||Issue No. 173||04 April 2003|
The Fog of War
Interview: Picking Up The Peaces
Unions: The Royal Con
National Focus: Around the Grounds
Economics: The Secret War on Trade
International: United Front
History: Confessions of a Badge Collector
Politics: Stalin’s Legacy
Review: Such Was Not Ned’s Life
Poetry: Osama's Top Recruiter
Satire: Woolworths CEO Denied Bonus After Company Posts Profit
The Locker Room
Trots Bomb Back
In an effort that would have done The Simpson's Smithers proud, Peter Anderson from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has tried to use Australia's two and half million low paid and unemployed as a battering ram to protect the privileged position of Australia's business community. What else could we expect from the one time senior adviser to former federal Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith and his successor Tony Abbott?
The ACTU is seeking to increase award wages for 1.7 million low paid employees by $24.60 per week, most of which has already been swallowed up by price rises, including petrol.
According to Anderson this will lead to the economic equivalent of the sky falling in, but he is starting to sound like a broken record as we've heard his Chicken Little routine before. He was pushing the same "we'll all be rooned" line during last year's Living Wage claim
Anderson was squealing like a stuck pig after last year's $18 a week rise for Australia's working poor. Anderson's heartless outfit lined up with the Howard Government, who claimed the pay rise would cost 40 000 jobs. No evidence of this scare-mongering eventuated.
"Today's decision...risks cutting short the economic recovery we have in Australia," he said at the time. Needless to say the sun still came up in the east and unemployment hasn't gone through the roof - despite the best efforts of the Howard Government to destroy Australia's image in the region.
"This decision can't simply be absorbed by employers," Anderson went on to say. "We need to be very conscious in an environment where inflation is at a risk of going up that we are not paying ourselves across the board increases that we can't afford." Obviously the needs of Australia's working poor are different to those of senior executives and directors who are, in Anderson's world, above the national interest.
And whose interest does the ACCI have at heart? The major Australian companies that are members of its affiliate organisations? Corporate Australia? No, it's the poor old unemployed that Pete is out to help.
Pete wears his heart on his sleeve for "the more than 600,000 Australians who remain out of work, and whose employment prospects will be reduced by further wage increases not funded by productivity." This discredited line would have some credibility if Pete and his gang were actually interested in helping increase income support for many of the long term unemployed or an easing in the Federal Government's punitive and repressive Centrelink regime, but on that issue they remain strangely silent.
Then they have the gutlessness to hide behind Howard's War as an excuse to avoid their responsibilities to their fellow Australians. "In the current uncertain climate employers should not be ordered to pay higher award wages. We now face very dark clouds of uncertainty on the economic and geo-political horizon, with the threat of a Middle East war and its unknown impact on the world economy," said an ACCI statement.
So when are low paid workers supposed to get a pay rise? When everyone knows who's going to win the sixth at Harold Park next week? Uncertain times indeed.
After the last Living Wage decision Anderson called for "a more coherent system which links the economic and social objectives in terms of minimum wages fixation."
According to Anderson this involves the old hoary chestnut of individual employees negotiating deals with employers. Letting Australia's most vulnerable workers get bullied into dodgy individual agreements seems to sit well with Anderson who feels that bullying itself is another victim of "political correctness".
When Unions tried to raise workplace bullying as a very real issue in the workplace Pete weighed into the debate. "Those [union] agendas are to more heavily regulate the workplace in the way that the unions would like to see. In some cases, the obligations [on employers] are already quite extreme, and are similar to some of the problems we had nationally in relation to political correctness in the 1990's."
This nineteenth century champion of free enterprise becomes decidedly socialistic when it comes to employers obligations to the community.
In regards to paid maternity leave Anderson believes that the "alternative is to review existing Commonwealth social welfare funding for maternity, parenting and families with a view to examining whether such payments should be restructured to include a national government funded maternity benefits scheme. Childcare and re-training needs should also be examined by governments."
Even so, Peter asks us to vigilant lest the common people get a bit uppity. "Even if the government established a scheme of taxpayer-funded packages, unions would ask industrial tribunals to force employers to top that up," moaned Anderson.
When Anderson isn't not using the poor to push his greedy agenda he likes to portray the ACCI as being a friend of small business, but the board of the ACCI isn't exactly overflowing with representatives from the small end of town. In fact many of them are living examples of what is wrong with big business in this country. One board member, McDonald's executive spin doctor Julie Owen, worked at Maccas for ten years before she got a fulltime job!
Step up Peter Anderson, our tool of the week!
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