It was Boffinmania at the intellectual home of the Federal Government, Senator Nick Minchin's office, when Dr Robin Batterham was appointed as Chief Scientist of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Unfortunately Senator Nick Minchin was not considered smart enough to hang onto the Science portfolio and that august role fell to "Einstein" McGauran who reappointed Batterham as Chief Scientist in May 2002.
For the better part of ten years Dr Batterham has been Managing Director, Research and Technology Development at Rio Tinto, helping them find new and better ways to rip off some of the world's poorest communities. His new part time sit has given the mining industry a nice "open door" to the Prime Miniature's office.
Batterham has kept a straight face while claiming that his public role and his job as a senior executive with the mining group Rio Tinto did not constitute a conflict of interest.
Rio Tinto's latest claim to fame is its outstanding effort to provide drinking water to its employees and the surrounding community at its Ranger Uranium mine. Unfortunately the drinking water contained Uranium. Maybe the Chief scientist can explain this sterling example of the beautiful minds in our mining industry in action?
At the time of his appointment Senator Minchin said Dr Batterham's expertise would "assist the Government in its commitment to improve research commercialisation within Australia".
This is in keeping with the Federal government's 'Not Nailed Down' strategy, which by all accounts is a nice little earner for industry.
Dr Batterham holds degrees in chemical engineering from Melbourne University, and worked for the CSIRO between stints in the UK, Canada and the US where he worked for such great corporate citizens as ICI.
His time at the publicly funded CSIRO allowed him to do the sort of research in areas such as mining, mineral processing and iron making that always seems a bit too hard for Australian industry and those multinationals that would rather the Australian taxpayer subsidise their very private profits.
Interestingly, the fearlessly independent Dr Batterham holds a number of directorships, including on the Boards of Comalco Aluminium Limited and a number of Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) - the same CRCs that are facing the axe under the federal government's 'Pay To Play' attitude to R&D.
Luckily Rio Tinto have no concept of the public good or the good Doctor may have been troubled by his policy successes.
Luckily for old Batters the two day a week Chief Scientist possie comes with a salary $90,000 a year from the Government, which he pockets on top of the $250,000 a year he takes from Rio Tinto, as well as an extraordinarily generous travel allowance.
The Sydney Morning Herald revealed a while back that Dr Batterham's travel expenses averaged more than $500 a day between May 31, 1999, and December 31, 2002, for his two-day a week job, including trips to events sponsored by Rio Tinto.
The acting Minister for Science, Kevin Andrews (now there's a scary thought!), rushed to the good Doctor's defence, saying that Dr Batterham's science policy advice to the Government was not prejudiced by his position with Rio Tinto.
But in the great tradition of never holding an inquiry unless you already know the answer Batterham has conducted a number of inquiries for the Federal Government that should help it wash its hands of any of that brain stuff that it seems to find so difficult.
He also came in handy when the Government needed an excuse to run away from its responsibilities to the Kyoto Protocol's emissions trading scheme, luckily there was an alternative program that Rio Tinto had a commercial interest in.
We now look forward to Batterham's research into how long a Howard appointee can keep his snout in the public trough before self-respect demands that they resign.
Last October, Wood took a month away from her Bonds post to be at the hospital bedside of 16-year-old daughter, Bobby-Lee, but had to forfeit $2000 in wages.
"My workmates and boss were great emotionally" she said, "but in terms of bringing money into the house that doesn't help does it?"
She will be one the first workers to give evidence before the NSW IRC in a ground-breaking secure employment test case.
Despite having worked five days a week for six years at Bonds, her casual status means she has no security of employment, sick pay, holiday pay or other entitlements.
Wood applied to be made permanent last October but has not heard back from Bonds.
"I've worked seven days some weeks, both Saturday and Sunday. You give your heart and soul and you apply for permanency and they don't get back to you," she said.
"One of my colleagues has applied seven times."
There are 99 casuals and 54 permanent staff at Bonds.
The Secure Employment Test Case is one the most significant to go before the IRC. Unions are seeking significant changes to the way employers can use casual workers, labour hire or contracting out.
The full bench of the Commission was told last week that steady casualisation has led to a 'switch on, switch off' workforce where employers can avoid basic entitlements by paying a casual loading.
During the test case workers will give evidence about their inability to get bank loans or access annual holidays.
The state's casuals are seeking:
- to be offered permanent employment when they have worked regularly for six months.
- to be paid the same rates as those employed by the host employer
- that contracting employers must offer existing workers alternative employment with the contractor - at the same rate of pay.
The case will potentially flow on to the nation's 2.2 million casual employees - 28 percent of the workforce.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson said it was "appalling" that the state Labor government had "pretty much opposed" the claim.
State Transit back-flipped over the dismissal of a Brookvale bus operator when workmates across the city, and Newcastle, announced they would walk out in response to an "unfair" disciplinary system.
The operator had his authority to drive cancelled three months ago after a member of the public alleged he had been drunk on duty.
Workers at all 13 depots across the city, Western Sydney and Newcastle voted for direct action, arguing State Transit required no tests or corroborating evidence to remove an operator's livelihood.
"How would you like it if I could just ring up and say you were drunk behind the wheel and police came around and took you licence without even conducting a test?" RTBU secretary Raul Boanza asked.
