Management are commemorating the first anniversary of the contamination crisis with new attacks on the workers who stoically got them through last year's fiasco.
For the first time in five years the Australian Services Union walked out of enterprise agreement talks this week when management insisted on chopping award entitlements and offered a miserable 1.5 per cent wage increase.
ASU members are looking for a six per cent per annum increase in line with other claims in the public sector. The union has also been seeking a 'no forced redundancy' clause in the new agreement in line with government policy.
Management has flatly refused fuelling conjecture of even more job cuts in an already cut-to-the-bone workforce. They also refuse to consider an employee elected representative on the board.
ASU Secretary Alison Peters says Sydney Water management agreed enterprise agreements would not be an instrument for attacking award conditions when they were introduced five years ago.
'The new management seem to have a different view,' she said.
The talks have been carried out under the spectre of possible job cuts. In late May the Daily Telegraph reported that up to 1600 jobs could go to pay for financial liabilities resulting from the contamination.
Subsequently both Alex Walker, CEO, and Sandra McDiamid, General Manager, acknowledged there was 'some basis in fact' in this report.
Alison Peters says ASU members at Sydney Water are saying it's time to draw a line in the sand over the cuts.
'This isn't just about jobs. It's also about the integrity of the system that's been run into the ground over the last decade.'
'All management cares about is profits even though the crisis should have taught them they also have other priorities. But they still obviously don't give a damn about their employees, the system or the environment.'
In another attack Network Services - which maintains the water distribution network - announced budgetary 'reforms' which will see crews organised over the whole business rather than in geographical production areas.
A similar attempt by management earlier this year to force Illawarra employees to work over the whole Sydney area resulted in a two and a half day strike before Network Services backed down.
ASU members in the Illawarra argued such a direction would have forced them into an 11 hour work day.
A survey of 500 workers by the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union carried out in the past month found a massive 92 per cent of workers would refuse to work New Years Eve at base rates of pay and another five per cent unsure what they will do.
Because New Years Eve falls on a Friday, workers employed before midnight can expect to be paid a bare rate of pay.
The NSW Labor Council has called on the Carr Government to follow the lead of Tony Blair in Britain and declare New Years Eve a public holiday.
Other unions, like the LHMU are opening direct talks with employers to receive a better deal that secures workers for what is shaping to be the biggest night's trading ever.
The LHMU, which has already secured a deal with the Star Casino to pay workers triple time, undertook the survey to get an idea of what workers expected for the night.
Key findings include:
- 98 per cent of workers believe they should receive special compensation for working over the New years Eve period.
- 87 per cent of workers do not believe it is right that employers should force staff to work over the New Years Eve period.
- and 94 per cent of workers believe there should be a 'Special Event Allowance' for working big events like New Years Eve the Mardi Gras and the 2000 Olympics.
In terms of compensation, the most workers believed they should receive triple time (41 per cent), ahead of 31 per cent backing quadruple time, a flat-rate dollar allowance (seven per cent), days off in lieu (seven per cent) and double time (six per cent)..
Hospitality industry organiser Troy Burton says the survey result should be a wake-up call for hospitality industry employers who will need skilled and motivated staff for New years eve.
"These statistics show that employers will have trouble raising sufficient staff for December 31 if they are not prepared to share some of the massive profits they will make on the night," Burton says,
He says the hotels campaign is gathering momentum across the industry and there is a growing expectation that employers will have to increase pay for the night.
The move comes as the pharmaceutical manufacturer's workforce of 150 enter a new pay round after winning a Viagra-induced two year, 20 per cent wage rise 12 months ago.
Australian Workers Union organiser Hugh McDermott says that the company seems to have changed its attitude to the union, refusing him membership of a consultative committee against the wishes of workers.
McDermott says the company has engaged Houlihan to draft a new deal which would effectively replace the award safety net with a human resources policy manual.
"The proposed agreement reads like one of Peter Reith's wet dreams," he says.
The deal includes changes such as: right of instant dismissal, introducing seasonal employees with no fixed terms or hours of employment, removal of the union picnic day, promotion of individual monthly employment contracts and excluding the union from the disputes procedure.
There are also concerns that new confidentially provisions would effectively outlaw any form of industrial action by the workers, while leave provisions appear to be in breach of the Annual Holidays Act. And in the event of problems with Y2K, the agreement seeks to stand all workers down without any pay.
"They've breached all the major provisions of the NSW Industrial Relations Act," McDermott says. "They are trying to effectively remove the award safety net and operate separately from awards."
McDermott says workers want to stay under the state award, which has superior protections on a range of conditions and has a stronger link to enterprise bargaining.
"If the company wants to take the workers on, they'll rise to the occasion," he says.
More than 500 workers rallied in Sydney this week to back a plan by NSW Attorney General Jeff Shaw to secure workers entitlements through changes to corporations law.
Shaw, backed by the Queensland and Tasmanian governments, took his plan to the state and federal ministers responsible for corporations law.
While federal minister Joe Hockey (incidentally the student leader who led the campaign against HECS in the mid-eighties) released a statement trumpeting changes to the law, the proposals still fall way short of genuine protection.
Hockey said the government would introduce measures to:
- introduce a new offence to stop directors from entering into arrangements or transactions that avoided payments of employee entitlements.
- strengthen the existing prohibitions against insolvent trading to prevent directors shifting assets to strip a company of assets before entitlements are paid.
Hockey said the government would also consider allowing the court, "in certain circumstances" to make a company within a group pay outstanding employee entitlements.
While hailing the measures as "a major step towards protecting worker entitlements", the real solution - pay as they accrue entitlements trust funds are still not on the agenda.
Oakdale Campaign to Continue
Labor Council secretary Michael Costa says workers will continue to shame the Howard government with events like the successful rally and public awareness campaign.
Thousands of fliers were distributed at railway stations before the rally, attended by more than a dozen different unions/
Oakdale miners, thrown out of work owed more than $6 million, arrived in their shame truck, which is touring the state with the message that Australia is the only country in the OECD which doesn't protect workers entitlements.
With the backing of a brass band. the rally was told how the issue was affecting thousands of workers across all industries - including performers, truck drivers and rural workers.
Costa says it's time for public policy makers to choose whether entitlements earned by workers should be guaranteed or not.
"Slipping and sliding about the need to encourage business investment misses the fundamental point that we are talking about money that is legally the workers," he says
"To justify the current state of injustice by stating that employers should have access to their employees entitlements to help them run their business shows just how far the pendulum has swung against workers."
Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union assistant national secretary Tim Ferrari says there's a latent pool of labour with the required skills who could be coaxed back into the industry.
"A lot of people leave the industry because of the lousy wages and conditions, but they may be brought back in on the basis of better conditions in 2000 and into the future," Ferrari says.
SOCOG officials have assured the LHMU that media reports that they were seeking up to 1500 visas for foreign workers were not official policy and have convened a meeting to discuss the labour shortage for later this month.
Ferrari says the union may be prepared to activate old membership lists to trace former industry workers, while the Labor Council is planning to promote work on the Games through existing members and their families.
He says the principle should be to "employ Australians first" and only then think about importing labour from overseas.
Meeting in Sydney this week, delegates from the Australian Nursing Federation resolved to scrutinise all Members of Parliament for their public comments on health care and Medicare.
"Anyone making comments designed to undermine Australia's universal, free public health system will be identified and their seat put on a target list," ANF federal secretary Jill Iliffe says.
"Traditional campaigning methods such as letter-boxing, advertising and media events will be used to swing votes against those politicans or candidates."
The decision marks a move away from general campaigning in support of Medicare to a concerted attack on those who would undermine it.
The move comes as State Premiers called on the federal government to ask the Productivity Commission to inquire into the national health system.
Nurses Back Injecting Rooms
Meanwhile NSW nurses have voted overwhelmingly in support of harm minimisation responses to drug and alcohol.
