everywhere in the world." Parliament intended to pass an Act of Oblivion against the Levellers. On 9/11 the Levellers demanded instead "a most honourable Act of perpetual rememberance, to be as a pattern of publik vertue, fidelity, & resolution to all posterity." "The past is not dead. It is not even past," as William Faulkner said. No coincidences.
Peter Linebaugh teaches history at Bard College. He is the author of The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the Eighteenth Century and The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. He can be reached at: [email protected]
Maximus has brought out Brisbane-based Job Network provider Leonie Green and Associates, lock, stock and barrel for $20 million. Ms Green says, for the moment, she is still managing director and everything else remains as is but there is no doubt the multi-national wants a larger role.
Its arrival heralds the endgame in the Howard-Abbott drive to privatise welfare delivery.
Welfare privatisation is a cornerstone ambition of the New Right for two important reasons.
The first is economic. It cuts the role of the state in favour of private enterprise, while, the second is philosophical, turning the dispossessed from victims to be helped, to authors of their own misfortune, deserving punishment.
Deriding beneficiaries as "job snobs", dole bludgers and "welfare mums" is a precondition to slashing their share of budget expenditure .
There is an obvious synergy between Leonie Green and Associates, one of Australia's biggest Job Network providers, and Maximus Inc, which turns over more than $US 1 billion a year, from providing a range of services to state and federal governments.
But it doesn't end there. Leonie Green and Associates was forced to repay $70,000 last year after it had been found to have been moving the unemployed to make-work roles with an associated labour hire company.
Maximus has a long record of controversial dealings in the States, from botching and losing contracts to questions over the legitimacy of its contracting, and dozens of equal opportunity suits filed by disgruntled employees on the basis of alleged racial or sexual discrimination.
It was disqualified from bidding on a West Virginia contract after a state employee was found to have accepted $20,000 from company coffers.
After a botched childcare contract in Connecticut, local State Employees Union spokesman, Rick Melita, said: "in terms of service here, they've been abysmal. They underbid, over-promised and they didn't deliver."
A coalition of 50 Milwaukee-area church groups and six state lawmakers was moved to campaign against the company after it won a $US46 million job training contract
In July, 2000, a Legislative Audit Bureau report found $US800,000 in questionable spending as Maximus maxed-out on the Wisconsin experiment, something of a Holy Grail to Right commentators. It was claimed that substantial Milwaukee funds had gone on chasing inter-state contracts and concerts for clients by Broadway songstress, Melba Moore. Without admitting any liability Maximus agreed to pay back half a million dollars and kick in another half million to extend services to the poor, in the words of the Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper, "to try and make amends".
Maximus was founded in 1975 by David Mastran, a West Point graduate and former Defence Department analyst, but it really blossomed, courtesy of a glittering 21st gift from former US president Bill Clinton.
His 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act opened welfare delivery to large scale privatisation. Maximus and fellow travellers, like one-time armaments giant, Lockheed Martin, were quick to cash in.
Howard and Abbott were right on Clinton's philosophical tail. Their destruction of Commonwealth Employment Services and creation of the Job Network has seen billions of Australian welfare dollars transferred to the corporate sector.
Just as in the US, it has brought a crisis of faith for established charities.
Essentially, they face a simple choice. Do they continue to selflessly assist the disadvantaged, or, do they reorganise along corporate lines and worship at the altar of the dollar?
In Australia, there has been trenchant opposition from the likes of the Rev Bill Crews but outfits like the Salvation Army and, most completely, Mission Australia, have fully embraced the latter option.
Like Maximus and Lockheed, Mission understands a bottom line which reads: small government = large corporate profits.
Australian Services Union officials Sally McManus and Jim Petrowski deal with Mission on a daily basis. They say it is no different to other corporates driven by aggressive HR policies.
It puts up with the union but strongly resists collectivism amongst employees.
McManus and Petrowski also represent members in community welfare agencies and say the difference in attitudes between the for-profits and non-profits is like night and day.
The corporates, they say, put the bottom line ahead of clients and workers, alike.
Petrowski cites the example of an Ettalong Mission employee disciplined after lining up 234 places for the unemployed with State Rail. The trouble, it seemed, was they weren't for "intensive assistance" clients, who carry the biggest Government bounties, and that they were for workers from outside his district.
Another Mission employee was disciplined after cutting a deal with a major Hornsby-based retailer. Again, he failed to send along the gold-plated "intensive assistance" types.
"There is pressure to achieve outcomes," McManus explains, "but it doesn't swing on the needs of the clients. A key problem is that different people are ascribed different financial values."
This, indirectly, leads to the controversial star system by which Government will let the bulk of the next round of Job Network contracts, valued at more than $3 billion.
Each existing operation is awarded stars, from one to five, for its work. Those achieving three and a half stars, or better, have been assured their contracts will be rolled over while those falling below that benchmark will have to tender alongside everyone else.
Stars, in the brave new world, are a bit like dollars. They treat clients differently.
According to at least one long-serving Mission employee it is creating a crisis of faith throughout the organisation.
Tracey, not her real name, has been part of the Mission set-up in a regional NSW centre for more than a decade. She says, more and more, her workmates are finding it impossible to serve both God and Mammon.
And, she says, the added pressure of the star system has brought an escalation in stress-related absences as management concentrates on "better" statistics.
Trouble is, in many regional centres, the star system is completely artificial. For example, most primary industries only want to hire over peak seasons. Financially, and in terms of stars, you only collect for 13 week placements and do even better for 26-week placements rendering appropriate jobs, most useful to the local economy, virtually worthless to Mission and other Job Network providers.
