It's a scary thought, but for one day last week Peter Costello was Australia's Prime Minister.
No, it wasn't just one of those moments when the smirkin' merkin closes his eyes and dreams of what might have been.
The galoot in a suit was fair dinkum roped into the top job because Dear Leader Howard was off at a silly shirt competition in Japan and John Anderson was up bush on family business or preg-testing the cows, or maybe both.
Some people aspire to greatness, other people acquire greatness, and some people have greatness thrust upon them, and then there is Peter Costello.
His latest bit of subtle wisdom was a few idle statements on the state of the economy.
Before the election we had the best economy in the world. It was a land of milk and honey. He was part of a government that promised to make the young feel old and the old feel young.
There would be no holes in donuts when Costello and his mates were returned.
Our Tool Of The Week made dire warnings for weeks on end that a vote for Latham was a vote for economic calumny and financial oblivion. Interest rates would soar and millions would be thrown out of work. People would have to sell their children into slavery, etc. etc.
He told anyone who cared that all of the good economic news was wholly and solely the work of Costello Pty. Ltd.
That was when we weren't getting the guffawing, back-slapping, everybody's pal during the election campaign where Costello was bouncing around cracking one liners with all the wit and charm of a cockroach.
The fact is Peter Costello is about as funny as a dead baby's doll.
There was none of Costello's legendary wit on display this week as he gravely assured us that budget cuts would be necessary and that the parlous state of the Australian economy was caused by the US Dollar.
Hang on? Why wasn't the US Dollar's effect upon our economy an issue before the Federal election?
If our Tool Of The Week was responsible for the economy before the election, he's not now.
Of course, now we need budget cuts, says Costello.
The cupboard is bare.
Bad news for anyone who thought the largesse of $600 handouts was going to continue.
You don't have to be Einstein to work out why the urgently needed squillion dollar taxpayer funded advertising campaigns we were bombarded with before the election have disappeared.
Thankfully we now have runaway personal debt and a property bubble to prop up the economy.
It'll be interesting to see whom our Tool Of The Week will blame when interest rates inevitably rise and the only people with a secure job will be repo men.
The amazing thing is this clown sells himself as a responsible economic manager when, truth be told, he's none of the three.
We can only hope that the accident of history that saw him as Prime Minister the other day will never be repeated.
The only place he belongs is in the Tool Shed.
The new moral crusade will be driven a one million dollar think tank, Working NSW, funded by Unions NSW and launched by Clinton Administration member Robert Reich this week.
Reich, one of America's leading academics and a former secretary of Labour, says the challenge for unions and progressive political parties is to chart a new positive agenda that takes morals out of the bedroom and into the boardroom.
Reich says that while the Religious Right in America has rallied around symbolic issues like gay marriages, corporations tear away at the fabric of society with little comment.
Reich told Unions NSW delegates that the challenge for unions was to outflank the Right by following the implications of labour market deregulation through to family life.
Reich says profound moral issues flow from the economic choices we make.
"We face three choices," he says. "We can go back to the 1950's, but I don't think that is going to happen.
"We can go toward a free market where everyone is on their own; a situation that undermines a lot of families and communities; where there is no security of employment and wage levels are set purely by market forces; where people are continually fearful and anxious.
"Or we can have a strong organised labour movement that embraces the future; that enables people to adapt to that future and provides economic security."
Reich says unions need to get people connected to politics. "We need a grass roots politics, not just through media and advertising."
A 2020 Family Vision
One part of the jigsaw is Working NSW, the union movement's answer to the HR Nichols Society.
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson said the first project would focus on the impact of the way we work on the family and community, throwing forward to 2020.
Working NSW's mission is to contribute to building a strategic plan for Unions NSW to campaign for a better life for working families over a sustained period of time.
Working NSW aims to tap into the work being undertaken by the academic community to establish clear policy frameworks for future campaigns, backed by rigorous economic costings,
Mr Robertson says Working NSW it was an opportunity for the labour movement to enter the moral debate.
"While the Right claims a mortgage on moral issues like gay marriages and abortion, the real moral crisis is the breakdown in family and community caused by the way we work.
"It is our challenge as a progressive movement, to reclaim the moral high ground and hold the Prime Minister to account for policies that undermine the family and community.
