Senator Richard Alston takes up a seat in the Tool Shed this week after he stopped kissing Rupert Murdoch's posterior for long enough to announce that he was taking what remains of Telstra down to the pawnbrokers.
The Minister for Electronic Dooverwackies and Pretty Pictures, Richard Alston, continues to show himself as being out of his depth after stepping on a rake a couple of times this week - over Telstra and the Federal Government's attempts to privatise its information services to Rupert Murdoch.
Not content with the highest concentration of media ownership this side of Burma, Alston has embarked on an attempt to put a dagger through the heart of what remains of media freedom in Australia.
Despite his attempts to buy off a number of independent senators, the latest change to the media ownership laws were amended in the senate. The provision that a media proprietor (read Rupert Murdoch) cannot own every media outlet available was deemed unacceptable by Alston.
Heavens! Without Rupey on side this lying, cheating disgrace of a government may actually be help up to some scrutiny in the way it treats ordinary Australians as a cash cow for its rich mates. If Alston gets his way we can look forward to the dumb xenophobia of FOX News and the New York Post becoming standard fare. Intellectually challenged media players such as pontificating serial lunatic, Piers Akkerman and blowhards like Paddy MacGuiness will pass themselves off as informed debate. Australia deserves better.
This is the man who believes the ABC is "anti-American". Since when is it incumbent on an Australian government minister to defend another country's interests? His frustration at anything approaching robust debate of government policy is astounding. Open debate is obviously something to be stifled, which is in keeping with his desire to limit media diversity in Australia.
The dumbing down of the news-media is in Alston's interests of course. This way he may be able to keep up with current affairs.
It was a stroke of genius by Howard to select a Minister for Information Technology who would struggle with programming a VCR, thus eliminating any leadership threat from the anyone abreast of the cutting edge of technology today.
While Alston is obviously not the sharpest knife in the drawer it is his deficiencies in grasping the fundamentals of technology that make him a perfect patsy to flog off a major piece of publicly owned infrastructure to the highest bidder. After all, it would only be fair considering that what loosely passes as Telstra management loaned him a Plasma screen TV so that he could keep in touch with the issues that affect ordinary Australians.
Anyone who owns a telephone knows that the problems with Telstra are not solely the provision of broadband services to "the bush". Many people can't get a decent service in metropolitan Sydney. The problem lies in Telstra's slavish devotion to the market and gouging its customers ahead of providing a decent, affordable and accessible standard of service.
Alston knows that a privately owned Telstra will abandon any pretense of owing the community anything in the way of a service obligation. Telstra staff will be slashed further so that the telco's senior execs can grow fat on their unearned bonuses. Of course we can't expect Alston to be concerned by this as has already stood by while Telstra treats its staff like so many cattle at the saleyards.
Meanwhile, as Australians are increasingly frustrated with the standard of service they receive from telcos, Senator Alston sits there dribbling out of both sides of his mouth.
The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate is a tool of the highest order. At least Judas, after betraying his fellows, had the decency to hang himself. Alston will merely pocket the pieces of silver in a shameless attempt to buy this shoddy administration a further term in government.
AMWU secretary, Paul Bastian, warned the whole network could come to a “screaming halt” after a range of companies locked workers out at Chullora and Auburn, threatened legal action at Bathurst, and slashed maintenance levels below specifications at Newcastle.
The combined efforts of their workforces is crucial to the continued operation of the NSW rail system. Rail Fleet Services at Chullora, 50 percent owned by state government, does heavy overhauls for diesels, XPT, Endeavour and Explorer trains. Maintrain at Auburn maintains Sydney's suburban passenger fleet. EDI, Bathurst, builds bogeys for the new Millenium trains, whilst its Newcastle plant, at Koorangang Island, repairs freight wagons for Pacific National.
Industrial action, in the form of strike, bans or lockout, threatens each location and employer resistance to entitlements protection has emerged as a common sticking point.
Maintrain, for example, is trying to backtrack on redundancy commitments brokered two years ago by former Prime Minister Bob Hawke in settlement of a dispute that ran for 11 weeks. The company stood down its 300 strong workforce last week.
Union members at Bathurst have begun a campaign of rolling stoppages after EDI refused to give commitments on job security or entitlements protection.
The company is also refusing to negotiate on entitlements at Newcastle, while Rail Fleet Services threatened to close its site rather than guarantee entitlements. More than 80 union members there, the lowest paid in the rail industry, have imposed bans.
Bastian was critical of Transport Services Minister, Michael Costa, who he said had virtually washed his hands of the looming shutdown.
Bastian said he had tried repeatedly to discuss the impasse with the Minister but his messages hadn't even elicited a reply.
"The central issue in all this is security of our members entitlements," Bastian said. "We are not prepared to see these companies lose contracts, or go bankrupt, and walk away with our money.
"We don't mind a tough fight with the employers, we will not shirk that but we do feel a responsibility when it comes to the trains in NSW to at least try to resolve these disputes before we close the system down.
"We would have thought there might also have been a role for the NSW Government in trying to prevent that happening."
Labor Council will try to organise a meeting between rail unions and Transport Services Minister, Michael Costa, in a bid to head off a rail shutdown.
