||Issue No. 184||27 June 2003|
To the Victors The Spoils
History: Nest of Traitors
Interview: A Nation of Hope
Unions: National Focus
Safety: The Shocking Truth
Tribute: A Comrade Departed
History: Working Bees
Education: The Big Picture
International: Static Labour
Economics: Budget And Fudge It
Technology: Google and Campaigning
Review: Secretary With A Difference
Poetry: The Minimale
Satire: Howard Calls for Senate to be Replaced by Clap-O-Meter
The Locker Room
The Story in General
Thinking of America
To the Victors The Spoils
It is one thing to 'liberate' a country from an oppressive regime. It is something altogether different to impose your cultural, social and political values on that country.
Supporters of US policy would argue that intervention in the name of democracy is a just cause.
But how democratic is a system where employers have legal sanction to de-unionise workplaces, break worker pickets and bypass industrial tribunals?
That's the stated mission of US Lawyers Dechert LLC, who are leading a team to rewrite labour law in Afghanistan under the auspices of the so-called Afghanistan Transitional Commercial Law Project.
Global unions have raised concerns that these private operators with a commercial agenda are doing work that is rightfully the responsibility of the International Labour Organisation.
They also have informed fears that a similar code will be imposed on Iraq under the US Administration, providing a friendly environment for US corporations which will dominate post-war reconstruction.
No-one would suggest that the rules of the Taliban or the Ba'aths were a workers' nirvana. But to impose a US system of individual employment, not supported by a majority of the international community, is hardly the model to promote national reconstruction.
It's interesting to contrast this approach with the one taken in rebuilding East Timor. With a hands-on United Nations administrator and input from NGO's like our own Union Aid Abroad, it has been recognised that a vibrant trade union movement is an important part of the new nation.
If we are serious about supporting the spread of democracy, that democracy must apply all the way to the workplace, so it becomes part of everyday life, and not just a conversation between the dominant elites of a new nation.
Australians should rightly be asking our government, which has so vigorously backed the Coalition of the Willing, to stand up for the institutions which we participate in during the rebuilding phase of these conflicts.
Australia recognises the ILO - and while our federal government may currently embarrass us on the global stage - we still benefit from the global consensus that such bodies create.
To stand by silently while a system is constructed by partisan lawyers from firms which act against the spirit of ILO Conventions is to compound our national shame in deferring to the might of the one remaining super-power.
The recent global poll 'What the World Thinks of America' was fascinating in so far as it exposed the gap in perceptions of the USA between those who live within its borders and those who live outside.
Even people in nations like Brazil and Jordan with living standards way below that of the USA, do not want to become more like America. Yet Americans, presume that everyone wishes they were more like them.
This is the attitude driving current US foreign policy and post-war reconstruction. It contrasts starkly with the inclusive, leg-up approach with which Americans approached the Herculean task of rebuilding Western Europe and, indeed, Japan after the Second World War.
So let's not be trapped into seeing it as some central flaw in the American character.
Rather, it is a reflection on the Hard Right ideology that reigns in the White House and holds increasing sway in Canberra.
After a few months of Hard Right industrial relations, it is fair to ponder where the attitudes of rank-and-file Afghans and Iraqi will lie and what the prospect of an enduring peace will be.
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