"When I started here the focus was on a holistic approach to the needs of the client," Tracey explained. "I wasn't a full-on Christian but I believed in a set of ethics that sat well with Mission's philosophy of providing a service to help the disadvantaged help themselves.
"But we have moved away from our value statement of serving the community, and helping the disadvantaged, to simply chasing the buck.
"The change has been absolutely dramatic since the Job Network. There has been a complete reversal in our approach."
Initially, she said, her job was to evaluate each client and try to do the utmost to prepare him or her for full participation in society. That could mean chasing fulltime work, looking for part-time employment while concentrating on dealing with accommodation, drug or alcohol problems; or maybe, in the first instance, getting someone a change of clothing and/or counselling.
The circumstances of some people, she says, make immediate fulltime employment counter-productive for both them and potential employers. Helping put those lives back together is "kind of like peeling an onion".
"But we have one objective now and that is meeting narrow outcomes, by hook or by crook," she says. "We are as inflexible as any Government department.
"Increasingly, a lot of people are unhappy working in the Job Network."
McManus and Petrowski tell of a Mission employee in Wagga who arranged a meeting between herself, her branch manager and the local MP to discuss the limitations of the star system only to have the company forbid her discussing anything that might impact on future contracts. The order pretty much over-rode the purpose of the meeting.
In May, Mission launched a desperate bid to lift its star rating, prior to this month's cut-off date, by enticing potential employers to hire its clients.
Under its JobReady Rewards Program it doled out gold watches, cameras, televisions and hi-fi systems to employers who used its services.
It is perhaps unfair to concentrate so heavily on Mission Australia. It is only one of a number of charities that has corporatised itself but it is the biggest and it is headed by Patrick McClure, generally regarded as the Government's ball-carrier for privatisation.
McClure boasted that the rewards program boosted Mission placements by 105 percent over the same period last year.
Nevertheless, Tracey and other employees, suggest there is an increasing uneasiness permeating the one-time charity about the way it is operating under McClure's leadership.
No such doubts are likely to bother Maximus Inc.
It never had a charitable, community or religious under-pinning in the first place.
Observers say Maximus, which handles $US500 million in child support payments, runs courts, mental health services, city and state-based welfare programs, has the infrastructure and experience to do everything currently done by Centrelink
That may well be another argument but with Howard and Abbott looking to cement their right wing credentials it is almost certain to be rehearsed by Centrelink management as their staff gear up for enterprise bargaining negotiations.
by Jim Marr
When TeleTech isn't being itself, one of the world's largest call centre operators, it's happy to dress up as Telstra in drag.
Which is exactly how it passes off its Victoria Government-subsidised operation in Moe. Over 300 people work out of Ollitern Ave premises, branded with the Telstra logo, and just to add to the illusion they're required to start their conversations ..."Welcome to Telstra".
While customers might reckon they're being dudded by this approach they can always look on the bright side. At least, by and large, they don't work there, but more of that later.
The Teletech-Teltra deal makes for a win-win relationship at company level.
Teletech can subject Latrobe Valley workers to a range of born in the USA industrial relations policies that Telstra can't be seen to endorse in these politically-sensitive times, and both outfits walk away with a tidy little earn.
The way it works is a Telstra special as those familiar with the likes of Stellar would be aware.
First-off, Teletech wins Victorian Government support for establishing the Telstra Mobile operation in the state. This amounts to a wage subsidy of something like $1000 a worker.
Next it hires locals who are forced to sign Office of the Employment Advocate-endorsed AWAs that provide for salaries $6000 a year less than those earned by Telstra employees doing exactly the same work. Despite what Government and its Advocate might say, the simply reality is job applicants either sign the AWA or they don't work.
Then Teletech brings some of its own HR skills to bear, courtesy of one Robyn Dodds, previously of the Sale Jail.
To be fair, it's the uniquely TeleTech aspects of the workplace that have earned the operation this week's Tony nomination for Australia's Worst Boss.
Workers highlight bullying, significant and unexplained deductions from their wages, and unjustified dismissals as management policies they want reversed.
To this end more than 80 have signed up with the CPSU. When they sought a meeting over their grievances after a Monday stopwork meeting, management refused point blank but, moved by a strike threat, they entered talks later in the week.
Organiser Gail Drummond praised staff for their "backbone", saying management "scare tactics" were starting to backfire.
The workers want to be paid thousands of dollars they have been owed for months. Most of this money accrued because they were required fulltime for their first fortnight before reverting to part-time hours.
Repeated requests for the money to be paid had drawn blanks prior to the vote for industrial action.
They are also looking for an assurance that bullying of workers absent on sick leave will cease.
Drummond highlights the cases of two women, so incensed that they are pursuing unjustified dismissal cases against TeleTech.
The first, a pregnant woman, was dumped after being warned she was taking too many toilet breaks. Afraid, she started dropping calls back into the queue to cover her absences and was sacked.
The second got her marching orders for not ringing in daily to explain her absence, although the company knew she had been in hospital with pneumonia.
Drummond says the dismissals are examples of "bullying that has to stop".
Just last weekend, she says, a young woman received notification that her grandmother had died. TeleTech's idea of beareavement consideration? Five minutes away from the headset.
Some part-timers, predominantly women with young children, were promised rotating rosters so they could meet their family responsibilities. They have been rostered on eight-hour Saturday and Sunday shifts for the past 15 weekends.
The workers actions have drawn the ACTU, Telstra and even the Victorian Government into the shambles but, still, it seems, TeleTech, Moe, has a fair way to go to shed its Bad Boss label.
The action taken by Teletech staff appears to be paying off. Obviously motivated by the less than flattering media coverage of the dispute, Teletech's Asia Pacific supremo dropped everything this week and high-tailed it down to Moe to sort the mess out in person.