AWU president, Mick Madden, was stunned by the personal attack which, he said, showed neither Swedish multi-national, Electrolux, the AiG, nor its city law firm, Cutler and Harris, had any idea about rural Australians.
Cutler and Harris wrote to the AWU, urging that Madden be disciplined for using "veiled threats" and "intimidation" after he wrote to Electrolux's HR chief at Orange suggesting the pair don boxing gloves at an up-coming charity night to raise funds for local charities.
"I still think it was a good idea. People out west would have loved it and we could have raised some decent money for the community," Madden said. "Other than the fact that he is bigger and heavier than me, it was an offer he could accept or decline."
Madden revealed the lawyers' letter after 1000 employees at the fridge-freezer manufacturer voted, last week, to reject a radical campaign to eliminate unions from their enterprise bargaining negotiations.
But, with a majority of just five, Madden is certain the company will come back and try again, rather than making any effort to conclude a deal.
He pointed to a number of unusual elements in the Electrolux campaign to back his prediction.
- it hired corporate accountants, KPMG, rather than the neutral Industrial Relations Commission to conduct the ballot
- dozens of people who would not be covered by the document, including HR staff, were allowed to vote
- at the height of campaigning, more than a month ago, Electrolux had police remove union officials from the property
- they have not been permitted to return since, other than to talk to workers in a tiny room, under company surveillance, during lunch hours
- for the first few hours of the ballot workers were required to use pencils. Only after delegates identified management personnel with erasers in their pockets, were staff provided with pens to indicate their preferences.
- whilst the company surrounded the polling area with "Vote Yes" materials when a union member put a "Vote No" poster on the wall he was threatened with disciplinary action and the poster was removed.
Members of the AWU, AMWU, NUW and ETU at Orange are particularly angry about the Electrolux campaign because they rallied and lobbied state government to get the company into the town when it seemed the facility, originally owned by Email, would close.
Madden said company determination to press ahead with another ballot was demonstrated by its refusal to budge from "pattern claims" being forced on workers by the AiG.
With the exception of a few words in a stand-down clause, he said, it had moved on nothing during negotiations. Still, there was agreement on everything but an Electorlux demand for longer hours to be paid at less than the award rate.
"We have moved as far as we can to accommodate them but now they are pushing to extend the working day by an hour over summer and pay people less than the award prescribes. We can't sign off on that and they know it.
"They don't want an agreement at all, they just want to keep coming back and putting their proposal for a non-union agreement," Madden said.
The Union pleaded for protection after ACM took action against two female delegates from Villawood who travelled to Canberra last week for meetings with Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock, and other key politicians.
ACM docked the women's wages and placed "ugly" leters on their personal files, according to LHMU secretary, Annie Owens.
After a series of workplace meetings ACM offered apologies to the delegates, short-circuiting union moves to have the dispute heard by the Industrial Relations Commission on Monday.
Owens said the core issue, though, went beyond the industrial to the heart of Australia's democratic tradition.
"We live in a free society where we can openly express our opinions," Owens said. "An American company, with American values about how they treat workers, should not try to impose foreign ideas about workplace rights on Australians citizens."
The LHMU said if its members were not free from the threat of intimidation then the people at the core of the detention regime could be prevented from giving frank evidence at any Senate Inquiry.
Labor Council will write to the NSW Minister for Industrial Relations, John Della Bosca, seeking legislative protection for delegates who speak out in the interests of the people who elected them.
The ASU has demanded the immediate reinstatement of permanent part-timer, Megan Carberry, sacked by Tamworth Challenge Disability Services CEO Barry Murphy today for responding to a messagebank call from Oxley High School, urging her to pick up her daughter.
Carberry received her supervisor's permission to respond to the call but was verbally abused and dismissed by Murphy, in front of colleagues and intellectually disabled clients, according to the union.
"I was told that answering the emergency (messagebank) call breached management's direction that it was to receive emergency calls from the school on my behalf," Carberry said.
"I was still in shock for being sacked over this when the CEO took it upon himself to personally remove me from my workplace, using the most foul and abusive language."
Carberry said she had only recently started using messagebank after being informed by Oxley High that it's principal had an obligation to personally alert parents when a child was sick.
"The principal knows that my daughter needs to have medicine administered at certain times and has to alert me personally, especially if there's a problem. I knew that picking up a mobile call from the school would get me in trouble, so I've been relying on messagebank. I'm deeply shocked to be sacked for simply answering a distress call," she said.
ASU Executive President Sally McManus says the union has notified the NSW Industrial Relations Commission and is seeking a public apology as well as immediate reinstatement.
"Sacking a single mother for responding to a call about a sick child would have to be the worst, most un-Australian act of bastardry a union could come across," McManus said.
General secretary of Union Network International Phillip Jennings this week called on the International Labour Organisation to explain how private lawyers had taken control of the legal process and to ensure a similar process does not occur in Iraq.
The firm, Dechert, supplies one of the lead lawyesr to the Afghanistan Transitional Commercial Law Project, which was initiated by the Center for International Management Education and the American Bar Association.
