When Australian Workers Union officials went to conduct a safety inspection of the Pan Pharmaceuticals plant in Sydney in November last year they were personally chased off the premises by Pan Pharmaceuticals shonky CEO Jim Selim.
Jim Selim, who quite rightly described himself as not deserving of an award he received from the Complementary Healthcare Council last year, fell on his sword this week - but not until after Pan desperately tried to blame industrial sabotage and problem employees for the debacle. Even Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Trish Worth ridiculed the suggestion that Pan's shortcomings were only caused by a couple of problem employees.
"There was substitution of different ingredients, alarmingly equipment wasn't cleaned properly, and then of course there was the deliberate manipulation of data and changing of that data," says Worth. "So I think it is very much stretching it to be saying it was the fault of one or two people."
Selim, who has been keeping a remarkably low profile this week, was a hands on CEO, owning 52 per cent of the shares in Pan; and this dodgy snake oil salesman, who preyed on the most vulnerable in our society, has form.
In 1976 "Snake Oil" Selim appeared before the Pharmacy Board of NSW charged with professional misconduct after making paracetamol tablets that unfortunately contained no paracetamol.
Selim also defended charges in the local court in 1985 of not properly storing and dispensing a particular medication and, in 1996, the TGA accused Pan Laboratories of an "evening primrose oil scam". But Pan argued, with a curious logic, that the oil was a food and not a therapeutic good.
Union bashing Selim had already attempted to flout the award this year by trying to unilaterally re-configure the pay arrangements for Pan employees. That disastrous attempt was thrown out by the Industrial Relations Commission.
"He has always discouraged employees from joining the union," said one industry source. Another example of the dodgy practices at the heart of anti-union employers.
In 2001 Selim defended a "natural prozac", despite the concerns of the Sydney branch of the Australian College of Clinical Psychologists. In a pitch that could have come straight off the back of a snake-oil salesman's wagon, Selim said people who popped his pills could see an improvement within a week. It was not a cheap option, as people who took two tablets per day would face costs of approximately $100 each month - itself a depressing thought.
Selim will need all the "natural prozac" he can get his hands on as the Australian Securities and Investment Commission is now conducting an investigation into trading in Pan shares prior to trading in the company being halted last Monday. The press conference that announced the action against Pan started at 2.45pm last Monday afternoon but Pan Shares began plummeting at 2.43pm. Some low life was offloading Pan stock onto unsuspecting investors.
There's a word for people like our tool of the week, "Snake Oil" Jim Selim, and that word is shonky.
AWU delegate, Paula Rich, a 14-year-veteran with the company, revealed that when directors appeared on television in the wake of Australia’s biggest pharmaceuticals recall, it was an eye-opener for most of her workmates.
"I didn't know them," she said. "I worked downstairs and there was an upstairs-downstairs culture out there.
"We've seen Ken Baxter, we've seen another fellow, a director, and that's the first time we've seen him, on the media. We know who he is because he's in the prospectus but there were a lot of things and people we didn't know."
Pan has been shut down for six months by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in the wake of serious allegations, including the falsification of both records and testing results.
Quick work by the AWU, which has suffered years of obstruction by management at the Moorebank plant, has secured accrued entitlements for permanent and casual staff. They have been paid into NEST, an entitlements trust fund established by the union movement.
Rich has been a central figure in winning the union a presence at the plant, signing up more than 100 members.
The company has agreed to keep its 120 fulltime on "for the time being" but has already stood down 135 casuals.
AWU secretary, Ross Collison, indicated that their futures would be the union's next concern as many should have been given permanent status years ago.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson supported an AWU call for Pan founder and chief executive, Jim Selim, to personally guarantee the wages of workers while the Therapeutic Goods Administration reviews its six-month stand-down.
Selim has parlayed his stake into a $250 million fortune since floating the company on the stock exchange.
Pan exports to 40 countries and last year turned over more than $100 million. Its enforced shutdown has been a sensation, rocking the alternative medicines industry and threatening the survival of dozens of retailers forced to abandon hundreds of its products and hundreds more, manufactured under other labels but including Pan constituents.
That was the stark warning from St Vincent de Paul spokesman, Peter Rigg, as unions, community groups, health professionals, churches and political parties met in Melbourne to organise resistance to John Howard’s latest assault on Medicare.
Rigg said budget measures undermining bulk billing would see charities funding medical costs, on top of food, furniture, and clothing "for the first time in 30 years".
Labor leader Simon Crean set the agenda. His promise to resist the attacks on Medicare was endorsed by spokespersons for the Greens and Democrats.
Greens Senator, Kerry Nettle, went furthest calling for an end to private health care rebates which cost the public purse billions of dollars and have been identified as a key threat to the public system .
Health care unions laid out a fightback plan that will target Members of Parliament in 26 marginal Federal electorates. The MPs, predominantly Coalition representatives, will be subject to a concerted information campaign and asked to take public stands in support of Medicare.
NSW with 10 seats - Richmond, Page, Hunter, Paterson, Dobell, Parramatta, Macarthur, Lindsay, Cunningham and Eden Monaro - has most on the target list.
Speakers at last Friday's ACTU-organised Medicare Summit referred to OECD data which showed public health systems stacking up favourably against the private-dominated US system on a range of measures, including cost, efficiency and results in terms of life expectancy and infant mortality.
"The Australian community will not let Liberal Party vandals destroy Medicare and privatise the health system," ACTU president Sharan Burrow said in her keynote address.
"Australians already pay for their health insurance through general taxes and the Medicare levy. The Howard Government's plan would force people to pay a third time through GP co-payments or private health insurance.
"Rising health costs are already putting many working people under financial pressure, especially where a family member has a chronic condition. John Howard's changes will send some families to the wall."
Ms Burrow said that the inflationary impact of the Government's Medicare changes would lead to higher wage claims against employers. Health costs rose by 7.2 percent in the last 12 months - faster than any other CPI group, according to Bureau of Statistics data released last week.
A Melbourne magistrate has dismissed contempt charges against Victorian CFMEU secretary, Martin Kingham, and awarded costs against the Federal Director of Public Prosecutions.
Kingham had been referred to the DPP by Royal Commissioner Terence Cole who had been incensed by the union official's refusal to provide lists of delegates who had done training courses, along with names and contact details of trainers.