"To this end Unions NSW will be seeking to open a dialogue with the churches and encourage organizations like Family First and other faith-based organisations.
Working NSW will be chaired by former NSW Premier Barry Unsworth and include representatives from academia, the business community and religion. It will call for expressions of interest for its first research project in early 2005.
The five-month inquiry found BHP Billiton�s industrial relations practises, built on the aggressive use of AWAs, had compromised workplace safety.
The $17 billion industry faces an overhaul after Perth barrister, Mark Ritter, confirmed safety shortcomings had contributed to the loss of 20 lives in the past year.
He described the introduction of individual contracts at BHP Billiton's operations, since November 1999, as "a factor which has impacted and continues to impact on the successful implementation of safety systems".
"BHP has been pinged trying to break down safety standards through the use on AWAs," ACTU Pilbara organiser, Will Tracey, said.
"Occupational health and safety representatives are the bedrock of our system. But in its efforts to marginalise unions, BHP has effectively marginalised two thirds of elected OH&S representatives because they wanted to remain on awards.
"To be effective, occupational health and safety has to be a collective responsibility. That's recognised by the Act and by expert commentators but not by the federal government or BHP.
"What this report identifies is that when BHP devised its industrial strategy, based on individual contracts, it didn't take into account its disastrous effect on safety.
"The sad thing is that it has taken the lives of so many people to bring this to light."
Ritter made 32 recommendations, 21 directed at the world's largest minerals company, BHP Billiton, and 11 at the industry in WA.
The most significant is the call to take policing of mining health and safety, and dangerous goods, away from the Department of Industry and Resources and place it alongside other industries, under the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection.
The state government has confirmed it will act on that recommendation, drawing immediate flak from the mining industry.
Tracey described the move as "fantastic" and "long overdue".
"It is a measure of the political power of the minerals lobby that mine safety was ever in the hands of Industry and Resources," Tracey said.
"The department had an impossible conflict of interest. Its primary responsibility was to promote the industry and safety always played second fiddle to that.
"It's something we have been calling for, for years."
Ritter recommends that BHP's Boodarie iron ore plant, near Port Hedland, be reclassified as a "hazardous facility".
The state government investigation identified safety problems at BHP sites, and across the industry.
It found ...
- one mineworker had completed 24 hours without sleep, another had done a 17 hour day, and others worked 13.5 hour days for 30 continuous days.
- management behaviour at one mine made it clear "production at all costs" was the agenda, with safety issues ignored for years.
- a quarter of the workforce at one site claimed they were regularly made to breach safety regulations
- safety concerns at Yandi had been ignored until a crane driver refused to do his job
- a worker had been sent into a life-threatening situation without any prosecution resulting
The report was tabled in the Western Australian state parliament, last Friday.
On Monday, a surge in BHP Billiton's share price headed a minerals-led bounce on the Australian stock market.
Apprentice painter, Karen Cowley, 18, was awarded nine weeks pay after the WA IRC found contractor, Joe Milici, had abused his position by sacking her after she insisted on being paid correctly.
The Commission described Milici's behaviour as "deplorable".
Under planned legislation, Cowley would have been unable to seek redress because Milici's company, JJ Painting Contractors, employs less than 20 people.
Cowley began on leaving school but was only months into the job when warning signs starting flashing.
She expressed concern about "low" earnings but Milici insisted her rates were correct until her mother intervened. Then it was discovered she hadn't been registered as an apprentice.
That was rectified, last October, but Cowley was out of a job within the month after a showdown over weekend rates.
She told the Commission, Milici offered her $50 tax free for working weekends but she had insisted on the proper rate for the job.
After a meeting at which Milici told her she wasn't worth it, and that he intended to extend her apprenticeship by another three months, she admitted, breaking down.
She told the commission she stuck a finger in the air, swore and turned away because she was about to cry. Milici sacked her.
The Commission found the "single incident" did not outweigh her good work record, or the fact that Milici wanted her to work for less than she was entitled to.
It had heard that, prior to the dismissal, Milici had talked about nominating her for apprentice of the year.
Cowley was represented in the case by the CFMEU.
Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, confirmed his government would restrict union rights of entry provisions, effectively overturning a federal court ruling against multi-millionaire, Len Buckeridge.
Andrews promised, last August, that a re-elected Coalition Government would trump a decision that AWA employees were entitled to on-the-job access to union advice and assistance.