Last Thursday, the Brookvale driver received notification in the mail that his suspension had become a dismissal.
Drivers told State Transit they would strike from the first shift on Friday. Barely one hour later their workmate had been reinstated.
Boanza said the backflip had not resolved the issue because State Transit's "one-sided and unfair system" remained in place.
"We are not going to go through this performance every time a member of the public rings in to complain about an operator," Boanza said.
"Neither this union nor its members has ever condoned drink driving and never will.
"What we want is an agreed procedure that gives operators some fairness when they are accused."
Boanza said the Brookvale member had never been asked to undergo a blood test and no proof to sustain the allegation had been put forward.
When workers have their authority to drive removed they are put before the Department of Transport without the right to legal or any other representation.
"I have been to these disciplinary hearings that decide a workers' livelihood myself and been prevented from saying anything. I have been told, up front, I am not allowed to say a thing," Boanza said.
Boanza said, typically, a driver attracting a formal complaint would be suspended without pay and it often took another three months for the Department to determine whether or not to dismiss.
The approach, he said, was "fundamentally wrong".
"What is the family supposed to do about the mortgage or food for three months?" he asked.
Boanza said his union had written twice to Transport Minister, Michael Costa, requesting "procedural fairness" in disciplinary actions, but neither had attracted a response.
The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association this week launched �JetSafe� � an innovative campaign to inform the public about the risks in allowing low cost domestic airlines to dispense with their members� services on the tarmac.
ALAEA federal secretary David Kemp says the ongoing crash investigation into China Airlines Flight 611, a Boeing 747 which disappeared from radar screens on 25 May 2002 on a scheduled regular public transport flight over the Straits of Taiwan raises issues consistent with the Jestafe campaign.
An 'Aviation Week and Space Technology' report into that crash finds that: "Despite the potential difficulty of finding the cracks in the bilge inspection there may have been other more obvious signs visible to an alert ramp worker.'
Kemp says these findings, into a crash that claimed the lives of all those on board, is sobering.
"In my experience, ramp workers who are not trained Engineers are totally indifferent to the condition of the aircraft," Kemp says.
"Their only real concern is to load, unload and to handle their turnaround activities, hopefully without delay or inflicting damaging to the aircraft.
Cyber-Campaign a Hit
The JetSafe campaign has received widespread national media coverage this week, attracting more than 20,000 visits to the campaign site.
The campaign utilises the web, billboards and a Google advertising campaign that displays Jetsafe whenever the words Jet Star or Virgin Blue are entered.
JetStar was planning to operate without pre-flight safety inspections by licensed engineers. Instead, pilots will be asked to carry out the external safety checks.
ALAEA federal secretary David Kemp said that when Virgin Blue pursued a similar agenda 18 months ago, significant safety breaches slipped through the net.
"By applying public pressure on Virgin Blue we convinced them to maintain pre-flight safety checks by LAMEs. Now we are making the same arguments to Jet Star."
Mr Kemp said while the public would be supportive of low cost airlines, they would be wary of flying on carriers that down-graded safety.
"Our members have a minimum eight years training before being licensed, ensuring they have intimate knowledge of all aspects of an aircraft.
"To ask a pilot to take on this job is akin to asking a motorist to conduct their own Pink Slip inspection on their car.
The department has targeted approximately 300 jobs for the axe in the wake of the state government slashing its budget by $20 million.
According to the Australian Workers Union (AWU), which represents the DEC Field Officers, the department is moving to introduce a new award for its staff, which could see wages cut by as much as 35%.
Already staff shortages are seeing feral pests, such as the Lantana weed, overrun the states national parks. Budget cuts are also making it difficult for national parks to manage problems such as feral pigs and dogs.
"When you consider that some time ago the premier allocated a further 1.5 million hectares of National Parks and Reserves, to have the Carr government attempt to reduce the employment levels of DEC is absolutely outrageous," says Russ Collison, state secretary of the AWU.
John Cahill, secretary of the Public Service Association, shared the outrage, pointing out that many regional centres will be hard hit by the cuts.
"The Department's Regional Service Centres at Grafton, Dubbo and Queanbeyan are to close, with all jobs to go," says Cahill. "It is inevitable the effect that these cuts will have on Government's capacity to deliver on environmental protection."
Members of the public who enjoy spending time in the state's parks and reserves will also face a hefty slug, with the department set to raise an additional $14 million in revenue from fees and charges.
The NSW Labor Council is looking to meet with the DEC in order to address the concerns of staff.
Qualified child carers, earning as little as $12 an hour, co-ordinated demands for wage justice in next week�s budget from sites in Perth, Sydney, Canberra and Adelaide, last Wednesday.
Their union, the LHMU, hired out internet cafes in Midland, WA; Parramatta, NSW: and downtown Canberra and Adelaide venues to co-ordinate the campaign's focal point.
Industry workers are being backed by emailing parents and community supporters.
Canberra sources said that more than 4000 email messages had reached the Treasurer's mail box by last Friday.
"Peter Costello can help end the crisis of low pay for childcare workers by ensuring a child-focused federal budget accepts responsibility for adequately funding childcare services," the LHMU's Jo-anne Schofield said.