A staggering 90 per cent of delegates at the NSW Nurses Association State Conference voted in favour of a response which includes:
- support for the decriminalisation of drugs such as heroin.
- support for the establishment of safe injecting rooms.
- the expansion of public methadone treatment services; and
- the appointment of a drug and alcohol liaison nurse in every NSW hospital and health facility.
NSW Nurses general secretary Sam Moait says working health professionals want to see the focus shifted from simple criminal justice solutions.
After safeguarding their nudity clauses last year, actors faced losing the award protection of a Standard Contract which covered conditions for all live shows in Australia.
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance state secretary Michel Hryce says without the standard contract, producers would have been free to drive conditions down.
"This would have turned auditions into Dutch auctions for the lowest price," Hryce says.
The win came when a full bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission ruled that the Standard Contract was an "exceptional provision" which should not be subject tot the award stripping process.
They rejected argument from lawyers for Peter Reith argued that the contract should be deleted from the award, opening the way for individual non-union contracts to cover performers.
Actor Genevieve Picot says the Standard Contract was introduced in 1992, disputation in the industry had dropped and actors had been able to concentrate on their performances rather than on negotiating pay deals.
Meanwhile, performers in the Sound of Music and Chicago will meet with employers on August 3 to nut out a deal on payment between shows.
Producers of the two shows had attempted to cut the payment between dates in capital cities, sparking threats of a walk-out by cast members.
The 12,788 gt floating gallery exposes how Australia's shipping policy will impact on our beaches, harbours, marine environment and the jobs of Australian seafarers and manufacturing workers.
Its visit comes as a special senate committee is hearing reports on how the government's proposed amendments to the Navigation Act will impact on the employment conditions of Australian seafarers
And it is here at the same time the shipping task force report dealing with the issues of cabotage and industry funding has gone to Federal Cabinet.
International Transport Federation General Secretary David Cockroft, who flew to Australia to open the Global Mariner exhibition, announced at the launch of the ICRS that he wanted the cost to substandard operators so high that they, and the rustbucket ships they use, are forced to leave the market place altogether. He also called on governments to ban flags covering substandard shipping entry to their ports.
During an interview on the Sally Loane 2BL morning show, Mr Cockroft, best known for the key role he played in stopping the Dubai industrial mercenary scheme, stressed that substandard shipping was not only driving the Australian shipping industry out of business, it was driving Australian manufacturing offshore.
"It's because substandard shipping is so cheap that Australian companies can profit by having their goods produced overseas, then import them back here to flood the Australian market. Ships of Shame are taking jobs from Australian manufacturing workers."
During its 10 day stay in the ports of Sydney and Fremantle, the Global Mariner and its international crew (including three Australian seafarers) is inviting the general public, school children, dignitaries, celebrities and parliamentarians to descend into its holds and view the multimedia exhibition detailing the environmental dangers and human tragedy posed by sub-standard shipping.
MUA National Secretary and ITF executive board member John Coombs said the union will incorporate the ITF ship visit with its submission to the Senate to have key amendments made to government legislation which imperils Australian the shipping industry.
Delegates at this week's Labor Council meeting voted overwhelmingly to accept a Joint Management Agreement with the Transcendental Meditation Movement's World Plan Executive Council.
The terms of the deal are substantially the same as those contained in a lease arrangement that was rejected when seven unions vetoed the plan earlier this year.
But the new deal stages the development of facilities which will be shared by trade unionists and the TM Movement.
Under the new plan, the development will occur in four stages, starting with the refurbishment of nine fibro cottages which had been earmarked for demolition in the initial plans.
Future stages involved the construction of a ten-room pavilion, the construction of 15 additional rooms and finally, the construction of a further 15 rooms.
As with the initial proposal, the Labor Council will receive $200,000, indexed, per annum which will be earmarked for organising activities.
Unionists will retain existing access in the upgrading facilities, which will be focussed on trade union training facilities.
Labor Council secretary Michael Costa says he's confident the proposal, to be administered by the Currawong Beach Preservation Foundation, will meet environmental and heritage standards.
by HT Lee
The rally is organised by the Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU), the Australian Workers Union (AWU), the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), the Plumbers (CEPU Plumbing Division) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU).
After the Town Hall rally the workers will march to Parliament House.
WorkCover is in crisis with a debt of $1.7billion in the workers compensation scheme--not enough to pay existing and future claims.
This crisis is a direct result of bosses not paying their share of workers compensation premiums and mismanagement.
What the building industry wants
· A workers compensation industry scheme run by unions and legitimate employers
· Developers made to pay a 30% workers comp levy up front to fund the scheme
· The remaining 70% paid by employers monthly
· Establish a special unit representing employees and employers to co-ordinate and audit bosses rorting the system
· A proper industry rehabilitation system for injured workers
· Compulsory workers compensation coverage for all workers including subcontractors, sole traders etc
The Master Builders Association (MBA), the Master Painters and Decorators, the Civil Contractors Federation, other employer organisations, large companies and legitimate subcontractors have endorsed this solution.
They know the current system is in crisis and legitimate employers are having to pay extra premiums to cover bosses rorting the system.
How the bosses cheat and gets contracts
Essentially, workers compensation is an honour system--employers take out a policy and advise the insurance company how much in wages they will pay over 12 months. They are then charged a premium based on the type of risk involved in the work. Because building work is dangerous the premium is 9.36% of wages as compared to a child care worker whose premium rate is 1.58%.
Unfortunately the bosses lie. They lie about how much they pay and about the type of work they do.
The level of non-compliance is estimated to be over 40%. Many bosses rort the system by under declaring the wages they pay.
For example if an excavation company had 50 workers on $50,000 per worker in wages each year the company would have to pay 9.36% in premiums on an annual wage bill of $2,500,000 which amounts to $234,000.
However, if the company lies and tells the insurance company it only employs 10 workers on $35,000 per worker the company would only have to pay 9.36% in premiums on an annual wage bill of $350,000. This amounts to $32,760--a saving of $201,240.
If the company tells more lies they can rort the system even more. For example if the company told the insurance company they are involved in hiring machinery and not operating the machines, they would only pay a 3.66% premium of their under-stated wage bill of $350,000. This amounts to a premium of $12,810--a further saving of $19,950.
By indulging in these rorts a boss would only pay $12,810 in premiums instead of $234,000--what a rip off!
A further result of this is companies doing the right thing by their workers are being undercut by companies rorting the system. This puts workers jobs in jeopardy.
Bosses response unacceptable
Confronted by the workers comp crisis the bosses' response is to reduce the benefits to injured workers and the payments made to the widows and families of workers killed in work place accidents.
This is not on. The crisis has not been created by workers but by mismanagement and employers rorting the scheme.
What we need now is for the Carr Labor Government to legislate and authorise the establishment of a scheme which protects workers.
Its time for Carr to listen to workers instead of the big end of town.
It is vital workers
· Attend the stop work rally on Wednesday 28 July 10am Sydney Town Hall Square
Send a letter of support for the reform to the Carr Labor Government by faxing it to: (02) 9228 3935.HT LEe
Describing the Minister's actions as "provocative," Deputy President Lea Drake ordered the rail worker to accept the additional security staff as an "interim measure".
But she strongly recommended that both State Rail and Scully seriously consider a proposal by the union on redepolying staff who they claim could do the extra work.
The workers this week refused to run trains that carried railway security guards after Scully unilaterally announced an extension of the patrols this week.
Rail, Bus and Tram Union state secretary Nick Lewocki is fuming that Scully made the decision as the union was developing a plan to redeploy 500 railway jobs earmarked for redundancy.
Lewocki believes the rail workers could fulfil the security functions as well as dealing with fare evaders, which the security guards are not authorised to do.