Dechert prides itself on its anti-union credentials, crowing on its website that:
We help employers maintain a union-free environment, conduct collective bargaining negotiations, secure injunctive relief from strikes, boycotts, and mass picketing, and develop compliance programs.
We regularly handle labor arbitrations and defend employers facing unfair labor practice charges.
It also proudly cites its work representing Big Tobacco, overturning a $145 punitive damages claim in a Florida case that puts at risk all damages actions against tobacco companies.
Speaking to the ILO Conference in Geneva, Jennings also raised concerns the World Bank was trying to promote investment in Afghanistan by slashing the minimum wage by 10 percent.
"In both nations we want to see the emergence of a free and independent trade union movement," he said.
Federal ALP IR spokesman Robert McClelland expressed concern that Afghanistan and potentially Iraq might end up with labour laws that fall short of international standards and contain no effective right to organise and bargain collectively.
"Such rights have always been essential to enable working people to raise and maintain their living standards at dignified levels," McClelland says.
McClelland says Australia, as a long-standing member of the ILO, should be seeking that the ILO plays a role in assisting these nations, which are emerging from the trauma of war, to develop labour laws that meet internationally agreed minimum standards.
He says it was a disgrace the Howard Government had all but ignored the ILO for seven years, and would be raising the matter of Afghanistan and Iraq with Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer through the Parliament.
Brian Miller, a carpenter by trade, became a building industry legend, respected by workers and employers, for his refusal to compromise over workplace safety. He died in Sydney on Tuesday.
When the $60 million Royal Commission, fixated by attempts to halt workplace injuries and deaths, came to town it was inevitable Miller's work would fall under its spotlight.
"The building industry is a dangerous place but Brian's tireless work made it considerably less dangerous than when he started. It's fair to say that Brian Miller's work saved many lives," CFMEU state secretary, Andrew Ferguson, said.
Miller died in Sydney on Tuesday after a long and courageous battle with cancer.
In more than 40 years as a union activist and official, Miller played leading roles in all building worker campaigns of the modern era. He cut his teeth as a site delegate in the 1960s before being elected a fulltime BWIU official in 1973.
Breakthroughs like portable long service leave, the 38 hour week, superannuation, redundancy and licensing of the demolition industry were some of the campaigns he threw his energy into.
Peace and volunteer work were other areas he made his mark in. He was a long-standing peace activist, a driving force behind 150 Sydney building sites - Darling Harbour, the QVB and the Entertainment Centre amongst them - voting to declare themselves peace sites.
He organised volunteer building workers from around the state to assist in the reconstruction of Darwin after Cyclone Tracy, and backed up when floods ravaged Nyngan and bushfires tore through Sydney more than 20 years later.
Miller, though, was Mr Safety. He finished his career with the CFMEU as its safety co-ordinator and more than 500 people, from all sections of the building industry, packed a tribute dinner at Souths Leagues Club, last month.
He was the first recipient of Labor Council's occupational health and safety liftetime achievement award that now bears his name.
"Brian was highly respected by workers and employers in the building industry," Ferguson said. "But, when he went onto a site, there was never any doubt about whose interests he was acting in. For that reason he was feared by developers and builders and we make no apology for that."
Ferguson recalled his own survival strategy, starting out as a 22-year-old city organiser. He said he would tell employers Miller was waiting around the corner or, if they didn't do the right thing, that he would call Miller in.
"I did that for the first two years of my career and it worked," Ferguson admitted.
Comrades, family and friends will farewell Miller at a 10am service at Sydney's Convention Centre on Tuesday. Several building sites around the city have already voted to shut down so workers can attend his send off.
The Comoros-registerd, Baltic Sky, was stopped by the Greeks after failing to declare a cargo of dynamite bound for a Sudanese company, identified only by a post box number.
"The cargo was destined for a company with a post office box in Khartoum that does not exist. Someone could think it would have some connection with terrorist groups," Greek Shipping Minister, George Anomeritis, told Associated Press.
At the time of its seizure the Baltic Sky carried ammonia dynamite as well as 8000 detonators and fuses. The ship left Albania on April 27 and called at ports in Tunisia and Turkey before being intercepted by Greek special forces.
Suspicions about the cargo were heightened by recent bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, along with the fact that its destination, Sudan, is on a US list of states sponsoring terrorism.
Detention of the Baltic Sky followed MUA warnings to the Howard Government that continued encouragement of FoC shipping was a weak link in its fight against terrorism.
Flag of Convenience states register vessels, for a cash consideration, looking to dodge legal, labour, financial and security requirements imposed by most countries.
Just this week, in the Senate, Government steam-rolled Opposition efforts to deny Flag of Convenience traders a $20 million cut of diesel rebates provided under the new Energy Grants Scheme.
"It's just another example of the Howard Government subsidising foreign shipping and guest labour on our coast," MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said. "It's a national disgrace."
Shadow Transport Minister Martin Ferguson said Labor had attempted to give Australian ships a fair go. He described ongoing Government support for foreign ship owners, using cheap labour and sub-standard vessels, as "unfair".
by Carly Knowles
Drita Mujovic says if the Test Case succeeds, women like her would be able to return to jobs they held before taking maternity leave on a part-time basis.
Mujovic had to leave her employment of over four years because she couldn't get part-time work after her maternity leave.