"Child care workers don't get anything like the respect or recognition they deserve."
She said the crisis of low pay and numbers of qualified childcare workers would continue if Government didn't address the problems in its annual financial statement.
To maximise their new-tech campaign, workers have taken out ads on the world's largest internet search engine.
Whenever terms like "Peter Costello", "child care" or "federal budget" are entered into Google, over the next few days, searchers will be directed to an advert placed by the LHMU.
Bentley, 26, was crushed when air gates shut on his head while he was inside a chute at BHP Billiton�s Nelson Point iron ore facility in the early hours of last Sunday morning.
Stunned workmates and employers closed the site for 36 hours.
ACTU Pilbarra organiser, Will Tracey, said there was growing anger over the loss of a young man who had already made strong contributions to his community.
"There are health and safety issue out there," Tracey said of the plant that claimed Bentley's life. "They put massive pressure on people to keep production going at all costs.
"As for this case, we don't know, it's under investigation. Corey's body is still with the coroner."
Bentley was active in the Army Reserve, the Emergency Response Training Fire and Rescue Team, and umpiring local footy but it was his commitment to workmates that marked him out most distincly.
Long-standing AMWU delegate at nearby Finnucane Island, John Purdy, saw it from the day he arrived, just out of his fitter's apprenticeship.
"It was when the company was trying to sign people up to WA Workplace Agreements. New guys like Corey were their hope but he saw through it straight away," Purdy said.
"He stuck with the union and became an activist. He was the future of the union movement, him and young people like him.
'"Besides that, he was a very decent human being who people respected anyway."
There is little doubt the union movement had ticked Bentley's card.
Pt Hedland is a tough town full of experienced workers who have paid their industrial dues, yet AMWU members at Nelson Pt elected him deputy convenor of their site committee before he turned 24.
"Corey understood the struggles of working men and women in the Pilbarra and he was prepared to do something about them," Tracey said.
"He was a shop steward and a safety rep by the time he was 20 and that's unheard of over here.
"If the union had anything on, he was the first to arrive and the last to leave. He didn't have to be asked."
Workmates held a wake for Bentley after the public memorial service. At that gathering they discussed support they would offer his fiance and other family members.
Cory Bentley is expected to be buried in Perth this week.
Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, joined spokespeople for the Australian Industry Group (AIG) and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in criticising the AIRC's decision to lift the minimum wage by $19 a week.
Workers Online understands each of the above critics earns more than $100,000 a year, but Heather Ridout (AIG), Peter Anderson (ACCI) and Andrews' office adopted a neither confirm nor deny stance, when approached on the subject this week.
Andrews, however, confirmed he would introduce legislation to change the basis on which future wage cases were determined so the bench was required to take "the unemployed" into account.
The case to boost basic earnings was run by the ACTU.
Its secretary, Greg Combet, applauded the lift in minimum fulltime earnings to $467.40 a week.
"Without the union movement pushing for increases in minimum wages 1.6 million low paid Australians would miss out on any pay rise at all," Combet said.
"This decision means low paid workers and their families will take home a bit extra in their pockets each week."
Combet said over half a million working families and around 90,000 workers relied on charities and welfare organisations because they couldn't make ends meet.
Anderson said small and medium-sized businesses would struggle under the decision."
Helen Ridout said it took Australia into uncharted waters and would reduce job security.
CPSU spokesman, Paul Ingwersen, accused the company of wasting shareholders' money at the same time as it was slugging consumers in homes across the continent.
"They are wasting money on lawyers, appealing an IRC decision," Ingwersen said.
"The truth is that employees voted up a 30-month agreement after Telstra set out increases and the dates on which they would be paid.
"After everybody voted, they said the meaning of the agreement was that the increase would be paid two weeks later than they had stated.
Telstra's effort to put back the date on which it pays the next increment to more than 8000 white collar employees was originally blocked by the IRC.
But the company has confirmed it will engage lawyers to try and overturn that ruling.
CEPU secretary, Len Cooper, has called on Telstra to use the departure of aggressive chairman, Bob Mansfield, to rethink its whole approach to workers and consumers.
He called the latest round of price increases imposed by Australia's largest company the "absolutely inevitable" result of deregulation.
"They can't increase charges much business because that is where the competition is strongest," Cooper said. "So they are targeting small business, residential and regional consumers to get more and more for shareholders."
Cooper said the beneficiaries would be large institutional shareholders and the company's largest shareholder, the Commonwealth.
"(Prime Minister John) Howard says he can't do anything about these price increases because they are commercial decisions. The fact is, he can because he controls 50.1 percent of the company, he chooses not to," Cooper said.
"What he really wants is privatisation because then there would be no argument."
The NSW IRC, sitting in court session, imposed the penalty just one week after workers unveiled a permanent Darling Harbour memorial to fallen colleagues and unions renewed their campaign for killer bosses to face manslaughter counts.
The court heard the incident had been "forseeable", that there had been no regular contact between maintenance workers, and that nobody had directed the electrian's work.
WorkCover CEO John Blackwell suggested the "tragic accident" could have been prevented.
"What should have been a routine maintenance task resulted in a fatality because the appropriate safeguards were not put in place," Blackwell said.