He says Scully was rushed into the decision to expand the use of security guards because he feared the reaction to an imminent release of statistics on passenger safety,
Lewocki, who described the Commission decision as a "bitter sweet outcome" has called on the Premier to intervene to prevent the rail system coming to a stand still.
Under the deal, Workers Online and The Chaser will share content in a bid to increase market share.
The Chaser, a new fortnightly satirical newspaper sold in newsagencies across the state, will run the Pierswatch column. And Workers Online will run an extract from The Chaser in a new satire section each week.
Media analysts say the merger is a sign of the convergence of the leftie slacker market, long neglected be advertisers because of their anti-consumerist, low-income lifestyles.
"I wouldn't cross the road to piss on their market value," one analyst said, "but at least they realise they are absolute jokes."
The choice of heading was made without consultation with Dr Griffen-Foley. We apologise for any inconvenience or embarrassment it may have caused.
8th August a celebration of the history of the Eveleigh Railway Yards, with a talk by Railway Historian Dr. Lucy Taska and lots of railway folk music. Starts 2pm at the Thurles Hotel, Cleveland St Chippendale.
22nd August, same place, council mergers , Botany and South Sydney, panel will be Clover Moore, Doug Sutherland, Michael Mobbs (former sydney city councellor) and ALP South Sydney Councillors. Come and join this public discussion.
More info can be gained by contacting Trevor on 0416 347 501 and why not subscribe to our Chippo Politics newsletter which goes to every house in the area.
Has any thought been given to using the Oakdale caol mine to store Sydney's garbage while it breaks down releasing methane gas to mix with the mines methane both to be used for electricity generation and sale by the miners co-op.
When managed well the reduced garbage could be removed after breakdown and sold for compost. Even railed outback to attempt recovery of the mess we have made of said outback.
I am a Electrical Power Linesman with ETSA in South Australia and would like to be able to email fellow linesmen about issue which are attacking us.
In SA we use a "T clamp" for securing service cables to other cables to get supply to houses etc but now management want to go back 30 years to use "parallel groove conectors" which are in my mind a lot more dangerous to use.
If you are a linesman please get in touch i have plenty of questions on how you do things in ohter states. We need to network together to help each other.
Gordon Penhall at mailto:[email protected]
I would like to express my utter contempt for certain comments made by LHMU organiser Steve Klaason in issue 21 of Workers Online. He presents a minimalist view of the role of today's youth in political activity and in the labor movement.
As a first-year university student, I was surprised by just how active and opinionated students (especially university students) are. Yet their efforts often go unrecognised.
Klaason claims that the GST and the Republic are not major issues for young people. While issues such as reconciliation and Jabiluka are important to the student body, more current debates like the GST will certainly take priority.
Lack of media exposure often prevents the student voice from being heard. Student involvement in the anti-GST rally in Sydney was largely ignored by the media. Also, the policies and ideas of the Young Australians for a Republic have been denied recognition, despite their close involvement with the Australian Republican Movement.
I think it is unjust and wrong for Klaason to simply deny that young people have strong political beliefs regarding issues as nationally important as the GST and the Republic!!
As for his opinions on the existence and role of factions in Labor- he couldn't be more wrong. As witnessed at the recent national conference for the National Union of Students, factions are alive and kicking.
Despite Klaason's predictions of progress and constant change in the union movement, his view of student activism is regressive and tinged with apathy.
It is time for the student body to be recognised! And comments from people like Klaason , apparently "in tune" with today's youth, will get us nowhere.
I'd like to add Cafe Corto, opposite the Cricketers' Club in Barrack Street and my favourite place (Vittoria) and the
Cafe at the Museum of Sydney - also handily across from the IRC.
Have to say that I've rarely had a great coffee at Papa - nice and handy for me, just up the road, but never consistent or STRONG unless you specially ask for it that way. As we all know, you shouldn't have to ask.
by Noel Hester
What are the lessons to be learnt from the Sydney and Adelaide water failures?
If our governments keep insisting on improving the performance of water utilities by making their commercial returns continually rise without corresponding real productivity improvements sooner or later all of the nation's water infrastructure must crash.
This emphasis on hiking water's return has therefore created an inherent conflict between our government's democratic obligation to serve the public interest and our water's domination by commercial interests.
But both the Productivity Commission and the National Competition Council say water is now more efficient since the corporatisation of the water utilities?
The standard measure of performance they use for commercialised government bodies is rate of return reporting. Rate of return can be increased by either increasing revenue or reducing costs. But utilities have a natural monopoly and therefore can manipulate prices and therefore revenue. They also have incredibly large and unique physical assets such as dams, reservoirs and mains which can last for centuries. Estimating the annual capital costs for catchments, dams and mains for example is like trying to estimate the wear and tear on the pyramids. Financial results based on these highly variable and unknowable annual capital costs ultimately tell us very little about the genuine productivity of water infrastructure.
How is the conflict between public good and commercial interests effected by privatisation?
The conflict is likely to be more intense following privatisation because of the higher costs this places on government intervention. There is more freedom for the production risks created by commercialisation to grow.
The conflict is less likely to be resolved under privatisation before it gets to breaking point. It will be more intense and the eventual government intervention that will be needed to resolve it will be more difficult and more expensive - or less effective. A good example of these costs can be seen in the fallout from the Esso Longford plant. Longford was an essential piece of infrastructure which knocked out the Victorian economy for two weeks, left two people dead and required an expensive royal commission - which didn't resolve the issues. Who was looking after the public good interest here?
What risks are there for the government in privatisation?
When a private corporation buys into something as important to an entire society as water no government can allow that firm to fail. If they do that government will pay at the polls for neglecting the public interest. The political risks to the government of failure provide the private firm with the opportunity to transfer the costs of any breakdowns to the public.
What public policy changes will better protect the public interest?
Commercial reporting is important but can't be allowed to dominate. The best opportunity to get the balance right is the Water Auditor.
What role is there for a trade union in protecting the public interest in water?
A well resourced and effective trade union organisation within the infrastructure would provide another independent democratic eye on production conditions. Along with the Water Auditor this can be an additional source of advice to government and the public on the quality of water and its production capacity. Unions of course have a rich tradition and unsurpassed experience in identifying the brutal realities of over exploited resources than any other institution.
Do the conclusions you have drawn from the study of water have implications for the broader public sector?
Water is unique in almost every sense, so it is important not to exaggerate their applicability. Nevertheless, by inference, they are transferable insofar as the history, characteristics and conditions of other production either (1) approach those of water or (2) approach other arrangements that are equally incompatible with rate of return theory.
Energy and communications infrastructure would seem to suggest themselves, as do some of the attributes of health, education and, indeed, the waterfront, where the Howard government rushed so keenly to assume most of the theoretically private income risks to production on behalf of one of the managing duopolists last Easter.
It is important to be careful. It would be foolish to rush anxiously toward forging an all encompassing, repressive, intellectual counter clamp to economic rationalism.
What about the private sector?
No question with water. Private or public, the production risks in water are inherent to commercialisation no matter who owns the infrastructure. This is reflected in the McClellan recommendations about establishing the water auditor. The auditor is to be empowered to investigate any matter in the system, including any in the Private prospect water treatment plant. The Longford breakdown in Victoria also shows how important it is for governments to monitor the production of essential services on behalf of the public.
In some ways, my conclusions are more important for the private sector, since the attribution of private rights acts as a form of government tariff on public intervention. This provides more room for the production risks to grow. It also means that, if there are emergent conflicts between commercial and public interests, intervention to resolve them is less likely to occur before the conflicts get to breaking point. One way or another, more risks means more costs.
What do your results and conclusions say about the effectiveness of the methodology of the Productivity Commission and the NCC in evaluating economic efficiency?
