The smirkin' mirkin Peter Costello revealed his subtle intellect this week with a statement to the media that Industrial Relations "reform" was needed because otherwise interest rates would rise.
Here's 21 other equally credible reasons for IR "reform" from Peter Costello:
1. Without IR reform the curtains will fade
2. The current system causes the lawn to die
3. I left the current system in my other pants
4. The dog ate the current system
5. The new system has a nicer colour
6. Nine out of ten doctors can't be wrong
7. The current system will send you blind
8. IR reform will make the racehorses you pick run faster
9. Everyone else is doing it
10. We were playing with the old system and accidentally broke it
11. The voices in my head say that we need reform
12. It was on special
13. The car broke down
14. The current system is stuck on a South Coast train
15. It will make the young feel old and the old feel young
16. We came up with the idea during a drunken week on the Gold Coast
17. It was in the prophesies of Nostradamus
18. I'm just following orders
19. I got it off a bloke in a pub really cheap
20. Look, it's not you. It's me.
21. It's the only way I can get rid of Howard and take his job
ABM Plastics owner, Abe Waisman, is planning the new development, ABM Seal Pac, a stone’s throw from picketing former employees dudded of $2.5 million in redundancy pay.
AMWU organiser, Jamie Bellerby, says Porsche-driving Waisman owns a "mansion" in Brighton, and properties at Lorne and on the Sunshine Coast.
Stranded workers have been left battling administrators who want them to complete the last month of work, but to accept only 20 cents in the dollar on their redundancy entitlements.
Some have been at ABM Plastics, located in Melbourne's Braeside, for over 25 years and are owed 18 months worth of redundancy.
Meanwhile, staff have told Amcor, the company that bought factory machinery from the administrators, none of it will cross their picket line.
"We aren't going to let fitters in to unbolt them unless these guys get what is rightfully theirs," Bellerby says.
Staff are disappointed that the administrator, GE finance, backed out of 11th hour deal that would have sold ABM Plastics to a company keen to continue operations and retain more than half the workforce.
"All the parties need to get together and work out how we are going to make up the $1 million shortfall," says Bellerby.
"That includes unions, creditors, administrators and the new purchaser, Amcor.
"We need to achieve a better outcome, so workers get their full entitlements, the administrator can recover at least 90 percent of their clients debt instead of 60, and Amcor can have it's machinery when and where it sees fit."
Father of two, Michael McGann, has been unemployed since being dumped by the controversial Taskforce, last October.
This month, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, wrote to McGann to tell him the interview notes at centre of his claim against Hadgkiss had been "lost" by the Taskforce.
McGann had lodged the Freedom of Information request in a bid to prove his dumping was part of a Hadgkiss "vendetta".
The holder of the NSW Police's highest bravery award, the Valour Medal, is adamant he lost his Brisbane-based position because of evidence, critical of Hadgkiss, he gave to a 2003 Parliamentary committee.
"I told the inquiry Hadgkiss' investigators, at the Wood Royal Commission, fabricated evidence and he should have known about it," McGann said.
"As soon as I came onto his radar at the Building Industry Taskforce I was a marked man. In October, we had to reapply for our jobs and I was the only person not re-apponted."
Corporate former employers wrote recommendations on McGann's behalf but he was punted on October 26, last year.
Since then he has sought redress through the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission.
He says he is pursuing the issue to warn Australians about Hadgkiss.
"This has cost us sleep, money and peace of mind but it is not about the job any more. It is about Nigel Hadgkiss and the way he operates," McGann said.
"This Government is going to give the Building and Construction Commission sweeping coercive powers and people in authority should be considering if this is the man who should be in charge."
The 22-year law enforcement veteran is not the first former officer to raise questions about the Taskforce supremo.
Former undercover detective, Michael Kennedy, likened Hadgkiss to American "Lord of the Files", J Edgar Hoover.
In 2003, Kennedy swore evidence to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs that when Hadgkiss had been its senior investigator, the Wood Royal Commission had routinely used illegal communications intercepts.
Kennedy told the committee Hadgkiss had used covert recordings to fit him up for falsely accusing members of the Joint Drugs Task Force of corruption. Years later, he said, Hadgkiss, himself, had taken credit for unmasking the same people.
Kennedy said he had lodged formal complaints about the "criminal and illegal activities of Hadgkiss" and others.
Justice Murray Wilcox rejected allegations brought by Taskforce boss, Nigel Hadgkiss, that a Wollongong sub-contractor had been drummed off a site because he refused to join the CFMEU.
Wilcox heard evidence that the subbie, PJ and LJ Smith Plant Hire, had been operating dangerous equipment and didn't have Workers Compensation paperwork in order.