"I think they're really good changes," Drita says. "They've been a long time coming. I'm surprised that the changes have to be made. I think they're changes we should have a right to."
The ACTU's Work and Family Test Case proposes giving fulltime employees returning from parental leave the right to part-time work, and extending parental leave from 12 to 24 months.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow says women are currently offered their old full-time job after 12 months off, but women wanting part time work often have no choice but casual jobs without any leave entitlements.
"The test case has been launched to provide greater job security and reduce the career disadvantage experienced by many women," Burrow says.
Sixty per cent of full time mothers would prefer part time work to give them more time for family commitments, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
Mujovic, is one of them. With a 10-month-old boy, she says not getting part-time work causes not just financial pressures but "other pressures too".
"Your independence is gone. You're this person who's constantly a mum. Not that I don't like being a mum - it's not about that - it's about being able to choose."
The ACTU argues that 12 months is not long enough unpaid leave with 80 per cent of workers of prime childbearing age supporting extended unpaid parental leave from 12 months to 24 months".
Mujovic thinks this change would be "fantastic". She says that it's best to get children to the age where you can better understand what they want. "I've always said that if you can get your child to the age where they can tell you how they're feeling about it [going back to work], then it's better for the child", she says.
Rachel Manns, a full-time working mum thinks that the changes would be beneficial to her family life. She says "I might take a bit more" time off after the birth of her second child who is due in January if she was offered the 24 months. After her first child was born, she had to go back to work after six weeks due to financial pressures, but would have preferred to stay at home to care for her child.
Other proposed changes include eight weeks simultaneous unpaid parental leave for both parents, giving fathers an opportunity to care for mum and new baby. Currently, dads have just one week leave.
An extra six weeks unpaid annual leave is also proposed so that parents can spend more time with their children during school holidays. Flexible working hours to incorporate childcare times and school pickups and drop offs and the right to "reasonable" unpaid emergency leave will also be incorporated in the test case.
Manns' mother-in-law currently looks after 2-year-old Amber when she gets sick, but Mann indicates that it would be good to have the flexibility to take the emergency leave so that she can care for her child if she needs to. "yeah, it would really help", she says.
AMWU members employed by FMP have been attempting to negotiate an agreement with management for the past four months. Management have frustrated discussions with their refusal to address the key issues of securing employee entitlements, wages and hours.
FMP's Managing Director has issued a written threat to employees that they will close down the Ballarat site for good, at the cost of 600 jobs and move operations to Thailand "where wage costs are one tenth of those in Australia", if workers exercise their industrial rights.
State secretary, Dave Oliver said "We have enjoyed a healthy and co-operative relationship with this company for more than 20 years. Suddenly, a new management team moves in and its threatening workers and their industry and threatening regional Australian jobs."
"Our members are seeking to secure their employee entitlements as part of this bargaining round and for good reason. One of the parent companies of FMP is selling its operation to a company that is subject to Chapter 11 bankruptcy provisions in the US.
"Yet management refuses to sit down and genuinely bargain on these matters of critical importance. Instead they issue threats, grossly over-react, bring security guards on site and commence a misinformation process designed to intimidate workers."
The FMP response fits a pattern of hard line responses employers are taking around much of the country.
For the last two years the owner and chief manager of the resort, Richard Evanson, has done everything in his power to deny workers the right to a union of their choice.
Now the workers are getting serious, with a Fijian court this week commencing an inquiry into why the owner has not complied with Ministry of Labour orders to recognize their right to bargain collectively through a union of their choice.
While the resort is billed as paradise, workers' receive wages as low as Fiji$1.65 (A$1.35) an hour, about F$66 per week, which is below the Fijian poverty line.
Tips are not paid to workers; rather guests pay a single large recommended 'tip' in US dollars (US$400 for a week's stay) to a staff 'fund', but workers only receive about F$6 per week from the fund. They are fired for joining a union, while union members are denied access to their representatives.
The attitude of management is clear - they would not even talk with National Union of Tourism, Catering and Hotel Industry Employees until 48 hours before investigations were to begin in court concerning their failure to meet their legal obligation.
In an interview given to Radio Australia on the 20 June 2003, general manager of the resort Rob Besford claimed: "Well, I went along to start negotiations [on 18 June] on their log of claims and they suddenly produced a new document they wanted us to sign prior to commencing those negotiations. It was a document that was totally illegal, that is not required by law."
"The document being referred to is a Memorandum of Agreement on union recognition," Timoce Naivaluwaqa, General Secretary of the National Union of Catering, Hospitality and Tourism Industries Employees told Workers Online.
"This is a standard industry document that NUTCHIE has signed with numerous employers across Fiji. Clearly, to call it illegal in an international broadcast is in total bad faith and dishonest."
NUTCHIE has resolved to continue its struggle on trade union recognition at Turtle Island Resort and through its national centre, the FTUC, and its international federation, the IUF, will continue to campaign for this right.
Email the managers and tell what you think about the workers treatment. Let slip you have a sly 1500 greenbacks and won't be spending it on Turtle Island until they clean up their act [email protected]
Teachers Federation president, Maree O'Halloran, said that both TAFEs and public schools would be worse off after projected inflation of three percent was factored into budget allocations.