Leaving their penchant for dogma aside, their material can be useful provided it is free of errors. The big problem is that they present their findings as conclusive and as having been drawn from a total system. In fact they are a very narrow slice of reality - more a starting than a finishing point. Imagine relying on a methodology that would reflect the lack of investment spending that led to the total breakdown of essential infrastructure in Adelaide, Sydney, Longford, Brisbane and Auckland as positives in the bottom line. Not only were these savings negatives, all of this infrastructure completely failed to meet the purpose for which it actually came into existence in the first place - the breakdowns were historical, social, political and technical failures, not only commercial failures. The fact that commercial methodology actually fails to adequately grasp the causes for failures like these is, indeed, one of the causes, since governments and managers have come to rely upon the method too heavily.
What are the alternatives in terms of policy and methodology?
Again, I would stress the uniqueness of water, and the importance of not just tossing commercial reporting away. It should remain, but not necessarily dominate. Pricing, for example, can be an effective way to ration water in an ancient dry continent like Australia, and commercial principles can help in this. Connection, on the other hand, does not necessarily have to be priced on a commercial basis at all. Given that the opportunity costs of water infrastructure are in the end a guess, at best, revenue neutrality is a more reliable policy benchmark than commercial returns.
The crucial thing is to make sure the government and the minister have the opportunity to effectively represent the public interest in the infrastructure. I don't think anyone would like to go back to the days when ministers could use the infrastructure as political playthings. Ministers should be accountable, but there is far too much rigmarole at the moment. Ministers should, for example, be able to ask managers any question they want and freely propose policy innovations and alternatives on revenue neutral grounds.
In the immediate future, the crucial thing is to get a water auditor established on the non commercial basis that McClellan recommended. Treasury will, of course, be trying to work out a way where they can keep commercialisation in play through the back door.
by Noel Hester
The pong was so strong and sustained citizens complained of traumatic mood swings, nausea, sinus problems, asthma attacks, headaches and sleeplessness.
A year later residents of Australia's largest city were boiling their water for weeks following the contamination of Sydney's water supply.
The inquiries that followed the breakdown of these life-vital services found a common link - the over-arching dominance of commercial imperatives over the public good in their management.
The McClellan inquiry into Sydney's water contamination revealed inadequacies in the privatised Prospect treatment plant, a compromising of the catchment area, and a neglected distribution system.
'Sydney Water's focus on catchment protection has diminished as the focus on commercial production has increased,' McClellan said in his report.
Investigations into Adelaide's Big Pong found the stabilisation lagoons at Bolivar had been overloading during the period when South Australia Water had heavily commercialised its operations. This overloading accelerated rapidly under new private managers.
Competition policy drives destructive water reforms
New research by economist Dr Christopher Sheil shows a clear link between Australia's 1997-98 water failures and the economic rationalist agenda of the last decade.
Sheil says National Competition Policy has been the driver behind commercialisation with its 'strategic framework' for water.
This strategic framework dictates that organisations like Sydney Water 'should have a commercial focus, whether through contracting out, corporatisation or privatisation.'
Sheil says it is the relentless pressure by the state governments for greater and greater commercial returns without a corresponding increase in productivity which has led to the Adelaide and Sydney breakdowns.
This commercialisation of Australia's water systems, he says, is bound up with the Federal Government's annual revenue payments to the states as dictated to in the National Competition Policy.
In return for implementing this policy the Federal Government pays the states annual competition grants in three instalments adding up to $1.2 billion by 2001-02.
'These grants - effectively bribes - are made conditional upon the commercialisation of particular areas including water infrastructure,' he said.
'No matter what future political changes occur at the state level or what adverse consequences there are for citizens and the environment the commercialisation of water remains locked into the states' annual budgets.'
A smelly deal in South Australia
The commercial imperative in water management has been most pronounced in South Australia. The complete breakdown of Adelaide's sewage system came only 14 months after the entire water system was flogged off to a French-British consortium.
In 1995 the South Australian Water Corporation had contracted with a private company - United Water - to manage, operate and maintain the entire Adelaide metropolitan water and sewerage system, including its capital works program.
It was the largest out sourcing contract to be signed anywhere in the world in 1995 outside information technology.
Under the contract SA Water agreed to pay $1.5 billion over 15.5 years to United Water, a consortium of the French company, Campagnie Generale des Eaux and the British Thames Water. Des Eaux's annual turnover is five times the size of the South Australian government's budget.
Another private company was contracted to build, own and operate ten new water treatment plants.
Public utility only gets money in a crisis
The failure of the Sydney water infrastructure in the winter of 1998 supports the view that commercialisation is the key to understanding the breakdowns rather than the issue of public or private provision.
The Sydney crisis came after more than a decade of commercialisation of Sydney Water initiated by the Wran Government and accelerated by the Greiner public sector reforms.
In the mid-1980s when increasing demand was putting pressure on Sydney's existing water system a strategy was drawn up within Sydney Water to augment the capacity of the Prospect reservoir.
The economic rationalists who dominated the NSW Treasury fought against the solution, bluntly telling the utility's manager to 'wait for it to crash, you only get money in a crisis.'
Starving Sydney Water of funds to do the job in-house set the framework for future policy.
Greiner insisted on Build, Owned and Operated (BOO) schemes by the private sector for any new water treatment plants in New South Wales. Eighty five per cent of Sydney's water now goes through the privatised Prospect filtration plant.
Water sewerage and drainage functions were starved of capital and then contracted out.
Sydney Water mimicked the destructive downsizing ethos of the private sector with staff numbers tumbling from 11,000 to 4,500 in ten years.
Meanwhile the NSW Government milked the organisation of money that should have been spent on rebuilding the infrastructure.
The State Government has bled Sydney Water of $1.3 billion dollars in dividends over the last decade. On top of this the organisation coughed up $360 million in taxes between 1993 and 1998.
Economic rationalism institutionalised in government
McClellan in his report on the Sydney contamination recommended the government take back control over the infrastructure of Sydney Water. This included increasing the power to get information from the management and to give directions in the public interest without consulting the Sydney Water board.
But industry observers like Chris Sheil point out that these recommendations conflict with competition policy which effectively institutionalises and embeds economic rationalism within the financial heart of Australia's federal system of government.
Sheil says competition policy is behind the partial privatisation already undertaken within the nation's water infrastructure.
'Australia's water is now precariously poised between continuing privatisation and the reversal of commercialisation,' he said.
Alison Peters, Secretary of the ASU - the union which covers Sydney Water - says this is particularly true of New South Wales.
'The changes made in Sydney because of the 1998 contamination crisis are just as likely to smooth the passage for more sell-offs as to secure water's future in public ownership,' she said.
New water watchdog muzzled
Another key recommendation of the McClellan inquiry was the creation of the Water Auditor which was to take over the role of the existing licensing regulator.
McClellan saw the Water Auditor as a full-time body with a role emphasising water quality (as opposed to commercial) objectives. The body was to include directors with a 'proven track record in balancing the interests of all shareholders as well as experience in appropriate areas such as health, environment (and) consumer affairs...'
Jim Wellsmore from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre has been monitoring the development of the new body. He believes there is a danger that McClellan's concept of a watchdog over these vital non-commercial aspects of water provision could be undermined.
'Essentially, the creation of a Water Auditor to oversee the entire system from which we source our drinking water is dependent on political will,' he said.
'Already Sydney Water has begun its own process of 'consultation' with various groups in order to shape its own submission on the new licences. There is no question that Sydney Water intends to remain a player in the development of the new licencing framework.'
Bean counters rule over engineers
Alison Peters says Sydney Water management is now dominated by those with commercial expertise at the expense of those who understand how the system works.
'They've allowed so many people to leave with that experience and expertise - all that organisational knowledge. Now if anything happens outside the corporate plan they are lost,' she said.
'During the crisis they didn't respect the internal expertise that understood the system. Insiders were belittled because they were said to be too close to the 'old culture.'