CFMEU assistant national secretary, Dave Noonan, tagged this week's legislation the "Buckeridge Bill".
"Buckeridge was using AWAs to deny workers rights to union access. What the federal court found was illegal, this government is moving to make legal," Noonan said.
The WA case was sensational because it undermined arguments that AWAs were about freedom of choice. It revealed Buckeridge's company, BGC, bound sub-contractors to employ AWA labour only.
The court heard the Office of the Employment Advocate (OEA) was registering fraudulent AWAs, and green-lighting others lodged outside the time limit set in law.
In uncontested evidence, industry veteran Alan Kuret, said a non-union AWA had been registered in his name although he had never seen nor signed the document.
He said when he refused to sign a pre-dated AWA, his employment had been terminated.
Justice French rejected Buckeridge's argument that the CFMEU was not entitled to enter Burrup Fertelisers to speak with workers on AWAs.
Buckeridge has become a Hard Right hero for his aggressive moves to deunionise workplaces.
He was awarded the HR Nicholls Society's Charles Copeman Medal for services to industrial reform, after being convicted of assaulting a union activist.
In accepting that award, Buckeridge revealed he had drawn up a "hit list" of trade unionists who had earned his ire.
Andrews announced this week he would move well beyond the construction industry by over-riding state right of entry rules, across the board.
Meanwhile, the CFMEU says the OEA has not taken any action over the fraudulent registering of AWAs.
"This government says it has a no tolerance policy towards law breakers. Clearly, that doesn't apply if you are an employer," Noonan said.
The Queensland Council of Unions has urged all state governments to oppose the Federal Government's proposed "right of entry" laws which would severely curtail the day-to-day work of unions.
QCU General Secretary Grace Grace said the proposed laws were unworkable and unnecessary.
"Right of entry has never been an issue in workplaces and there is simply no need for the government to impose these laws.
"Unions play a vital role when visiting workplaces by ensuring, amongst many things, that employees are being paid correctly and that the workplace is a safe one."
Beaches are set to shut in the Illawarra as local councils push for an increasing reliance on casual lifeguards.
"There has been a proposal to reduce the number of permanent Lifeguard staff," says USU organiser Paul Wesley. "This has the potential to threaten lives."
Wesley said that beach closures were "highly likely" if there was an increasing use of casuals and that Council was reducing the qualifications necessary for casual staff who are being hired to fill lifeguard positions.
"The increasing use of casuals means that there aren't enough people with the requisite skills," says Wesley.
The lack of permanent experienced lifeguards has been highlighted with council unable to get replacements when staff are off sick, leading to beaches being closed.
Outdoor council staff struck earlier this year when the council attempted to renege on a tacit agreement on staffing levels by failing to fill two vacant positions.
The Industrial Relations Commission recommended that the council adhere to the status quo of 20 permanent positions.
"We are meeting with council until we get an agreement that will keep the beaches open and safe as well," says Wesley.
"Come back Carl, all is forgiven," RTBU secretary, Nick Lewocki, said in releasing the proposal, this week.
He said his members were concerned the "few remaining" trade union friendly Labor MPs would lose their jobs if they relied on current Minister, Michael Costa's new timetable which removes thousands of services from the weekly schedule. They suggest the government redefines "on time running" to cover any train that arrives within 24 hours of schedule. Other elements of the plan include ...
The revelation came after AMWU members rallied outside SPC Ardmona's Hawthorn head office in support of Aboriginal and Pacific Island employees who allege they have been subjected to four years of bullying and racism.
The AMWU's Bronwyn Halfpenny said the discrimination case had been taken to the federal court after the company failed to act against managers who breached Equal Opportunities legislation.
"Senior management's response has been to send us back to the manager who is responsible for this behaviour and he refuses to acknowledge that he's done anything wrong," Halfpenny said.
"One worker was told she should work more quickly by a manager because he was German and he had destroyed her kind during the war. It's difficult to see that in any light hearted or humorous way.
"This workplace has endured bullying and racism and workers have been intimidated for far too long. Female workers are being told to stay at home and look after their children and the same manager also told another employee that he intended to get the 'black' workers at the site, 'one by one'."
SPC Ardmona markets itself as employer of choice that promotes equal opportunity in the workplace.