The smelter operator, Tomago Aluminium Company Ltd, pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees, following the crane accident which occurred in November, 2001.
After Chris Talmage was carpeted for a breach of company "policy" managers were unable to refer to the specific indiscretion, and a survey of workmates revealed none had heard of the mystery transgression.
It occurred as TeleTech backed away from suggestions they had made to workers that if they did not sign controversial Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) they would miss out on a pay rise.
"Our members did not have to sign an oppressive take it or leave it AWA in order to get a 3% pay rise," says USU Organiser Paul Morris.
TeleTech had threatened its employees last year that if they did not sign the new AWA they would miss out a 3% pay rise.
Meeting "An Absolute Abuse Of Power"
In the most recent development at the company, union member Chris Talmage was given no prior warning before being hauled into a meeting with management on the 8th of April and accused of 'breaching' a company policy called 'accessing your own account '.
"It was an ambush!" says USU organiser Paul Morris, who said that Talmage was not allowed to be represented in the meeting.
Talmage was told the matter had to be 'investigated' and that he was suspended from work until further notice.
On April 14th Chris was sent a letter from TeleTech Human Resources manager Rachael Wilkins threatening disciplinary action and termination. In this letter he was ordered to attend a meeting in his own time and would not be allowed any representation.
"As far as management were concerned the 'breach' was serious enough for Chris to be removed from the building and suspended," says Morris. "The breach was also serious enough for Chris to be sent a letter which threatens disciplinary action and termination. On the other hand the breach was not serious enough for him to have representation. Can you believe this?"
"Our survey to members asking them whether they were aware of this policy turned up a response of 100% 'no'."
Morris described the April 16 meeting as "an absolute abuse of power by management".
At a subsequent meeting on the 21st of April the company did not obstruct union representation for Talmage.
Management decided that Chris was guilty of breaching the 'accessing your own account ' policy. Despite union arguments he was then presented with a first written warning after being suspended for 12 days. Chris refused to sign the warning letter.
"The USU is quite adamant that our members are not going to be used as scapegoats for TeleTech management's failure to provide a clear and concise policy on accessing personal accounts," says Morris. "At the end of all this Chris is back on the job, paid for time lost time (including Public Holiday rates) and paid to attend meetings called by management."
The Nurses have stopped work three times over the last six weeks after it was revealed that their pay rates are more than four per cent behind other Mater nurses.
Nurses at last week's stop work meeting voted to continue work bans that are set to impact on the hospital's revenue raising capacity.
Bans will remain in place until hospital management resumes negotiations with Queensland Nurses Union (QNU) officials and offers an improved wage rise. The Mater's current offer would see the gap between private and public nurses blow out to over 4.5% or nearly $43.00 per week by January next year.
"The principle of equal pay for equal work in an important part of the Australian industrial relations system," says QNU secretary, Gay Hawksworth. "This offer is an injustice and goes nowhere near addressing the significant wage gap between the vast majority of Mater Private nurses and their colleagues at public hospitals and other Mater hospitals.
"Heavily subsidised by the Federal Government"
"It really is about time Mater management got serious about this issue. I can assure them that QNU members are serious and they inform us they are prepared to stick it out until they get wage justice," says Hawksworth. "I have also received reports that nurses are leaving the Mater Private for public sector jobs. I am informed that in one ward alone up to eight nurses resigned in the two or three weeks before Easter."
"The private hospital sector, which is heavily subsidised by the Federal Government, has an obligation to treat its nurses fairly. It is nurses who keep private hospitals like this running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They should not be treated as second-class citizens in terms of pay.
"After all they have the same qualifications and do the same work as public sector nurses. At the Mater South Brisbane the two sets of nurses are only separated by a road, yet a nurse who takes a job on the private side of the road currently also takes a significant pay cut. That's a ridiculous and untenable situation."
"It is time Mater officials returned to the negotiating table and improved their wage rise offer," says Hawksworth.
An inquiry into the fatal Glenbrook train disaster by Justice McInerney four years ago recommended an urgent overhaul of railway communication equipment.
These recommendations are yet to be implemented despite problems with railway communication equipment being identified in inquiries into the subsequent Hexham and Waterfall accidents.
"Railcorp needs to get its act together," says Bob Carcary from the Electrical Trades Union, who has slammed a lack of direction in the rail industry for affecting infrastructure maintenance.
Workers at RailCorp claim that infrastructure maintenance is being sacrificed as the rail operator focuses on operating train services, with staff shortages in maintenance areas compromising the safety of the network.
"These are the people who talk about safety, yet they can't even get an Asbestos register together," says Carcary. "My experience is that when you put pressure on [RailCorp] they have a knee jerk reaction."
"The previous management of [Railcorp forerunner] the Rail Infrastructure Corporation outlined a vision, and their actions backed it up," says Carcary. "Now when RailCorp CEO Vince Graham talks about change he never says what or when. He's said nothing about infrastructure maintenance."
"There's a lot of buzzword and catchphrases."
"It reminds me of the Thunderbirds," says Dr Michael Borgas, President of the CSIRO Staff Association. "You have all these gung-ho dynamos and Brains has to come up with the gadget that's going to save everyone in some room out the back."
"It's the mentality that drives these narrow minded research models. Every project is supposed to have a commercial outcome and if it doesn't it's a pariah."