Kingham told the Commissioner he would not identifiy delegates in an environment where activists had were black-banned by employers, and where unionists had been followed, spied on and had their private financial transactions picked over by Royal Commission agents.
Cole had initially threatened action against a former school teacher who worked for the Victorian branch's training unit but then shifted his attention to Kingham.
In dismissing charges that carried possible jail sentences, Magistrate John Hardy said he hadn't been convinced the documents even existed or, if they did, that Kingham had control of them.
Hardy had earlier dismissed another charge, ruling it constituted a threat of double punishment for the one alleged offence.
Kingham said the result was a defeat for Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott's anti-worker agenda.
"His agenda is to drag people through the courts, to spend taxpayers' money to tie up unions in costly legal actions. He fell at the first hurdle," Kingham said.
The Melbourne rulings follow recent court decisions in Perth and Sydney that also undermined Abbott's controversial Royal Commission.
In Sydney, an IRC court session found a key commission witness had ripped off business partners and failed to honour agreements with a husband-wife operation.
Commissioner Cole had accepted anti-union evidence preented by Troy Stratti in the face of strong denials.
But Justice Schmidt, in the IRC case, found distrust of Stratti had been unsurprising.
"The evidence showed that Mr and Mrs Metharis' concern about, and distrust of, the respondents, flowed from their failure to pay the applicant what was owed to it for work performed, either on time or at all," she said.
After Perth hearings, Cole based a number of "unlawful" findings against the CFMEU's Western Australia branch on Right of Entry technicalities.
That issue was at the heart of a subsequent court case brought against branch assistant secretary Joe McDonald and organiser Graham Pallott. It finished with Magistrate Paul Heaney dismissing charges of trespass, escaping and resisting.
Heaney was scathing of the decision to press the charges, ruling the unionists had been wrongly arrested by police who had no training in industrial law.
Fifteen-year-old Benjamin Nicholas was facing the poor house after nature intervened mid-way through the production meaning he could no longer play the pivotal role of Dodger.
But under a Code of Conduct developed by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the show's producers, IMG, found him a place in the adult cast.
MEAA NSW secretary Jonathan Mill says the agreement, was established to deal with the large number of child actors in the show - 40 at any one time and more than 100 during the live of the production.
"The agreement principally covered how adult and child performers interact - you're not a guardian, or a teacher, so we need a Code of Conduct to protect both the children and the adult cast members," Mill says.
Part of the Code addressed what would happen if a boy's voice broke - with an agreement that best efforts would be made to integrate the boy into the show so that termination of employment would be a last option.
"Lucky, Ben's voice broke during rehearsal's in Singapore, so we had more time to rehearse him into a new role within the adult ensemble created especially for him," Mill says.
"IMG were fantastic agreeing to the proposal in the fist place and then carrying it through both in letter and spirit with a serenity and understand and the whole episode really underlines the importance of the union negotiating a good agreement up front."
And the postscript? Ben has been nominated for a 'Green Room' award - one of only four performers nationwide to receive the honour - for his work as 'Dodger' in the days before his voice broke.
Media Mongrels Vie For Orwells
Meanwhile, what have Immigration Minister, Phillip Ruddock, Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe and 'Bagdhad Bob' got in common? They are among the many contenders vying for this year's inaugural Orwell Awards.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance has created the awards, named in honour of the creator of the original Big Brother, to highlight abuses of media freedom, both in Australia and overseas.
Other nominees include the Senate Privileges Committee, the former Federal Defence Minister Peter Reith, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and federal Attorney-General Daryl Williams. Winners will be judged on demonstrated obstruction - deliberate or otherwise - of the media and the public's right to know.
They will be announced 6.30pm Wednesday 7 May at The Fringe Bar, 106 Oxford St, Paddington, NSW.
More than 2000 Western Australian trade unionists rallied outside the Perth offices of Hammersley Iron demanding a fair go for the miners and steelworkers on May Day before representatives put their cases to shareholders at the nearby AGM of parent company, Rio Tinto.
CFMEU speakers at the AGM were joined by five steelworkers from the US and Canada. So convincing was their concerted attack on the credibility of the company's statement of corporate conduct, promising dignity and respect for employees, that the chairman closed the meeting with a reference to their complaints.
"I have been attending these meetings for a number of years and this was the first time I have heard a chairman assure shareholders that the company would try to address our issues," CFMEU national secretary John Maitland said.
"How far they move remains to be seen."
The CFMEU is enraged over Rio Tinto's treatment of five families from Clermont, central Queensland. They are the remnants of 16 union activists sacked five years ago and repeatedly found to have been unjustifiably dismissed.
Rio Tinto refuses to re-hire them and has now moved to have them evicted from their homes of up to 15 years.
The union is seeking an exceptional matters reinstatement order in the IRC and has offered the company a way out by suggesting re-employment at its new Hail Creek mine. The company has been unresponsive.
The five families will be in the Magistrates Court on May 23, with CFMEU support, to try and stave off the eviction orders.
"This is our home. It is where our children are growing up but Rio wants to throw us out," miner's wife Jacqui Barnes said. "For years we lived with company smears that our husbands weren't good enough for their jobs then the courts found this was not true, they had been victimised for supporting their union - now this."
In the US, Rio Tinto is trying to cut health care benefits from retired steelworkers at its Kennicott Copper plant in Utah.
Maitland says it is trying to achieve that by pressuring existing employees over their next agreement.
"It's the sort of situation you face when you are reliant on private health care," he says. "It is very relevant to Australians, given what this government is trying to do with Medicare."
US, Canadian and Australian union representatives met with Rio Tinto after its AGM.
The CFMEU and North American steelworkers have agreed to join forces over social justice and workplace issues with Rio Tinto internationally.
The call came as more evidence emerged of employer inflexibility in the guise of Dick Smith Electronics, who have thrown two women out of work after refusing to take account of their family responsibilities.
Dick Smith mum, Amanda Ibbotson, and her family responsibilities
NSW Nurses Association general secretary Brett Holmes says the lack of suitable aged care services for elderly relatives places a major strain on workers, particularly women, 87 per cent of whom rate family friendly provisions their number one priority.