The case has been listed for hearing from December 17.
The Australian College of Applied Psychologists have sent us a warning of the dangers of the office party, issuing a five point survival plan.
ACAP Chairman and psychotherapist Dhurva Davis says many employees see these events as a time to let their hair down and relax.
"Just add alcohol and the occasion can become fraught with avoidable dangers."
But she says following a few simple tips can help end the year on a high note and enable people to start afresh for the new year, including:
1. Don't get drunk. Just because it's been a hard year and you feel like letting your hair down, and you even if perceive a culture of heavy drinking within the organisation, getting drunk at office Chrissy party can lead to embarrassing consequences for the duration of your employment ... which could be shortened as a result
2. Don't pash or go home with anyone at the Christmas party that you might not go home with at any other time. If you think it's true love, wait two weeks.
3. Don't be the first to arrive or the last to leave the party. This can be interpreted as anxiety over your standing in the company. Being the last to leave can also mean you don't know when to call it quits.
4. Don't continue office politics at the party. Talk and mingle with everyone and avoid gravitating to the usual cliques. In the spirit of Christmas, put aside rivalries so that everyone can have a good time.
5. Don't tell anyone your New Years resolutions. Nobody keeps them anyway and you don't want to set yourself up for public failure. The less people know about what you would like to change about yourself the better.
For those who wake the next day to the reality that they have disgraced themselves, Davis advises laying low until business closes for the year.
"Hope that everybody forgets what happened over the holiday period and be thankful it is the end of the year."
"If this is something that happens regularly then perhaps you need to review your personal situation. Talk to a professional to get some help if necessary."
The Finance Sector Union claimed Linda Schofield-Olsen had been victimised because of her union activism but wasn't talking in the wake of a deal struck at the Industrial Relations Commission, this week.
"After conciliation we were able to reach an agreement, that's all we can say," secretary, Geoff Derrick, said.
Labor Council secretary, John Robertson, however, was more informative in answer to a question without notice, this week.
"The significance does not just lie with the fact that after 37 years of loyal service, justice is being done," he said. "The real significance of this victory is that unfair dismissal cases are about reinstatement, rather than financial compensation.
"Linda will be returning to work on Monday and marching in the door with her head held high."
Schofield-Olsen had been denied leave after the death or her father who she had nursed at home for the preceding five years.
She was sacked after a run-in with a supervisor during a fire drill and was, subsequently, diagnosed with depression.
She is FSU's lead delegate at Westpac's Concord Service Centre where over 1000 employees are based, and is a longtime Labor Council delegate.
Cleaners will be joined by employers and government representatives at a conference held just days before the cut off date for the lucrative state cleaning contract.
The contract is responsible for keeping over 2000 schools, TAFEs and other state agencies clean.
Earlier this year school cleaners won an important campaign to protect their jobs and working conditions.
The conference has been set down to ensure that the new contract addresses health and safety concerns of cleaners and school communities.
"This conference is about making sure our schools are clean and our educational environments are safe and that our cleaners are safe," says Jim Lloyd, president of the cleaner's union the LHMU. "While the contract cleaning industry is endemically non-compliant with legal requirements, including awards cleaners will make sure that companies are compliant with this contract."
"That is why the campaign earlier this year was so important.
Issues such as asthma, occupational health and safety and "green" buildings will be addresses along with presentations by a range of experts.
The conference, entitled 'Cleaners and the Health of our Schools', is being sponsored by the LHMU.
Waverley and Ashfield councils will stipulate that, as part of development approvals, builders will not work on weekends.
"This is an alliance between the community and the union movement that is improving the quality of life for residents and building workers," says Andrew Ferguson, state secretary of the CFMEU.
The news comes as Sydney City Council has brushed a similar proposal for the CBD.
Despite being supported by ALP councillors and Green Chris Harris, Clover Moore's independents and the Liberals combined to vote down the proposal.
"We are very disappointed that Clover Moore has not put residents first and has also ignored the needs of Building Workers and their families," says Ferguson.
In opposing the move Moore echoed arguments put forward by developers lobby group, the Property Council.
Meanwhile, the CFMEU's long running picket of the Safari restaurant in Newtown has come to an end.
After 240 days the picket has been lifted as the restaurant has remained closed for some time now.