"It's a fantasy world and it will fail. Science will supply 'winners' if you support people, rather than standing over them with a whip."
Dr Borgas was commenting on moves by the Federal Government to withhold research funding unless it offered a commercial outcome.
The allegations follow the release of the Federal Government's science and innovation package and moves to cut funding from Co-operative Research Centres (CRC) that were not linked to "commercial" outcomes.
The move has been labelled a "disaster" by the Federal Government's own backbench and has seen funding cut for research into the Great Barrier Reef and tropical rainforests, amongst others.
While Dr Borgas labelled not commercialising any research as "quite silly", he said that there was no "magic formula" to research and that the Federal Government's policies had made researchers "totally risk averse".
"It works only if people able to be confident that they're going to have a job." Says Borgas. "
Unions representing research staff in the CSIRO and public universities believe the Government inject sufficient funding to arrest Australia's decline in Research and Development spending relative to our OECD competitors.
"The whole of CSIRO is in desperate need of increased funding," says Dr Borgas. "CSIRO is losing science capability right now."
Reports the Government is planning to introduce a Strategic Research Council are of concern to research workers, who claim that Universities and CSIRO are already directly accountable to Government and resources need to be targeted at the researchers themselves not bureaucracy.
Pig On a Spit - Safari Picket
The famous CFMEU safari restaurant picket is now a nightly picket!
The CFMEU are conducting a picket of the Safari restaurant to get the owners to pay entitlements owed to workers (the owners are also builders). The Safari restaurant is in King Street Newtown. Picket is nightly (and every night until they pay up!). From 6pm. All welcome.
WHEN WORKERS UNITE - FOUNDATIONS OF TOMORROW
An exhibition of banners, badges and posters produced by trade unions, and original artworks by Jeff Rigby highlighting the strong historical role unions have played in the creation and conservation of our built environment, whilst May Day materials emphasise the workers' achievements in gaining and maintaining the rights and conditions of those who built it. From: 1st May to 16th May 2003 at Braemar Gallery, 104 Macquarie Rd, Springwood Friday, Saturday, Sunday 10.00am to 4.00pm
THE FASHION WEEK HANGOVER
Dear Fair Wear supporters,
Over the last 6 weeks Fair Wear has been educating Fashion Week designers on the benefits of accreditation to the Home worker's Code of Practice in order to get them to sign the code.
We are now into Fashion Week and only one designer, Allanah Hill, is in the process of getting accredited. Two others have expressed an interest. However the overwhelming response from the fashion design world has been: "Go away, we don't care."
Typical responses to our approaches are:
"This has nothing to do with me, I contract with a manufacturer to make the garments and they provide to me under contract. I have nothing to do with what your talking about."
The Australian public don�t care how the clothes are made so long as they can get them at the right price and they don�t care so long as it makes them look or feel good.
Fair Wear is combating this "ignorance is bliss" attitude by taking outworkers messages direct to the designers themselves, to the heart of the rag trade in Surry Hills. We will be gathering outside Akira Isogawa HQ at 2-12 Fouveux St Surry Hills on Wednesday the 12th May lunchtime, at 12.30.
Please bring a friend, your enthusiasm and a good strong singing voice and together we'll make this one Fashion Week Hangover the designers will not forget!
See you there!
Integrate Health and Safety or Perish
ACTU Seminar, 12 and 13 May 2004 Carlton Crest Hotel, Haymarket, Sydney
ACCOUNTABILITY FOR OHS? GOVERNMENTS, EMPLOYERS OR WORKERS? IS THE LABOUR MOVEMENT ADDRESSING OHS? WHO DECIDES WHO IS FIT FOR WORK? WHY WORK LONGER AND MORE INTENSE HOURS?
"Every Step Counts" - Landmine Action Week
14th to 23rd May 2004 NSW Launch of Landmine Action Week Where: Martin Place Sydney Date: May 14th When 11.15am Show your support by * placing a shoe on the shoe pyramid * sign the postcard petition * learn how we can eliminate landmines * see a landmine detection demonstration * listen to music Lets eliminate Landmines - every step counts Visit the website www.landmine-action-week.org contact the campaigner [email protected] phone 0407 463 779
Feminism in a neo-liberal age
Research Initiative on International Activism
'Women around the world are organizing in a common effort to end poverty and violence against women. What could be more important?' Judy Rebick, Canada.
Public Lecture: 'Feminism in a neo-liberal age', Judy Rebick
Respondent: Eva Cox, UTS
When: 19 May, 6pm
Where: Gallery Function Centre, Level 6, Tower Building, UTS Broadway
Access: Entry by donation, disabled access
Information: 9514 2714, www.international.activism.uts.edu.au
Judy Rebick is in Australia to attend the Brisbane Social Forum. Her visit to Sydney is supported by the Research Initiative on International Activism at UTS.
About Judy Rebick
Judy Rebick is one of Canada's best-known feminist and socialist thinkers. She is a regular broadcaster for the Canada public broadcaster, the CBC. For years, she co-hosted a daily CBC television show called 'Face-off' (a hockey term): a half-hour of debate between leftists and rightists on current events. She is best known for her commentary on the status of women, and on alternatives to economic rationalism in Canada. Currently she publishes the web-based news service - 'Rabble' - a lively forum of critical politics. The magazine brings together a range of columnists, including Naomi Klien and Michele Landsberg, challenging mainstream media.
