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!
Cole wants the Government to boost the already sweeping powers of extra-judicial inquires whilst curtailing the rights of individual citizens. He underpins his prescription with calls for large fines and long prison sentences.
Civil libertarians are most concerned by a recommendation which would require "any person" to provide a "statement of information" about his or her "knowledge" to a Royal Commission. Similar provisions, requiring all-embracing statements rather than answers to specific questions, were at the heart of the notorious US phenomenon that became known as McCarthyism.
Failure to provide such a statement, or omissions, would leave the maker open to fines or imprisonment.
In a related move, Cole wants the power to prohibit Australians from disclosing the fact that "he, she or it" has received a summons or even spoken with a Royal Commission investigator, "subject only to the right to disclose this information for the purpose of obtaining legal advice".
This provision would have silenced voices of dissent that have embarrassed his Commission with claims they had made sworn allegations of illegalities against non-union parties only to be told their testimonies were not wanted.
Cole wants this point reinforced by $2000 fines and two-year prison sentences.
Another significant broadening of Royal Commission powers, already much wider than in the UK or New Zealand, would be achieved by acting on his recommendation to whittle away judicial overview related to terms of reference.
The Commissioner recommends "that no challenge may be made to a notice of summons on the basis that the information sought does not fall within the Terms of Reference of a Royal Commission, except on the basis that the notice or summons is not a bona fide attempt to investigate matters into which the Commission is authorised to inquire".
At essence, witnesses or parties would be required to answer questions, provide information, or supply lists even when the information fell outside the Commission's terms of reference.
Another recommendation could come to be known as the Kingham provision. The Commissioner was greatly displeased, even enraged, by the Victorian CFMEU secretary's refusal to supply a list of dlegates who had undergone training and the names and contact details of trainers.
Cole referred Kingham, who argued it was important to protect the privacy of rank and file activists after learning he had been followed around Melbourne and Commission officers had had access to his and his family's bank accounts, for prosecution under the existing Royal Commissions Act which provides for six months jail or a $1000 fine.
Cole wants those sanctions boosted to a $20,000 fine or a five year prison sentence for anyone failing to answer questions or produce documents.
All-up the Royal Commissioner is seeking 11 changes to the Act. His report provided the Government with five paragraphs of explanation.
Australian Council for Civil Liberties secretary, Cameron Murphy, said his organisation "totally opposed" Cole's wishlist.
"There is no demonstrated need for increased fines or sanctions," he said. "Royal Commissions are nothing more than a witch hunt. As they exist, they go against the grain of all the principles of natural justice."
Labor Council will take the lead in ensuring numbers turn up for �community protests� in defence of more than 100 workers at Morris McMahon, Arncliffe Rd, who have been on strike since their employer refused to negotiate a new agreement.
The protests will greet early-morning busloads of scabs which have been driven past strikers chanting "10 percent to pay the rent" since the dispute began three weeks ago.
"We will be there on Monday morning," Labor Council assistant secretary Mark Lennon pledged.
"The workers on site have shown great resolve in continuing their protest for three weeks. What's happening at Morris McMahon is shocking and there will be plenty of NSW workers who want to offer their support."
In a further development, the CFMEU has arranged for Morris McMahon AMWU delegate, Edith Rapana, to address workers and hold collections on major construction sites to ensure her workmates are not starved into defeat.
Rapana told Labor Council that the employer, a city lawyer, had threatened her job and made it clear that she didn't want other union activists back on site.
An AMWU spokeswoman said Morris McMahon and its AiG representative had been informed of their responsibilities at AIRC hearings but had chosen not to negotiate, despite having being legal notice of a bargaining period.
Most workers at the factory, which manufacturers cans and drums, earn less than $12 an hour and the AMWU has also raised questions about the payment of award entitlements, including meal monies and penal rates.
Labor Council affiliates are organising a roster of supporters to boost numbers at the early morning community protests in support of a workforce from predominantly non-English speaking backgrounds.
The decision has raised concerns that industrial relations will be downgraded by a third term Carr Government, with vital issues like labour hire and job security still to be addressed.
Public Service Association general secretary Maurie O'Sullivan says the decision is a 'dastardly' breach of faith by the Labor Government, less than a week after being returned with the support of the trade union movement.
"There are many things in government that can be stuffed around and put into a melting pot, but it would appear to me that Industrial Relations is a department that should be sanctified between a Labor Government and the trade union movement," O'Sullivan says.
"Nothing, I repeat nothing should be done to diminish the importance and responsibility of such a department and such a relationship."
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says the onus is now on the Carr Government to show that industrial relations will not be sidelined in the new super-ministry.
"Minister Della Bosca has assured unions the decision will enhance the role of industrial relations," Robertson says. "I can assure the Minister that unions will be watching these new arrangements very, very closely."
The plan was revealed when the traditional allies used the Middle East conflict to simultaneously dump on the low-paid and back away from the prospect of a family friendly budget.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry director, Peter Anderson, fired the first shot announcing his organisation would oppose any pay rise for Australia's lowest paid workers.
Anderson said global uncertainty, caused by the invasion of Iraq, meant the AIRC should reject the ACTU's $24.60 minimum wage claim.
Anderson said war was a legitimate weapon in his organisation's fight against the low paid because the AIRC was required to operate in the "current financial environment".
Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott drafted the Iraqi situation to explain why expected work and family reforms would not appear in next month's budget.
"It's not an easy business, reforming welfare," he told the National Press Club.
A two-day strategic cabinet meeting decided to postpone work and family initiatives, opting instead for massive increases in spending on the armed forces and the war against terrorism.
Labor Council secretary, John Robertson, said the Government-Chamber of Commerce axis had provided the definitive answer to the question of why war was union business.
The LHMU has given substance to labour movement concerns about corporate excess in a detailed submission to the Senate Inquiry into Poverty, laying down challenges to key elements of economic inequality.
Its cornerstones include legal accountability on ...
- high-paid managers and executives for the impact of their spiralling salaries on prices and the wider economy
- companies who contract work out for the wages and conditions of workers throughout the supply chain
On the day the ACTU opened its minimum wage case in Melbourne, LHMU secretary Jeff Lawrence revealed: "we argued that the Senate Inquiry should recommend a second inquiry be established into how wages at the top should be restrained, rather than holding the incomes of those at the bottom."
The LHMU represents thousands of Australia's lowest paid workers, predominantly women, who have seen the gap between their living standards and those of their employers widen since the Howard Government took office.
The union put forward several other recommendations to bridge that gap in its submission, Confronting the Low Pay Crisis: A New Commitment to Fair Wages and Decent Work.
The entire document can be viewed at: http://lhmu.org.au/lhmu/union/sub_poverty.html
In a bid to channel the increasing anger amongst those opposed to the Howard Government�s support for the War on Iraq, Labor Council has offered to pay $200 to a charity nominated by the marcher with the wittiest placard.
"Humour has been one of the defining images of all the marches," Walk Against the War convenor Bruce Childs says.
"It's a way of channelling anger at this illegal and unjust war in a way that connects with the Australian tradition of taking the micky."
Childs says do-it-yourself placards with original messages are much more effective than generic banners and posters.
Placards at previous rallies have included 'Fight Plaque not Iraq" and 'Somewhere in Texas a Village is Missing It's Idiot'.
Meanwhile, Labor Council affiliates will meet in the next week to develop their position to the War on Iraq.
The NSW Teachers Federation wants unions to consider ways they can take action to impact on the war effort and also to agree on an approach to humanitarian relief and post-war reconstruction.
Palm Sunday is the April 13. The union contingent will meet at 12.30pm at the Rotunda in Belmore Park.
Abbott told states last week he would deny them $4 billion a year in federal funding for roads, schools and hospitals if they refused to sign up to his campaign against construction unions.
The Workplace Relations Minister said the money would be denied to states who resisted special legislation for building and construction, recommended by Royal Commissioner Terence Cole, in their jurisdictions.