Funding for private schools, on the other hand, has been boosted by more than four percent.
On top, O'Halloran said, the Carr Government would return less than half its $27.5 million TAFE fee grab to the institutions.
Michael Egan's budget provided an extra $12.8 for TAFEs while $30 million would be required to neutralise inflation over the coming year.
O'Halloran said the new fee regime, providing increases of up to 300 percent, would hurt disadvantaged students and their communities.
"The poorest, most highly marginalised TAFE students can only do one fee free course a year, no matter how short or minor, even if it's intended to lead into another course," she said.
"These fees shift the burden of providing a quality TAFE education from the Government to TAFE students."
O'Halloran said education and training's share of the state spend had fallen steadily from 28.4 percent in 1989 to 22.6 percent. She accused the Government of substituting rhetoric and media spin for investment.
The Teachers Federation says "chronic underfunding" has put public education at risk.
Percentage increases provided in this week's budget saw TAFE up .69 percent, inclusive of revenue from increased fees; public schools up 1.2 percent and spending on private schools increased by 4.46 percent.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says the dark spot was funding for teachers, with the government making no contingency for a wage rise above three per cent already offered.
"As the Teachers Federation has already ruled out those offer, this appears to be a recipe for confrontation in our schools," Robertson says.
He says the handling of the teachers claim was important to all public sector workers, with pay rise talks rolling out across health, fire fighters, police and public servants over the next 18 months.
"The last thing we need is to see the government lock itself into an unacceptable framework for wage negotiations," Robertson says.
"The public deserves a well-resourced public sector and a Labor Government's top priority must be ensuring that public sector workers receive decent wages and conditions."
But he's welcomed the move to apply payroll tax to CEO share and option packages was an important initiative in reining in corporate excess.
"Our research shows us that the more you pay CEOs the worse a company performs, so any steps to make excessive packages less attractive are good public policy," Robertson says.
Robertson also said spending commitments in health and community services were welcome initiatives that targeted resources at those most in need.
"The 25 per cent boost in funding for DOCS is a huge step forward and improvements to nurses' career paths will keep more locally trained nurses in the system," he says.
Other budget measures that won union approval also include:
- $13 million to implement the recommendations of the Workplace Safety Summit
- 1000 public housing tenants to be put through employment training programs
- $4.6 million to employ additional fire fighters
- and measures to better resource the NSW Police Force.
The popular former LHMU official - now Upper House MP - used State Parliament to have a spray at the abject treatment cleaners receive in Lowy's empire.
In a wide-ranging speech West talked of the "hypocrisy" of the multi-national Westfield Shopping Mall chain, headed up by one of Australia's richest men Frank Lowy.
He told parliament on Thursday that he was writing to Mr Lowy, calling on the Westfield CEO to sit down with the cleaners' unions to negotiate a protocol to defend and improve the rights of the cleaners in his shopping malls.
Nearly half of the Westfield shopping mall chain in Australia is concentrated in NSW.
And the most significant part of Westfield's Australian profits are made from the NSW properties.
" Recently Frank has made much of his humble beginnings in Australia, arriving in the 1950s in search of a better life," Ian West told parliament.
" However, when it comes to pay and conditions for the so-called invisible work force of cleaners, many of whom are also migrants in search of a better life in Australia, Frank goes silent."
" Westfield shifts the blame for poor treatment of cleaners onto the contract companies. But it is Westfield that engages the contractors who act in the name of Westfield in the shopping malls.
" Westfield should develop an international protocol on service sector tendering that ensures that contract companies abide by the law in relation to pay and conditions.
West says a protocol, policed and guaranteed by Westfield, would be an effective way to ensure a clean image for the company worldwide while ensuring that the workers get what they deserve.
" I will be writing to Frank Lowy recommending that he adopt such a protocol," he told Parliament.
" If Mr Lowy wants to memorialise the immigrant success story that his life is he should make his shopping malls better places to work, where cleaners from all walks of life can take steps to achieve their own dreams.
" I congratulate all the cleaners and the LHMU on organising and celebrating International Justice for Cleaners Day in Australia at the Parramatta town hall on 16 June.
" I look forward to having an opportunity to talk to Frank Lowy about introducing this protocol."
Support the cleaners. Send an e-mail to Westfield
Read the full speech at:
Management Committee member and Treasurer, Alison Peters, welcomed this afternoon's announcement but was concerned at the last minute nature of the decision.
"Community based organisations like the Working Women's Centre cannot operate effectively in an environment where they receive less than two working days notice of ongoing funding" she said.
"The Federal Government knew when the funding was up and had plenty of time to make a decision. The uncertainty has been terrible for the clients and staff and something we trust will never be repeated".
What had been wonderful, however, was the level of support received from people in the community, trade unions and other community organisations, she said.
The NSW Working Women's Centre provides advice, advocacy and education services to the women of NSW about work related matters. Most of the women who ring the Centre's advice line do so when they have nowhere else to turn, often because of termination of employment due to pregnancy or because they have been the victim of other forms of sex discrimination. These women tend to work in small business, they are not represented by unions and they are in marginal employment. Since the service began operation in 1993 the Centre has had contact with and helped close to 30,000 women in relation to employment matters.