"While access to child care has rightly been recognised as an important strategic objective in the struggle to recruit and retain nurses, the constraints associated with aged care responsibilities have failed to attract similar attention," Holmes says.
"In the context of the ageing population and 15 years of public policy designed to encourage older people to remain in their homes, the difficulties associated with caring for elderly relatives is an issue of concern for a growing number of working Australians."
Holmes says in light of the intractability of the current nursing workforce shortage response, it is imperative that appropriate support services are available to those carers wishing to return to the profession.
Working Mums Given The Dump
Meanwhile, two working mums, with 27 years service between them, have been sacked after their employer refused to allow them to trial new positions that they feared would impact on their family life.
The women, employed by Dick Smiths Electronics - a wholly owned subsidiary of Woolworths - were told to take the new oppositions or take the sack, after their previous positions were made redundant.
One of the women, Amanda Ibbotson, is caring for a child with cerebral palsy and feared the alternate position would involve new responsibilities that would make it impossible for her to discharge this care.
But when she asked to trial her new position for two to four weeks, along with colleague Diane Wilson, she was told to accept the position now
"We just want an opportunity to have a fair go because we both have family responsibilities," Ibbottson told Labor Council delegates this week.
The Australian Services Union has condemned Dick Smith management for their inflexibility and is taking their cases to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission.
'These two women have been treated in an appalling manner, camped by a contemptible offer," ASU state secretary Michael Want says. "They should have the right to trial the new positions given their family responsibilities or be offered decent redundancies."
Kayty takes home the money ...
The poster, part of a series to address the issue of freeloaders and the union push for bargaining fees, was designed by PSA organiser Kayty O'Sullivan.
Kayty was awarded the $2,000 after the Labor Council executive unanimously voted her series the top of the pack.
Taglines in Kayty's posters included:
- 'Would you drink at the pub all night and expect someone else to pay? - Join your union today and stop bludging off the workers who fought for your rights and conditions'
- Would you ride a bus for free? - Join your union today and stop having a free ride on the workers who fought for your rights and conditions.
- Would you take out insurance just after your house burnt down? - Join your union today and stop benefiting from the workers who fought for your rights and conditions
- and Do you work alongside colleagues who fight for your rights everyday? - Join your union today and stop taking advantage of the workers who fought for your rights and conditions.
Announcing the winner, Labor Council secretary John Robertson said he would investigate adapting the posters for advertisements in hotels and clubs, as well as on public transport.
"Kayty's posters carry a sharp message, many unions are working with members to address the freeloader issue and these posters should get out there into the community," Robertson says.
Runners-up were Robyn McQueeney, a CPSU Organiser from Hobart Union Flag and Domenic Bartolo, who will each receive $1,000.
If the May Day poster comp has whetted your appetite for social justice art, check out a new website by Make Art Not War at www.makeartnotwar.net.
The group is calling for early contributions to an online exhibition of peace art. The pieces are to be auctioned at a later date, with all money raised going to Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA's appeal to assist the Iraqi & Kurdish victims of war.
COSATU is devastated by the tragic accident near Bethlehem in the Free State, in which the workers, mainly members of the SA Municipal Workers Union, lost their lives.
The bus was taking them from Kimberly to a May Day rally in Qwaqwa. What should have been a joyful celebration of the international workers' day turned into a disaster, when the bus plunged into a dam.
"On behalf of all its affiliates and members, COSATU sends its deepest condolences to the families and comrades of those whose lives have been so tragically shortened," COSATU spokesman Patrick Craven says.
"COSATU will cooperate fully with the authorities to find the cause of the accident and steps that can be taken to prevent any such tragedies in the future," Craven says.
COSATU is also collaborating with the People's Bank to set up a fund to help the bereaved families. The Bank has donated 50 000 rand to start the fund
The 85 cleaners, employed by P&H Property Services, are threatening to walk off the job for the first time since the five-level complex opened in 1974.
"The cleaning contractor at Parramatta Westfield has one of the most lucrative contracts in the country - but he's always forgetting to pay his workforce," LHMU representative Sonia Minutillo said.
"Pay day was yesterday and once again we got excuses. We've got a number of workers reporting they are regularly not seeing their fortnightly pay packets for six weeks or more.
"Some have had to cancel holiday plans because the company forgot to pay their holiday pay - the cheque arrives in the mail two weeks after the vacation period has started.
"The invisible workforce doesn't want to be invisible any more."
Talks between the union and contractor have been going on for more than a year with company promises to get its house in order remaining unfulfilled.
Cleaners held a two-hour stop work meeting on site today and demanded action on their claims within a fortnight.
Minutillo said Westfield cleaners held down "poverty jobs", based on low wages and insecure conditions.
"They can't afford not to get their money on time," she said. "The excuses don't wash any more. We want Westfield Parramatta management to tell its cleaning contractor if it gets a cheque on time from Westfield, it is expected to pay its workers on time."
HSUA national secretary Craig Thomson said the Elouera Aged Care facility at Torquay had no staff members awake at night caring for residents despite more than a third being on a behaviour management program due to psychiatric behaviours and dementia.
''Because there are no minimimum staffing levels required under law in all aged care facilities you too often have the unacceptable situation where residents are not cared for at night,'' Mr Thomson.
The official Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency report said: ''The Agency is more concerned that despite the service identifying that residents' needs were increasing and that there was a recommendation to engage a staff member on duty overnight, again no action was taken. As a result of the lack of monitoring of residents' overnight, residents' health and safety was potentially being compromised.''
Mr Thomson questioned why with the serious problems found at the facility it was still given a further two years accreditation and tough sanctions that would force management to improve their care were not imposed.
''Aged Care Minister Kevin Andrews needs to explain why there have been repeated cases in recent months where Victorian nursing homes have been allowed to continue operations without sanction despite being found in breach of health and safety accreditation standards,'' he said.
''He also needs to explain why despite so much evidence the government refuses to introduce minimum staffing levels into aged care facilities to make sure residents get a decent standard of care.''
HSUA Victorian branch president Jeff Jackson said a union official would visit the facility on Friday to inspect records, and check on the staffing levels and resident care.
''What we want is to get staffing levels to a point where residents care is the best it can be 24 hours a day,'' he said.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says the payout was one of the last under the system that existed before the Carr Government's changes to workers compensation that became law in 2001.