States would be expected to crack down on the rights of union officials to visit workplaces, limit union involvement in workplace satety, and endorse six-figure fines for worker representatives if they want federal funding for education, health and infrastructure.
CFMEU Construction Division national secretary, John Sutton, called Abbott's ultimatum "typical bullyboy tactics".
"I don't think state Governments will react very well to this type of interference," Sutton said, pointing out that Abbott's $4 billion stick was dwarfed by their own construction budgets.
NSW premier Bob Carr said his state was proud of an IR record, based on co-operation rather than confrontation.
Citorian Industrial Relations Minister Rob Hulls said the threat was another example of an "Abbott temper tantrum".
Employers First, ABI and the AIG are attempting to prevent the decision flowing through to bowling club employees, arguing last year's decision wasn't a test case after all.
Clerical workers last year won the right to demand union dues be deducted form their wages, preventing employers using the issue as a form of industrial blackmail during strikes.
The Australian Workers union is now moving to flow that decision through their awards on the basis of that decision. In the face of employer objections, it will now need to argue a special case in the NSW IRC to establish the standard in all awards.
AWU state secretary Russ Collision says the employers opposition is a waste of time and resources, but "we have little choice but to put the employers back in their box."
The agreements, applying to more than 1700 nurses in 23 hospitals, flow on the 15 percent compounding increases secured by public sector nurses late last year.
"Private hospitals in NSW are not exempt from the nurse shortage and, like the public sector, have an obligation to help resore nursing as an attractive career option," Nurses Association secretary Brett Holmes said.
"These decisions make business sense because they should now find it easier to recruit and retain nurses."
Holmes congratulated Healthscope on becoming the first private operator to meet the 15 percent claim and said he was pleased Mayne Health had "finally come to its senses", after initial resistance.
Under the agreements, the private operators would increase wage rates by four percent from March, another six percent from April, and five percent from August.
The increases should deliver an extra $140 a week to a registered nurse with eights years experience.
Healthscope has also agreed to phase-in parity with the public sector across a range of other entitlements, including in-charge and on-call allowances.
The Nurses Association is still negotiating with other private hospitals but the Mayne and Healthscope settlements should open the floodgates.
The Aged Care sector, however, remains a major issue for nurses who will step up their Fair Share for Aged Care campaign.
Their union, the LHMU, is seeking support from councils in local government areas most affected by the push to close hotels and redevelop the sites for upmarket apartments.
"There are about a dozen major residential hotels in Sydney and South Sydney where members are fearful about their futures," LHMU Hotel Union spokesman Mark Boyd said.
"We will ask those councils to work closely with us to ensure better treatment of hotel workers during the shutdown process.
The 150 cleaners, housekeepers, office and restuarnt staff at Kings Cross' Millenium Hotel have been fighting for a better deal for weeks. Their employer, a UK-based chain, refuses to meet the 16-week NSW redundancy standard.
The severance deal offered by the Millenium was less than that struck when the Sydney Hilton closed late last year.
As part of the union-negotiated Hilton deal, workers were offered options on jobs when the establishment reopened. That possibility does not exist for Millenium employees because the hotel is shutting its doors.
Central to the union's claim is lifting the Howard Government's eight-week redundancy cap, applicable to Federal Awards. LHMU research shows the average period of unemployment for redundat hotel workers is 22 weeks.
Cleaners Back $45 Deal
Meanwhile, a new LHMU award will deliver pay rises of up to $45 a week to more than 20,000 NSW cleaners over the next two years. It will apply to workers in the commercial and government contract sectors.
Under the new agreement, fulltime day shift cleaners will get a $35.50 increase over two installments. Those working broken or early morning shifts will get an extra $40, while those on night shifts will benefit by $45 a week.
Over the next two years, part-time rates will increase by 57 cents per hour.
Meetings of cleaners across NSW backed the settlement.
The decrees will lead to further privatisation of public services, with thousands of public sector workers facing dismissal.
The ICFTU's affiliate in Israel, Histadrut, has announced a series of protest and strike actions aimed at convincing the government to rescind the decrees, with some 100,000 local authority workers on strike since March 31 and 50,000 government ministry employees implementing work bans.
The government's actions, in particular the unilateral cancellation of collective agreements, are a clear violation of fundamental Conventions of the International Labour Organisation, and coupled with a wide range of cutbacks to social security, health and education, will have severe effects on wage earners and those most in need of government assistance.
The ICFTU has pledged its full support to the Histadrut in its campaign for the repeal of the decrees.
More than two years ago about 250 Indonesian police officers stormed the five-star Shangri-La Hotel in Jakarta to break up a sit-in strike by hotel union members campaigning for better wages and working conditions.
The Shangri-La chain, owned by Robert Kwok, runs more than 40 luxury hotels throughout the Asia Pacific region and the Middle East.
The confidential settlement, described by one Indonesian source as a "major victory", came as Shangri La announcecd its entry to the Australian market. The chain has won the management rights agreement for the former ANA Harbour Grand Hotel, a 561-room hotel to be rebranded as the Shangri-La Hotel Sydney.
Hotel union members here in Australia participated in several protests and fund raisers over those two years to back hotel workers in Jakarta.
The dispute captured the imagination of union members across Australia with the NSW Labor Council and other State TLCs providing support and platforms to back this cause.
ACTU President, Sharan Burrow, was threatened by the Shangri-La chain with legal action because she dared to speak up for the Jakarta workers.
A number of LHMU members visited Jakarta to support the Shangri-La workers, and some of the union activists from the SPMS, which stands for Shangri-La Independent Workers' Union Federation, came to Australia to brief union members in their workplaces about this dispute.
This was one of the first times that a global federation of hotel unions did battle with a global giant in the hospitality industry.
A huge e-mail protest campaign, first started by the international union website LabourStart sent thousands of angry e-mails to Robert Kwok telling him that people around the world were angry about how he was treating the Jakarta hotel workers.
At one point unions and their members in 30 different countries held rallies and sent protest e-mails to Kwok.
To mark World Press Freedom Day this year, the Alliance is asking for nominations to The Orwells - the inaugural press freedom violation awards as voted by the Australian media.
The winners will be announced nationally at an informal swill in the lead-up to World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
Have your say by nominating your big pig candidates, love to hate politicians, or gatekeepers online at http://www.alliance.org.au/orwells
WAR IN IRAQ - UNION ACTIVITIES
Teach-in 5 April, 10am Manning Clark Centre, ANU, entry free. Palm Sunday rally, 13 April, 1.30pm at the Lodge, Adelaide Avenue, Anti-War rally followed by march to Parliament to meet march of church groups.
Palm Sunday rally 13 April 2003.
MUA Floating Peace Protest, Saturday 5 April 1 to 3pm, Kirribilli Point, Sydney Harbour, in front of Prime Minister's residence (flyer attached).
Palm Sunday rally, 13 April 2003, 1pm leaving from Belmore Park to the Domain. "Unions Work for Peace" badges, posters and leaflets have been produced, PDF of leaflet can be downloaded from website, go to www.labor.net.au. For more information contact Amanda Tattersall, 0409 321 133.
NB. Change of details for Newcastle TLC rally this Saturday 5 April, flyer attached.
Palm Sunday rally 13 April. Workers Against the War meeting held every Wednesday, 6.30pm at Trades Hall. VTHC have produced Say No to War badges, for more information contact Cathy Beadnell on 0425 701 793. For more info see the VTHC's website - http://www.vthc.org.au.
On 13 April there will be the Palm Sunday rally.
Meetings for the Peace Coalition in Tasmania will be held each Sunday from 3:30pm - 5:00pm at the Republic Bar Elizabeth Street North Hobart. For more information contact Lisa Singh (03) 6278
7711(w) (03) 6228 7770(h) 0438 380 988.
The ACTU will provide a regular update on anti-war activities being organised by unions and TLCs.