He heard that the subcontractor, claiming to have an annual wage bill of $100, had failed to comply with repeated requests to update workers comp records.
"Officials of unions whose members are working in an inherently dangerous place such as a construction site have an obligation to those members to take an interest in occupational health and safety issues and the adequacy of insurance arrangements affecting workers on the site," Justice Wilcox ruled.
The reverse for the Howard Government's Taskforce came just three months after a Melbourne judge characterised its tactics as "undemocratic" and "authoritarian".
Federal Court Justice Marshall ruled the Taskforce did not have the right to access the personal bank accounts of building workers employed on the Concept Blue site.
Marshall criticised Hadgkiss' organisation for failing to disclose the purpose of its investigation when it ordered workers to produce the details, after hearing, in evidence, that it "might not have (had) a suspicion about anything".
"Such notices are foreign to the workplace relations of civilised society, as distinct from undemocratic and authoritarian states," Justice Marshall ruled.
Days after the Marshall ruling, Workplace Relations Minister, Kevin Andrews, confirmed the federal government would further boost Taskforce powers.
Sydney's Daily Telegraph reported, last week, that the Building Industry Taskforce has taken eight cases to court in more than two years. It has churned its way through more than $13 million taxpayer dollars to recover $15,000 in fines.
At least two banks, and an outlet of a national retail chain, were being cleaned by virtually unpaid labour, it emerged, when the LHMU secured $15,000 in backpay for six Koreans, this month.
Union officials were unwilling to finger any of the businesses involved in the bust but Workers Online inquiries have turned up the names of some of Australia's most respected companies.
Nobody is sure how low "payments" are in the subcontract-riven sector because, according to one source, many immigrants aren't paid at all.
"That's the most common problem," our source told us. "These people are on holiday or student visas, they get paid for the first week, then don't get any more money at all.
"There are plenty of others willing to take their places."
Big cleaning contractors, including Jani King and Jae My, use sub-contracting or "franchising" arrangements, on lucrative jobs across Sydney's CBD.
The LHMU's, Jim Lloyd, said the recent backpay settlements barely scratched the problem's surface.
"Unscrupulous contract cleaners are using these tourists to depress the working conditions of local people while increasing their own profit margins," Lloyd said.
He said the situation would "worsen dramatically" if the federal government pushed ahead with sub-contracting and out-sourcing plans that would further de-regulate the industry.
Brendan Brown was killed instantly, and three others seriously injured, after prefabricated flooring collapsed on the Baseline Constructions site in Rhodes.
Building workers were using a crane to place the flooring when the accident occurred at the site where 300 residential units are being built.
Glen Inmer, 38, was taken to hospital with broken ribs, a broken leg and suspected head injuries after rescue crews freed him from beneath one of the concrete panels.
Daniel Reeves, 28, and Shane Banks, 31, also received treatment for injuries.
Brown, 43, leaves behind a wife and children.
"The CFMEU and WorkCover will be conducting a thorough investigation of this tragic death and will be looking to identify and rectify the cause to prevent it occurring," says CFMEU Safety Officer, Dick Whitehead, who said it was the fifth building site accident in NSW since Christmas.
"I'm calling on the Federal Government to spend more time with OH&S, and instead of winding the national occupational health and safety outfit back, to increase its staff."
The Australian Institute of Company Directors has called for occupational health and safety laws to be included in the Howard government's plans to create a single national industrial relations system.
Media reports indicate that the employers' push is driven by fears that proposed industrial manslaughter legislation will be too onerous on directors and executives.
"The community understands that if you kill someone while driving negligently you will face a gaol term," says CFMEU NSW Secretary Andrew Ferguson. "Why should negligent employers who kill be any different?"
Widow backs safety
Meanwhile the widow of a construction worker electrocuted at Westfield Shopping Centre at Tuggerah last year is determined that no other family should go through a similar trauma.
Andreia Viegas will be visiting construction sites this year talking to workers about the importance of safety as part of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union's continuing safety campaign.
Glen Viegas died on October 24 last year after he cut through a live electric cable.
Other Posties are being "sweated" and bullied to achieve computer driven deadlines, forcing them to be clocked at speeds of up to 60km an hour on footpaths.
"I was never offered personal protective equipment," says Geoff*, who was run over by two cars while delivering mail.
Geoff was scathing of Australia post workloads that he says impacti on the elderly, as well as posties ability to do their job.
"They get you in the morning. They claim there's 200 letters when there's 300 and you have to work like a ball-breaker, going at 100 miles per hour to keep up to time."
Geoff was also critical of Australia Post's use of their employees' goodwill in the community while at the same time "abusing" those very employees.
"If you miss that time you have to make it up in your own."
"A lot of posties are part of their community, they'll go that extra yard for their customers.