Culture of secrecy
It is not just the run down state of Sydney Water that concerns observers but also the secrecy and lack of accountability.
This is typical of many contracting out and privatisation schemes says Mick Paddon of the Public Sector Research Centre.
'Sydney Water is responsible under its consumer charter for the supply of safe water. Yet it has privatised the link in the chain of the supply process which allows it to meet its responsibilites,' he said.
'These processes are shielded from public scrutiny by laws of commercial confidentiality.'
Alison Peters says the ASU has been saying this for years.
'Sydney Water's reaction during the contamination scare was symptomatic of our concerns. They tried to hide it. Both the privatised filtration plant and Sydney Water went for the lawyers to cover themselves rather than trying to solve the problem. Meanwhile the politicians tried to make political capital out of the failure after having passively watched the gutting of the organisation,' she said.
'The crisis showed that profits took precedence over other things.'
by by Lee Rhiannon
In November tens of thousands of unionists, environmentalists, social justice activists and members of Greens parties will converge on this US city for the meeting of the World Trade Organisation.
The common factor for the protesters is that this trade gathering is the place to stem the tide of international corporate greed that is robbing communities of jobs, destroying the environment, sending developing countries deeper into poverty and generally running amok.
On the inside at the WTO meetings will be about 5,000 delegates from 150 countries discussing ways to slash tariffs, abolish subsidies and open up investment for companies seeking to get into global markets. On the outside colour and causes will fill the streets.
Demonstrators could well outnumber trade envoys. Steelworkers, angered that both President Clinton and Congress have refused to endorse a bill putting quotas on steel imports, have already reserved 1,000 hotel rooms. The Longshoremens Union plan to have 3,000 to 5,000 members at the protests.
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth along with a range of smaller green groups will be there. Labor representatives from India, militant anticapitalists from Germany and AIDS activists from New York will also be part of the action.
With the Seattle Trade Round still four months away the size and talent on the protesters side is causing consternation among conference organisers and the police. Rumours are rife. There has even been whispers around town that the Zapatistas, southern Mexico's peasant-based rebel group, are coming by caravan.
The protesters already have the Seattle City Council and nearby King County Council on their side. Known for their environmental bent, both bodies recently voted unanimously to make the city a "MAI-Free Zone," ostensibly to prohibit the WTO from reaching any Multilateral Agreements on Investment during the November gathering. While the move is largely symbolic, city and county council members have been busy working with the protesters.
by Dr Lucy Taksa
It's part of a major effort to research and record the rich history and culture of the workshops.
The event is hosted by the Australian Technology Park which now controls the buildings of the former workshops. The main location is the ATP Atrium, formerly the "new" loco workshop.
From the Steam Age to the Information Age
The Eveleigh Railway Workshops were built during the 1880s, and operated for just over one hundred years. Recognised as one of the most advanced railway workshops in Australia, numerous conservation plans have documented their heritage value.
A new multi-media and virtual reality project is helping build a bridge between Eveleigh's railway past and its current role as a Technology Park.
With an Australian Research Council grant, labour historian Dr Lucy Taksa of the University of NSW has begun to develop a number of inter-related multi-media products using the latest information technologies, to provide greater understanding of Eveleigh's industrial and social history, and the people who once worked there.
Re-connect to Eveleigh - oral history, mementos, family history
A focus of the reunion will be the display of lists of people who worked at Eveleigh between 1887 and 1950, as published in the NSW Government Gazette. People will be able to start to trace theirfamily members who once worked at the heritage site. Former employees can register to recordtheir oral history of working at the site.
People with memorabilia from Eveleigh will be able to display their historical materials and register their willingness to loan them for future display at Eveleigh or donate them to organisations like the State Library of NSW.
Important groups of former workers are expected to join other participants in reunions, including:
· Many of the thousands of trades people who completed part of their training in the Workshops
· Members of Eveleigh Returned Services Association
· Officials from trade unions that once covered those who worked at Eveleigh
· Families of 25 Labor Party figures who began their working lives at Eveleigh
· Retired Railway Employees Association
A Railway Song and Poem Competition, sponsored by the Rail Tram and Bus Union, will be launched at the picnic, with entries closing at Easter 2000.
There will be a display of models of every steam locomotive built at Eveleigh. Entertainers taking part in the Australia Wide Folk Week of Music Song and Dance will perform at the picnic.
The NSW Folk Federation has welcomed the Eveleigh Workshops event because of the important contribution that railways have made to our country's rich folk culture.
Former Eveleigh workers who want to register for a reunion, to participate in the oral history project, or bring along memorabilia, can give their details by phoning 02 9668 9914.
The register will form part of a commemotative wall at the Eveliegh site.
For further information: Peter Murphy 0418 312 301
One special police unit, normally used to put down prison riots, is reported to have been particularly vicious. At the same time, another private armed militia linked to the mill owners captured the workers-elected director Vantorin and tried to force (and made him a substantial bribe) him to call off the strike.
He stood firm and the workers, using the mill's own alarm system managed to mobilise enough people (including local residents who support their struggle) to beat off the attack. However, the fighting was fierce, and two workers are seriously injured.
Some Background Information
The Vyborg Pulp and Paper Mill, in the town of Sovietsky (Leningrad Oblast), sits in a highly strategic location near the Russo-Finnish border, one of the busiest border and trade crossings in the country, as well as being nearby the railway line that links Russia with Scandinavia. The mill itself is very large and features some of the most modern equipment in the industry.
Formerly owned by American Cellulose, this plant was bankrupted in 1996, in a process which has become very typical of Russian capitalism today, where firms are allowed to run to the ground, then asset-stripped and auctioned at low prices. Profits made are inevitably salted away abroad. Meanwhile the local workforce, often highly skilled and experienced, are left to starve.
What made the Vyborg situation different was that the workers, as in Samara, Yasnogorsk (Tula) and other struggles which we have supported, refused to accept their impoverishment and they seized complete control of their plant. They ran production themselves, electing their own (unpaid) plant director.
A few months later, the new owners, Nimonor Investments, sued the workers committee and trade union. A counter-suit was filed by another group of vultures, the creditors of the bankrupt mill, who felt the property had been unfairly awarded to Nimonor. Nevertheless, though the courts ruled in favour of Nimonor, the latter was unable to drive out the occupying workers and establish control over the mill.
Key areas of strength for the workers were the solidarity they received from other local and regional workers organisations, the massive local sympathy (the mill produces the electricity that supplies people's homes), and perhaps most importantly of all, their threat to cut off all traffic on the Russia-Scandinavia highway and the railway. The mass blockades of last summer's "rail war" in support of the miners and other workers showed just how important this tactic is proving to be.
The mill has since been sold by Nimonor to a company called Alcem UK Ltd., apparently linked to some of the most mafia-ridden sections of Russian industry, the alcohol and aluminium sectors. The relationship of Nimonor and Alcem to each other is not clear, nor is it clear whether these are actually front companies for a larger firm.
One thing is clear, however. The combined attack by government authorities and private company militias, armed with guns and batons, was designed to destroy in the bud the new, rising militancy of Russian workers, sick of their plight. The IMF-Yeltsin privatisation programme has reduced much of the economy of this former superpower to that of a Third World Country. Russian workers, who once enjoyed a life expectancy similar to western levels, now live on average to the age of 56. They will not put up with this situation any longer.
The ruthless attack on the Vyborg workers comes hard on the heels of an unprecedented victory by the workers of the Yasnogorsk (Tula region) machine plant, who also took control of their factory in a similar scenario to the Vyborg one. Nearly all of their demands were conceded after a long occupation during which the workers ran production, shared the profits and fed their town.
Every boss in Russia is terrified that this method of fighting will become widespread, and that the authorities will lose more and more control. Clearly they hope to roll back the tide now by using violent, fascistic methods, before this militancy goes any further.