If you are planning a union rally or participating in other protests, please contact Gina Preston at the ACTU by email at [email protected] or by phone on 03 9664 7326.
Similarly if your union is producing posters, badges or anti-war campaign material please inform Gina so she can circulate the details throughout the union email network. That way the materials can be distributed more widely, duplication can be avoided and costs might even be shared.
The ACTU website has a No War On Iraq campaign area at http://www.actu.asn.au/public/campaigns/nowaroniraq.html
If affiliates wish to put material on this site please contact Noel Hester on 03 9664 7327 or [email protected]
Remembering Jenin: Film Night (Sydney)
Fri, 11 April 2003
First Anniversary of the Jenin Massacres
It is one year since the Israeli Occupation Forces invaded the Jenin refugee camp and conducted their now infamous military operation against the civilian population. In commemoration of those who were killed ,and in support of the on-going Palestinian struggle for freedom, the PHRC will screen two films, After Jenin and Jenin, Jenin.
WHEN: 6 for 6.30 - 8.30 pm, April 11th (Friday)
WHERE: Tom Mann Theatre (136 Chalmers St - Surry Hills; near Central Station
COST: $10 minimum donation
Friday 4 April 12.30 - 2.00pm
Nick Wailes, WOS and Peter Waring, University of Newcastle
Financial Markets, Corporate Governance and Employment Relations: the Case of Australia
Venue: Rm. 328 Third Floor, New Economics and Business Building (H69), University of Sydney
Enjoy your editorials - even though you can't spell and have atrocious grammar! - I pretty much always agree with your views, or at least find them thought-provoking.
In this week's edition, you mention the Geneva Convention. Robert Hill let slip on TV recently that Australian troops would not do certain things, because Australia is a signatory to the Geneva Convention, but that US troops could do other things because the US had not signed up to that - clause? the whole thing? I don't know, but perhaps you might explore these differences for me and others concerned about this disgraceful war.
Please keep up the good work, including your relative distance from the Labor Party hack jackasses. Unions and their representatives, with all their flaws, are a lifeblood for any working woman.
Dear Mr Lewis,
Jurisprudence lies outside of the narrow range of my legal competence, but as I endured the musings of a balding libertarian academic with more than a passing regard for Hayek over six months of my life, I would suggest that the following statement is misleading.
" There was a time when the Law was an absolute; in jurisprudence they
called it Natural Law. The equation was simple: The law reflected what
was right, therefore the law was in and of itself a good.
This principle reached its zenith in the years leading up to World War
II before the horrors of Hitler and the Nuremberg Principle broke the
link between law and justice for all time."
Natural law advances the proposition that an unjust law is not a law, or a variation thereupon. Whilst the passage of time has dulled both memory and sense, the slither of conceptual unity which defines natural law is that the law must be evaluated with reference to some normative standard, and that a failure to comply with that law will displace, modify, or render inoperative the particular provision which is offensive to that normative standard.
The alternative doctrine is legal positivism. The characterisation of natural law and positive law is of some significance although in substance their adherents have only limited areas of disagreement. One of the key features of positivism is the "separability" thesis, which is that law and morality are distinct. The course of action suggested as flowing from this concept differ.
Now for the contentious area where my memory fails me in the manner of a white collar criminal at a civil penalties proceeding. German lawyers tended to hold to positivism or a vague sort of sociological perspective which held law to be a cultural phenomena and that therefore in essence there is no absolute standard and then morality sort of runs out, at least that is my lapsed catholic understanding. Another group yet held to positivism, which is probably the only way to have a functioning legal system. Basically the Germans disappeared up there own fundamental orifice shortly prior to acquiescing when Adolf and his at least in Germany today, his imaginary friends, killing a lot of innocent people.
The holocaust caused considerable if remote pain to many German academic lawyers and is perhaps best recorded in the Hart/Fuller debate and surrounding academic publication in the 1950s on the topic of at what point one's obligation to follow the law ends.
Now as to the Nuremberg principle, what principle is that, that the victorious powers may retrospectively try individuals for crimes of such gravity that they may properly be regarded as crimes against humanity and as such regardless of the domestic legal framework, nations are consequently empowered to deal with these people if it is within their power to do so. Alternatively it could be that waging an offensive war is a crime. The Nuremberg Principle if anything reaffirms the nexus between law and justice, despite the procedural short comings of the trial process. Much of the criticism of America's war against Iraq is extracted from the Nuremberg principles (might I note that much of the debate surrounding its legality has been simplistic and ill informed, if your looking for a tool of the week look no further to Suri Rapatanala at UQ's law school who came out in support of the war against Iraqi.) A better analysis of this aspect of international law is found in Geoffrey Robertson's book "Crimes Against Humanity."
Perhaps a more valid criticism of the law is that the emphasis lies on negative and individual liberty, and hides essentially conservative concepts reflecting the prejudice and concerns of the author behind vague motherhood statements concerning the intrinsic value of the rule of law as defined by the establishment.
It would be fair to state that the Holocaust demonstrated the impotence of law without force, the injustice which occurs in the face of uncritical acceptance of the substance of the law, and that dogma is incompatible with an effective legal system. These are essentially political problems which reflect on and are reflected through the legal system. The desirability of this state of affairs is no doubt open to challenge, but I would submit that without the power to change laws, even if it creates injustice in some sense than you have hit stasis, and in stasis no one benefits, especially those already on the bottom rung of the ladder.
The law has done more for labour than it has to dash in over the past 100 years, and simply because the Cole Royal Commission was a witch hunt there is no need to simply engage in a formulaic, doctrinal and inaccurate critique of law. It is the sort of journalism one would expect to see in the opinion pages of the Australian and does your publication little credit. Stating that moral law postulates that the law is right and therefore good is unhelpful and inaccurate. Further the conclusion that the Nuremberg Principles render the law a speckled donkey is plainly incorrect.
I'm a financial member of the ALP, when I was able to joined a union so I'm not adverse to your usual editorial bias, but come on, it's the sort of thing that is going to bring your publication into disrepute.
"The righteousness of Bush and of Abbott have a common flavour, it is the certainty of the powerful. Any notion of 'The Law' is an ass in their hands. Maybe the Anarchists have won after all ..."
glad to hear you think so ;)
thought your editorial was very well considered, anyway.
One of the greatest problems with the Law today is the fast disappearing presumption of innocence until found guilty. It stems from the inability to differentiate between the deviant and the non-deviant.
Politicians are also ensuring work for lawyers - great insurance policy if there is a lawyer in the family.
Trouble is with the mindless making of laws for the sake of doing something people have had to question their ability to obey the laws of their country. Where is this going to take the Western world - into Stalinist dictatorships?
Your attack on the Books not Bombs student protest was reprehensible.
Police ripped a hajib off a young woman. They kept young people for hours in a street. They attacked the marchers. And now the police have continued John Howard's dirty work by racially vilifying the students.
These police attacks on students are now being used by reactionaries to quash the democratic right to protest.
You have ignored all of this to make an attack on young and rightly angry people protesting against an unjust, immoral and imperialist war.
I'm with the students.
Even out of self-interest I would have hoped the trade union movement could see that the lies and anti-democratic attacks on students are the pointers for the future. That future will involve, as the Cole Royal Commission shows, these same police state tactics being used against unions.
And on top of all that your report red baits the protesters.
This is dangerous McCarthyism.
You should have been condemning the police. You should have been attacking the ALP's pro-war stance. You should have been making the linkages between the attacks on building workers and the attacks on Iraq - both benefit the Australian ruling class.
Instead you serve us this reactionary drivel to make a cheap sectarian point. And in doing that you provide succour for the anti-union forces in this country.
Without a shred of evidence one of your articles (Issue 172)asserts that "fringe" socialist groups encouraged scuffles with the police at the most recent student anti-war protest. Why didn't you interview someone from Books Not Bombs to put their side of the story? Why not do a piece on the "Leb bashing" that Bob Carr and the media are so fond of and how that makes young Arab Australians feel? My suggested headline: "Labor Council joins Daily Telegraph witch-hunt". While John Robertson was pushing his reds-under-the-beds barrow another 50 Iraqi civilians were killed at a marketplace. My union has a good position on paper against the war but has done next to nothing to educate the membership about it. There's work to be done John, why don't you focus on that instead?