Evatt Foundation Breakfast Seminar
Australia's retreat from egalitarianism
Australia is in the throes of a major re-evaluation of its egalitarian values. Australians are steadily turning their backs on many of the social norms they once considered untouchable. In his new book, Where To From
Here? Australian Equalitarianism Under Threat (Allen & Unwin), Fred Argy considers the disturbing changes, which have led to less genuine equality of opportunity than a quarter of a century ago. Yet Australia has never
been wealthier. To discuss the issues raised by Where To From Here?Australian Equalitarianism Under Threat, the Evatt Foundation proudly presents three distinguished Australian economists:
Professor Frank Stilwell (chair)
Frank Stilwell is Professor of Political Economy at the University of Sydney, the editor of the Journal of Australian Political Economy, and a member of the Evatt Foundation's Executive Committee. His most recent book
is Changing Track: A New Political Direction for Australia (Pluto Press:2000).
Fred Argy has advised Australian governments from Menzies to Keating, has been awarded an OBE and AM for his services to economic planning, and is the author of Australia at the Crossroads: Radical Free Market or a Progressive Liberalism? (Allen & Unwin: 1998).
Professor Hugh Stretton
Hugh Stretton is one of Australia's most gifted and influential public intellectuals. Historian, economist and thinker, his major books include The Political Sciences: General Principles of Selection in Social Science
and History (1969), Ideas for Australian Cities (1970), Capitalism, Socialism and the Environment (1976), and Economics: A New Introduction
(UNSW Press: 1999).
When: Tuesday 8 July 2003
Where: Macquarie Room, Quality Hotel (formerly the Southern Cross Hotel), Cnr Goulburn and Elizabeth Streets Sydney, opposite the Goulburn Street Parking Station, and a short stroll from both Central and Museum railway stations.
Cost: $14 (includes breakfast)
Timing: Breakfast will be served from 7.30 am, the seminar will commencepromptly at 8.00 am and finish on the dot of 9.00 am.
Bookings: Please RSVP to the Evatt Foundation by: Mail: Evatt Foundation, University of NSW, Sydney, NSW, 2052; Telephone: 9385 2966; Fax: 9385 2967;
or Email: [email protected]
For more information, visit the Evatt Foundation's website:
Dr Christopher Sheil
Senior Research fellow
School of History
University of New South Wales
Sydney, Australia, NSW, 2052
Phone: (02) 9385 9252; 0419 43 6052 (m)
Email: [email protected]
Tues June 24 12.30 pm Prime Minister's Office
70 Phillip St Sydney
Whilst Morgan Tsvangirai is released on bail, Tsvangirai still faces charges and 800 striking workers remain in prison.Rally will call on the Aust gov for action to get
negotiations started for free and fair elections,
and transition to democracy in Zimbabwe.
Bring red cards, whistles and placards.
Organised by Zimbabwe Information Centre Inc, PO
Box K824, Haymarket NSW 1240 Ph Meredith Burgmann
9230 2300, Peter 0418 312 301
This Saturday at 6pm on 94.5 FM, FBi tests out the strength of its transmitter signal all over Sydney.....
If you're up for it, come along to the FBi studio's, at 6pm to be there when then ON switch is flicked. Not too much pomp. Not too much ceremony - just the sound of popping corks & coldies*.... and a cracking new radio signal.
If not - hold your own ceremony at home with your mates. Drink. Toast.
After we switch the signal on at the studios** - we'll be heading to the ALEXANDRIA HOTEL (2 blocks away) - which is on the corner of Henderson Rd and Garden St - at the bottom of Australian Technology Park to listen to the test broadcast for a couple of hours.
The pub is kid-friendly - so please bring the family along. It's one ofthose affairs.
Saturday - 6pm - it's ON!
for World Democracy
At the invitation of Oxfam Community Aid Abroad,
a talk by
The Age of Consent
The Manifesto for a New World Order
The existing global system is in trouble. Global institutions such as the WTO and World Bank are undemocratic and unaccountable. Increased prosperity for some goes hand in hand with increased poverty for others.
The UN has been bypassed by the war with Iraq. Everywhere, people are asking what comes next. There has never been a better moment
to call for a democratic revolution.
"If 'No Logo' tells us what's wrong.
'The Age of Consent' shows us how to put it right."
Fiercely controversial and yet utterly persuasive, what Monbiot offers is a truly global perspective. He outlines a sense of history, a defence of democracy, and an understanding of power and how it might be captured from those unfit to retain it. Our task is not to overthrow globalisation but to capture it and to use it as a vehicle for humanity's first global democratic revolution.
George Monbiot has held visiting fellowships or professorships at Green College, Oxford and the Universities of Bristol, Keele and East London, in (respectively) environmental policy, philosophy, politics and environmental science. He is currently visiting professor of planning at Oxford Brookes.
In 1995 Nelson Mandela presented him with a United Nations Global 500 Award for outstanding environmental achievement. He has also won a Lloyds National Screenwriting Prize, a Sony Award for radio production, the Sir Peter Kent Award and the OneWorld National Press Award. His other books include Poisoned Arrows, Amazon Watershed, No Man's Land and Captive State.