The CPSU's Gail Drummond reports staff are encouraged by progress and that industrial action has been put on hold.
"Not only have all the unpaid wages been paid, management has finally, if grudgingly, recognised the valid role of CPSU union delegates in Teletech.
"And if it is true that a handful of local managers got their arses kicked over this, that's kind of nice too," Drummond said.
As a child one of my favourite morning shows was undoubtedly the irrepressible Fat Albert: a youth of somewhat ample proportions but nevertheless the youngster most likely to bring understanding compassion and commonsense to the schoolyard. No more! He is the repugnant spawn of all that is wrong with our children, he is, "tubby" and an anti-hero. Bill Cosby is making your children fat. Fat Albert would now represent all that is wrong with the world (well the eating part of it anyway).
Our kids are getting fat. This week I was able to squeeze in a couple of slices of the NSW Summit on Childhood Obesity. Now despite the ribbing I got from my fellow workers I decided to remain my ever watchful but open minded self. So fat was a feminist issue, now it's a parental issue! Does anyone else find it slightly strange that despite some two thirds of the world's children dying of starvation we in Sydney Australia are having a conference about fat kids? Sure it's a legitimate health issue but really.
And boy, as we were told this is a huge issue caused by the convergence of a variety of factors such as parents being too frightened to let their children out by themselves, crime, urban design, public liability insurance, children not being able to develop appropriate motor skills to catch a ball etc etc. And here I am thinking isn't it the fact that parents are feeding their kids shit food and not making them play outside for at least an hour a day? But wait for it, the professionals have decided there is no silver bullet answer, so I guess we will have to continue to fund more researchers in order for them to release reports telling us that when you eat too much and don't exercise you get fat.
Just as an aside, to ensure those mothers out there who are working and struggling to make ends meet feel worse, the conference was told mothers who do not breastfeed for the first six months of their child's life will not only fail to give their child the best start in life they will contribute to making their kids fat. How the hell does any debate on breast-feeding always get into any health debate regarding children? The Nursing Mothers Association is everywhere. That's what I always like to see, the old middle class chestnut of breastfeeding rammed up the proverbial at every opportunity.
And then of course we get into the old canteen debate. What should schools provide in their canteens etc. I can tell you from experience rather then the Education and Health Departments worrying about the bloody food in the canteen. Why don't they have a good look at the availability of breakfast clubs in schools?
What's that? I hear you say. It's a scheme for young people and children who don't get fed at home for one reason or another. And before you say anything, yes there are numerous areas in Sydney where children don't get fed at all prior to getting to school. For most of the people at the conference, who would not have come across these people, they are called "the economically disadvantaged". That's right, people who can't AFFORD TO BUY FOOD. So why not start looking at children who get nothing rather than focusing on children who are obviously getting too much or as the conference would have it "Not the appropriate balance of the important food groups", aaaaaaaaaaaaaah
And what is it with this TV advertising thing? Sure 80% of the advertising for food products is outside the core food groups. Lets face it, which self-respecting kid is going to throw a tantrum to pressure their parents into buying them broccoli? And sure there is a lot of program placement on commercial TV, that's why its called commercial TV. It continues to amaze me that when there is stuff on TV that people don't like they feel compelled to continue watching and then write or phone their complaints to the appropriate bodies. For God sake TURN IT OFF or even, wait for it, tell your kids why the food is shit, or, heaven forbid, say no.
If you haven't picked it up I found this conference annoying and painful. It's the great middle class masses worrying about a bloody issue that the wealth of Western Society has created. Indeed there is a role for unions in this, it's about workplace flexibility and work practices in relation to reasonable hours and family friendly policies. Thankfully, I am in control of what I feed myself and sure maybe there are people that don't know all they need to to be able to feed their children properly so why doesn't the government do something about this at a community level like, boost funding to early childhood clinics, or programs that provide young people with education about food, programs that assist parents to understand nutrition or even programs that provide food for children in disadvantaged areas.
I don't know; we seem to be able to run an Olympics but can't get the message out about food. And at the end of the day if people don't want to do this then that is the great thing about being responsible and living in a democracy, you actually have to take some responsibility for yourself and sure it is hard for children to do this but why not start at school. At least that way they could have access to good food in canteens if so directed by the Education/Health Departments and if parents want their children to have a lolly or soft drink they can provide it.
Anyways I'm off for a falafel roll and a guava juice.
When I heard about the Hilton sackings, I couldn't help but think of a five star hotel in Malaysia whose management I spoke to a few years ago. When the Asian financial crisis hit hard, its revenue fell by 50%. What did the hotel do? There were no retrenchments - instead, the workers had a pay rise deferred and management took a cut in pay - with the biggest percentage cuts applying to the most senior managers. (No, it's not a misprint.) Hard to believe they're living in the same world, eh?
A MAN FROM THE EAST AND A MAN FROM THE WEST
by David Peetz
I met a man out on the road,
walking from the east.
He told me how his hotel's sales
had by a half decreased.
I asked him what he planned to do
now things had gone so slow.
What about his workers, would
he have to let them go?
'Oh no!' he said 'That would not do,
That would be most unwise.
The hotel would lose face in
all its employees' eyes -
And with general public too, no
that would show we'd failed.
There's many other paths to choose,
of these we'll be availed.
It will be tough and management
must take a cut in pay.
But somehow we will find the path,
there is another way.' And with those words he walked away,
but as he left I saw,
He had the inner strength required
to carry what he bore.
I met a man out on the road,
walking from the west.
He told me how with rising sales
his hotel had been blessed.
I asked him what he planned to do
with all these money flows.