The picket was put in place after the restaurant owners reneged on financial obligations to building workers.
The first, The Union: Fighting For A Fair Go, celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade and traces the struggles and gains of Australian mining and energy workers in the first four years of the new Millennium
It examines the sharp conflicts between the Union and four giant multinationals - Rio Tinto; BHP Billiton; Anglo-American and Xstrata focussing on the front line experience of rank and file workers and their families.
The film also deals with the difficult challenges facing mining and energy workers today in coping with an aggressive anti-union climate with rogue contractors and employers who are hell bent on the destruction of collective bargaining.
The Human Cost Of Mining
the second DVD, The Human Cost Of Mining looks at the real cost of mining - the human cost - which has been borne by hundreds of thousands of Australian families who have lost loved ones or watched them suffer from crippling injuries and debilitating disease incurred in the mining industry.
As mining companies look to increase their profits they still maintain a lethal disregard for the welfare and safety of their employees in Australia.
The Human Cost Of Mining reflects on some of the biggest disasters in Australia's histories.
It features the Union's successful campaign to ensure the first ever convictions of individuals in Australia's mining history following the Gretley disaster.
It also documents the Union's success in closing an unsafe mine (Grasstree) despite the opposition of the powerful Anglo American multinational with the collusion of the Queensland Mines Department.
This short film also exposes the ruthless exploitation of contractors; excessive working hours; the employers abuse of safety committees to pursue an industrial agenda; and dangerous employer gimmicks such 'safety reward' schemes to bribe workers into not reporting accidents and incidents on the job.
The DVDs, are now available to the public
The Union: Fighting For A Fair Go (Cost: $20) and The Human Cost Of Mining, ($15) are available from CFMEU Mining and Energy, PO Box Q1641, Sydney NSW 1230 (please add another $5 for post and packaging).
Cheques and Money Orders should be made payable to CFMEU Mining and Energy.
The federal government's move to pressure the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to delay national wage case hearings will hit the 1.6 million people, says the LHMU.
Thousands of members employed in the hospitality, cleaning, security and childcare industries will be disadvantage, national secretary, Tim Ferrari, says.
Hearings on union claims for a $26.60 wage increase would normally commence in January, or early February, 2005, with a decision expected by May.
Pressure by the Federal Government to delay hearings until after the May Budget could stall the process for up to six months.
If one takes this year's increase of $19 as a possible result again in 2005, then a six-month delay will mean $494 a person would be transferred to company profits, Ferrari says.
The LHMU is calling on the IRC to reject political interference in its processes.
James Hardie Community Protest
Support shafted dying victims of Hardie's toxic legacy at the community protest outside the Australian HQ of the disgraced building products maker. We protest 'til they pay!
Where: James Hardie gates, 10 Colquhoun Street Rosehill
When: Everday, Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm
This protest is supported by ADFA, CFMEU, AMWU and the MUA.
In Victoria The VTHC are organising celebrations. They are as follows:
Saturday 4th December: 2.00pm Eureka Diggers March. It is proposed that a bus will leave Carlton at aprox 10.00am, and leaving Ballarat at 4.00pm.
Sunday 5th December: 12 noon: Eureka Memorial Committee Dinner at Ballarat.
For more information: http://www.eurekaballarat.com/index.php
NSW Eureka Stockade 150th Anniversary Event
Sydney Event. December 5, 2 PM. Gaelic Club, Devonshire St, Surry Hills.
"Still Fighting for Democratic Rights"
For the 150th anniversary of Eureka Stockade the Communist Party of Australia is launching two important publications on Eureka. The first is booklet written by Bob Walshe on the political meaning of Eureka for today and a folio of lino cuts about the rebellion.
Warren Smith of the MUA will chair the event and main speaker will be Dr Drew Cottle historian from University of Western Sydney. The significance of Eureka for Australian unionists is immense. All welcome and entry is by donation.
Sat Dec 4th, 9am-1pm, UTS Broadway,Achehnese Community of Australia (ACA) seminar on human rights abuses in Aceh. Speakers include Ed Aspinall,
Justice John Dowd, etc. Contact Vacy (02)9949-3553. .
Films, Politics and Learning Conference
Organization: OVAL Research, Faculty of Education, University of Technology 6 & 7 Dec These nights aim:
- To bring together radical film-makers, radical film buffs, and radical educators.