"For a lot of older people in the community the postie is the only person they speak to."
* Geoff is an assumed name as Australia Post prohibits its employees from speaking
to the media.
Geoff is backed up by Joan Doyle, secretary of the Victorian branch of the CEPU, who claims that Posties are "timed to the minute" and that, while Australia Post has an official policy of health and safety at work, "the system of work doesn't support it".
"There is systematic bullying by some managers of those who are trying to do the right thing," says Doyle. "they simply cannot do the rounds in the time they're given."
"Posties just have to go flat chat all the time and it's not safe for them and it's not good for the community."
Motorcycle mechanics say that Australia Post bikes often operate with under inflated tyres because Posties simply don't have time to pump them up.
That's the view of CFMEU Mining division secretary, Tony Maher, after reading documentation forwarded by Xstrata and Centennial Coal, in a bid to dodge criminal sanctions over the deaths of five Hunter Valley workers.
Xstrata and Centennial have announced constitutional challenges to convictions, brought down by the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, over the five deaths.
"It's all about generating heat and smoke so Howard will step in and introduce watered-down national health and safety laws," Maher said.
"I think it's a stalking horse. There is no doubt major global companies are unhappy about effective health and safety laws and there is even less doubt that they have the ear of the Howard Government."
When the Gretley convictions were announced, last August, they made history as the first recorded against mine operators after more than 3000 industry deaths.
Workers Online understand the two coal companies will challenge the convictions on three key grounds - strict liability, IRC jurisdiction, and the lack of an appeal mechanism.
Legal observers say success would eliminate criminal liability for employers, causing death through negligence, not just in NSW but in other state jurisdictions.
Maher has challenged coal company bosses to front up to workers and explain why they should continue to work without legal protection.
The Miners Union is flagging industrial action if the coal companies continue their campaigns against OH&S laws.
Meanwhile, academics and lawyers are warning success for Xstrata and Centennial would undermine a range of laws, from speeding to food standards and the environment.
At the centre of their challenge is "guilty mind" or intent.
Sydney University Professor, Ron McCallum, says a range of contemporary legislation, beyond theft and assault, uses the same principle.
"We use regulations for other matters such as enviornmental protection and food safety," McCallum told WorkplaceInfo, this week.
"If someone is caught with more than a certain amount of marijuana they are deemed a trafficker, whether that was their intention or not.
"Similarly, if you drive over the speed limit there are no excuses, your speed is a fact in itself.
"In environmental protection, you can't say you didn't intend to drop the chemical in the river, if you did it you are guilty."
McCallum was more sympathetic towards the argument over the right to appeal criminal convictions entered by the IRC.
The NSW Government is seeking to be joined to the case.
The IRC is due to sentence employers over their roles in the Gretley and Awaba deaths, next month.
Incat is hiding behind the Federal Government's Workplace Relations Act to ignore its staff's demand for a union agreement.
The company, which trousered $30 million in taxpayer handouts before recording a $17 million profit last year, employs people on around $80 a week below standard Tasmanian rates.
Union members and non-union supporters have walked out four times since enterprise bargaining talks began, last year.
The action, co-ordinated by the AMWU and CFMEU, has resulted in the company agreeing to key demands, including a three percent wage rise from certification, an additional three percent from November, tool allowances and a 38-hour working week.
But it continues to resist unions being a party to its document.
Last Friday, it bulleted one of two elected AMWU delegates, citing an ongoing injury.
"I think you will find the real reason was plain, old-fashioned discrimination," AMWU acting state president, Darren Hanisch, said.
"This man is an outspoken and active union delegate who participates in shopfloor meetings. Suddenly, in the middle of a dispute, they choose to sack him.
"We will be taking legal action to defend his rights, and the rights of the people he represented."
Hanisch said the sacking fitted into a pattern of discrimination at Incat. On Monday, it announced that anyone who had participated in industrial action would not be considered for overtime.
Incat, he said, was carrying the ball for the federal government's union-busting agenda.
"The workers at Incat, union and non-union, want the protection of unions being parties to their agreement," he said "but the Workplace Relations Act allows the company to ignore their vote.
"The only recourse they have is to industrial action. It's a bad law because it promotes confrontation and workplace disputes."
Submissions by the state government and the ACTU both highlight breaches of international labour law contained in a right of entry bill, introduced to Parliament in December.
The Bill, introduced by Workplace Minister Kevin Andrews, applies restrictions recommended by the Cole Commission for building industry workers, to employees across the spectrum.
It over-rides state right of entry laws for employers that are corporations; restricts entry for recruitment purposes; applies a new "fit and proper person" test to trade unionists; expands the grounds for revoking permits; obliges worker representatives to meet employer requests on the location of interviews and discussions; and requires them to obtain written requests from named AWA workers to enter a workplace to investigate AWA breaches.