Would he take more workers on,
to help the hotel grow?
'Oh no!' he said, 'That would not do.
A facelift is our target!
We'll close down, lay-off all our staff -
They like that in the market -
We'll minimise the pay-out...
The staff, I'm sure, will wail...
But if we don't act mean and lean,
well, that would show we'd failed. We must be tough so management
can earn its bonus shares.
That's life - some folks just do it tough,
and some are millionaires.'
And with those words he walked away,
but I'd looked into his eyes.
His empty heart had not the strength
Even to apologise.
When President Bush's chief political advisor last September called for Hollywood to contribute to the "war on terrorism" he probably did not mean it to achieve this end by terrorising moviegoers. But that is exactly what Phil Alden Robinson's The Sum Of All Fears achieves.
It all starts in 1973 when Egypt and Syria launch an attack on Israel. The US steps in but accidentally loses a nuclear missile in a sand dune when one of its air jets goes down. There it stays until 29 years later a poverty struck family uncover it, dust it off, and sell it for US$400 to a wicked terrorist with shifty eyes and an appetite for evil.
His plans to drop it on the US Super Bowl gives the producers mega opportunities to include scenes of American flag wavers, baseball stars, cheerleaders, product placement courtesy of the tobacco and sportswear industries, and even a heartfelt rendition of Star Spangled Banner. When it comes to self-promotion the US remains unbeatable.
But will they be able to beat this guy? Craftily disguising his attack as a Russian government initiative, he pits the two presidents against each other in a battle of wits across the miles in which neither knows who is telling the truth.
"We must demonstrate the strength of our weapons," an advisor whispers in the Russian president's ears.
"Mr President, we are now in a state of de facto war with the Russians," an advisor informs the US president.
"I spent my entire life wanting to be president and now this is my presidency," the US president sulks back.
Thankfully however, a humble historian (played by Ben Affleck) has a reliable hunch that all is not as it seems, gains access to the CIA headquarters and gets on the blower to Russia.
What happens next? Does the world, as we know it, cease to exist? Does Ben save both the day and the planet? Has Hollywood finally lost the plot beyond all retrievability? And save a thought for all the embarrassed Americans out there who must surely have overtaken Australians long ago in any cultural cringe stakes.
Without wanting to give the game away, it is quite a revelation see that coming within 30 seconds of the end of the world as we know it could be so dull.
But as for representing the sum of all fears, though the title would suggest this movie is a little scary, the most frightening thing was that I was that I had actually paid to see it.
Rating: one out of five (Recommended viewing only as a sedative)
In the 12 months since the horrendous attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, the Bush Administration - with Australia following its every lead - has done more to wind back the international consensus than any fundamentalist regime could ever achieve.
From the West's initial shock and pain came disbelief bound in ignorance, followed by vengeance, morphing now into a calculated pay back to the entire Muslim world. It may be an understandable reaction, but it has not been one consistent with our self-image of enlightenment.
To review America's responses to September 11 is to see a nation departing from its founding principles.
In declaring its 'War on Terror', the Bush Administration gave itself seemingly unfettered powers to define its enemies and take them out without any reference to international law.
Military operations to oust the very same Taliban regime the US had installed a decade earlier killed many of its Al-Queda targets, but also thousands of civilians.
Hundreds of prisoners of war were then locked up without trial or any prospect thereof, in breach of all known rules of war and international diplomacy.
Against this backdrop the USA rejected an International Criminal Court, refused to join the global fight on climate change and made a counter-productive contribution to the Middle East which seemed to have more to do with clearing the way to attack Saddam Hussein, than securing a regional peace.
And how does Bush mark the anniversary of the September 11 attacks? An ultimatum to the United Nations to approve war on Iraq or face being rolled over into the dustbin of history.
If possible, John Howard's performance in the past year has been more abject than George W's. Where Bush responded to his people's grief, Howard has exploited their fears; first cynically riding the war to election victory and now using it as a substitute for an agenda for his unexpected third term.
There are the insidious attempts by Howard and senior ministers to link asylum seekers to terrorists; backed by Australian anti-terrorism laws, still before parliament, that were the biggest assault on basic civil liberties since the attempts to proscribe the Communist Party in the 1950s.
As for the global consensus, Howard stood alone with George W in turning his back on Kyoto; but even outdid his Texan buddy in refusing to ratify the global convention on torture; joining the likes of Nigeria, Egypt and Libya.
Like George W Bush, Howard is prepared to cherry-pick international law to meet his political objectives, rather than seeing a broader responsibility as a national leader to meet his obligations on the global stage.
And all the while the military-industrial companies in both countries have been laughing to the bank, seeing huge wads of the budget diverted from social, welfare, health and education purposes and dedicated to building bigger machines of war.
As Greg Barnes observes this week, if you wanted to strike a blow against Liberal-Democracy you could not have scripted it better.
Beneath the rubble of the Twin Towers lies a system of beliefs in liberty, pluralism and tolerance that we had mistakenly taken for granted.
When I was elected PM in December 1972 arbitration systems were operating throughout Australia under Federal and State laws. They were in accord with ILO's most important human rights conventions, No.87 - Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948, and No.98 - Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949. The Coalition Governments between 1949 and 1972 had not ratified them. In February 1973 my Government ratified both of them.
The ILO's triple base of governments, employers and workers, monitored by its expert committees, is now the greatest guarantor of the rights of Australia's unionists. My Government ratified nine ILO conventions; the Howard Government has ratified none. In particular, there are now eight unratified ILO occupational and health conventions. They cannot be ratified unless every State and both Territories comply. John Della Bosca and the NSW Crown Solicitor's Office are ahead of all other jurisdictions in complying.