The two Integral Energy employees suffered the injuries following a massive electric shock in March 1999.
"Because the injuries were suffered before the Carr Government's changes became law, they were entitled to benefits under the previous system," Robertson said.
"Our legal advice is that if the injuries had been suffered today, neither worker would have launched a claim for common law damages, which are now so restrictive as to be unworkable.
"Instead they would have had to settle for the statutory scheme where benefits are capped and in some cases non existent.
Adrian Ware, who received $2,969,749 would only be entitled to receive lump sums of about $150,000.00 plus a small amount for workers compensation and payment of his medical and other expenses.
Alan Milson, who was awarded $1.035,000 would only be entitled to about $100,000 plus a small amount for workers compensation and payment of his medical expenses.
"These figures underline the severity of the 2001 cuts and exposes the Government's claim that no worker would be worse off as the spin it always was," Robertson says.
"This reinforces what we said at the time - the changes to workers compensation left injured workers substantially worse off."
Workers Gather to Remember Fallen Comrades
Meanwhile, A large band of unionists gathered together outside Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral to mark this year's International Day of Mourning on 28 April 2003.
The group, representing unions from across the state, used the occasion to remember the many people who lose their lives at work each year and to demand tougher measures on bosses whose negligence is found to be at the cause of fatalities.
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance federal secretary Christopher Warren used the day to highlight the tragedy of the many journalist killings during the war on Iraq, saying their deaths were one of the most unjust forms of censorship.
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's Gary Flynne said it was the "she'll be right" attitude that many had towards workplace safety that posed one of the greatest hazards. Some people lose the luxury of ever being able to say those words as a result, he said.
Meanwhile, Police Association president Ian Ball used the occasion to examine the untimely deaths of two police officers who recently lost their lives while on active duty, including Glen Machinelli who was shot while in pursuit of a person who had stolen a motor car.
Tim Ayres from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union said about 40 workers lost their lives every year in the industry. But he said rather than getting hung up on the horror of the statistic it was more important to look at the individual stories of the people whose lives had been lost. He said failed systems and inadequate management systems were most often to blame for the incidents and said the adequacy of current legislation also had to be examined. Ayres also echoed the sentiments of many in calling for a monument to be erected which would commemorate the lives of workers who had been killed.
Recent ILO figures show that two million workers around the world die from work-related accidents and diseases each year.
Based on Australian workers' compensation data, 319 Australian men and women died from accidents or exposure in the workplace in 2000-2001 and a further 71 died while travelling to or from work.
Mr Jerry Ellis, Chairman of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC), adds that "these are just the reported fatalities and do not include those not covered by workers' compensation, such as the self-employed, and those who die from work-related diseases.
"Definitive statistics for deaths from work-related diseases are not yet available but the number of fatalities from injury and disease is estimated to be over two thousand each year."
At a meeting of unions this week, Costa highlighted major concerns regarding job security, the track maintenance regime, regional employment, safety and the overall funding offered by the federal government.
Costa met with unions after announcing that the Rail Infrastructure Corporation (RIC) would be split in two - with city tracks incorporated into the State Rail Authority and country freight rail to stand alone.
Unions fear the break-up opens the way to the proposed handover to the Commonwealth controlled, Australian Rail Track Corporation, a move independent analyst BIS Shrapnel will lead to significant job losses and negative returns for NSW taxpayers.
But Costa has moved to reassure unions saying the concerns outlined in the BIS report would be central to future negotiations.
Rail unions will demand the government assure job security, including a ban on contracting out of track maintenance, before any move on country RUC could be countenanced.
They would also demand that branch lines would remain part of the rural freight network and that overall funding in current ARTC offer insufficient.
Rail unions and the Labor Council will sit on a new Government Working Party to consider the future of the rural freight rail network.
State organisations, boasting some of the sport's biggest names including Damian Oliver, Darren Beadman, Brian York, Corey Brown and Lenny Beasley, will pool resources from today with the support of the AWU.
Australian Jockeys Association (AJA) chairman Paul Innes said the impetus to join forces had come from increasing inter-state movement and the realisation of common problems.
"More and more jockeys are riding inter-state," he told Workers Online. "Uniform safety standards are essential to privide a consistent and safe working environment.
"For quite some time various state associations had been working on similar issues and concerns. Members felt it would be more effective to take a co-ordinated approach."
The AJA was launched at Randwick today with a call for improved safety standards at all race courses.
Between 25 and 40 percent of licensed jockeys suffer injuries over any 12 month period. Deaths are not uncommon, with Perth-based Jason Oliver and Victorian Mark Goring having lost their lives in the past 12 months.
The majority of the country's 720 licensed race riders are members of the Association. South Australian and Western Australian branches have already extended their reach into the ranks of apprentices.
Inness said the main objectives of the national association would be to ...
- promote the educational, industrial health and safety concerns of members
- negotiate nationwide protections in areas such as insurance, super and pension funds.
The AJA will also establish a Benevolent Trust Fund for the benefit of injured members and their families.
Members of the organisation's founding national committee are: Paul Innes, Leanne Olsen (NSW); Ned Wallish, Neville Wilson (Victoria); Richard Pratt, Pam O'Neill (Queensland); Simon Price (South Australia); Bernie Ryan, Danny Miller (WA); Bill Shorten, Matt Thistlewaite (AWU).
President Brett Campbell said the closure of the bakery by Burns Philp, resulting in the loss of nine jobs, meant the city now produced one less product.
Buttercup, one of four regional bakeries being closed by Burns Philp, is part of a restructure since the company's recent hostile takeover of Goodman Fielder.
Campbell told an executive meeting of the BIC that the company had been "unrelenting in applying the hatchet not only to Broken Hill but to other regional locations across the state where every single job counts.
"The only thing that matters to such corporations is the share price and how comments in the media can have a detrimental effect upon their only sensitivity. It is interesting to note that it has been reported that one outgoing executive has received a golden handshake of some $2.5 million," he said.
Campbell said lower level management had been "quite good to the TEU members", offering limited alternative employment at other centres, and also arranging counselling.
The Tertiary Education Alliance invites you to a public forum on Tertiary Education.
Town Hall Education forum
The Tertiary Education Alliance invites you to a public forum on Tertiary Education.