- To inspire educators about ways they can use film in their work.
- To inspire film-makers about ways they might facilitate learning about politics.
- To foster discussion and advocacy about this field of practice.
We are seeking videos and films under 2 categories:
1. Agitprop: protest, guerrilla, activist, political, subversive short films /videos.
2. Participatory film-making: community films/videos as social intervention. The only format accepted is DVD.
Send copies with entry form to Celina McEwen, The Centre for Popular Education, UTS, PO Box 123, BROADWAY NSW 2007 AUSTRALIA. Deadline for entries is September 30, 2004. Entry forms can be downloaded from www.cpe.uts.edu.au/pdfs/FPLentry.pdf
For further information email Celina on (02) 9514 3847 or [email protected]
waterloo fights back
There will be a rally of residents and concerned citizens in Sydney�s inner-city Waterloo on Monday 6 December 2004 as alarm spreads over the NSW Government�s intention to demolish the area�s famous 1950s public housing towers.
The distinctive towers, sometimes referred to as �pillars of despair�, are home to more than 3,200 households and regularly top statistical surveys as the densest concentration of the poorest people in Australia. The residents are a mix of the frail elderly, aboriginal families, single mothers and the sick, including a significant number of HIV positive gay people. The Carr government, while announcing its intention to transform the socially depressed area into a multi-billion dollar residential and commercial showcase as part of its $5 billion Redfern-Waterloo Strategy, has not provided one word of assurance to those about to lose their homes.
�The towers might not look like much but a real estate opportunity to the politicians of Macquarie Street, but they are home to a lot of people,� spokesman for community group RED watch Geoffrey Turnbull said. �While the Carr government has mouthed platitudes about community consultation, in reality no one who lives in the Redfern Waterloo area has been consulted at all.�
A rally co-ordinator, local journalist Trevor Davies, said many of the area�s elderly had no idea what was happening. �Some of these people have lived their entire lives in Waterloo and are very frightened of what might happen to them,� he said. �Arbitrarily turfing people out of their homes in the name of progress without so much as a word of consultation or reassurance is causing enormous hardship. Not surprisingly, they feel they are being literally bulldozed out of the way.�
Admired local community advocate, the Anglican Church�s Reverend John Rev John Mcintrye said, �any proposed displacement of 3,200 households is outrageous and must not happen .We are seeing Sydney at its cruellest, and the city�s powerbrokers at their most heartless,� he said. �It doesn�t have to be this way.�
Where: 10am �Waterloo Green� (between Matavai and Turanga) between Phillip and Raglan Streets, opposite George Street, Waterloo
The war continues...Human rights do not ...
Vigil - Fri December 10, Town Hall Square, 5.30 pm - 6.30 pm
December 10 in International Human Rights Day
Iraq Human Rights Facts:
* Some scientific estimates put Iraqi casualties at over 100,000 since the invasion began on March 20, 2003 (Lancet report)
* Twenty Iraqi medical staff and dozens of other civilians were killed when a missile hit a clinic on 9 November
* It is estimated that half of Fallujah�s residents fled before the recent assault on that city
* In August 2004 the Iraqi interim Government reintroduced the death penalty
* The detention of American conscientious objectors such as Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia.
* US inflicted torture and degradation of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib
* �The occupation of Iraq has led to the revival of (extremist) Islamic groups in Iraq who are terrorising the whole society� -Union of Unemployed in Iraq
* Iraqi�s regularly detained incommunicado with no access to family, lawyers or even the Red Cross
* THIS INFORMATION SOURCED FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORTS UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED. SEE http://web.amnesty.org/library/eng-irq/index FOR MORE REPORTS OF ABUSE *
Organised by the Sydney Peace and Justice Coalition
www.nswpeace.org; [email protected]
The Motorcycle Diaries
* Sunday, 12th December, 3:45pm
Film preview and fundraiser
Based on the books "The Motorcycle Diaries" by Ernesto Guevara and "Travelling with Che Guevara" by Alberto Grando. Thefilm follows aninspiring journey of self-discovery and traces theyouthful origins of arevolutionary heart.
AETFA will be presenting this film preview as a fundraiser for Education in East Timor at Palace Nova Cinemas Rundle Street City 3:45pm Sunday 12th December
Tickets $12/$9 concession
Mark - 8277 7356 (after 6pm M-F, or on weekend) or email bookings - click here)
Visit by Comrade Claus
December 25, everywhere.