The NSW Government says the proposed law is "unbalanced" and appears to have been drafted to curtail the ability of unions to organise collectively, while increasing the rights of employers.
Industrial Relations Minister, John Della Bosca, says the Andrews Bill is an attempt to foist "ill-advised and unworkable" legislation on the states.
The ACTU says the Bill will have three major effects ...
- preventing unions from effectively representing members in collective bargaining
- limiting their capacity to ensure employers abide by agreement
- preventing recruitment and effective representation of members
Meanwhile, the Office of the Employment Advocate, funded by the federal government to promote individual, non-union agreements, is proposing doing away with overtime payments and minimum working hours.
It has published a radical AWA template for small business that includes provisions for "voluntary" overtime to be paid at ordinary rates, and the removal of minimum guaranteed hours for casuals.
The template is published on the OEA's website on the basis that employers can use it to replace awards or negotiated agreements.
Under laws, introduced by the Howard Government, new starters offered an AWA do not have the right to opt for a collective agreement. Even a person best qualified for a job can be legally rejected if they refuse to sign the terms of an employer-drafted AWA.
Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, said the latest Employment Advocate proposal was an attack on the living standards of Australian families.
"That's what this is all about," Robertson said, "reducing earnings and job security, particularly of the most vulnerable."
Employees of the company were today picketing sites across the state in a bid to have clients stump up $20 million in entitlements.
Three Sydney Water sites, in Sydney and Wollongong, were coming in for attention, along with other former Walter jobs.
CFMEU members are putting the heat on Walter's former clients, arguing they must make good on moneys owed because they will benefit from the unpaid work.
"This is about justice," CFMEU secretary, Andrew Ferguson, said, "making sure the people who did the work get paid for it."
While Sydney Water is holding out of former Walter employees, Workers Online understands that some clients have already come to the party.
Other union members are picketing a Villawood machinery yard that houses assets of the company, after it was revealed the German parent will benefit from any sales proceeds.
Over 500 employees of Australia's 18th largest building company were sacked today.
They are owed over $20 million dollars in entitlements.
Building Trade Group secretary, Tony Papa, says administrators estimate workers will receive about 70 cents in the dollar, but even that is not certain.
"They have only got $10 million in the pool, and don't forget the administrators are drinking out of that pool too," says Papa.
The failed company also owes over a thousand sub-contractors in excess of $200 million.
Rigger, Danny Callaghan, who has been with Walter for 19 years, says without the money life will be tough until he can find another job.
The father of four has been forced to put off job hunting so he can look after his fiancée who is recovering from an operation.
Callaghan was planning to marry in April and only moved into the dream home he built three weeks before Christmas.
He believes the Government should legislate to force companies to keep worker entitlements in trusts similar to those that hold redundancy, superannuation and long service leave.
The CFMEU is calling on the Liberal and Labor parties to return all donations received from the company.
Over the last four years, Walter Construction Group contributed $143,333 to the Liberal Party and $2200 to the ALP.
A security company employee who blew the whistle on a rampant bullying has had a win over insurance company attempts to deny him compensation.
Insurance company CGU accepted full liability after initially denying that bullying had left John McPhilbin with prolonged adjustment disorder.
McPhilbin's stand against bullying at Chubb Security grew into a widespread union campaign to tackle the emerging workplace safety issue.
He addressed the launch of the Unions NSW Dignity and Respect in the Workplace Campaign in September last year, when his recounting of his experiences left many in the audience visibly moved.
Medical evidence showed that McPhilbin is suffering from a "prolonged adjustment disorder with anxious and depressed moods resulting from the hostility he faced at Chubb".
"I feel vindicated," says McPhilbin. "I had to personally establish that there were guidelines that Chubb and the insurance company ignored at every step of the way.
"It was me who had to point this out to them. I was opposed at every step of the way.
"The way it was managed made my situation increasingly worse."
The decision is another step in tackling workplace bullying following the successful prosecution of a bullying incident at a Lidcombe joinery firm in the Chief Industrial Magistrates Court last year.
McPhilbin is concerned that the problem could still be going at Chubb and wants to see systems put in place to address workplace bullying.
Bullies Taken To Taskforce
Meanwhile the Public Service Association's campaign to eradicate bullying and harassment in the public service has taken another step forward with the establishment of a bullying taskforce chaired by the Public Employment Office of the Premiers Department.
The taskforce will be developing policies and procedures to deal with bullying and harassment in the public sector and intends to invite other agencies to participate on the committee.
The union movement's aid agency, Union Aid Abroad APHEDA, quickly commited these funds to affected areas through its network of international trade union links.