Last month Tony Abbott told Robert McClelland: "The Federal Government is not presently considering ratifying any ILO OHS Conventions. This is because the ILO will be considering a process to review all ILO OHS Conventions at its Annual Conference in June 2003, and it would be premature for Australia to ratify an OHS Convention when its status is under review.
It is immensely difficult for the ACTU and the Federal, State and Territory ministers for industrial relations to coordinate their representations and their representatives at the ILO's annual conference in Geneva every June. John Della Bosca and the Labor Council of NSW are well positioned to promote this continuing and crucial issue.
NSW led on quadrennial elections
NSW leads not only in union reform; it also leads in parliamentary reform. When I left the Federal Parliament the Legislative Council of NSW consisted of 60 members elected by the members of both Houses for 12 year terms; 15 of them had to be elected every three years.
At State elections in 1978, 1981, 1991 and 1995 the Wran, Greiner and Fahey Governments sponsored referendums to democratise the Legislative Council. It now consists of 42 members, each representing the whole State. Half the members are elected on the same election date as the members of the Legislative Assembly, the fourth Saturday in March in every fourth year. The next election is to be held on 22 March 2003.
NSW should lead on simultaneous quadrennial elections
At the last three Federal elections the NSW branch of the ALP has shown that it cannot win Federal elections. Of the 50 Federal divisions in NSW only 20 are held by the ALP. The NSW branch should now give the same leadership in political reform as it has given in union reform. It should advocate the US practice of having all Federal and State elections on the same day.
In the United States Federal and State elections are held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even numbered years. Presidents and Governors are elected for four years, members of the House of Representatives for two years and Senators for six years. Some members of the State legislatures are elected for four years and some for two years. The conduct of Federal elections sometimes differs between the American States but the date of the elections is universally accepted.
In Australia all sides of politics attack Federal policies at State elections and attack State policies at Federal elections. The US system has the advantage over the Australian system of ensuring that the parties have to present co-ordinated, coherent and consistent Federal and State policies at elections.
The Federal and Queensland Parliaments are now the only Australian Parliaments which are limited to three-year terms. In Western Australia the Legislative Councillors are limited to fixed four-year terms. In South Australia there will now be elections on the third Saturday in March in 2006 and every four years thereafter.
NSW should again lead on Upper House reform
The NSW branch of the ALP should also advocate the adoption of another advantage of the State's political system. The Legislative Council of NSW was denied the power to delay or reject appropriation bills by the State Constitution Amendment (Legislative Council) Act 1932, approved by referendum in 1933. The Senate in South Africa had been denied this power by the British Union of South Africa Act 1909. The House of Lords had been denied it by the British Parliament Act 1911.
The ALP's policy should aim to have fixed four-year terms for every House of Parliament in Australia. The performance of independents in the NSW Legislative Council shows the folly of their eight-year terms. The Senate Democrats, of whom four will expire on 30 June 1995 and four on 30 June 2008, show the folly of six-year terms.
"Prithee, we will mark how these fine horses run and then speak further of their goodly deeds."
Shakespeare - King Henry VIII
The time has come, gentle reader, to remove the mist from your eyes, so to speak, and reveal the intricacies of the punt as it applies to the noble sport of kings.
As no one ever talks at the TAB it can be hard to gather the information necessary to make a sage opinion of which of the haymunchers will greet the judges at the end of the day. Even in more liberal circles, such as licensed establishments, it can be hard to make sense of things above the endless drone of old mate's description of what really went on at Uncle Harv's barbecue, especially after consuming a number of sponsor's products.
Even armed with this information, how is the novitiate punter to make use of the bewildering array of options available to the learned as a way of parting themselves with their hard earned?
Indeed, to the uninitiated, the mysteries surrounding the subtle genius of the punt are not dissimilar to the weird invocations of some ancient cult, complete with requisite jargon and redundant phraseology, and so on and so forth.
Well fear not, for your humble correspondent presents to you Anti-Tote (patent pending), the sure-fire way to arrive at riches not seen since the days of HIH and One.Tel. This system is also known as the social security system, as it cleverly creates the illusion that you too are part of the world that has allowed so many colourful racing identities to prosper through the necessary hard-graft that such returns entail.
Anti-tote (patent pending) is a simple, cost-effective way of punting, as illustrated below.
Firstly, forget big wagers on favourites. Castlecrag to a brick the favourites will send you broke before you can say 'what is this clown on about'. Seek out the lesser-known conveyance. Seek out the odds. Seek out that which is paying around ten dollars for a win, and bugger all for a place. Rub your chin and watch the numbers on the screen at your local TAB as they fluctuate by the minute. Seek out midweek races with less than a dozen starters. Seek out jockeys with interesting names or colourful pasts. Seek, and ye shall find.
When you have selected the nag that you believe has something of a chance of making it's way past the post with very few horses preceding it then back it in a quinella against the field. It is important that you don't select something that is too far off the pace. It is of no use to this system to select that which is likely to be beaten home by the ambulance.
Next to the Polio vaccine and an effective way of calculating latitude, the quinella is one of the greatest discoveries known to humanity. It involves selecting those horses that will finish first and second. Back your horse and 'the field' in a quinella on half a unit.
'The field' means every other horse in the race. By taking your horse and 'the field' you are effectively backing your selection to arrive first or second with any other horse in the field.
This will set you back somewhere in the vicinity of four dollars.
At this stage it is not enough if your horse finishes with the favourite, as this will give you your money back. What you want is for your selection to come home with something that is paying $82.50 or thereabouts. This will result in you wearing the big grin, sporting new shoes, and living on pizza for a week - a truly happy state of affairs.