Sam Wainwright (proudly an MUA member and "fringe" socialist)
I find it appalling that the NSW Labour Council thinks it can dictate to the movements who is or should be a member of the movement.
State Secretary John Robertson has been publically critical of the student protest on March 26, saying the Walk Against the War Coalition should exclude organisers of such protests from the group. This group was setup to be an umbrella group of ALL organisations opposing the war.
The violence at this utherwise peaceful and spirited demonstration, was provoked by the police as they seek to manufacture a confrontation with protesters at each rally. This one was no exception. Instead of condemning the protest organisers, the peace movement should be seeking to learn the lessons of this demonstration and comdemning the police for their heavy-handed practices.
Local community peace groups have supported the student protest organisers. The union hierarchy should not see itself as being the only, or even the major, mobilising force in the peace movement and should seek to aid those other groups who are out mobilising and organising against this war?
While some unions have done some good work in educating their members, most (and this includes even some of the larger left-wing unions) have done NOTHING to educate the members or draw together a mobilisation of more than the workers and organisers staffing their offices and a handful of other active delegates.
Instead of attacking other people organising against the war, unions would do better building anti-war consciousness among their members and bringing them onto the streets with us.
I ask John Robertson, who is his enemy when it comes to mobilising against the war? Is it the student rally organisers; or the Bush and Howard governments and any other government who stops the people from expressing their anger against this war?
Member and delegate, AMWU
: As an NTEU member I was appalled to read on LaborNet and Workers Online, that the NSW Labor Council has not only condemned the Books Not Bombs rally, but has taken it upon itself to try and censor the anti-war movement.
In his Labor Net contribution, Peter Lewis, as he did at last years M1, lays the blame for violence at the feet of the protesters rather than at the feet of the police where it belongs. The NSW police deliberately targeted Middle Eastern students at the Books Not Bombs rally seeking to provoke a violent confrontation. According to a number of the students, the confrontation at the rally was a result of one police officer deliberately ripping a hijab (headscarf) from the head of a young Muslim woman. Not only was this a deliberate act of cultural insensitivity, it also smacks of racism.
It should also be noted that while the Walk Against the War Coalition has and is playing a valuable organising role in the anti-war movement, it is not THE anti-war movement.
The Walk Against the War Coalition is just ONE of many anti-war groups that exists in Sydney and around NSW and Australia and as such does not have "over-riding responsibility for the anti-war effort" as Lewis argues in his article on Labor Net. No--one group, whether it be the NSW Labor Council or the Walk Against the War Coalition has the right to dictate who can and cannot be part of the anti-war movement. Nor do they have right to dictate what anti-war events can or cannot happen.
Rather then falling in line with the rhetoric, redbaiting and exclusionary politics of the mainstream media and the pro-war camp, both the NSW Labor Council and the Walk Against the War Coalition should have the guts and courage to stand in solidarity with their fellow anti-war protesters and the young students who are passionate and courageous enough to come out onto the streets.
I would like to express my deep concern at the prospect of the ISO and DSP being expelled from the Walk Against the War Coalition. Febuary 16 gave me such great hope for the peace movement as there was such a diverse range of people working together for the same aim - to stop the war in Iraq. Splits within the Coalition will only serve to weaken the movement, and take the emphasis off the war and on to internal politics, which is exactly what Mr Howard would like to see happen.
I am not a member of the DSP but have been very involved with their campaigns because they work tirelessly for justice on a broad range of isses, and are able to effectively mobilise people to take action for unpopular campaigns such as rights for Refugees. In all the DSP actions I have been to, I have never been encouraged to behave violently. In fact it's been just the opposite, with organisers encouraging people to "keep on keeping on", peacefully but persitently. Behaving non-violently however, does not guarentee me, or others involved in protests, the same courtesy from the police department and inevitably there will be a minority who will bite back.
These rallies are not only about putting pressure on the government to bring our troops home, but also to show our leaders that we, the people, are able to put aside political, religious and ideological differences to work together for peace, not only in Iraq but on our own streets. The violence at the student rally was regrettable, but more regrettable still would be to see peace sub-titled according to political affiliation. Peace is a universal concept and should always walk under one banner if it is ever to be applied.
Your recent press release excusing the NSW police for beating up on young kids probably takes the cake for duplicity. No stranger to police aggression, the trade union movement knows what role the police force plays against protests, picket lines and strikes. So next time that happens -- you want us all to join in with John Laws and the Murdoch press calling for trade unionists to be turned into pariahs because the police vilified them, employed illegal interventions and brutally assaulted them? Is that Ok with you Peter? Similarly is is OK with you to attempt to split the peace movement by agreeing with the racist and pro war line coming from this media frenzy on this?
There's a war on, you know and the business to hand is to stop it --not settle accounts with groups you don't agree with.
Ex-DSP Brisbane, still a member of the Socialist Alliance
Letter to the editor
How did right-wing press hack Piers Akerman respond to the March 5 student rally in Sydney? With red-baiting.
How did John Robertson and NSW Labor Council leaders respond to the March 26 student rally in Sydney? With red-baiting.
Instead of condemning heavy-handed police tactics and the violence of some rally participants - the Labor Council condemns the organisers.
If we applied this logic to the August 19, 1996 Cavalcade to Canberra we would have to blame the organisers (trade unions) for the scuffles that took place outside Parliament House. The NSW Labor Council did not cop this in 1996.
So why blame the Books not Bombs group and "fringe Trotskyist groups the Democratic Socialist Party and the International Socialist Organisation" for what took place on March 26, 2003?
"There was a lack of marshalls and general organization, CALCULATED (my emphasis - SB) to create the sort of mayhem that has undermined the [anti-war] message". The Labor Council press release turns the best efforts of resource-poor, cash-strapped organisations into a sinister plot to cause havoc. Outrageous.
I hope the Labor Council and NSW unions have volunteered some marshalls for the April 2 student rally.
"Key left-wing unions [are] calling on the Walk Against the War Coalition to take steps to ensure a similar event is not held . . . Its important thatthe mainstream peace movement takes a stand against these fringe elements."
What does the Labor Council mean? Does it plan to exclude the "fringe
Trotskyist groups" from the Walk Against the War Coalition? Anyone with a shred of decency should be opposed to any moves to restrict ANYONE that is opposed to this war from participating in the Coalition. Touch one - touch all.
If the NSW Police can get away with refusing a permit for the April 2 Books not Bombs rally, guess who will be next? The "mainstream peace movement" i.e. the Walk Against the War Coalition.
John Howard and his warmongering mates (including Akerman) would like nothing more than to see a split in the forces opposed to the war on Iraq. Don't play into their hands Labor Council.
MUA member employed at P&O Ports, White Bay.
As a union delegate (MEAA) and a founder member of the Moreland Peace Group in Melbourne, I am writing to express my disgust that the NSW TLC is allowing itself to be stampeded by the rightwing media into disowning the high school student protests.
From the information I have received, it is clear that the police
criminalised the protesters in advance, provoked them by holding them penned in a street for a lengthy period, and enraged them by ripping the hijab off one young woman's head.
There has been a long, dishonourable tradition in the NSW police and media of victimising young people of Middle Eastern background. This current campaign is clearly an extension of that approach.
Any minor damage on Wednesday pales into utter insignificance compared to what Coalition forces are doing on an hour by hour basis.
The Murdoch media will always be hostile to the peace movement. Why give them the satisfaction of sacrificing some of our own to their agenda? Why not take the same attitude as the peace movement in WA which correctly fingered the police for minor disturbances in Perth the same day?