Jenny Macklin, Shadow Minister for Education
Natasha Stott Despoja, Education spokesperson for The Australian Democrats
Kerry Nettle, Education spokesperson for The Greens
Thursday May 8th 5.30pm @ Sydney Town Hall
The Tertiary Education Alliance calls on students, staff and parents to come together the week before the Federal Budget to respond to the Howard government's planned attacks on education
Farewell function for Quentin Bryce - recently appointed Queensland Governor.
hosted by BPW Ryde Hunters Hill and the Hon. Dr. Meredith Burgmann
When: 5.30pm to 7.30pm Wednesday 28th May, 2003
Where: Jubilee Room, Parliament House, Macquarie St, Sydney
Bookings with Payment to BPW Ryde Hunters Hill, PO Box 481, Gladesville, 1675 by 23rd May
Enquiries to Val Buswell on 9719 8257
POLITICAL ECONOMY CONFERENCE
Friday 9 May, 2003
'Education in Political Economy'
Darlington Centre, University of Sydney
Political economy challenges orthodox economics at many levels: in the realm of theory, in economic policy and in the broader understanding of community issues.
This conference will bring together people who are concerned with political economic education:
in the media
in trade unions
in community organisations
Thursday 8 May at 5pmClive Hamilton talks on his new book
Merewether Lecture Theatre 2, Sydney Uni
For more information, or to register your interest please contact [email protected]
Juanita Nielsen Memorial Lecture
Wednesday 21 May 2003
6.15 pm for 6.30 pm start
Jubilee Room, Parliament House
Macquarie St, Sydney
Guest Speaker: Maree O'Halloran
President, NSW Teachers Federation
Maree O'Halloran will deliver this year's Juanita Nielsen Memorial Lecture, focusing on Aboriginal education. Maree is a strong campaigner for social justice and an advocate for public education.
Introduction: Dr Rae Francis, Australian historian
Rae will speak about the significance of the Green Bans era and Juanita's contribution.
Chair: Soraya Kassim, community development worker
Juanita Nielsen, publisher of the independent paper Now and active campaigner against high-rise development in Kings Cross, disappeared in July 1975. Her murderers were never brought to justice. The investigation was reopened last year. The circumstances of her disappearance remain unresolved but it is commonly believed that she was murdered because of her stand for the environment and the rights of low income residents.
Organised by Greens MP Lee Rhiannon
RSVP - (02) 9239 3551
I fear that in 20 years time school students will be reading in their history books about that once great, idealistic and influencial Federal Labor Party which decided, in the year 2003, to commit suicide.
And it is not just opinion polls on which I base my assessment of how the Federal ALP is wilfully self-destructing. Almost everyone I speak to, including staunch Labor supporters, either hates Simon Crean, or thinks he is a dead weight that the party can no longer afford to carry.
"Give him a fair chance to prove himself," was the cry after he had been in office a few months. "Give him a chance to prove himself" was still the cry after he had been in office for 12 months.
Well almost 18 months have passed since November 10, 2001, and all Mr Crean has proved is that he is increasingly and universally unpopular; that he is utterly incapable of standing up to Howard; and that he is totally unwilling to concede that he is just not the man to lead the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.
Oh he will lead it of course, but as leader of a pack of lemmings rushing to leap to their death over the nearest cliff.
Simon Crean's lack of leadership, and the party's absence of policies would not be so alarming if it were not for the fact that the shrewd, cunning, lying tenacious John Howard is determined to make Australia effectively nothing less than the 51st State of the USA.
I am in no position to judge the Prime Minister's personal sincerity: very likely he believes that the course of action he is taking is actually best for the country.
But Australia is supposed to be a democracy, not an autocracy.
AN OPEN LETTER TO BARRY YORK AND GERARD HENDERSON
THE MORALITY AND JUSTICE OF THE IRAQ WAR, MARXISM AND RELIGION.
Former Maoist, Barry York has burst into the "Australian" newspaper attacking the left for not supporting the Iraq war, and former secretary to B.A. Santamaria, Gerard Henderson, has laid down the law in the "Herald", as a kind of cultural commissar for religion, attacking most world religious leaders for not supporting the same war.
Both men have, in my view, in the past, produced some useful things. Barry York, of Maltese background, has written the definitive and useful book on Maltese in Australia, and also, a few years ago, several magazine articles which were a critical balance sheet on the Maoism of the 1960s and the 1970s.
Henderson's book, "Mr. Santamaria and the Bishops", is one of the better books on the Australian Catholic Action movement. Anne Henderson, his wife, who is his partner and collaborator in the right wing think tank, the Sydney Institute, has published a number of useful books on migration, the experience of Catholic education and Catholic religious experience, which are workmanlike and culturally useful books.
Barry York skates over the rabid Stalinism of his own Maoist current in the anti war movement of the 1960s and 1970s, which he retrospectively idealises and he conflates his own group's role with the whole Vietnam War movement. Perhaps this is intended to soften his debut as the Murdoch Press's favourite Stalinist. This is just a bit on the cute side.
The actual anti Vietnam War movement in which I was also a vocal and energetic participant, was, in fact, a heterogenous and diverse popular movement. The more conservative side of it campaigned mainly for peace in general. The more leftist side of it had different strands with different views.
York's strand in the left, predominant in Melbourne, was ferociously Stalinist, which did not stop it being quite popular. They, for instance, were enthusiastic supporters of Mao's barbaric Cultural Revolution in China. They supported, retrospectively, the Stalinist frame-up trials of the 1930s in Russia and their particular political hero was Comrade Stalin. Thankfully, they were a distinct minority of the movement, even in Melbourne.
The other current of the left of the anti Vietnam War movement, was an anti Stalinist "Trotskyist" socialist current, which was predominant on the left in Sydney. Our main emphasis in the Vietnam agitation was on the withdrawal of Australian and American troops from Vietnam (not just peace negotiations), and self determination for the Vietnamese. We were, however, also a minority in the anti Vietnam War movement, though our slogans of withdrawal and self determination eventually prevailed in the massive Moratorium movement. The overwhelming majority of demonstrators in the 1960s and 1970s were simply against the Vietnam war.
It's difficult to find anyone in the world now, except a few crackpot neo conservatives, who admit to being supporters of the Vietnam War when it was being fought.