Now is the time to answer the Vyborg workers appeal for international solidarity with Vyborg workers. All workers and progressive organisations around the world need to send their messages of protest to the regional authorities (see inset), and to stand by ready for further action. We are also interested to hear any information regarding the true identity of Alcem UK Ltd., its major shareholders, its trading partners.
For further details contact mailto:[email protected]
fax: +44 171 733 9622
TAKE ACTION NOW!
The Government of the Leningrand Region say they are going to discuss the situation with the Vyborg mill.
Now is a good time to send them e-mails of protest about the attacks by armed militia's against the Vyborg workers
The acting governor is Serdiukov, V. P. Fax: (007) 812-271-56-27
Head of the Press Center: Veretin, A. I. phone (007) 812-312-46-35, 276-61-08 ; fax (007) 812-110-78-41; E-mail: mailto:[email protected]
As peace breaks out across much of the former Yugoslavia, thousands of journalists are pouring over the border into Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro. The journalists, mostly ethnic Americans, but including minority groups such as the European, Asian and African press corps, are fleeing theoutbreak of peace within the Serb province of Kosovo, which has completely destroyed the previously thriving economy of this small, but hardy community.
They all have stories to tell: a lack of beatings, not being threatened at gun point, being ignored by Serbian authorities, being woken in the middle of the night by the sudden lack of gunfire and bombings. One man told of how his previously reliable source, a Serbian unit commander who spoke 'pretty good' English and would hurl abuse at foreign media and the 'devil US Clinton bastard prick eater' suddenly changed overnight with the outbreak of peace.
'It was all "no comment" and conciliatory words after that' he cried. 'What am I going to do?'. As we walked along the barbed wire fences of the camps, cries of 'Give us a statement' and 'how do you feel?' prevent on-lookers from forgetting for one moment the desperate human drama being played out in these forlorn, rocky hill-towns.
The journalists, hungry and starved of useful material, are willing to go to almost any lengths to obtain printable copy or images for their waiting audience. In one camp, a brief scuffle which broke out between two Albanian border guards over a carton of Marlboros was the subject of a frenzied mob, all desperate to report the 'scoop' from the 'battle-zone'.
Dozens were injured as journalists crouched, performed walking pieces to camera or simply launched themselves bodily while holding camcorders at the fighting soldiers in pathetic attempts to take statements from the two.
Many have taken to injuring themselves in an attempt to establish that they are 'in danger'. We saw one group filming a commercial aircraft flying far overhead, describing it as 'an American B52, laden with bombs and headed for war-torn Belgrade'.
Dr Jules Etienne, a field surgeon with Medicine sans Frontiers, said the journalists were suffering from the typical effects of peace time on a war correspondent. 'We are seeing journalists arriving well-nourished, with a lack of cuts and bruises' he said. Dr Etienne has seen many of the worst humanitarian crises in Somalia and Angola, but nothing could have prepared him for the sight of the journalists. 'They crouch most of the time, looking over their shoulders. They all wear those jackets that have lots of pockets but have no sleeves' said the surgeon, his voice bewildered. 'And they wear these lame WW2 surplus helmets that look like they were pinched off the set from M*A*S*H. Why do they do that?'
Perhaps worst of all are those who, near catatonic and without sleep for days, continue to file stories of a war that has already ended, detailing battles and sorties that have not happened. These victims of the war's darkest practice, the so-called 'ethical cleansing' of journalists, are the subject of a special UN investigation.
If it is established that Serbian and NATO forces have deliberately deprived the journalists of access to news-worthy material, it is possible that their leaders could be indicted for 'crimes against the viewing public'. Such a trial by media would be the first of its kind since the Korean War.
NATO spokesmodel Jamie Shea said that no compromise concerning the journalists would be considered. 'We are conscious of the approach of winter, and the corresponding difficulty in securing television-quality images during the colder months' he said. Air-drops of video-tapes, batteries for Iridium satellite phones and foam rubber microphone coverings in some inaccessible areas of the Serbian province would be considered as possible tactics to assist during the humanitarian operations. He argued that 'Serbian non-aggression' was solely responsible for the plight of the journalists. 'The reality is that NATO is not accountable for this outbreak of peace - we are merely responding to Serbian non-aggression.'
It should not be thought that these journalists have merely been abandoned by the Balkan nations. The decision by NATO to accept the Serbian peace terms has meant that the previously unshakeable ideological platform on which these journalists worked has been destroyed. 'I just don't get it' said one journalist. 'First the Serbs are the bad guys, and its all 'Clobba Slobba' in the headlines of the Sun. Now there's peace, and we're all friends again ... I just don't understand. We don't have anyone to demonise now. What will happen to us?' He asked me whether people in the West know or care of their plight. He asked me about life back in my country. 'Is there peace there all the time as well' he asked, his voice breaking with emotion.
'And you' he said, turning to me with a glint in his eye, 'how do you feel?'
Compiled from wire reports by Chaser Correspondent Dave Stewart in London
It's hardly surprising, given that most of our cinema either comes directly from, or is overwhelmingly influenced by the US film industry, that workers' rights and the union movement are not the subject of a vast canonical genre. I mean, this is the sausage factory which produces The Bikini Shop (parts I-IV) and allows Jon-Clod-Dental-Damn to be listed with credits for acting and script-writing.
American cinema uses a cultural lexicon in which the individual (always wrongly accused, set-up, victimised, oppressed, ruggedly handsome and/or any combination of these problems) who takes on the (always corrupt) establishment, armed only with a Gatling gun, rocket-launcher and an unlimited special affects budget, is glamorised. The idea of a negotiated settlement which brings the greatest benefit to the greatest number of interested parties is godless commie talk, or worse - just plain wimpy.
...and apparently nobody in the Hollyworld actually does a shit job for bugger-all money with crap conditions under exploitative management structure. If they do they're illiterate Mexicans anyway, and it's gonna take proper American hero (see above) to fix those non-anglo bastard bosses who are really just a front for a drug cartel poisoning the precious bodily fluids and compromising the orthodontic integrity of our children anyway...
But here's some thoughts which may or may not be relevant about some films which may or may not be significant, and vice versa
1 Hoffa (1992)
Jumpin' Jack Nicholson grimaces and bullies his way through two hours plus of dimly-lit mid-century grind. As narrative, the flashback device, with Nicholson and Danny DeVito waiting for some "colleagues" at a two-bit diner, turns the story of the USA's most (only) (in)famous labor leader into a kind of scattershot meeting of Raging Bull and The Waltons. The period detail is nonetheless evocatively realised (DeVito co-produced too, so we're not talking "lamington-drive" funding here).
There's some fist-shaking action scenes as cops and hired goons take on the Teamsters with baseball bats and pool cues in a bloody battle. And Nicholson gets some opportunities for inspiring if somewhat didactic oratory.
The analogy between organised labor and organised crime is never far from the surface and neither David Mamet's script, which is spiked with brusque dialogue, or DeVito's direction, really resolve this ongoing of subtext of the American labour movement.
As an accurate document of the American labor movement, it's a good Jack Nicholson flick.
2 Strikebound (1983)
The 1936 miners strike, where protesting workers barricaded themselves inside the main shaft, is captured in a taut semi-documentary way in this under-rated Australian film. Notable for squarely addressing labour relations issues, albeit through the schooner glass of historical narrative conventions.
Also notable for not starring Bill Hunter.
One of the reasons it might be underrated is that director Richard Lowenstein quickly followed this debut with Dogs in Space, and everyone tried to forget about him.
Chris Heywood stars (he also played the enigmatic chainsaw-man in Dogs) during his mid-'80s "issues" phase.
3 Salt of the Earth (1954)
This relatively obscure film was directed by Herbert Biberman, who was not the best friend of Senator McCarthy's Unamerican Activities Committee.