I am an Australian Kurdish, originally from Iraq, I am strongly against Iraqi criminal regime, as well as I am strongly against USA invasion on Iraq, I am against this war, and strongly support and I protest to this war, including next protest organist by students in Sydney, unfortunately instead to supporting them, you are blaming them as extremist, to stop this massacre, to defend human righta we should be extremist and we should not accept any pretext to justify this barbarism, prevent the right to protest looks like we live in the country like Iraq under Saddam's regime not Australia
Dear Labour Council Officers,
It is with great alarm and regret that I read the following article and
rumours of an attempt to ban the ISO/DSP/Resistance from the Walk against the War Coalition by certain members of the Labour Council.
I am an ISO member (and FSU member) heavily involved in the anti-war campaign through Northside NoWar(Chatswood) and was present on Wednesday's demonstration. NNW had 3 members attending that rally who you would refer to as "mainstream".
Members of the "conservative" community living in the north shore who came to show their solidarity with the students that day, despite long being out of school. They, like me witnessed the police violence and intimidatory tactics used to create a feeling of tension in an already heated climate. They have already seperately expressed comdemnation of any attempt by the press, or others, to scapegoat the students.
It was the actions by the police NOT the students that caused the violence. The media is using all tactics available to prevent the anti-war movement from growing. They have been already attempting to "gloss" over the war by showing clean images of "liberation" rather the brutal reality of civilian deaths. The scapegoating of "musilim students" is part of this campaign.
Police Minister Michael Costo is also no close friend of the Labour movement either. Lets remember that the minister had already set the scene that this would be a violent confrontation, against the declaration of the students. This is a Police Minister that has on many times turned its back on the Labor movement.....lets not forget Workers Compensation. We should be standing with the students against Costa's arrogance and contempt, not the other way round!
In any case, it is the violence of the war which is KILLING hundreds of civilians which should be the focus of the anti-war movement NOT that which is assumed to have occurred by students trying to prevent the killings. Where are these declarations from the Labour Council!?!
At this time, we need more than ever to stand side by side not looking to divide the movement. Whatever our disargeements on a range of issues we need to see who the real enemny is. If John Howard wants anything more than violence then it would be a divided movement. Any attempt to expel certain groups based on untrue allegations will be likely to splinter the movement unnecessarily. Particularly groups which have worked so tirelessly, through thick or thin, to help stop the war.
I urge you to rethink your stance and refrain from expelling the ISO/DSP and Resistance and instead focus on the task of condemning the war on
Yours in solidarity,
Northside NoWar (NNW)
Finance Sector Union (FSU)
International Socialist Organisation (ISO)
Wednesday the 26th of March was a black day for freedom in our country. As our troops fight for democracy in Iraq, teenage peace protesters were beaten and man handled by the NSW police. Some were girls as young as 13 which I personally saw thrown to the ground and forcibly detained. One young girl was put in a head lock by a very aggressive officer, her cries and tears still resonate with me.
That young girl's name was Bobby. She was protesting for peace, expressing a right that we all should have, but sadly on this day were denied.
I was not there to protest. I was just there like other reporters to cover the story. Whilst talking to two policemen regarding the protest a third OSG officer, whose name tag read 'Jacobs' grabbed my arm and threw me backwards. I quickly tried to explain I was not a protester but a journalist. He pushed me multiple times ignoring everything I said. His demeanour was one of anger and his disposition was everything but balanced. If this is the treatment bestowed upon journalists who are not even part of the protest imagine what was dished out to those who were?
I counted 212 police plus 12 mounted, but the numbers would have been over 300. There were about 70 protesters. The police had formed 4 battle lines down Philip Street. Trapped within the middle two police lines were about 50 protesters. Outside the far police line students had sat on the ground to chant for peace and freedom. The police detained the inner 50 protesters for 2 hours not allowing them to pass through the police lines. A police spokesman ordered the outer protesters to move or they would not release the inner ones.
I asked why the protesters were being detained as all they had done was voice their opinion and he simply replied "they just are". And I foolishly thought that we lived in a free country. One which allowed its citizens to voice their opinions and would not be forcibly detained by the authorities for doing so. Before now I believed the police were protecting my freedoms, today that belief was shattered.
As the protesters sat on the floor the police line of 80 or more officers would pound forward trammelling the seated protesters. If they remained on the floor the police would push them, and throw them. I saw numerous teenage boys, some 14 years old, crash tackled by police. As I was scribbling down the assaults I witnessed, I glanced up to see the police line walking towards me. An OSG officer was staring at me coldly; his name tag read 'Drysdale' and his wintry unshaven face was knotted in rage. His eyes looked as thought he could kill me and suddenly I was caught up in the melee. I was forcibly pushed back whilst 'Drysdale' continued his hard stare of death. One wrong move and I know I would be slammed into the floor.
Forty people were arrested, most for nothing. Sure there was some abuse shouted at the police and this I don't condone but one would hope that a police officer has more restraint than a member of the general public, not less. For there are few things a 13 year old girl could say to me to warrant putting her into a head lock and dragging her along the cement.
Voltaire said "I may not like what you're saying, but I'll defend til my death your right to say it" This is the underlying principle of democracy, the belief that every person has the right to voice their opinion. But on this day Australia regressed into a nation where censorship is enforced by violent means, where freedom of expression was reserved for those who said the right things and where police brutality was exacted upon children.
Maybe the government should stop worrying about the loss of personal freedoms in other countries and start worrying about those closer to home. When the police gag the voice of our youth with fear, intimidation and force we all lose a small part of our freedoms. Each one of us should have the right to stand on a street corner and express our opinion to the world and like Voltaire I'll defend that right til my death.
Shane T Hall
It's not my usual practice to write to Workers Online again so soon after having one of my letters published, but I have to make an exception for the shameful effort of Workers Online & the NSW Labor Council joining the witch-hunt against the Left in the peace movement (Workers Online #172). In response to the media & police lies about the 26 March student protest, the peace movement should have closed ranks & defended the students who had been attacked. Instead, organisations which should know better about this sort of thing (does the name "Commissioner Cole" ring a bell?), respond by turning on a couple of small Left-wing groups and those students who thought that blocking some traffic isn't too extreme a response to the war of aggression currently being waged against Iraq.
When police attack a demonstration, it's standard practice (& quite sensible, from their perspective) to invent a pretext. It's also standard practice for the media to go along with it, broadcasting any protestor retaliation & treating it as "the cause of the violence". Of course, if they can't find any protestor retaliation, they'll use whatever pictures they have & just label it as protestor violence. In the case of 26 March protest, the police attack on the demonstration came before the events which supposedly justified it, and included things like pulling the hijab off a Moslem girl. Of course, the protestors' response didn't help the situation (if only because it provided some plausible pictures around which the lies could be woven), but this is a minor issue beside the *police* violence and the organised political & media witch-hunt.
It's even more shameful that "key left-wing unions" were behind the NSW Labor Council's statement since, in red-baiting their political rivals on the Left, their leaderships are joining up with the same forces that red-baited *them* for decades. This craven opportunism won't do them any good, since any advantage that may accrue to them from ejecting a couple of Left groups from the Walk Against the War Coalition will be eliminated by the emboldening of the Right, whether in the media or the govt, to launch further attacks on the whole peace movement. Maybe somebody should acquaint these union officials with the principle that "an injury to one is an injury to all".