He is a columnist for the Guardian.
This event is co-sponsored by
Oxfam Community Aid Abroad, Gleebooks & The Adelaide Festival of Ideas
Tuesday 15th July, 6:30pm sharp
Venue: The Valhalla - 166 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe
$8/$5 conc & gleeclub RSVP Tel: 9660 2333 or email [email protected]
Paul Norton in his letter to Workers Online (Issue 183) not only misrepresents the Cuban electoral and democratic system , but also the answer given to the question he posted to Melbourne Indymedia (see:
Norton correctly states that in response to his question as to whether he could form a Greens Party in Cuba, the comrade who posts by the name "redstar" answered: "no you would not be able to form a Green Party". Norton, however, does not mention that the comrade also pointed out that it is possible for any Cuban age 16 years or over to stand as an individual on green issues if they so choose and that in fact around 30% of the delegates elected to the three levels of Cuban People's Power Assemblies are NOT members of the Cuban Communist Party.
The Cuban Communist Party plays no role in the electoral process and delegates are elected based on their work in the community, not on whether they are a member of the Communist Party or not. In addition, all delegates are fully accountable to their electorate and are recallable if they do not carry out their electoral promises (no "core" and "non-core" promises here).
While Cuba does not have a multi-party electoral system, it is actually one the most democratic and participatory systems in the world. This I would argue is why comrade "redstar" pointed out that it would be a mistake to believe that democracy could only exists if there is a multi-party electoral system.
The term "democracy" is a shopworn phrase which is often bandied around devoid of any serious reflection. When examining whether a system is democratic or not, we need to look at the content of the system, not labels such as "one-party system" or "multi-party system". Instead of setting up straw arguments about "Stalinism" and "fascism", what Norton and others need to ask themselves when discussing the issue of democracy, whether in Cuba or else where, is who does it serve? The wealthy minority or the majority of citizens?
"Democracy" supposedly existed in Cuba prior to the Cuban revolution from 1902 until 1958. Up until and even under the regime of the brutal US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, a multi-party electoral system existed. All of the elections during this 56 year period were marked by corruption, fraud, harassment, attempted and sometimes successful assassinations of candidates and the ongoing active participation of various US Administrations in the establishment of pro-US puppet governments in Cuba which would serve the USA's economic and political needs. Under this multi-party electoral system, the majority of ordinary Cubans did not participate in the political process. Instead they were disenfranchised, living in severe poverty with their economic and social exploitation legalised. Racism, sexism and crime was rife.
Under the current "one-party system" in Cuba today, however, there exists not only a guarantee of democracy (i.e. the rule of the people) in the form of free, fair and secret ballots every 5 years, but also a real political pluralism.
While it would be a mistake to argue that Cuba is perfect or a "paradise", any serious observer of Cuba would notice that there is lively, widespread political debate and discussion in Cuba, including differing opinions on how to further develop and improve democracy and the electoral system. They would also notice and acknowledge that "political pluralism" in Cuba involves the full participation of the majority of Cubans citizens - whether they be students, workers, small landowners or professionals in the cities - in the political and social life of the country.
Like Norton, the USA regularly attempts to drown out any link between democracy and content by focusing on certain features of the political process such as the number of parties in existence. However, for the Cubans, democracy is first and foremost about the elimination of poverty and the establishment of equality for all people, the right to free universal medical care and education, the right to adequate food and shelter, as well as the full active participation of all citizens in the economic, social and political landscape of Cuban society.
We on the Left need to understand that democracy cannot and should not be reduced to a political process as Norton has done, but instead should be defined and judged as to the quality of life it is capable of offering.
For a general introduction to the Cuban democracy system visit:
Somewhat reassuringly, the Americans have denied that Australian servicemen were not exposed to depleted uranium weaponry in the invasion of Iraq. But let's hope that our Prime Minister and his henchmen DON'T endorse the denial.
This will significantly increase its chances of being true.
The undercover selection of Governor-General-designate Jeffery by the PM and Richard Court was only right, under the circumstances.
The only people who question it are those who oppose the PM's desires to equip our intelligence agencies with the right to grab children without telling their parents, strip-search them and detain them without charges or trial.
These people are hardly likely to have approved of Major-General Jeffery. His thumbs-up to Colonel Suharto's mid-sixties eradication of Indonesia's communist hordes, for example (speech to Vietnam veterans, August 31, 2002), would not have earned him votes at a popular election.
If we succumbed to democratic processes to select our head of state, we would have no leaders who still believe in the domino theory or the extermination of wrong-thinking, lesser and undesirable peoples. Then where would we be?
I recently watched the TV presentation "What The World Thinks Of America" in Australia.
I acknowledge the limitations of sampling etc, however the acquired results are indicative of global regional attitudes. I am convinced in that the apparent paradoxes in statistics are indicative of the limitations of the exercise, and would have been clarified with further exploration.