It's a straight story of a group of Hispanic miners in New Mexico who down tools when accidents in the workplace make reaching tea-break on any given shift a lottery. The company sends in the goons, backed by the cops and the local judge (is a theme starting to emerge).
Blacklists and a Screen Actors Guild which appointed Ronald Reagan as its head head-kicker in 1947 made it difficult to get good help. So many of the cast and crew were non-professionals who actually came from the union movement in Mexico where the film had to be shot. Women play strong central roles, carrying on the struggle as the men are spuriously hauled away or simply bashed shitless.
One US face you might recognise is a young Will Geer, who later played Grandpa Zeb on The Waltons.
Occasionally pops up on SBS.
4 Sunday Too Far Away (1975)
Historicism and a raft of loved Aussie larrikins (both fictional and thespian) once again serve to glaze the grit of workers being pushed to the limit by exploitative contracts. This time it's shearers (it has to be miners or shearers in Australia because other jobs just aren't real work). Personal rivalries, pride, mateship, and smoko are all central themes in this portrait of Aussie blokes bending over sheep until it hurts.
5 Brassed Off (1996)
It' all in here: "trooble at 'pit", women challenging the Working Man's (capital W, capital M) infrastructure already emasculated by Thatcher, marching bands (controversially, the film features actual musicians from the actual Yorkshire mines - this is why Grimthorpe will never host the Olympics), evil bosses backed by the fascist bully-boys of the state masquerading as public servants, a Ewan McGregor nude scene...
6 Riff Raff (1991)
Another nude-scene notable Robert Carlyle stars as an ex-con Scot looking to get by and keep his nose clean in this no-budget Ken Loach verité piece set on a luxury apartment building site.
Itinerant labourers, left friendless and helpless by Thatcher's destruction of union regulation in the construction industry are forced to not only risk their lives to earn a quid (scriptwriter Bill Jesse was a construction worker who never saw the film's release), but pull all manner of scams to earn another quid and afford a beer after work.
Surprisingly, much comedy ensues before a bleak finale.
The broad accents from all over regional Britain and the Caribbean (and lo-fi sound production) make it necessary to concentrate on the dialogue until you catch the rhythms, but it's a little gem.
7 F*I*S*T (1978)
Sly Stallone's portrayal of a "fictionalised" trucking union boss not totally dissimilar to Hoffa, J. is directed by Norman Jewison and studded with grizzled tough-guys like Brian Dennehy, Rod Stieger and Peter Boyle.
Stallone's presence guarantees that there'll be more emphasis on the eponymous acronym than the acting or dialogue - double that when you realise he co-scripted with Joe (Flashdance, Basic Instinct) Esterhas. Hence, the finale is reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde or Scarface.
8 Rollerball (1975)
Jewison again. Here the director of film versions of Jesus Christ Superstar and Fiddler on the Roof predicts a future (including a thinly veiled Superleague metaphor) in which nobody works at all because the needs of mankind are met by five omnipotent "corporations" which have emerged from "the Corporate Wars". If the corporations won... who lost?
The happy proles' one obsession is the brutal rollerskating (try using these words together in conversation, it's a hoot) spectacle, Rollerball. James Caan stars as Jonathan E, an ornament to the game. His dilemmas over retirement, superannuation, holiday loading and tight leather pants make compelling cinema. Some low-level animated violence.
9 Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Hey, pre-communist Russian sailors are workers too you know. Apparently the finest film ever produced. Something in the soup sends the seamen on said boat into a mutinous revolutionary frenzy. Needless to say, authorities are concerned and kill everyone.
10 The FJ Holden (1977)
A guy called Deadlegs owns a chocolate-brown panelvan and the biggest dick in Bankstown. A guy called Kevin is doing up an old Holden (without any help from the bank) and has just started a mechanical trades apprenticeship (interesting first day). Sigrid Thornton has a bit part which has long since slipped from her CV. Essential.
NB. On the Waterfront doesn't get a blue singlet for two reasons. First, it's patently anti-union and scondly, director Elia Kazan ratted on all his mates to McCarthy's un-American activities committee.
Mr Cleaver will be available for frank and open debate on the issues raised above in the lower deck of the Noble Stand at the next Swans home game, consultancy rates payable in beer.
Our service, the NSW Fire Brigades (remember that name because we will be testing you later on your memory) mobilised all resources providing aid, professional expertise and rendering people and their properties safe. The State Emergency Services, as it does, dutifully responded rendering assistance in a manner developed through many years of planning and executing relief for storm and tempest damage. The Police and Ambulance services also did what they do best providing some much needed assistance wherever they could.
The Salvo's, other relief workers, government agencies and utilities all played a vital role in restoring homes to habitable levels or relocating the worst affected victims. All in all, it was as good a response as could be hoped for given the circumstances that saw Sydney left pondering the entry and exit points of a few million well struck cricket balls that rained down on it's canopy.
Sorry, did I forget to mention the Rural Fire Service? Well bugger me, I need to apologise for that. Perhaps I am suffering from the selective strain of ego driven amnesia that seems to have struck Phil Koperberg at the same time as the hail hit.
Here's a join -in game we can all play. Everybody say this. "THE NEW SOUTH WALES FIRE BRIGADES". Come on, don't be shy. Repeat after me, "THE NEW SOUTH WALES FIRE BRIGADES". Now say "THE STATE EMERGENCY SERVICES".
That wasn't hard was it? Keely, my 7 year old daughter did so upon request and then looked at me oddly telling me that saying that was "Easy-peasy Japanesie". And she is right, which leaves us wondering how it is that Phillip Koperberg (aged in his late 50's ) seems utterly incapable of getting his mouth around those very same words.
While Sydney-siders were busy positioning buckets inside their homes, the heavens continued to open over the radio waves. The talkback gods rose up to pour scorn on the Bureau of Met whilst keeping an eye out for anyone else worthy of blame. What and who had failed us?
Former Liberal Party speechwriter Alan "the Parrot" Jones took up a perch on his trademark RSO microphone starting off with a very poor review on the performance of the band of Monty and the Weathermen. He extended his tirade to encompass the SES's performance as well.
Recognising that conservative political leadership really is all about carping and whingeing and brimming with the opportunism that has so far defined her, Chikarovski joined the chorus. Fresh from undermining one leader she joined Herr Jones in taking the long handle to poor old Horrie Howard and before you knew it, the deepening trough that traditionally provides a place for AJ and Chika to swish their snouts welled up into a political storm that threatened to engulf the whole of New South Wales.
The government got spooked. It was at this very moment that Phil Koperberg knew that the heavens had opened up for the purpose of admitting Him and his personal elevation to glory was again imminent. His well intentioned but largely untrained crews may not have had the skills required to do some tarping, but their boss's expertise in quelling the rising levels of carping was in much demand.
The destructive forces of politics that had ripped through the SES had brought with it a podium for someone far less relevant to have a say. And what did he say? Quite a lot as usual but he just couldn't, just could not, bring himself to acknowledge that the NSW Fire Brigades and the SES were in fact present.
You could be excused for thinking that such criticisms of our bushfire hero are a little petty. But we would have to strive very, very hard to compete with the tiresome brand of petty rivalry that found Phil climbing over a million chicken carcasses looking for a place to bury any mention of the involvement of any agency other than the "volunteers of the RFS".
Perhaps it was a burning desire to instill his overblown image as the prospective CEO of an emerging theme park tentatively titled Disaster-Land. Maybe it was a therapeutic response having been temporarily sidelined with Attention Deficit Disorder during and after the Thredbo operation.
Either way, it was not a statesman's role he played when called upon to do so in Sydney. It was always doubtful that big Phil could abandon his insatiable desire to self promote at the expense of others. At a time when the bigger game of politics had ruthlessly undermined the role of our sister agency in the SES and unfairly damaged the morale of their volunteers, Koperberg was unable to rise above the mantle of a lusty competitor for column inches or photo opportunities.