I write to express my disgust at the labour Council's stance on the recent student protest on March 26. I also wish to condemn the NSW police for refusing to issue a permit for the proposed rally on April 2nd. The Labor Council and all unions, particularly the NSWTF should be vehemently defending the students who organised the student anti-war rally and those who participated. The previous week there was a rally with figures quoted of up to 10,000 school age students. This particular rally was extrememly successful: vibrant in spirit with many young people screaming their anti-war message and running through the streets in excitement. Some ended their day in the fountain at Hyde Park - nothing different to what many adults did on the day of the massive protest of February 16. There were many positive responses in the community to this rally. People commended these young people for taking the initiative to organise themselves and to take a moral stand on t!
his illegal and reprehensible war. Many adults were left feeling inspired and with a sense of hope for the future. The March 26 rally saw many of these same students return despite the scare tactics and lies used by the NSW Police Commissioner on the morning of the rally. The many students who participated in an assertive but appropriate manner have been painted with the same brush as a minority who undeniably did behave in an undesirable way. The broader youth protest movement cannot be held to ransom because of the actions of a few dissenting adolescents who were expressing albeit inappropriately, their anxiety and frustration that most of us would never experience in a lifetime. Since the ugly rise of Pauline Hanson in 1997 the "Middle Eastern" community here in Australia has been experiencing vilification and acts of racial hatred. Muslim-Australians have been feeling insulted and offended at such mendacious statements as those made openly by the likes of Bo!
b Carr, David Oldfield and Fred Nile. The accumulation of years of racial stereo-typing and racial profiling may well have been the impetus for the expression of violence on March 26. The way the media has yet again targetted certain groups of youths' behaviour and highlighted their "violence" is laughable and totally out of kilter with the REAL violence being perpetrated on children in Baghdad as bombs are dropped on them daily. This is the issue to which the Labor Council, and all Unions should be collectively directing
their resources and energies. This is the behaviour that should be condemned. This is the real focus. Let us not get confused and conspire with the media which has played a crucial role in scapegoating innocent people and creating harmful divisions within our world and our own society. Let us not allow the right to protest injustices and inequities to be taken away from us. Let us not be dictated to by the police or the government and let us always ask ourselves - whose interests are THEY protecting by trying to take away the right of the people to demonstrate in the streets!!!!
I can't believe I have just read such an attack on high school students protesting against an imperialist war on a labour movement website!
Have the union officials responsible for this attack never been on a demonstration where police made confrontation inevitable? They must have been to few protests if they haven't.
I have been picketing, rallying and protesting for thirty years, but I am still shocked when faced with such lack of solidarity against the state.
All trade unionists should take a stand against this lack of solidarity and support the students. If the NSW Labor government put its policies where it's mouth is, the police would be told to facilitate anti-war demonstrations, not harrass and bully them to try to stop them taking their message to the streets.
Sandra Bloodworth (retired)
Your attack on the high school students anti war protest sounds like a second hand rehash of the Murdoch press.
You make no mention that the police heavies were predicting violence beforehand. No mention of the police's tactics of confrontation, vengeance and racial profiling.
I didn't realise that Labor Council officials were such long standing peace activists that they have the right to say who is, or isn't, part of the movement.
Is the real reason the Labor Council is attacking the high school students and those who defend them because its wants to bring the movement under its control and start to adopt Simon Crean pro war stance?
PSA TAFE delegate, Newcastle
I was shocked to see the secretary of the Labor Council attacking the motivations of anti-war protestors, especially the young people involved in last Wednesday's student protest. I think it was clear that the protestors were being set up by police and others when permission for the protest was "withdrawn" by police citing fears of "violence". This played in the media in an entirely predictable way, with the type of shock jock frenzy familiar to the union movement, most recently the attack on the CFMEU about the Building royal commission. Then it appeared that the students were riled up by police, by their policy of targetting Arab and Muslim students in quite an offensive way. This of course is not a new experience for many young people of Arab descent, as the public search and humiliation of students travelling home on the train after the first student protest showed. It would seem like a deliberate campaign by the state government and police to make the parents stop their!
children from attending future rallies. Instead of attacking sections of the peace movement, the Labor Council should be using its influence to prevent a repeat of the violence by asking the state government and police to tone down their behaviour, providing help to the students for better organised events in future.
PSA (NSW) member
I'm writing to express my disgust at last week's article entitled "Unions Condemn Protest Violence" in which Workers Online calls for the Walk Against the War Coalition to distance itself from the recent student protests.
Having been closely involved with the S11, M1 and anti-WTO protests over the last few years, it's become obvious the tactics adopted by police when faced with actions involving civil disobedience. First, their media unit pumps out a variety of stories about "radicals" and plans of "violence" to discredit protesters before they've even had a chance to protest. They then employ unnecessary numbers and force to intimidate and provoke demonstrators - which often leads to the images of scuffles that the mainstream media loves.
It's a simple strategy designed to turn attention away from the issues and onto the "violence" of protesters, hopefully neutralising or, better, discrediting the protest.
The response, though, should not be to scapegoat radical left organisers, remain uncritical of the corporate media, and effectively give tacit support to the intimidatory and aggressive tactics of the NSW Police, as Labor Council delegates have done.
At a time when the government is spending millions of dollars on an unjust, unpopular and barbaric war on Iraq, we should not be called upon to remain passive and accommodating to media prejudices.
To seek to do so results, for example, in a situation such as we saw in November during the WTO mini-ministerial meeting. By swallowing the federal government and media hype about expected "violence", months of organising by Labor Council affiliates and NGOs was reduced to a small token rally in Hyde Park.
By attempting to enforce such a strategy on an entire movement risks splitting it and, worse, leaves warmongering political leaders like John Howard unfazed, untouched and unchallenged.
However, if Labor Council and Workers Online insist on pursuing this strategy, I would at the very least expect you to follow swiftly next edition with condemnation of the Walk Against the War Coalition for twice giving John Pilger - who has consistently called for mass civil disobedience - a speaking platform.
Dear Workers Online,
As a veteran Victorian union activist, anti-war campaigner and socialist, I am writing to express my deep disapproval at the position you have adopted in relation to the student anti-war protests on 27 March, 2003.
I have spoken to a number of students who were present at the protests around Australia. They have told many stories of the tactics used by police to isolate students of middle-eastern appearance from other students, and intimidate, frustrate and disrupt what students had intended to be successful, lively, yet peaceful protests against Australia's involvement in this murderous war on Iraq. These tactics are designed to divide the anti-war movement, with the police predicting on the morning before the demonstrations the very scenes of scuffles that we saw on that evening's news. Clearly the intention of militarists was to carefully orchestrate the use of the police force and the media to divide the anti-war movement, and the position adopted by Workers Online has shown how easy it is to fall into this most basic of tactical traps.
There should be no confusion amongst those who oppose the war on Iraq as to who is responsible for the fights that erupted in several cities during these rallies. Furthermore, these are barely notable when compared with the violence the Anglo-American forces are perpetrating daily upon the people of Iraq. And yet, rather than listening to anti-war student accounts of what happened at the demonstrations, Workers Online has (unfortunately, rather predictably) fallen into step with the police and militarists. In the process, Workers Online has shown its true sectarian hand by attacking socialist students and organisations in its haste to appear respectable. It is most indicative of Workers Online's politics when it immediately sides with the police at this critical time in Australian history, rather than supporting students within the anti-war movement. As if they don't already have enough to deal with when facing police batons and horse-charges on the streets, to be attacked by people within the union movement is nothing short of betrayal. I suspect that Workers Online does not like socialist organisations, who rightly call for a stronger anti-war stand from Australian trade unions. It is promoting the twisted police version of events at the demonstrations, backed up by sensationalist media grabs, while avoiding what current circumstances really call for from the union movement - the organisation of industrial action to end the Australian government's involvement in this war.
Now the police are refusing to issue a permit to the next student protest planned in Sydney on 2 April. By attacking the very students and socialists it should be supporting within the anti-war movement, Workers Online is effectively adding its support to those who wish to stop student protest against the war in Australia. This is also a withdrawal of support for the most basic of democratic rights - the right to protest. If successful, this will severely weaken the anti-war movement across the country.
Workers Online, at this critical turning point in the union movement's involvement in the anti-war campaign your conduct has been most un-comradely. You should retract your support for the police and government position on student protest, and your attacks on the Democtratic Socialist Party and the International Socialist Organisation. And I would suggest that in the future you will need greater political sophistication if you are to successfully challenge Australia's warmongerers and bring the anti-war movement closer to its goals.