Rebick was previously President of NAC, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, when it was a vibrant umbrella group of over 600 women's organizations. She came to the NAC from the pro-choice movement , working with medical doctors, some jailed for their efforts, to establish abortion clinics in Canada.
Judy Rebick is also an academic. She lectures on Women's Studies at the University of Toronto and in 2002 became the first CAW Sam Gindin Professor of Social Justice at Ryerson University, Toronto - a professorship funded by the Canadian Auto Workers trade union and named in honour of the economist and activist Sam Gindin. In her book, Imagine Democracy, she draws on her experience in activism and politics to show how a democratic society can work. She is currently working on an anecdotal history of feminism in Canada.
On the new feminism
Rebick's CBC contributions often address feminist issues. Against claims in the mainstream media that feminism is dead, 'that the women's movement has two feet in the grave', she speaks of a 'new wave' of feminist organizing and action. Analysing the upsurge against corporate globalization, in Seattle in 1999 and since, she finds women at the centre of the rebellion 'now raging around the world'. Rebick sees women on the march the world over. This unprecedented wave of feminism reflects a worldwide feminisation of poverty.
For her, neo-liberalism is the prime culprit. Government cut-backs and privatization directly attack the status of women. As she argues, 'What women have gained in legal rights over the last 20 years, they are losing through ham-fisted economic and social policy. The gap between rich and poor is growing and the face of the poor is overwhelmingly female. Cuts to health care, education and public services hit women hardest as they are the majority of workers in most sectors as well as the unpaid workers who take up the slack when public services fail. Cutbacks to shelters and rape crisis centres, as well as the cuts to social supports, are making it more difficult for women to leave violent situations.'
The story is familiar, and shared across many contexts. She highlights the resulting impact on women in Canada and worldwide, that ensures women now make up two-thirds of the poorest of the poor. For Rebick, the solution is in the hands of women. In Canada, the womens movement improved the lot of middle class women, but had little impact on poor women. The 'new wave' of womens movements, she argues, is focused on poverty.
The Women's March Against Poverty, which took place in Quebec in 1995, was a source of inspiration. Organised by the Quebec Women's Federation, '850 women marched for 10 days from Montreal to Quebec City to win nine demands related to economic justice. Fifteen-thousand people greeted them at the end of the march.' The Quebec march inspired the World March for Women, held in 2000, which saw the Canadian Labour Congress and the NAC marching with the Quebec Women's Federation to the national capital in Ottawa. The World March culminated at the UN building in New York, with a highly symbolic action by over 3000 womens organisations from 145 countries, demanding an end to womens poverty.
For Rebick, the World March invigorated feminist politics, creating 'an enthusiasm and energy that I haven't seen for 20 years in the women's movement'. At the time she quoted Gloria Steinem saying that 'Seattle is the women's movement', arguing the World March of Women bore this out. For her, the March signaled 'a global struggle to put the brakes on a system of savage capitalism that is leaving the vast majority of women and children of the world in its wake.'
With the 'War on Terror', Rebick has made a direct connection between opposing corporate globalisation and opposing fundamentalism. In her ZNet article, 'Anti-Globalization | Anti-Fundamentalism', she refuses the choice between corporate globalization and fundamentalism. She argues both are 'devastating for women', charting 'a third path, based on equality, democracy and respect for diversity' - demanded by women in 1995 at the UN conference on women in Beijing.
For her, neo-liberal globalisation creates the preconditions for fundamentalism. It removes economic stability and undermines cultural autonomy. Markets and Westernisation are confronted by theocracy and Fundamentalism, 'whether Moslem, Hindu or Christian'. One anti-Women orthodoxy replaces another.
The third option though, is also on the agenda, brought alive by anti-globalisation movements 'in the belly of beast', and by the World Social Forum (WSF) process in Porto Alegre, Brazil. As the WSF addresses poverty feminisation, reproductive rights and violence against women, it becomes a vehicle for this agenda.
Yet the alternative path is fraught with dangers. The media abuse that confronted Sunera Thobani - former NAC president - when she criticized US foreign policy post-September 11, shows how the new strong-arm politics has closed down the possibility of dissent, especially for women, but most especially for women of colour. This, though, is also a sign of the possibilities. As Rebick notes: 'The vitriol aimed against Thobani was a sign of how dangerous an anti-fundamentalist, anti-neoliberal women's movement, integrated with the anti-globalization movement, is for the powers that be.'
A vision for our times
Perhaps the best example of Rebick's vision is her article on International Womens Day that appeared in Rabble in 2003. Railing against the new militarism, she offers an anti-militarist feminist vision for today:
'Disarming won't be enough. We need a regime change. Men have held on to the levers of power long enough. Their continuing monopoly on power is the biggest threat to world peace, environmental sustainability and, in fact, the survival of the planet. There is no alternative. We will not relent until they step down so that women can take over.
