||Issue No. 168||28 February 2003|
Interview: Agenda 2003
Peace: The Colour Purple
Industrial: Long, Hot Summer
Solidarity: Workers Against War
Security: Howard And The Hoodlums
International: Industrial Warfare
History: Unions and the Vietnam War
Review: Eight Miles to Mowtown
Poetry: Return To Sender
Satire: CIA Recruits New Intake of Future Enemies
The Locker Room
More Talk Needed on War
We've long argued that AWAs were a dangerous experiment, but Abbott's play on university funding will see ideology undermine our national interest in a way we have never previously comprehended.
It follows on the heels of his aborted attempt to dictate the employment conditions on the MCG redevelopment; a move that prompted the Bracks Government to suggest where he could stick his federal funding.
But the university salvo shows the Mad Monk is on the war path; frustrated by his failure to push nasties through the Senate he is using federal funding as the vehicle for promoting his preferred model of industrial (de)regulation.
While his particular focus is obnoxious, the actual tactic demands closer scrutiny for those of us interested in imposing industrial decency at a time when governments are increasingly loath to regulate.
Indeed, the late twentieth century penchant for contracting out government services means there are more businesses than ever relying, at least in part, on government contracts to maintain their growth and profits.
Short of the sort of regulation that spooks the markets, this public purchasing power could be the most effective tool in changing the way companies treat their workers.
If Abbott can withhold public money on the grounds of ugly IR policies, why shouldn't Labor Governments do the opposite and require decency?
The first step is to develop codes of conduct, such as the one negotiated between the Labor Council of NSW and the Carr Government - where the Department of Public Works must have regard to a company's industrial relations policies when considering tenders.
Most would agree that a company should comply with the law when performing public work; but why shouldn't we impose additional standards that can be applied to ALL its projects.
And let's not stop at work relations - let's also add corporate governance and environmental standards. Why should public money prop up a company that's paying its executives multi-million dollar salaries? Why should our taxes go to contracts that deliver sustenance to serial polluters?
And what about government employees flying on an airline that is prepared to take massive profits and pay their executives big bonuses while slashing staff?
If we are serious about setting new rules within society, we should be asking our elected representatives to consider our massive purchasing power. Let's use the excesses of contracting out to strike a new deal between the people and the corporate world, with the State as our bargaining agent.
Abbott a force for positive change? Hardly. But his bully boy tactics may set a template for progressive governments fighting the growing power of corporates who suck at the public teat.
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