At the grassroots level (and a few floors above), most of us underlings work quite well together but it is the cheap point scoring and the propensity for Phil Koperberg and his white-shirted media moths to flutter around everyone else's porch light that casts a shadow over those that deserve, but cant match his craving for recognition and credit.
If the political forces that gave rise to his persona fail to rein in the egos that drive that agency's cause, and if the trenchant criticism of Koperberg's style from sources as diverse as the NSW Farmers Association, the Local Government and Shires Association, the SES and this Union is again dismissed then we may well see more damage in the future than has ever been recorded in the past.
Alongside these critics we have also heard from a clearly exasperated Coroner in his response to the '97 bushfires flatly refusing to repeat the lessons handed out, but not taken up after the '94 debacle. During the hailstorm reovery we also heard more of the sheer deception inherent in the Batavian Bugler's oft-repeated mantra that he can call on 70,000 volunteers at any time.
But never mind, because for every TV antennae that remained intact after the hailstorm broadcasting contrived images of tanker drive-bys under salute from the Supreme Commander, the real victims of the storm had a live show on their roof. On that stage they saw and heard the quiet, professional actions of real workers from the real fire brigade and the SES as they set about repairing the damage of the first storm.
The political and media storm that followed will be memorable only for its short blast of hot air from the talkback radio jocks, Kerry Chikarovski shamelessly undermining yet another leader who preferred substance over style and the controlled release of gas from a big fat balloon as it searched feverishly for a well lit place to set down.
And as we have already learned, these balloons are very showy pieces kept afloat with bursts of hot air, cast huge shadows, are hopeless in storms and are inevitably forced down in places they know nothing about. This one was no different.
Daryl Snow is President of the NSW Fire Bridage Employees Union
CAPTAIN: JOHN HOWARD - A gifted power walker,with a grin on his face,that could scare the meanest opposition.John was a gifted player however many of the games John played in were prone to stoppage the ball having on numerous occassions being lost in his eye brows.
PETER REITH - Peter in his past foot balling years has been known to dazzle the spectators,not with his on ball skills,but the sun reflecting off his bald head.Peter was a great team man,and in one game suggested the opposing team should all be sacked for taking a drinks break.
PETER COSTELLO - Peter was the funny man in his local tiddly winks team.His humour was legendery in tidly winks circles,Peter's only problem was he couldn't count.
TONY ABBOTT - Tony was a boxer in past years,and it has been suggested by some of the other players,Tony took one to many punches to the head.Tony says he would love to play,but not with any team members who are unemployed.Tony says,"The unemployed have no time for football they should be out looking for work".
WILSON TUCKEY - Known to his friends as Iron Bar, Iron is a well known street fighter,with most of his fights in the Carnarvon Hotel in Western Australia. His favourite piece sporting equipment was said to have been a short but handy length of power cable.
ALEXANDER DOWNER - Alex is a player that likes to get real close to his fellow team mates,was tipped to be the leading dancer in the Adelaide Ballet Company.
Other players will be reviewed in next weeks edition of SPORTS UNLIMITED.
by Mark Lennon
He raised some interesting issues that the Committee will be considering in coming months. At the outset he outlined the Hawke/Keating Government's record on superannuation. In 1983 only some 40% of the workforce has superannuation coverage. By 1999 that had increased almost 90% . There are now some $370 billion in superannuation funds under management in Australia.
By contrast, Mr Thompson pointed out the Howard Governments policies are putting our retirement income system at risk. There is the Howard Governments action in abolishing the co-payment. It is certainly a concern of the Opposition that a 9% to superannuation contribution rate will not be sufficient to provide adequate retirement incomes.
The introduction of the surcharge has been a administrative nightmare. The extra expense it has imposed on funds has meant that all members of funds have seen impacted, through additional costs to the funds.
The Howard Government also needs to address the impact the GST will have upon superannuation. As well as being an additional tax on funds the proposed new income tax scales will make superannuation less attractive to many individuals.
Also of major concern to the Opposition was the Howard Governments proposals on choice of fund. The Opposition believes strongly that the model proposed by the Government is flawed. It is in fact forced employer choice.
Labor's policy on choice is a staged one. In the first instance, there should be investment choice within funds for members. That is, they would be able to choose one of a number of different investment strategies depending on their own personal requirements. The second stage of Labor's model would use a choice of fund provision but along the lines of what is contained in the NSW Industrial Relations Act. That provision allows an employee to elect to have their contributions paid into a fund other than that nominated in the award if their employer agrees. It means that the employee instigates any change of fund rather than the employer.
The other major question for Labor Mr Thompson stated, is that of the co-contribution. Is it an issue that Labor should revisit and if so, to what extent?.
The original plan for the co-contribution would have seen individuals having a contribution level of 15%. Additional research seems to point to 12% being an adequate level of superannuation in order to provide for a decent retirement income.
Is 12% considered an appropriate level and, if so, how is that to be achieved?. Will it remain some form of co-contribution or will it be solely from the employer?.
Kelvin Thompson's address provided some good discussion amongst those present.
On choice of fund the comment was made that perhaps members should remain with their industry fund who have done an excellent job in protecting and preserving members entitlements.
On co-contribution the point was made that when this was first proposed by the former Labor Government many saw it as a pay all as they would have to be making a 3% contribution themselves.
These issues are to be considered at future meetings of the Council.
Making light of the John Laws controversy, the warty one attempted to extricate himself from any talk of junketing with evocative images of quaffing raw herrings and complimentary Heiniken lighters. All very witty, what?
But one disclosure he hasn't made yet is the free Piers the Hutt T-shirt we sent him. Surely he'll feel compelled to do so next time he puts his steel-caps into the union movement. If he doesn't, we'll have to interpret his inevitable negative reporting as personal payback. And that's unethical!
While we're on the topic of pay-for-favours, we reckon the notion of paid advertorial is just the tip of the iceberg. If we are serious about understanding what shapes the views of our talking heads we really require a broader inquiry into the prejudices and psychological neuroses that so obviously grip them.
Surely, we as a public should have a right to know if Piers, for example, had spent a childhood being bullied by the other kids at school. This would inevitably lead to a chip on the shoulder and sociopathic tendencies that could explain some of his darker perceptions of human nature.
And what about an inquiry into the cross promotion of commercial interest within media organisations? Indeed, Piers' home base could be a good place to start.
Where, for instance, was the criticisms of Super League in the Murdoch stables when the game was being torn apart.? Ray Chesterton gave it a go, but he was given the Police Royal Commission round quicker than he could say "Arko's me mate". And where has been the searching analysis of the corporate giant's investment in the Sydney Showground? Not in News Ltd papers, that's for sure.
And what about Piers? Why is it that the Telegraph's stable mate The Australian in its Stay in Touch wannabe 'Melba' felt the need to come to Piers defence this week by claiming that Piers the Hutt looks nothing like Piers? Why has the Telegraph issued an edict not to run any extracts from The Chaser in it's Stay in Touch wannabe, 'Page 13' ? Trivial issues? Sure. But the point is that there is no room for dissenting views within what is Australia's dominant media group.
And just why is the Telegraph's editorial line so virulently anti-union and anti-Michael Costa in particular? Why do they print editorials bagging him for not doing things he is already doing, then refuse to publish his letters in reply and then fail to report it when he actually does what they criticised him for not doing in the first place?
So many questions, an inquiry can be the only appropriate response.
At the end of the day Laws is only guilty of being more explicit in what every media whore does. The free lunch, the free flight, the secure job and the self-censorship that prevents hacks questioning the company line are all points on the same continuum.
Piers, those herrings you were tucking into in Amsterdam were red ones.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005