Before readers start insinuating that your humble correspondent is some kind of urger or coat-tugger I would like to point out that Anti-tote (patent pending) is far from foolproof. It will nonetheless allow you to lose your money in the knowledge that you have lost your money following a more effective system than other methods of losing one's money on the punt.
As an aside it is quite understandable that the Bard of Avon laid many an opinion regarding the world of horse racing. To this day there has been a long and abiding interest in the performance of various conveyances by members of Actors Equity.
This link between the Sport of Kings and the acting fraternity was boosted some years ago when Tommy Smith's daughter, Gai, showed some inclination to pursuing a thespian career. Tommy allegedly put the hard word onto his old mate Kerry Packer and a role in The Young Doctors (a truly ground breaking example of Australian social-realist drama) was arranged for Ms. Smith.
These days she has a soap opera all of her own - she's a Waterhouse.
Phil Doyle - With a jigging little run from dummy-half
Chainsaw Al's Blades Blunted
Al Dunlap, the former chief executive of the now-bankrupt Sunbeam Corp, who once served as chief executive to Kerry Packer, has agreed to pay a $US500,000 00) fine and accept a ban on ever serving as an officer or director of a public company.
Dunlap, who earlier agreed to pay $US15 million to settle a shareholder suit, neither admitted nor denied allegations by the Securities and Exchange Commission that he engineered a large accounting fraud that inflated the profits of Sunbeam after he was hired to turn the company around in 1996, when he was viewed as a superstar by Wall Street. Justice Department officials would not comment on whether Dunlap might still face criminal charges. Dunlap, who embraced the nickname "Chainsaw Al", became famous in the 1990s as he fired thousands of workers at Scott Paper in what he said was a necessary move to cut costs. Dunlap came to Australia in 1989, slashing staff and closing operations at Mr Packer's ANI and Consolidated Press. (Source: The New York Times)
Toomey's Golden Handshake
With thousands of displaced Ansett workers awaiting entitlements, it's emerged that their former boss, Gary Toomey, received $NZ4.2 million in a departure clause agreed by Air New Zealand in the weeks after the airline's collapse. Toomey, the face of the ill-fated "Absolutely" celebrity advertising campaign, won a performance bonus - along with fellow Air NZ directors - just before Ansett lurched into administration. His final payout figure had not previously been disclosed. Although he is not named in the report, Mr Toomey is likely to be the biggest recipient of a total $NZ28.8 million in payments issued to 60 senior staff who lost their jobs. Meanwhile,the ACTU has accused the federal Government of blocking $400 million in entitlements still owed to former Ansett employees almost a year after the airline's collapse. (Various Sources)
And Another 11th Hour Payout at HIH
A former director of HIH Insurance has defended a decision to award $1.6 million to the finance director on the day the company went into liquidation Justin Gardener told the HIH Royal commission that former finance director Dominic Fodera deserved the money, which the board approved minutes before voting to hand HIH to provisional liquidators. "This is a senior employee of the company who has certain entitlements," Mr Gardener said. HIH's board knew when they met on March 15 2001 that they were going to place the insurer in liquidation, Mr Gardener said, but first they voted on awarding the $1.6 million to Mr Fodera, who earned about $800,000 a year. (Source: SMH)
How Much Does A Meeting Cost?
Just how does a general meeting cost $2.6 million? This is the estimate provided by the NRMA to the NSW Supreme Court recently when the issue of holding a special general meeting was debated. While the postage costs $500,000, printing $400,000, distribution $300,000, and rent $30,000, there is $13,000 for catering (that's a lot for a half dozen urns, some tea bags, sachets and mixed, plain bickies - but perhaps it includes a gourmet lunch for the board), $50,000 for travel, $3000 for staff taxis (the venue is usually within walking distance, so this seems extravagant), $200,000 for IT consulting (!?), $124,000 for consultants generally, $425,000 for legal fees (huh?), $150,000 for public relations, $145,000 for advertising, $5000 for "events activities", $50,000 for customer research and $150,000 for a telephone call centre.This isn't a meeting. This is an industry. (Source: SMH's CBD Column)
News to Pay Options Despite $12bn Loss
News Corp plans to offer another 2.5 million options to its top five executives, on top of the $US31 million ($57 million) of remuneration already paid for the year in which the company racked up the largest loss in Australian corporate history: $11.96 billion Shareholders will be asked to approve the new option allotments over the company's non-voting preferred stock at News Corp's annual meeting in Adelaide next month. Chief operating officer Peter Chernin is to receive one million of the new options, exercisable at $8.02. That compares with Friday's closing price of the preferred stock at $7.66. The remaining 1.5 million options will be split between Rupert Murdoch's two sons, Lachlan and James, News' chief financial officer David DeVoe and legal counsel Arthur Siskind. The options are on top of the $US31 million the same five News executives received as their total compensation packages in the latest year. In addition, executive chairman Rupert Murdoch received $US9.21 million and former chief operating officer Chase Carey pocketed $10.78 million in 2001-02, including $US5 million on his departure.