The left wing of the Vietnam movement I was associated with, bitterly opposed the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. (I was arrested planting a red flag with Che Guevarra's head on it, on the roof of the Polish Consulate in protest against the invasion.)
A lot of water has obviously gone under the bridge since the 1960s. Barry York justifies his support for Bush's war in classic Stalinist form, in terms of a "popular front" with George Bush against "Iraqi fascism", and refers us to his fellow Stalinist old mate, Albert Langer's web site (www.lastsuperpower.net). I went to this web site, and it was like a trip down memory lane. Most of the content was in Albert's old Stalinist language and paradigm, with the one change that George Bush and the US neo-con government are now said to be main allies of the world's peoples in opposing "Iraqi fascism". Pretty weird.
(Albert's other current fetish, widely publicised in the press, is his campaign for the legal right to vote informal. Many of Albert's political activities have a slightly clownish aspect. In the 1960s this clownishness actually had a certain agitational quality, in the spirit of the times, but repeated in the 21st century, it is extreme farce. People misguided enough to support Albert's agitation for the right to vote informal, ought to note that he is not voting informal in relation to Bush's imperialist war, but supporting it energetically.)
Barry York now attempts to distinguish between the protestors of the 1960s, whom he now implies were wise and sensible, and the opponents of the Iraqi War now, who he says are "the pseudo-Left, which is more akin to a subculture than a political movement: a mish-mash of Third World romanticism, pacifists, environmentalism and suspicion of progress and modernity."
This is just humbug on Barry York's part. This is the sort of language he and Albert Langer used against everybody else in the anti Vietnam War movement, who disagreed with them. Nothing has really changed in the public contempt which York and Langer hold for the bulk of the people on the left in Australian society. York and Langer's sudden discovery of "progress and modernity", is pretty rich considering the barbaric and pre-modern character of the Stalinism they have defended for over thirty years.
Gerard Henderson's "political commissar for religion" role in the media raises another aspect of current reality. Henderson chides the leaders of most world religions, for not climbing on Bush's military bandwagon, and he correctly locates the objection of many Christians to Bush's war in the traditional Christian doctrine about the elements that make up a just war, which go back to St Thomas Aquinas and St Augustine.
One of the interesting features of all notions of just and unjust wars, Christian, liberal and Marxist, is that they have many elements in common. As both Fr. Bruce Duncan, the author of the Catholic Bishops' statement, and another authority, an Evangelical theologian at the Anglican Moore College, pointed out in a discussion paper, Bush's war fails the test of a just war on a number of points. Henderson does not really address this question seriously, but just chides the religious leaders, really, for not being smart and lining up with the global hegemon, the US. (Barry York does much the same thing for the left and Marxists).
Henderson points to the overt religious convictions of Bush, Howard and Blair, good Christian men all, in their brutal assault on Iraq. The rather cruder Frank Devine made a similar religious reference earlier on, comparing Bush to Don John of Austria who, it is said, defeated the Turks at the battle of Lepanto, thus "saving Western Civilization from Islam".
When I was a kid at a Christian Brothers school in the 1950s, the culturally energetic Brothers, who gave us the useful rudiments of a classical education, taught us a lot of poetry, particularly Gerard Manly Hopkins, Francis Thompson, G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. Devine's crudeness brought back to my mind the rollicking quality of Chesterton's poem "Lepanto", with the boisterous chorus, "Don John of Austria is marching to the sea". I tried my hand, a few weeks ago, at a caricature of that poem, which ran something like, "Don Bush of Texas is marching for the oil," but it didn't quite scan.
What has to be said about the religious aspect of Bush, Howard & Blair is that their religion is the "Born Again" Calvinist Protestant religion currently undergoing a bit of a rebirth in the Atlantic countries. It is peculiarly a type of religion appropriate to arrogant imperialist powers. Whenever I see Howard, Bush or Blair on TV talking about "Christian values", I have to shyly confess that I often snap back (only for a moment) into the Catholic medievalism of my youth, and remember and spit out with venom, the wonderful line from a Hilaire Belloc poem, which runs, "The men of the new religion, with their Bibles in their boots". In my view, the "Born Again" Protestant fundamentalist form of religion belted out by Bush and Howard, tends to enrage the rest of the human race against American, Australian and Anglo imperialism. It has no appeal at all to secular free thinkers like myself, or Catholics, civilized modernist Protestants, Orthodox, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and!
just about the whole rest of the human race, other than the couple of hundred million mainly secure middle class English speakers, amongst whom it is spread, like a noxious weed, with the vigorous support of the American State.
Henderson has the problem of attempting to explain, or understand, why most world religious leaders, including His Holiness the Pope, have been so vehement in their opposition to this Iraq war. In this context, it is worth quoting the following lines from Chesterton's Lepanto.
The Pope was in his chapel before day or battle broke,
(Don John of Austria is hidden in the smoke.)
The hidden room in man's house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.
Well, on this occasion, the Pope was in his chapel, praying not for the victory of the crusaders, but for the defeat of their Iraqi war plans. He was also mobilising the considerable diplomatic and political power of the Vatican machine against this war. One ought to concede, as Fr. Duncan points out to Henderson in a dignified way in a letter to the "Herald", the autonomy and reality of Fr. Duncan's (and the Pope's) theological convictions on this question. This does not, however, exclude consideration of the realpolitic of the opposition of most world religious leaders to this imperialist war. They realise, particularly the Pope, who is the boss of an international religion that operates in many countries and cultures, the absolute madness in the modern world, of world religious leaders climbing aboard Bush's assault on the interests, religions and cultures of many peoples.
Many of the same considerations apply to the American and Australian media barrage attacking the many leaderships of capitalist powers who opposed Bush's war. What force in the real material world is capable of bludgeoning major capitalist powers, with interests divergent to those of the United States, into supporting Bush's war, other than sheer fear of the military might of the US. This was not sufficient to force many major European and Latin American powers to sign on to the drive to this particular war.