I've enjoyed reading your recent editorials, stimulating and topical, challenging also, although not agreeing with it all, which in itself doesn't matter very much.
Regarding "Australian Idols" and it's somewhat coy conclusion that our future leaders "are in the community", if it takes Australian Idol, The Apprentice and an easily expropriated fare free tactic (al la Peter Finch?), to get you there, fair enough. Of course, that leaves begging little questions like "which community?" and "what sort of content might there be to the leadership?"
For 2 centuries the working class has thrown up in the midst of their struggles great leaders (and not so great), men and women, who have explained where injustice comes from and why, articulated worker demands and shaped the course of the campaigns against the employers and their agents that have been necessary to win those demands.
The potential for existing leaders and those still to emerge is just as strong as it has ever been.
This guy is drawing some pretty bizarre parallels if you ask me. Any positive rhetoric about Australian Idol has no place in a publication of the workers, or anywhere for that matter. The whole damn business is a disgrace!
He comes at a moment in history when we are licking our collective wounds; an ascendant Howard government, a dazed and confused opposition and a looming legislative assault on unions.
Like many in America, where the conservative ascendency is even more pronounced, we risk entering a siege mentality - a period where we will be compelled to fight to defend hard-won rights for working people in the face of a concerted attack.
Reich's simple message - that of the imperative for nations in the global economy to build and nurture a smart, creative workforce - is a tonic right now
Listening to Reich speak in his softly spoken way about our need to build a positive agenda is a pleasure because you get a thinker, a leader and a teacher rolled into one.
But the real pleasure is where his ideas take your own thinking.
Having sat through a number of speeches, roundtables and interviews this week, what struck me was how so much of what we pass as our political discourse, is really about tactics.
Organising workers is a tactic; developing policies to target certain demographic groups is a tactic; even the choice of leader is, ultimately, a tactic.
But to what ends? Unionising workplaces and winning elections are themselves only tactics to ... and here our thinking often stalls. We talk of social justice, equity and fairness, but their manifestations have become blurred. We have lost our moral language.
To Reich, we have lost our sense of narrative of where our political activity will take us and in losing hold of this narrative we are dooming ourselves to failure.
From the high point of the civil rights movement, the Left has lost control of the moral high ground; in the face of the certainty of the Religious Right's fundamentalist views on private morality hot housed in a climate of fear and uncertainty.
At a time when the family is under siege by labour market deregulation, creating a world of loneliness, dislocation and family breakdown, the hot moral topics are gay marriages and abortion.
The challenge is to build a picture of our economic future: the industries that will sustain us and the growth that will be generated; the jobs we will do and the way that we will work; and then write a moral story around these choices.
It is in doing this intellectual heavy-lifting that we can reframe our political activity and hold governments to account for the moral cost of allowing unregulated markets to run rampant.
Reich's narrative that was so influential during the Clinton years is a good starting point: a partnership between workers and employers building a skilled and creative workforce, to build the corporations, to build industries to build prosperity.
From this vantage point, different economic arguments can be mounted.
Families need a strong economy; but economies also need strong families - to produce a labour market that can take the high growth path, workers who have a stable home life, a loving platform, and a sound education.
A high growth economy is not served by cutting labour costs or by forcing workers to live insecure existences. These sorts of policies actually undermine a nation's competitiveness.
Through this prism, any industrial relations policy based on breaking workers down into single bargaining units so they can be paid less is not only bad for workers, it is bad for companies, and bad for the nation too.
All of a sudden our negative campaign against deregulation has become a positive campaign - not for a system of industrial relations, but for a vision for building a higher value labour market based on stronger family units. Who would argue with that?
The issues facing the labour movement are bigger than any one mind, but the conversations that Robert Reich sparks could well set us in a direction where we can build a positive agenda for the coming year.
If you get the chance, don't miss the opportunity to be stimulated by this remarkable man.
Sydney: Seymour Centre, Tuesday December 7; 7.30 pm
Canberra: National Press Club, Wednesday December 8,
Melbourne: Thursday, December 9
Finally, this is our last regular Workers Online for the year. We will have our traditional year ender in a couple of weeks.