'The feminist movement set its sights on overthrowing the patriarchy back in the 1960s. We understood that the rule of men over women may have been maintained by economic domination and myths of romantic love and male superiority but, ultimately, it was held in place by the threat and the reality of violence. The same violence, economic domination and myths of racism maintained the rule of European countries over their colonies. All domination is rooted in violence and the threat of violence. That is why war is fundamentally a feminist issue...
'On this International Women's Day, let's celebrate the centuries-old women's struggle for peace and against male domination. And let's make sure this anti-war movement practices the politics of non-domination and anti-oppression. Because as long as any of our relationships are based on domination, we will never end the most extreme form that domination can take and the one that lies beneath all the others.'
Summary by James Goodman, Research Initiative on International Activism, UTS. Judy Rebick is also speaking at an ALP forum, on 'Reclaiming Democracy', with Doug Cameron from the Australian Manufacturers Workers Union, at the LHMU, 187 Thomas Street, Haymarket, 18 May, 630pm.
Labor for Refugees meeting with Carmen Lawrence
Date: Friday 4 June 2004 Time: 5.30 - 7pm. Place: Meredith Burgmann's Office President's Dining Room Parliament House Sydney Aim: Debriefing after ALP National Conference Please advise [email protected] if you wish to attend so that we can organise numbers for the alcohol and nibbles which will be supplied.
Popular Education Activism & Organising
Education is a key to developing activists and active members of organisations. The new activist educator is an organiser, teacher, consultant and theorist. What methods are being used today to equip activists to build social movements? Does activist education reflect a democratic agenda or is it largely instrumental? How do we know if educational practices are working? Are new theories of learning be utilised? This is the second of a three forum series looking at different education, organising and activist strategies being used by movements and organizations pursuing social justice and change agendas. Union activists, environmental campaigners, community advocates, educators and grassroots campaigners are participating in the forums. The forum will actively engage participants in discussing and analysing different experiences. Case Studies Date: Friday, 18 June 2004 Time: 9am - 1.30pm Location: Centre for Popular Education University of Technology, Sydney Jones St, Broadway (Old Fairfax Building) FEES - $30 for one forum; $50 for two forums For further details contact Lee Malone (02) 9514 3861, Daniel Ng (02) 9514 3843 or Tony Brown (02) 9514 3866 email: [email protected] For updates go the Centre for Popular Education website
Please tell me I have missed something. It is May Day morning. I have just worked my way through the current edition of Workers Online to check what is happening around May Day in Sydney and lsewhere. Not a thing can I find, except a small reference in an arts story 'at the back'. If I have not missed something bleeding obvious and indeed there is nothing - this is reprehensible.
What does this tell us about "Workers Online"? Is it a matter of policy? If so, what is it's rationale? If it is not a matter of policy, what is it? Are the journo's blind, ignorant of history etc? I suspect not. Please explain.
You have missed something - a whole issue.
While we publish Workers Online on a Friday night all our research shows the vast majority of our readers log on from the following Monday. Given this, it seemed a bit pointless to preview important Saturday events in an issue that wouldn't be read, for the most part, until the following week.
If you had seen the preceding issue - No 217 - you would probably have been aware of the following May Day pointers ...
Front Page photo and blurb "May Day comes but once ... "
News Story "Mayday...Footy Player Celebrates"
Activists Notebook ... "May Day Toast", "May Day March" etc
The decision by the DPP and Police not to take further action in relation to allegations of sexual assault by a Coffs Harbour woman is a part of a much bigger picture in which justice for sexual assault victims is denied.
Firstly to put the decision in perspective the DPP and Police said that they did not have enough evidence to lay charges, not that the event did not occur. There is a clear distinction between these two statements. The statements by the Football Club that this decision vindicates the players is incorrect and shows a lack of contrition on their behalf.
In general, sexual assault victims who seek justice battle against an antiquated and misogynist system. In NSW it is estimated that only 20% of sexual assaults are reported. Of the thousands of reports annually, only hundreds result in conviction. In making a complaint to Police the victim will undergo an invasive forensic examination and then, over hours or days, make a statement which must include every detail of her ordeal in consequential order. Police will then investigate, often coming back to the complainant, over a period of time, requesting further and clarifying information. If, in this process, the women provides uncorroborated evidence or any conflicting information, regardless of how minor, this may then be used in Court to 'prove' the complainant is lying or at least unreliable. On this basis Police or the DPP may decide not to pursue the matter. This legal assumption, in which Police and the DPP must work, completely ignores the normal human response to trauma which victims of sexual assault experience. Trauma symptoms include inability to maintain a train of thought for any sustained period, difficulty speaking coherently and memory blackspots. As the victim recovers, coherence and memory improve. Over time clarity and detail of events can lead to victims providing more information and changing parts of their statement t better reflect what has occurred. This is not and indication of lying. This is a normal response to an abnormal and horrific event. One of the many women who contact NSW Rape Crisis Centre said that 'one morning, several days after 'it happened' she decided to go down the road for a paper. She got up and went to her wardrobe. One hour later she was still standing in front of her wardrobe. She could not figure out that she needed to put on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt'.