All up, News Corp paid its top 13 executives $US77.11 million in the year the company recorded its biggest ever loss. (Source: SMH)
Confiscate the Bonuses of Failure
A Reserve Bank board member says Executive salaries are too high and managers of failed companies should have their bonuses clawed back. Dick Warburton - who sits on eight boards and chairs David Jones and Caltex - has backed calls for tighter corporate standards but said any changes should not be too prescriptive. He told the National Press Club that, like house prices, executive salaries had become bloated but strong competition to attract good managers meant it was almost impossible to keep them lower. Mr Warburton backed calls for legislation to let regulators recoup the sometimes massive bonuses and share packages paid to executives of failed companies, also suggesting they should be forced to stand aside while under investigation. (Source: The Age)
Rio Vows to Clean Up Jabiluka
Finally, mining giant Rio Tinto has vowed to clean up a contaminated part of its Jabiluka uranium mine and shelve plans to develop the area at Kakadu. The company's chairman, Sir Robert Wilson lifted hopes of the traditional owners, the Mirrar people, by announcing rehabilitation of a part of the mine containing contaminated water. The Mirrar people want discussions with the company and governments to begin immediately to remedy the damage. Meanwhile, new statistics show Australia's mining sector spends just one per cent of its total annual expenditure on environmental protection. The Australian Bureau of Statistics says $1.5 billion was spent on measures to protect the environment by mining and manufacturing industries during the 2000-2001 financial year. (Various Sources)
Rarely was an opportunity lost, over the past week, to link the terrorist attacks with Bush's desire to turn his military, and that of every other nation game for a bit of sport, loose on the citizenry of Iraq.
Bush is building for his big Baghdad bang in the face of warnings from many quarters that it will all prove counter-productive.
Salman Rushdie, hardly a favourite of militant Islam, lent his voice to the doubter's chorus, warning Bush could achieve what Al Queda only dreamed of - uniting and radicalising the Moslem world.
Voices of caution have been raised from sources as disparate as Nelson Mandela, Gerhard Schroder, Mahathir Mohammad and Helen Clark.
You see, at essence, Bush has a credibility problem of major proportions.
Firstly, he argues that Saddam Hussein's unproven possession of "weapons of mass destructions" justifies military action.
Once you get over the not-insubstantial hurdle of just where that leaves the US, you come up against the small matter of how Hussein got his blood-soaked hands on chemical and biological weapons in the first place. By its own admission, the answer was a US, keen at the time, to tool-up an ally so he could bloody the nose of neighbour Iran.
Then there's Bush's second line of argument, that the world must activate to enforce UN resolutions and, to be fair, as these arguments go, we've all heard a lot worse. Problem is, the credibility gap on this one is approaching Grand Canyon proportions.
Just what happens to Israel, referred to by Rushdie as a nation widely viewed as the 51st state, under this code of conduct, given its brazen rejection of UN resolutions over the best part of half a century?
Then there's the killer, if you will pardon the expression, Bush's triple bottom-line linkage of terrorism with weapons of mass destruction and opposition to democracy. If he wasn't such a favourite of the Bush Administration Pakistan's General Musharraf would be entitled to be shaking in his jodpurs.
Unless Bush has changed the rules more than he's letting on, installing yourself by military coup then tinkering with the constitution to cement yourself in while banning credible opponents from future ballots, still probably ranks as undemocratic.
Weapons of mass destruction? Presumably, nuclear weapons still meet the criteria.
Terrorism? Let's see, Kashmir would seem to fit the bill and Bush would no doubt be aware of the Taliban, largely Pakistan-based, trained and funded, and such enthusiastic hosts to Al Queda.
What we're seeing is Bush insisting, by dint of economic and military might, that his country be appointed prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner for the world.
It's not democracy and nor is it justice.
Sydney millionaire Rodney Adler has been sprung as a pillock of long-standing.
HIH's UK chief executive, Michael Payne, told the ongoing inquiry into the firm's collapse of Adler's ability, even as a young man, to seriously aggravate associates.
Payne, on the request of Rodney's Dad, took him to work in his London-based Lloyd's Insurance business in the early 1980s. The arrangement lasted less than a month because the youthful Adler so annoyed other staff that they banded together and demanded his removal.
Under questioning, Payne elucidated.
"It's getting very personal but, mainly his arrogance and his endeavouring to tell people who had been doing the job for most of their lives how they should do it in his opinion, knowing absolutely nothing about it himself," Payne explained.
Then there's Rich Jodee, offering employment to legal types of a certain bent.
Rich took out an ad in last Saturday's Herald offering a "unique career opportunity" to a solicitor with "proven litigation experience".
Just to let the successful applicant know what he or she might be letting him/herself in for he was good enough to nominate a couple of possible targets - Ferrier Hodgson, OneTel's liquidator, and PBL, Kerry Packer's media conglomerate, earned mentions, along with a procedure called "defamation".
The successful applicant will work for Rich and One.Tel's former finance director, and,as the advertiser was kind enough to point out, must be an outstanding operator with a "sense of humour under pressure"
Everyone - you, me and the family next door - will pay more for sugar thanks to the glaring inconsistincies of a two-faced Federal Government.
The Coalition has slapped an 18 cent levy on every kilo of the stuff in a bid to sweeten up its contituency in the north.
Now, we're in no position to say whether or not the move is a worthwhile social investment. But we can point out with certainty that this is the same administration that markets itself as, well, an advocate of the market. Remember all that bollocks about not picking favourites, allowing the market to decide, forcing workers to compete against low wage economies in the interests of national efficiency?
Seems the rules do not apply if you have a few thousand acres and a history of marking your ballot National or Liberal.
The Ernies, named after the late Ernie Ecob a former secretary of the AWU, have become a bit of an institution for women in NSW who gather in the Dining Room at Parliament House to boo at the outrageously sexist things that are said or done by men and a few women throughout the previous year.
From a very much smaller start where women from the labour movement gathered to mark the retirement of Ernie Ecob as President of Labor Council the dinner now attracts over 400 women and there are nine categories up for grabs as well as the coveted "Gold Ernie".