Barry York and Henderson both chide religious leaders for not supporting Bush's "introduction of bourgeois democracy in Iraq". Like them, I regard bourgeois parliamentary democracy as a better, though limited, alternative in Iraq (and most colonial and ex Stalinist countries) to dictatorial rule. So do the overwhelming majority of the many millions of people who have demonstrated against the Iraq war. The reason that we don't follow York and Henderson's advice, is that it's absolutely clear that Bush and Howard have no organic and particular interest in introducing bourgeois parliamentary democracy anywhere. They certainly haven't done it in Afghanistan. (Or Saudi Arabia or Israel/Palestine, or the many other countries with dictatorships, most of which are solidly supported by the US administration.)
The evidence for the bad intentions of Bush, Howard etc in Iraq is (a) their reconstruction of the police force with the hated police of Saddam Hussein, (b) their deliberate complicity in the looting and destruction of the national infrastructure and even the seven thousand year old historical artifacts, (c) their clearly stated intention of postponing elections for many years, and (d) their equally clearly stated intention of installing military bases in Iraq. Some bourgeois democracy, all this!
Now that the regime of Saddam Hussein has been overthrown in Iraq, the democratic minded peoples of the world who have opposed the Iraq war, are now campaigning in their vast majority, against Bush and Howard, for real representative democracy, the right to form trade unions, free speech, etc, in Iraq. Many of us also support genuine independence for Kurdistan (including the Kurdish cities of Mosul and Kirkuk and their oil). Bush and Howard, quite clearly, on their side, are fighting for military control, bases, commercial interests and particularly for oil. Myself, being a lifelong activist in the labor movement, I share with other labor movement activists, a particular interest in supporting the Iraqi people in their struggle for the right to form real trade unions, and such things as the right to strike, which they have never had for any lengthy period in the past.
The dramatic and rapid appearance of a mass movement in Iraq, expressed in many large popular demonstrations, with slogans like "No to Saddam, No to American Occupation," etc, bodes well for the future of mass politics in Iraq. Civilized people in other countries should support the withdrawal of American, British and Australian troops from Iraq and immediate elections to achieve a genuinely democratic regime in Iraq.
It is quite clear that the Iraqi people will attempt to take advantage of the fall of Saddam Hussein to achieve freedom of speech, basic trade union rights, real representative institutions in the country, and it's quite clear that the Kurds will struggle for autonomy and possibly independence.
On form, it's highly likely that the American occupiers will do their best to prevent any of these things taking place,
Both Barry York and Gerard Henderson blackguard the members of the mass movements against the war in Iraq, and York in particular says they are misguided and stupid, not like "his generation" of protestors. Well, I participated in all the recent demonstrations in Sydney. The thing that struck me was the enormous number of people I met from the Vietnam times, Marxists, Catholics, liberals, Laborites, Greens, and their children, and their grandchildren, and they were the very significant core of the demonstration. The demonstrations, however, were vastly larger in proportion to the whole population, than the Vietnam demonstrations and much more diverse.
Henderson and York have a kind of conspiracy theory to explain the historically unprecedented, enormous size of the demonstrations against the Iraq war. They attempt to imply that the demonstrators are not representative of "real Australians" and are somehow corrupted by intellectual "elites". This is a rather mysterious and non materialist explanation, considering the extraordinary way the public culture, the newspapers and TV are, in fact, now dominated by pro war owners, and conservative news and features journalists and editorial writers.
I have a different, more materialist, explanation for the deep and widespread hostility in Australia to Bush and Howard's war, one more worrying for the interests that York and Henderson now support. The ethnic composition of the Australian population has vastly changed in the last 30 years. There are many more people from other cultures who now live and exercise citizenship rights in Australia, than the dwindling numbers who are exclusively from the previously dominant Anglo stream. The cultural level of the population is higher than it was at the start of the Vietnam War. The social and material basis for support for the narrow war of Anglo American imperialism on the peoples of the world, is far smaller in Australia than it has been in the past. The higher cultural level produces a situation, where a bigger section of the population can more easily distinguish between "patriotic" rhetoric and the genuine social and economic realities in the world.
This changing ethnic composition of Australia and higher cultural level, has produced a sharp divide in Australian politics, into a dwindling conservative side, the "old Australia", and a rapidly expanding Labor-Greens side, which includes most ethnics, most non believers, most Irish Catholics, most organised industrial workers, and also a large part of the section of the population with tertiary education. It's worth noting that all the polls, particularly the ones in the last week or so, since the unfolding of the military "success" of the war, show a persistence of majority anti war sentiment, amongst both the young and the Labor voters, despite the predictable general pro war bounce in the polls, once the invasion actually started.
It's highly likely that this growing Labor-Green majority in society will strongly oppose further military adventures by the American Empire. The venom of Barry York and Gerard Henderson and, indeed, of a number of other journalistic pundits, whose personal origins lie on the Labor-Green-migrant-Irish Catholic side of the cultural divide in Australia, but who have crossed over to the other, Tory, declining side, is partly driven by a painful awareness that this socio-cultural divide now exists in a massive way, and that they are on the wrong side of this divide.
Now here's a quote which seems to reflect fairly accurately the line taken by the US government and ours in relation to the Iraq invasion:
"Why of course the people don't want war...But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship.... Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they're being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger."
Who said that? Howard? Bush? Rumsfeld? Saddam Hussain? Tony Blair?
It was Hermann Goering at Nuremberg, 1946.
Makes you shudder, doesn't it!
I appreciate your editorials and wish you all the best.
As a member of the ALP for over 25 years, it saddens me to see such a right-wing regime dominating Australian politics. Unfortunately the Federal ALP has been no match for Howard and his propaganda.
But I do see a strange light appearing. If we view the current dispute between Simon and Kim from the point of view that "there is no such thing as bad publicity", we may at last see both of these leaders state clearly to the public, the party faithful and their peers what there policies would be in government on the environment, human rights of refugees, aboriginal reconciliation, medicare, education, etc, etc. In my humble opinion, the reason why Simon, and Kim previously, failed to make the impact to gain public support, is that their sentences are guarded by conditions and equivocation. But more importantly, they are responding to Howard's agenda and look a bland shadow of the PM.
What the weary electorate want to hear Simon, or Kim, talk about is how workers are now working their guts out at a time when all of their safety nets are disappearing. Almost every worker in all facets of employment is NOT "comfortable". They work longer hours, have less job security, feel powerless and are made to shoulder higher taxes, more responsibility and less benefits.