I generally like Americans (but in carefully metered doses). I have American friends, I have observed US military operations first hand, have visited American military installations in the past, as well as having spent some time in the USA. I can state first hand of their generally overwhelmingly inward cultural focus, and was initially appalled at how little the average 'Joe' actually knew about the world historically, politically and even geographically. I distinctly remember a conversation with a pin stripe suited business man from New England, on a trip from Washington to Shady Grove. On answering his question in that I was Australian, he rubbed his chin, squinted and looked at me sideways and said "Australia, lemmee see now, that's next to New Mexico now, aint it?" I can say without hesitation that I have met much better informed and educated Cubans than I have Americans.
The US Economic Military Show
As the default world power, the US needs to look in retrospect. The global disapproval of George Bush Jnr may have to do with the Bush's 'Union Bank' past, whose profits derived, ultimately, from laundering Thysson Industrial War Profits which were, in part derived from Nazi slave / death camp labor. Prescott Bush (George Bush Snr's father) received a massive payoff from German clients shortly after WW2 ended, and used the money to go into politics, and so began the Bush dynasty. This was by no means unique. Between 1932 and 1939 for example, bosses of General Motors poured $30 million into I.G. Farben plants. Ford and Dupont, amongst many others were also implicated as supporting the fascist regimes for the money.
After the war, the US largely exonerated war criminals (despite the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials), in exchange for data and scientists i.e. Project Paperclip, which smuggled ex-Nazi scientists and S.S. officials into the USA and to spy on Russia or develop rocket technology. The Japanese Imperial Army's Unit 731 killed thousands of Chinese and Russians held prisoner in Japanese-occupied Manchuria, in experiments to develop chemical and biological weapons. Yet in autumn of 1945, Macarthur granted them immunity in exchange for their biological research data. Subsequently, the US have even covertly exposed selected US populations to various agents and substances i.e. infecting human subjects with cancer cells, Tuskegee Syphilis Study, The Pellagra Incident, Malaria infections in Chicago, mustard gas experiments on approximately 4,000 servicemen, Program F, administering intravenous doses of radioactive substances to human subjects, etc, ad nauseaum.
In Laos, the CIA airline, Air America, was running opium for Vang Pao and the Hmong during the Vietnam war. Many veterans of CIA drug operations in Asia went on to star in the agency's secret wars in Central America in the 1980s, where the above pattern was repeated. The Nicaraguan contras were partially funded by cocaine operations, smuggled to and from the US on customs-free supply flights. CIA assets in Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Panama helped facilitate the trade.
On the Industrial front, shortly after midnight on December 3, 1984, methyl isocyanate gas (MIC) leaked from a storage tank sited at a Union Carbide pesticide manufacturing facility in Bhopal India. As it leaked from the tank, the gas drifted across the neighboring communities with devastating consequences. Some 3,800 people died and thousands more were injured as a direct result of exposure to the lethal fumes. To date, no prosecution has resulted.
Many things that the US has recently done are not so clear cut however, i.e. the Echelon system. The UKUSA Agreement forged an alliance in 1948 among five countries--the U.S., Britain, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand--to geographically divvy up SIGINT-gathering responsibilities, with the U.S. as director and main underwriter. Its successor, originally a Cold War tool aimed at the Soviets, ECHELON has been redirected at civilian targets worldwide. In fact, as the European Parliament report noted, political advocacy groups like Amnesty International and Greenpeace were amongst Echelon's targets. The EU has leveled accusations that the systems resources are being used to promote American business, i.e. Industrial Espionage.
Tomes of documented incontrovertible evidence could be quoted. Suffice it is to say, that the world can generally draw the distinction between the American people, as distinct from American military / economic interests, and has had enough of their self serving Wars on Drugs, Terrorism, etc. Therein lies the crux of the problem. The average 'Joe' cannot. The quality of education, focus of current affairs, and the pervading, almost psychotic sense of patriotism colludes to produce, in large, an ignorant populace, whose total focus is inwards. This serves the current status quo, and a lot of time, money and effort are expended to ensure it continues.
Can we feel safe in assuming the USA has the world's best interests at heart? The American people may overall have the potential. However, benevolence is simply not a word to be found in the military / industrial dictionary. Let's not kid ourselves. We can't afford to.
I generally feel sorry for Americans, given their proud and hard fought historical and cultural legacy (Declaration of Independence, The Civil War, Articles Of Confederation, the Constitution, Bill Of Rights, etc), and by virtue of American global domination, share such empathy and concerns for the world at large. The American Constitution and Bill Of Rights are undoubtedly one of mankind's most humane, altruistic and ethical expressions of political aspirations. I can't help but wonder what Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Adams or Lincoln, amongst others, would have to say were they alive today.
The American populace really ought to do some serious soul searching and put aside their mindless and undeserved patriotism to a Government and Institutions, which regard their revered constitution with utmost scorn and obvious contempt. They (and the world) need to rediscover the vision and values that made America a great nation, to rediscover true patriotism and pride once again, and as a nation stand squarely on the doctrine of liberty and justice for all. The mindless accumulation of power and capital without scruple, boundaries or any form of constraint is hardly something to aspire to or to be proud of. It is, by definition, inhumane, an antithesis to the spirit, legacy and memory of its founding fathers, and the root cause for much of the world's discontent with the current American Nation.
"History teaches us that history teaches us nothing"...Hegel
Tau C Ceti
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.