In North Sri Lanka Union Aid Abroad assists Tamil communities through Norwegian People's Aid, an arm of the Scandanavian county's union movement.
The group, in the area clearing land mines when the Tsunami struck, quickly turned its 600 local staff, trucks and watertanks over to the emergency effort.
Union Aid Abroad is also helping groups in Aceh and Sri Lanka in projects housing internally displaced people and in community rebuilding.
Union Aid Abroad's Peter Jennings says while emergency relief and home rebuilding is important, the international community needs to stay focused to help our neighbours rebuild their livelihoods and civil societies.
Donations to Union Aid Abroad are not only going to providing hammers, cement and corrugated iron sheets but also to fishing boats and nets.
To donate to Union Aid Abroad APHEDA:
* Ring 1800 888 674 (free call) or (02) 9264.9343 between 8am and 6pm.
* Visit the Union Aid Abroad website
* Mail a cheque or money order to APHEDA, Level 3, 377 Sussex St, Sydney, NSW 2000.
* At any National Australia Bank. Please specify the APHEDA ˆ Union Aid Abroad Appeal, BSB Number is 082024 Account Number is 57 877 0001
(Any donation over $2 to APHEDA Overseas Projects is tax deductible. APHEDA's ABN is 76 425 451 089. Authority to Fundraise CFN12752)
The state government punted the linesmen employed by the South East Queensland Electricity Board, now Energex, on February 11, 1985.
ETU state secretary, Dick Williams, says it is instructive to compare the quick power restoration times after the serious storms of January, 1985, with the lengthy delays inflicted on consumers over recent years.
"As well as defending their jobs the linesmen were protecting the supply industry," Williams said. "It took a lot of guts for these men and their families to stand up to a corrupt government that, eventually, made them pay with their jobs and superannuation.
"The anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on the social and economic damage done when governments and employers try to weaken workplace and industrial accountability provided by unions."
Williams said in the 20 years since the National Party Government sacked the linesmen, a key industry had become a "milch cow" for successive regimes. Apprenticeship and training schemes had been slashed, leading to a serious skills shortage.
"Like all anti-union policies, it was about giving employers and shareholders a free hand at the expense of workers and the wides community," Williams said.
He said, only now under the Beattie government, were the problems of electricity supply being addressed.
Laurie was highly dedicated, not personally ambitious or power hungry. He acted fearlessly when necessary. He had a certain charisma that attracted people and their loyalty, an eye for talent that would serve the cause, and a keen eye for political turning points.
Had he been asked why he was so dedicated, I think he would have answered: how could one not be in those times? He was born during the First World War, in the year of the Russian Revolution that gave hope to millions amid that slaughter. Of course he did not know those events directly, but like all us baby boomers of those times, he saw as a child many of its human consequences.
There followed a few years of the "roaring twenties", then the suffering and stark injustice of the Great Depression, the rise of fascism in Germany, Italy and Japan, and the opening salvoes of the Second world war in Manchuria, Abyssinia, Austria, Spain and Czechoslovakia.
Laurie decided at an early age to become a "professional revolutionary" as it was then called, though it paid, and sometimes only fitfully, a fraction of that in any other "profession" worthy of the name, and never wavered on that chosen course.
I won't go into many episodes in Laurie's life, but want to mention four particular accomplishments soon after he was elected to the position of General Secretary by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia forty years ago. This, incidentally, was a position that he had hoped would go to his colleague and friend, Eddie Robertson, whom he had discovered in the steel industry in Whyalla, but who died before his full potential could be realised.
The first major accomplishment was to discern that the then escalating Vietnam War would be a major political issue in Australia for years to come, and he mobilised the party to initiate what became a broad and mighty movement.
The second was to put an end to the hollow Stalinist rituals that passed for democracy and creative discussion. This he did in the preparations for the 1967 party congress where, unique in the communist world at that time, things were freely said, written and published. This sounded alarm bells in Moscow, but led to genuine efforts to grapple with the real problems and new features of Australian society.
The third was to discern that the time was coming in which it would be possible to challenge the penal powers of the Arbitration Act, which were used to enforce government policies and strengthen the power of local corporations and the burgeoning multinationals. The opportunity came unexpectedly, as opportunities in politics usually do, with the 1969 jailing of Victorian Tramways Union leader, Clarrie O'Shea. This led to a massive trade union response that rendered those penalties inoperative for years.
The fourth was when cataclysmic world events again intervened, with the invasion by the Soviet Union of a reforming and renovating Czechoslakia - the Prague Spring. Shortly before the invasion, the clear threat of it was conveyed to Laurie in a letter from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which was read to him in the Soviet Embassy. When the crunch came we were mentally prepared, knowing that this was a crucial event and that no turning back was possible for us. We were, I believe, the first communist party to make an unequivocal condemnation, one to which we resolutely adhered in face of massive external and some internal pressure.