As a scientist, I must scream out that we are rapidly going down the brain-drain and why the lack of vision in science, technology, information technology and innovation are leading us to a second or third rate nation with respect to manufacture and industry. We are now in a position where most of our industries use imported, second-rate technology and to be competitive on that basis we have to mass produce like developing world economies. Consequently our living standard, if it wasn't for our export of minerals and farm produce, would be the same as our struggling neighbours. Howards policies on the further destruction of higher education and training of our young people will get us there faster.
Just keep in mind that the only reason an advanced economy can pay its people higher wages is that its people are producing the cutting edge products (ie videos, telephones, IT, etc). These types of new products are purchased by consumers at premium prices. While second rate technology produces products that struggling economies produce and they pay their work force a struggling wage. This is the direction in which we have been travelling along for many years. I could go on, but it is a voice in the wilderness.
Best wishes and keep up the good work,
In 1966, the ALP massively lost a federal election on a simple and now uncontroversial proposal of non-participation in Vietnam, particularly not with conscripted youngsters..
Given the size of their win, it is an odd measure of the guilty fear which the Right invest in that result that after 37 years, they still attempt to discredit and impugn the then Labor leader Arthur Calwell.
Calwell, they continually, untruthfully and slyly imply, was a racist in particular, as well as a backward anachronism, a nong etc., etc. Right-wing "think" tank commentators still pimp this canard (this is not a mixed metaphor if you know these bludgers' vices) among their other lies. It reached a low point with the effete, vacuous, dishonest 100 Years The Australian Story TV program which depicted Pauline Hanson as following on from Mr Calwell.
And like their Vietnam fraud, this kind of dishonesty underwrites Tory behaviour in office today - grubby (but profitable) wars, racism, tax cheating, ministerial impropriety, lies and the undermining of Australia's rule of law (even to the forgery of Commonwealth documents).
Happily for the Liberals, a lot of people buy this rot. Many are just the usual rusted-on weak Liberal maggots who would tumble like ninepins if you ever put them on the Kokoda Track or anywhere they had to pull their weight. But as Silent Majority's bumper-stickers say: "I make grunting noises and I vote." Decent Australians must knuckle down, work hard and wait for a fair go to come back into fashion so swinging voters can crawl out of the Liberal dung-heap..
And the untelegenic Simon Crean can wear Newspoll's "disapproval" rating from dumbcluck viewers of Big Brother like a red badge of courage. Imagine the alternative - aping the execrable Howard ministry, an even worse bunch of vultures than Harold Holt's 1966 silvertail sleazebags.
email: [email protected]
message: Bad Bosses in call centres - does it have to be this way?
I would like to find out if the strategies all bad and bullying bosses employ to build their empire is written down somewhere because they all seem to follow the same strategies ie intimidate and embarrass quieter employees who they know won't answer back and will suffer in silence, employ and promote friends and siblings of friends, deny holidays dates to some employees while others (drones) get what they want, allow breaks for their drones but monitor everyone else very closely and discipline over very minor breaches whilst their drones can party on in full view, have late lunches, be late for work and leave early etc with no penalty, give others warning letters over very minor infractions whilst her drones can do what they like and never receive one, not publish rules so she can interpret them any way she wants, keep changing lunch hours so people are inconvenienced and can't sit with each other, offer easy jobs and variety to her drones and have no time limit on them so !
they can take a week to do something another could do in 2 hours, give her drones jobs they are not qualified for and therefore need heaps of training when others in the office have the skills but are never given the opportunity, and if it ever comes to a complaint or confrontation between her drone/s and another employee/s, take the side of the drone/s and dismiss the other employee, even blame them for the problem. It goes on, but as they all seem to work the same way, can someone tell me what type of management style is that and is there a book on it. It takes quite a bit of inner strength to decided to stand up for your rights in such a climate and if you do, you normally get 'the treatment' for a few weeks after. Having witnessed this happening to others, it took a while to stand up for my rights after a female team leader had been sexually harrassing me for months - but I was blamed for being insensitive for sending her an email asking her to stop and naturally HR t!
hought it safer and wiser for the company to support the teamleader and the manager.
I would love to know the rules so I can educate myself and others how to lessen their control and bullying.
The conversation began at last night's May Day Toast, but will continue through the next week as union organisers and delegates from all around Australia converge on Sydney.
There is no doubting that organising has become the all-encompassing ethos for union renewal in Australia, a reorientation from top down to bottom up unionism which carries self-evident benefits.
While Workers Online has been critical of the tendency by some to turn organising into a fetish, we do not take issue with this underlying principle - it's the workplace, stupid.
For us, the big question is how to translate this orientation into a workable, effective and growing union movement.
To simply say unionism is about training up delegates to run their own issues is an example of outsourcing taken to extremes.
We need to mix delegate empowerment with a clear vision of what we are as unions - to steal a bit of management speak, we need to define our product and take it to the market.
Most with a view to labour history would say the union product is collectivism - working together to score a result we could never achieve by going one out.
But one of problems is the day to day activities of many individual union 'brands' seem completely at odds with these values.
Demarcs, poaching wars, factional battles and on-site sniping of one union to another is the cancer that undermines unionism in the workplace.
Yet today, in 2003, we still see many workplaces where unions battle for members, undercut each other for coverage or dismiss a competitor as 'yellow'. It all serves one purpose - to weaken the union brand.
As CPSU national secretary Adrian O'Connell says in this month's interview, a modern union movement has no option but to confine these traditional rivalries and petty jealousies to the dustbin of history.
Unions need to work together to organise industries; they need to put their members before their political agendas and distance themselves from factional politics.
One of the bright signs is that more and more unions are beginning to carry the Workers Online newsfeed on their websites, meaning unions can begin to share the struggles and celebrate the victories of each other.
We need to take this further, in an ideal world the stories you read online each week would be reproduced in journals across the movement, regardless of the union members involved in the activity. A workers' press to challenge the dominant vehicle of the bosses through the Tele, the Fin and the new neo-con daily, The Australian.
It's one of the ironies of union history that we celebrate a concept of 'solidarity' yet rarely practice it because we carry the historical baggage of the tribe we inhabit.
Our May Day message is it's time to pull off the blinkers and build a movement, not just a bunch of unions struggling to stay afloat.