NTEU National Councillor
University of Melbourne
I am a member of the PSA, and have been a member of various unions for the past thirty years. I have raised my children to be strong unionists and to live by the principle of solidarity against the bosses.
So how do I explain the perfidy and betrayal of the so-called union movement in the form of the Labor Council, organising AGAINST the right of young people to free speech and assembly. How do I explain to my children that the so-called union movement is siding with the bosses and the police against their right to demonstrate?
It's hypocritical in the extreme to watch John Robertson, et al, perpetuate the lies of the police and media, against young people. I recall not long ago that the labour movement claimed to want to recruit more young people to unions. Wasn't that Michael Costa on our TVs wearing a backwards baseball cap and saying "Yo"? Where is the solidarity now?
If the Labor Council is truly concerned about the way youth protests are organised, why isn't it helping out with resources like marshalling and megaphones? Why isn't the Labor Council trying to build unity between the youth -- who are vital to the continuing movement -- and the more experienced -- who are vital for passing on organising skills?
It appears that the Labor Council is not really interested in democratic rights for all, even though that is supposed to be a fundamental principle of unionism.
I strongly support the Books Not Bombs Coalition and the basic democratic right of students to WITHDRAW THEIR LABOUR FROM SCHOOLS to protest this illegal war in Iraq. I support the democratic right of the Democratic Socialist Party and of Resistance to organise actions against the illegal war on Iraq. I deplore the Labor Council's splitting tactics that only serve the interests of the bosses and the police.
Member, Public Service Association
Is the NSW Labor Council just a wing of the Carr government? One wonders if Workers Online is actually the "official organ" of the NSW Police Force?
Reading the cowardly statements in Workers Online "condemning" supposedly "violent" Books not Bombs demonstration makes me wonder.
The fact is the violence occurred when police attempted to stop the march from proceeding. To blame the protesters for the confrontations that occurred are absurd. Police then went on to deliberately assault a number of students of Middle-Eastern appearance.
It is almost as though Worker's Online and the NSW Labor Council has simply taken the reports of the rabidly pro-war and racist Murdoch protest at its word.
Did you even bother to ask for Books Not Bombs' side of the story? You certainly have not even bothered to offer them a chance to respond to the accusations you have made in your article. On that count your publication is below even the standards of the Daily Telegraph.
At a time when the war must resisted by any means necessary and trade unions face attacks as a result of the Cole Royal Commission, we can ill-afford these kinds of gratuitous and divisive attacks on the progressive movement. It is the police, not the protesters, who should be condemned. It is the NSW Labor Council's cowardly attacks on the protesters that threatens to set the peace movement back.
University of Newcastle
How disappointing to see the Labor Council perpetuating a police/media beat up (Unionists condemn protest violence). I attended last week's student demo and saw only police intimidation and provocation. This week we've seen a further threat to civil liberties with a plain clothes cop using pepper spray on peaceful protesters.
How often have we seen unionists abused and vilified in a similar fashion. Are we really ready to condemn young people - those who could be dragged into the next Vietnam - for doing no more than defending their interests?
Chris Martin, Dulwich Hill
Dear Workers Online,
I am extremely disappointed as a trade unionist and a parent of a high school student that Labor Council officers and the Walk against the War Coalition have condemned the organisers of the student protest on 26 March, for the violence that occurred.
All the students and adults who were there who I have spoken to identify the police behaviour as intimidating and provocative from the start.
But more to the point is that the protesting students are expressing their moral outrage at what we all know to be a moral and humanitarian outrage - this war on Iraq, and Howard's conduct of it against our will. John Howard is in a position of strength because he concedes no errors on his side, never condemns his own. It should not matter what errors the students or their leaders may have committed. They are on our side against this war. The real damage is being done to the anti-war movement not by the students, but by their disloyal critics. Their actions show greater concern for the hypocritical opinion of a biased, hysterical, racist and war-mongering media, than for the need to do something more effective to stop this war than to rally in our tens of thousands on weekends . The politics of polite protest are not stopping this war. The Walk Against the War Coalition does not seem to recognise this problem.
Youth who care enough about public affairs, who have a conscience, who take a moral stand deserve recognition from the labour movement. They are precious potential rejuvenators of an aging trade union movement. They deserve support and assistance, loyal guidance or gentle criticism for the inevitable errors of youth, and defence from the jackals of the press and the police. Union leaders should be relating to the students who were at the protest, and not isolating and weakening them by condemning the protest organisers for any miscalculations or errors of judgement they might have made.
This should have been an opportunity for the trade union movement to show what unionists can do, with commitment and discipline, how union marshalls can protect students from the police, and help them to maintain discipline, make strategic decisions democratically about when and where to proceed. If Labor Council officers had refrained from rushing to condemn the leaders of the student stoppages, and instead had offered practical solidarity to the students against the police, then the students who attended the 26 March protest would have been able to come back again on 2 April. They would have had their eyes opened to the power of unions to stand up for democratic rights against the NSW police, and against an unjust war being waged by Howard. Instead, union leaders for their own sectarian reasons, of antagonism towards the DSP and Resistance, and to please Costa and Carr (who gleefully crossed a workers comp picket line less than 2 years ago), have stupidly lost a chance to!
win passionate and committed youth to unionism, and have strengthened the hand of the police in NSW to suppress protest action.
Congratulations for the conduct of students and supporters at the April 2 Student strike was carried by the Marrickville Peace Group Meeting 3 April. The students held a peaceful demo and defied the State Governments ban on the protest - a ban on the right to demonstrate.
The NSW Teachers Federation carried a motion at the 30 March State Council meeting supporting the right of students to demonstrate. Councillors from the floor spoke of the intimidation their middle eastern students had recieved from the police and media.
Teachers have shown a lead regarding how we involve young people in the movement. Yes they will make mistakes, we all have growing up as activists, but we should encourage them so when they get it right - which is more often than not - we can be invigorated by the energy of their success!
While not dismissing the diverse views of many in opposition to the removal of the Saddam Hussein regime, even those that use violence on the vulnerable, while protesting their passiveness, the reality is; that this despot and his cohorts will be removed.
With the acceptance of this inevitability, any further argument on the legality, morality or methodology of his removal is futile and the almost universal acknowledgment along with the recognition that the removal of this regime, is desirable not only for the oppressed of Iraq, but the wider Arab communities and the world as a whole. While it would be preferable that the oppressed people of Iraq remove this regime by coup d'etat, it appears that the American betrayal from the Gulf War still sticks in the throat of these repressed people.
With this acceptance of necessary regime change, the International community can then focus on the more important process in the cleansing of this corruption that is the rebuilding of this country for , with and by its own citizens.
It is essential for this rebuilding to be commenced as a united country, which can be achieved primarily by ensuring the inclusion of the three autonomous provinces of Northern Iraq Dohuk , Erbil, and Suleimanyah , with and within, the 15 provinces previously under the oppressive control of the Hussein regime.
There can be no doubt that the evolution from an oppressive centralized regime will require a period of Non-Iraqi intervention particularly in core areas such as defense, security, trade, police, industry and specifically the rebuilding of the infrastructure, and with infrastructure in areas such as health and education still in place, requiring supplies and funding, but still effectively operated by the Iraqi people.
This process could be already in place except for the intransigence fabricated to suit the purposes of avarice displayed some members of the UN Security Council
The United States, while understandably disturbed by the Machiavellian and undermining tactics that are an inherent part of French politics, and the self interest shown by the ruling government in Germany, should in this area take advice from their coalition partner the United Kingdom, who have not only centuries of experience in dealing with the French, but have an exceptional batting record for returning the serve. In short the reconstruction of Iraq must be commenced and completed without delay, not only for, but by the people of Iraq, and with the willing assistance of the United Nations, a body, which even if it is against its wishes, must not be permitted to bleed to death from its self inflicted wounds.