Later, in 1969, the CPSU convened a world meeting of communist parties aimed at "putting it all behind us" and "getting on with the job" as perceived by Soviet eyes. There, Laurie made the most forthright speech of all, also refusing to sign the issued document.
With China at loggerheads with the Soviet Union and in the grip of Mao's disastrous "Cultural Revolution", communism as a living international movement was already in irreversible decline, conditions that made it eventually impossible for any single communist party to carry on as before, even nationally.
It is perhaps invidious to compare physical and mental courage which includes that of conscience. Both forms of courage are virtues that Laurie abundantly possessed, though he was not greatly called upon to practice the first. But the latter kind of courage is, I think, often harder to exert, because it requires confrontation with developed habits and casts of thought that are not easily stilled, especially when one has to face reproaches, and in some cases vilification, from those who shared those habits with you, but themselves cannot break with them.
To conclude - Laurie exerted himself to the utmost in the great cause to which he had dedicated himself, and what he achieved was considerable indeed. We who survive, for however long or short a time, should learn from his life and experiences. We should diligently probe the practical and theoretical aspects of an Australian and international scene which is of a very different kind from that in which Laurie spent most of his active life.
Brendan Nelson's moves to abolish university student fees are outrageous.
What about the struggling student body who depend on cheap food, subsidised child care, budget sporting clubs and gyms, low-cost entertainment, and free legal advice?
Nelson wants to destroy all these services even though he and his ministerial colleagues enjoyed their fruits in their own student careers.
Nelson's move will simply put tertiary education further out of the reach of average Australians than it already is.
Hasn't he done enough damage to the sector with his introduction of $100,000 degrees?
The world was recently justifiably outraged at a handicapped boy being used by insurgents as a walking bomb in Iraq.
Is it really so estranged though from the morality of US Army Recruitment which targets the poorest members of its community to fill the ranks?
How much of a choice do these recruits really have in the face of grinding poverty?
Aren't they the citizens with the smallest reason to sacrifice their lives on the battlefield?
The cost to insurers from asbestos risks will be far greater in total than the costs arising from major natural events and, more recently, terrorism.
Medical researchers advise that research into the worst form of asbestoscancer, Mesothelioma, is very important because of the resistance of this disease to all forms of treatment, the increasing incidence of the disease worldwide and the need to relieve the terrible morbidity of the disease itself.
Furthermore, malignant Mesothelioma is expected to cost around $(US) 300 billion worldwide in compensation over the next 35 years and an
effective treatment will reduce this cost to the community.
This is only the financial side of this dreadful cancer caused only by asbestos.
The personal suffering caused by this disease is immeasurable.
The loss of their loved ones from Mesothelioma has inspired a Canberra group " The Asbestos Research Group" to attempt to raise $500,000 for medical
research which will be used specifically for Mesothelioma research.
The Asbestos Research Group held its first meeting on 23 June 2004 and by December 2005 had raised $100,000. In the next 12 months the group is
aiming to raise the remaining $400,000.
The group has enlisted the assistance of the Australian Lung Foundation (ALF). Under the ALF umbrella donations are tax deductible. The ALF will advertise for research proposals in 2005 and the successful proposal will be awarded the funds raised at an ALF award ceremony in March 2006.
The website for the Asbestos Research Group is
If anyone would like to make a donation cheques can be made payable to "The Australian Lung Foundation Tax Deductibility Account".
Asbestos Research Group
It may be the time to take a closer look at whats going on, we live in a world not many feel comfortable in.
We look to our leaders for direction, we look in the hope that they can give our children a future to look forward to, rather then a future to dread.
We know that our leading political party's, have safe electorates, we know that there are swinging seats, a gerrrymander is to split a constituancy, to eliminate a high concentration of people who are known to vote in a similar way, to include them in several known safe seats, in the opponents territory.
We redistributed our local council boarders in the 90's, and a three time looser came to power.
More recently a computer programer Clinton Curtis, from Florida signed an affirdavit that Yang Enterprises Inc, (YEI) owned by a Mrs Yang , had developed software that could bias elections, Curtis went on to say the software was embeded coding with the intent of clandestinley stealing votes.
The Americanfreepress.net ,goes on to say Mrs Yang also sent internal information on such as Guidance systems chips, for Hellfire antitank guidence misiles,,to China.
Curtis had resigned from (YEI) and found a new job with the Florida Department of Transport, Raymond Lemme as Inspector General for the Florida Department of Transport, pursued aligations regarding YEI.
In July 2003 Lemme was found dead in a hotel room, One month earlier he made the statement that the corruption was all the way to the top, Florida was also an area that had its electorate changed, an event not given balanced media attention by the powers that be..