The most notable thing about the Ernies in recent years has been the lack of unionists in the nominations. This was actually commented on by the Ernies host and MC Meredith Burgmann who said it showed that unions had cleaned up their act since the days of Ernie Ecob. To emphasise the point the male AMWU members at Carter Holt Harvey won the award for Men Behaving Better (the award formerly known as the Gareth) over their decision to remain on strike until the women employed in the factory office also got a fair collective agreement.
While I do agree with Meredith that things are better in the union movement than they were; as I said last year I think the main reason there are no union nominees is because we haven't nominated anyone. The challenge is still on to uncover the bad behaviour of union blokes and to get them nominated next year (and boys - remember that a rule of the Ernies is that you can't win by trying too hard!)
This Year's Winners
Political - Tony Abbott for his comments that paid maternity leave would be introduced over the Federal Government's dead body and also the comments that a bad boss is like a bad husband or father and that is that they do more good than harm
Sport "The Warney" (some were calling for a renaming to the Wayney after Wayne Carey's efforts) - Ray Hadley for his comments on seeing a photo of Germaine Greer on her 'sixty something' birthday that he bet she regretted burning her bra in the 60s
Industrial - there was a boo-off between Kenneth Hackett from Hackett Lab Services who told the Building Industry Royal Commission that signing a union agreement was like being raped and Dick Warburton the Chair of David Jones who said he had trouble finding women suitably qualified to sit on the DJ's board. Dick won in a very close contest.
Media - Andrew Bolt who on several occasions attacked the right of single women and lesbians to access IVF treatments and criticised the Sex Discrimination Act because it allowed this.
Judicial - the High Court for its decision that lead to reduced damages payable to a widow who" because of her age and circumstances was likely to remarry" and therefore wouldn't need the same level of compensation
Clerical (the "Fred" named after Fred Nile) - Archbishop George Pell for his comments that abortion was a worse crime than child sexual abuse by priests
The "Elaine" for Remarks least helpful to the Sisterhood (named after Elaine Nile) - Bettina Arndt for her recent column suggesting that women couldn't be both mothers and MP's although there was a strong push that she be disqualified for trying too hard
The "Clinton" for Repeat Offenders - Tony Abbott. It should also be noted that John Howard had won this award three years in a row and therefore had achieved hall of fame status and so was ineligible for nomination again.
The "award formerly known as the Gareth" for men behaving better (formerly named after Gareth Evans) - the AMWU members at Carter Holt Harvey who remained on strike until the women in the factory office also got a fair collective agreement.
The Gold Ernie - There was a boo-off between Tony "the mad monk" Abbott and Archbishop George Pell with the boo monitors declaring Pell this year's Gold Ernie winner.
Despite the legislative and cultural advances that gays and lesbians have won in recent decades, homophobia in the workplace remains a major issue for gay and lesbian workers.
A recent Australian study found 52% of more than 900 respondents suffered harassment in the workplace, 21% were outed against their will by colleagues and 17% felt their careers had been restricted because of their homosexuality.
Against this backdrop, Sydney unionists are organising "Workers Out!" - the second world lesbian and gay trade unionists conference. Workers Out! Will be held at the University of Sydney from 31 October - 2 November in conjunction with the sixth Gay Games.
Workers Out!, to be opened by ICFTU Regional President and ACTU President Sharan Burrow, will develop strategies to deal with homophobia in the workplace. Regional and industry caucuses and a mini queer film festival will take place on the day following the formal closure of the conference.
With well over 100 registrations already, more than 30 countries are expected to send delegates. Particular emphasis is being placed on participation and issues from Asia and the Pacific, supported by s generous scholarship system. All people interested in attending the confernece are urged to visit www.workersout.com and register as soon as possible.
In recent years there has been a growing recognition that the industrial rights of lesbians and gay men should be an integral part of the work of all trade unions. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) now includes sexuality as grounds for discrimination in their policies.
"The ICFTU Asia Pacific Region urges all affiliates to send delegates to the Workers Out! Conference, to provide financial assistance and to support the conference's scholarship program," says ICFTU Regional President Sharan Burrow.
Progressive unions should act now to ensure you are represented at Workers Out! If you are your union has interest in any of the following areas, Workers Out! Will provide a once in four years opportunity to develop your policies and activities.
Major themes for Workers Out are:
1. Industrial instruments and lesbian and gay (lg) rights.
2. Trade union policies on lg rights and lg participation in TU structures/activities.
3. Specific locations of lg workers in the workplace (i.e tendency towards particular professions, the issues faced by lg workers in rural areas, constituency specific issues such as transgender and lesbians in male-dominated workplaces)
4. LG industrial rights and global social justice
5. Impact of shift of welfare/health/safety net service provision from governments to the private sector e.g. church groups and charity.
6. HIV/AIDS & other health issues in the workplace and in unions
7. LG unemployed and workers in the informal sector incl. Sex workers
8. International networking and organising amongst lg workers
9. LG workers, international labour movement and global political economy incl. labour migration, rise of fundamentalist groups
10. LG trade unionism and lg student communities.
While Gay and lesbian trade unionists from Australia have lead unions and organised and represented members for decades, the nature of the struggles experienced by lesbian and gay workers differs greatly across the world.
As organising committee member Mark Dolahenty says, "Australian working conditions often bear little resemblence to the experiences of gay and lesbian workers in other regions, many of whom live in countries where homosexual citizens can be jailed our executed. As unionists it is our duty to be involved in supporting people in those situations."
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
* Forward this story to colleagues and friends who may want to attend Workers Out!
* Use your position or vote in a trade union structure to ensure your union is funding and supporting delegates to attend Workers Out!
* Follow the proceedings of the Workers Out! Conference at www.workersout.com to understand what you can do to support justice for lesbians and gay men in your workplace.
Join the campaign for justice now!