This reconstruction can be achieved successfully as can be seen from the reconstruction of Afghanistan and closer to home we have the experience of East Timor, and the Howard government should be prepared to share its experiences gained in East Timor, in fact, because Iraq already has much infrastructure the task should be swifter and more effective, creating a stable environment which could be used as an example within the Arab world.
While the expectations of the Iraqi population will play a great part in the perception of a successful transition to a free , transparent and democratic government , the reality that they have been oppressed for several decades will after the excision of their inherent fears create a positive environment in which freedom may be permitted to proliferate.
What ever plan is decided upon for this reconstruction, it must be made public and as soon as possible, if only to destabilize the opposition being created by the Iraqi ,Iranian , Syrian and Jordanian factional vultures already fighting over the carcass the Hussein regime.
No matter what plan is evolved, as many Iraqis' as possible including these vultures must be given ownership by bringing them into the transition process, thereby allocating an interest in its success rather than its failure. It is now , the time to create a timetable for reconstruction.
The adopted plans must also have an accepted Universal legitimacy, this may be what is being currently considered under the auspices and the application of the 1Fourth Geneva Convention by the Pentagon , which has rejected until now , the re-involvement of the United Nations , who have been nothing short of obstructive throughout this cleansing process, or the submissions of the United Kingdom and Australia , both of whom have been lobbying for a United Nations Administration , prior to the election of a recognized Iraqi government , this being the ultimate goal.
If one tests the power structure prior to this conflict, it becomes obvious that in the immediate term, a committee type administration would not be viable. If there were to be a committee structure in the months after the cessation of conflict the very structures that must be dismantled and the reason for this conflict, will actually be empowered in the confusion and it will require an administration capable of operating with complete and absolute sovereignty.
It must be remembered that the Hussein regime has been kept in power through patronage dispensed by family associations , consisting of a network of patronage which includes 30,000 members of Saddam's extended clan, the al-Bu Nasir; 30,000 members of affiliated clans; 80,000 - 200,000 secret police; and over a million Ba'ath Party members. Their rewards have come at the expense of the majority of Iraq's people, who have been subjugated and their tribal, religious and ethnic differences exploited as a matter of government policy.
The success of the inevitable transition and permanency of democratic governance is pivotal on the ability to dismantle this system of nepotism and familial patronage. To achieve this; the institutions that empower civil authority and increase and personify tolerance and democratic government must be encouraged and this will assist in the elimination of opportunities for a phoenix like rejuvenation of another Dictatorship or Theocracy such as is in Syria and Iran.
There can be no doubt that Iraq, unlike many other countries has the resources to not only achieve this transition, but to maintain it for the foreseeable future.
Iraq has the world's second largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia, but , the Hussein regime has seen the country bankrupted - a quarter of all Iraqi children are malnourished, over half the adult population is illiterate, In 2001 GDP was estimated to be about one-third of the 1989 level, and Iraq's foreign debt is now in the region of $140 billion. The 1982-1988 war against Iran and the invasion of Kuwait which gave rise to the Gulf War and was a precursor to sanctions that did little to ebb this economic decline.
From the creation of this state (Hashimite Dynasty when Faisal I who had recently been ousted from Syria by the
French became the first king of Iraq in 1921) by the British in the aftermath of the First World War, politics in Iraq have been fraught with associated problems. These are the employment in extreme, levels of organized violence by the state to dominate and shape society; the use of state resources such as jobs, development aid and patronage to buy the loyalty of sections of the population, in this case the Muslim Sunni Sect, the use by the of oil revenue to increase its sovereignty and the exacerbation and recreation of communal and ethnic divisions within Iraq by the state as a strategy to embed rule.
This fundamental direction of resources should be distanced, and the benefits of Iraq's wealth made available to the provinces, private enterprises and individuals. Iraqs' primary resource, "Oil" is particularly critical in this regard.
The oil industry is currently controlled by the state and all revenues, apart from those diverted to the UN in northern The Iraqi oil industry should be broken up and privatized, as we argue below, but this will take time. In the meantime, a system should be introduced in order to divide oil revenues between the regions. Oil revenues could be divided between them in proportion to their relative populations
Although the conflict is still following its course, the goals and end results are inevitable and we Australians as a nation and particularly those political opportunists, who have persistently attempted to have an each way bet on these tragic events, should now focus their energies in a more constructive manner. The challenges facing not only Iraq, but the world, in the backwash of these events require more than parliamentary parrots squawking on their publicly funded perch.
The call by our leader of the opposition Simon Crean for an immediate United Nations administration to be installed is as ridiculous as his statements that; although we should bring our troops back, he supports them, and is the ultimate madness.
There must be a period of military administration to ensure the complete excision of the despotic culture of the Hussein regime. What purpose would be served if one dictatorship was replaced by another, and would not , the divisive and weak willed United Nations provide a fertile ground for the growth of another dictatorship?
One only needs to examine the consequences as to the interference by right wing New South Wales Socialism in the Fijian elections, as to the ruination of those people in the islands of Fiji, as they attempted to regain their autonomy.
If a strong foundation in Iraq, is created from this unfortunate but necessary intervention then there is can be an optimistic future for the people of Iraq. A pulsating, vibrant society can only survive with an acceptance of dissent and an acceptance of differences, with the only premise being; that this dissent and diversity be projected in a peaceful manner and does not impinge on others in society, this proposed evolution from an totalitarian state to a democratic government respecting the rule of law and abiding by the will of its people will constitute one of the most ambitious and complicated state-building tasks yet undertaken. To have any chance of success it must be led by Iraqis for Iraqis. It must be as public and transparent as possible and must involve as many Iraqis as possible.
To achieve this, the belligerent divisiveness of the European and Russian wreakers must be prohibited from securing a role capable of vetoing or in any way obstructing this progress.
There can be no doubt that with the positive cooperation of the United Nations this transition will be a success, and we in Australia can and under our current strong leadership, unlike the East Timor debacle 30 years ago, 2(Whitlam had personally told General Suharto during a meeting in Jakarta in September 1974 that the Australian government supported the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia )will discharge its humanitarian obligations by encouraging our coalition ally the United States to limit its military administration and rise above the insults offered by the United Nations by encouraging them to participate in this administration thereby legitimizing a new and Democratic Iraq.
Instead, we see a government attempting to slip through legislative nasties under the cloak of combat, while using the war as an excuse to stall any semblance of a progressive social agenda.
At least that's how Tony Abbott plays the war game. There he was this week, slipping through changes to outlaw bargaining fees, twisting the arms of Democrat Senators who realise a federal election is the necessary next step on their journey to extinction.
He's also been flexing his muscles as he cashes in his $60 million investment in union-bashing (otherwise known as the Cole Royal Commission), to threaten essential state services if they don't embrace his neo-con industrial agenda.
But that's not all; the commitment to the war means there's no longer any money for the Prime Minister's much anticipated work and family package; meaning the bullets raining on Iraqi families are coming directly from the pockets of our working mums.
And then there is the final salvo, employers this week claiming that the economic uncertainty caused by the war meant that a wage rise for our lowest paid was out of the question. No prizes for guessing where this bright idea came from!
This is what happens when a nation's attention is diverted. The demand for good government disintegrates in the face of the 'crisis' abroad; administrations that have run out of ideas bask in the actions of their military.
All of which makes the efforts of the peace movement in mobilising mainstream opposition to the war all the more vital; with the upcoming Palm Sunday rally a key test of the campaign's longevity.
Unlike most political struggles, the anti-war movement began with a critical mass. Our challenge is not to build support for our cause but to hold it. The leadership of the various religious groups has been conspicuous. Palm Sunday is their day.
That the movement has had disagreements over the past week has been disruptive, but should not detract attention form the main game: keeping pressure on John Howard to bring our troops home and ensure the UN has control of any post-war reconstruction.
At the end of the day, it is our effectiveness in maintaining pressure on the Howard Government that will determine whether the substantial effort of all involved in the peace movement has been expended in an effective way.
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