Pat Conroy's rejection (Workers Online #250) of Tom Bramble's analysis on the change in popular thinking in Australia is unjustified.
Tom wasn't saying that the shifts he was highlighting would be reflected in changed electoral behaviour in the short term (though his case wasn't helped by his
over-estimation of the Green vote in October).
He did, however, demonstrate that there have been considerable changes in some important indicators of
basic social attitudes.
The task is to consider the relationship between these changes and recent election results.
Take the "social services vs tax cuts" debate. The Right has been dismissing survey results saying that people prefer increased social services to tax cuts by attributing them to the desire of respondents not to
While this may be a factor influencing the result of any
one survey, it doesn't explain the strong shift over time in the direction of wanting more social services.
You'd have to argue that the "guilty conscience" factor was increasing as time went on, something which is not intuitive in a time when the papers and the air waves are dominated by a\ handful of free-market ideologues in the pay of the media barons.
Similarly, the rise of the Greens is not just a re-hash of the Democrats.
They are significantly to the Left of their now-eclipsed rivals and, in the recent election campaign, came under some heavy fire from the usual suspects on the Right - something that never happened to the Chippocrats.
The two factors together signify a hardening of opposition to Howard, though it would be unwise to overestimate its current extent.
The question of the relationship between changes in public opinion & electoral shifts in the other direction should be resolved by looking at
In particular, we should consider the lack of a coherent
ideology on the Left.
The Left these days has no coherent ideology.
This means that specific proposals are less comprehensible to most people and are more subject to misrepresentation.
Further, it means that opposition to the Right is piecemeal, reactive and, in many ways, just plain conservative. The Right know what they're on about & propagate their line consistently (or, at least, as consistently as the inconsistency of their logic allows), while the Left has no collective sense of what it stands for.
This intellectual vacuum on the Left didn't come out of nowhere (pardon the pun).
It is the product of the simultaneous collapse of the two major Left intellectual traditions of the 20th Century - social democracy & Stalinism.
Social democracy failed because mixed capitalist economies can no longer be nationally regulated to deliver a rough equality in living standards and a
substantial social wage.
Globalisation has put paid to that, since employers now build their factories in a global labour market - and
financial markets will shift fortunes immediately on these judgements, rather than wait for existing facilities to depreciate.
Stalinism failed because police states can't innovate and bureaucrats can't plan.
Workers in the late, unlamented USSR went on the world's biggest go-slow in response to the régime they were saddled with, while workers in the West (including
Australia) stopped putting their hands up for a dose of the same as they slowly realised what was goin!
g on there.
And to top it off, the small Trotskyist groups offering their alternative have been so undemocratic that their major achievement so far has been to generate a considerable number of ex-members who think they're
little better than the Stalinists.
With the collapse of Stalinism and social democracy, the Right no longer feel compelled to offer either a morally superior alternative or piecemeal
With no social vision to put demands or objectives in context, the labour movement lacks confidence & cohesion.
So, the Right stays on the offensive and continues to win victories in elections and on specific
issues, while public opinion turns against them on their core values.
Sooner or later (and the sooner the better, in my opinion), the gap between working people and the Right will be filled by resistance on the ground
rather than media-induced confusion.
Resistance will start without a conscious ideology, but workers will reflect on their experience in the
struggle and draw conclusions from that.
Further, because of the undemocratic reputation of Stalinism, workers will insist on maintaining
directly democratic control of their organisations of struggle.
The Left will re-emerge, but it will look very different from the one the "Communist" Party dominated for decades.
And I'll be doing my bit to contribute to the
development of its ideology.
So, the news isn't good for the ALP's prospects in the next election, since the trends Tom Bramble has analysed are more "subterranean" than how people
will vote, but they're no less real for that.
The lying rodent might keep winning elections, but he's teaching people the consequences of his
Giving way to hatred, greed and fear harms most of the population, including most workers who vote for it, and it's that reality therapy that's creating a new constituency for the Left.
Let's start organising resistance on the ground, and let the pollies try to catch up with us.
By way of background, an image comes to my mind of an election rally at Randwick in 1972, when Gough Whitlam was campaigning for election as
potential Prime Minister of Australia.
The hall was filled with people apparently from across the social spectrum.
As the great man entered the hall from the rear and walked towards the stage, the hall was filled with a
tangible feeling of love.
Here was the Messiah, come to save us from the
debacle created by Billy McMahon's pathetic leadership.
And so I am sure that Labor supporters across the country were pinning their hopes on Mark Latham to liberate Australia from yet another term of Howard‚s
Personally I think Mark performed excellently, but was outwitted by the shrewd and seasoned John Howard, with his oft repeated lie that interest rates would rise under a Labor Government.