If a victim's complaint makes it to the Court, usually about two years after the event, she must then face cross examination. The Judge does have the ability to order a closed Court while the victim gives evidence, but this does not always occur. Cross examination can last for days. The victim will be asked to go over her version of events repeatedly. Her actions will be questioned, she will be accused of lying or being compliant in the assaults, of fabricating her story and of having ulterior motives for making her complaint. Her actions, dress, reasons for being where she was immediately prior to the assault and her sexual or other history with the perpetrator will be put under a microscope. The defence lawyers will try to show that the victim somehow consented or orchestrated the event or that the event did not even occur. All attempts will be made to discredit, intimidate and harass the victim and if at any time she becomes confused, defensive or upset this will be used to 'prove' that she is lying or unreliable. All of this is done with the perpetrator sitting only a few metres away. If a guilty verdict is returned the victim may then need to repeat the process in the Appeals Court, probably in two years time. If there is more than one perpetrator multiply this process by their number. From any measure it is obvious that this system is highly weighted towards protecting perpetrators and punishing women for daring to speak out. It also explains why those who have witnessed this process refer to victims as heroines.
Our legal system is based on an understanding of sexual assault that is hundreds of years old. Sexual assault is still the only crime where the victim has to prove her innocence. While there have been some changes, there continues to be basic problems which mean that in the majority of cases perpetrators are not held accountable for their crimes. Sexual assault by its very nature is a crime that is premeditated, calculated and committed in secret. The aim is to humiliate, terrorise and threaten the victim. The perpetrator will often make direct statements throughout the event that leaves the victim feeling responsible for the perpetrator's actions. The legal requirements of proof ignore the basic nature of sexual assault and in fact support the victim blaming process.
Many of the myths in relation to sexual assault are imbeded in the law. That women lie about sexual assault to get back at the perpetrator, that yes today means yes tomorrow, that yes to one means yes to his mates, that being drunk or at a certain place means that a woman can be treated in any way others see fit, that sexual assault is about uncontrolled lust when in fact it is about domination, power and control and of course the current one, that women happily have repeated sex with any number of men over a short period and that while that is occurring they also 'consent' to having no say or control over what happens or how they are treated. One caller to NSW Rape Crisis said 'I had meet him at a friend's house. He invited me out for a drink the next night. He was really nice and I liked him so I went. After a few drinks he said a few friends were meeting at his place for his flat mates birthday and would I like to come? It was about 7 in the evening and he made it sound like fun. I got into his car and he drove to a nice house in a well to do suburb. When I walked in the door I was grabbed and dragged into the bedroom. I screamed at him to help me. He just laughed. I went to the Police. The perpetrators made up lots of lies about me and said I not only consented but that I encouraged them. It was my word against theirs. How could anyone think that I wanted or enjoyed having sex with five men in a row?'
While what has happened in Coffs Harbour is very distressing for the young woman, it is hoped that this will be a catalyst for change in the way the community views and responds to this very serious and violent crime. We can not pretend this did not happen. It is also hoped that it will lead to an extensive review of the way the Justice system investigates and views sexual assault.
We uphold and honour the bravery and courage of victims who have come forward. It's vital that current community support for victims continues to build on all levels so that victims will continue to seek justice and that justice will be done.
It might be true that some of us in the union movement got a little caught in the dot.com hype when we first discovered the internet - who can forget the energy expended (wasted?) during the Virtual Communities - Getonboard wars?
But like most other players on the web, unions are now starting to recognise it as a communications tool rather than as an end in itself.
Take the Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, who this week launched their JetSafe campaign against the new low-cost carrier's decision to dispose of their members' expertise.
As most low-cost air bookings are made over the net, the LAMEs decided to hit JetStar there - registering its own site at http://www.jetsafe.com.au , to give their side of the argument.
To get eyeballs to the site the LAMEs have combined the real world and the virtual - bold billboards at the entrance to major airports plus a cheeky Google advertising campaign that sees a link to their site come up whenever the words Jet Star' are entered.
The result - national media coverage and more than 20,000 visitors to the site in just a week - not a bad result for a pretty slim budget.
Similar thinking is behind the LHMU's child care campaign - although the target here is Treasurer Peter Costello and his ability to deliver decent wages to child care workers by given them a little slice of his massive budget surplus.
Supporters are asked to send a message to Costello, his chief of staff and the Head of Treasury, via a template sitting on the LHMU site - http://www.lhmu.org.au
The LHMU has backed the campaign by hiring a number of internet cafes in marginal electorates and inviting members and supporters to the caf� to send off the protest. And if you are tempted to do a Google search for Costello - you'll also get the chance to send him the child care message.
The outbreak in web activism shows that the gospel according to Labourtstart's Eric Lee is being read by more and more people. Lee has been in Australia and New Zealand this month for a number of workshops highlighting the benefits of international campaigning.
Hotel workers employed by the Raffles chain against Asian hospitality workers are running a global campaign for support through the International Union of Foodworkers - http://www.iuf.org .
Previous campaigns against global hotel chains have proven to be particularly successful - witness last year's Hilton campaign,; notably because of the importance of the global brand.
We suspect it is the protection of a brand that is also behind this month's Bad Boss - labour hire firm Free Spirit's sudden and mysterious disappearance from the web after the details of an immigration scam broke.
All evidence that while the web and internet campaigning is in no way some panacea to the problems of workers worldwide - it is more than a fad; it is becoming an increasingly valuable campaigning tool.