More than likely Gough would have seen through this ploy and stopped it in its tracks.
But that was not to be and Labor, under Mark Latham, lost it's fourth successive Federal election.
From Mark's comments in his resignation announcement to the media, the unforgivable degree of intrusion by the media into his private life,
especially as he was suffering from a very painful illness, greatly added to the distress and disappointment that he was already feeling.
As a former Sydney Morning Herald journalist myself, I am deeply ashamed at the outrageous behaviour by elements of the media.
It has been reported that after the election defeat, Mark's parliamentary colleagues found him moody and irritable.
And well he should have been after the ordeal he had gone through.
But I and many of my fellow Labor supporters think he did a great job, and it is a great loss to the party and the parliament that he has decided to resign from politics altogether.
And now to address the current situation regarding Labor leadership.
Whilst many people, myself included, consider Julia Gillard the best choice for the job, this is very unlikely to happen because of factional pressures.
Regrettably it is painfully obvious that the Federal Labor Party is far more concerned with factional infighting than in winning government. And so the
leadership will most likely go to that two-time loser, verbose and entirely uncharismatic great lump of lard, Kim Beazley.
The irony is that Mark only won leadership of the party 12 months ago by one vote over Beazley.
Had Beazley won, he would have presumably led the Labor Party to a third successive electoral defeat, and would have disappeared into political oblivion.
But all is not lost, and a much more encouraging scenario may develop over the next two or three years.
Eventually Howard must step down as Leader of the Coalition. And when he does, he will leave a vast vaccuum.
He is the only politician of any calibre in the entire Coalition front bench.
Can you seriously imagine Peter Costello as Prime Minister?
And what about the pathetically unimpressive Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the various other cabinet ministers?
Any talent there? None that I can see.
Meanwhile Labor has an impressive array of strong, clear-thinking rront-benchers ˆ Rudd, Gillard, Swan,
Smith and other Eventually one of these people will become Opposition Leader and in time
And they will have such a solid front bench to support them, that perhaps it will be the Coalition‚s turn once more to spend a long term in the wilderness.
For the first time in decades the government has control of the Senate, providing the so-called Conservatives with a once in a lifetime chance to implement radical reform that will fundamentally change Australia.
At the heart of this process are changes that will turn the Australian workplace into an international experiment that will test the limits of the neo-conservative market ideology.
Overblown rhetoric? Think about it. John Howard is the leader of the international conservative movement - and now he has the means to put their dogma into place.
Remarkably little has been written about this element of the Howard leadership - yes, we know he is incredibly close to George Dubya; yes, he seemed to be the one taking on the EU at Davos; but where is the analysis of his role in this global neo-conservative movement?
In his upcoming book, David McKnighrt charts the philosophies underpinning this movement, tracing it back to Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich Hayek who championed the free market as the end point of human evolution.
Included in his thesis was the contention that notions of family and community - based around altruistic ties - were throwbacks to more primitive forms of society.
While these ideas were used rhetorically to fight Communism, they have gained strength and momentum in the post cold war era - as global market has moved to make its way into every crevass of our lives.
Changes to industrial relations are at the pointy end of this philosophy because they are the point that the market and the family intersect - and the fundamental conflict between work, family and community is brought into stark relief.
Understanding where these ideas comes from, challenges us to place ourselves in this debate: if the Conservatives are the new Radicals, what of the response of those of us who have identified ourselves as progressives?
In embarking on this radical agenda, Howard must depart from his comfortable ground as the 1950s conservative - while he may attempt to maintain the trappings of the social conservative, his policies are too fundamental to hold the ground.
As McKnight argues, the challenge for the erstwhile progressives is to enter this centre ground - by understanding and recognising the value of true conservatism - based around a respect for institutions and a commitment to social justice, the agenda of the now extinct 'Wets'' of the Liberal Party.
Such a position would ground itself on the values of family and community and link the weakening of these institutions with the ongoing deregulation in the labour market.
It would also demand a level of rigour on those advocating radical change, and hold those promoting the change for the damage they do these institutions.
Much of this research is already coming to light - falling birth rates, rising job insecurity, fewer parents with the time to commit to churches or sporting clubs, a family life that is more and more dictated by the demands of the labour market.
These trends will only accelerate as the remaining rules governing work are wound back, until Australian workers feel the full brunt of a labour market without limits.
The question is not whether the changes to industrial relations will be radical - the question is how radical. How we in the labour movement position ourselves will have a large bearing on how far John Howard is prepared to go.
The irony is that a truly Conservative response, as opposed to a militant or radical response, could well be the most effective in blunting the attack and in holding the government to account once these changes become law.
And it is in this sense, that the times may well be right for Kim Beazley, the most conservative ALP leader in memory.