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Issue No. 259 15 April 2005  

Roosting Chooks
It wasnít that long ago that John Howard was the great Conservative leader who wanted to remake Australia in his own image, defending the monarchy, beating up gay mums and attacking the ABC.


Interview: [email protected]
Labor's Penny Wong has the job of getting more people into the workplace and keeping companies honest. In her spare time ....

Unions: State of the Union
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson unveils the annual survey of attitudes of workers to their jobs, thier lives and the union.

Industrial: Fashion Accessories
Jim Marr unpacks the unlikely claim of a suburban house to be considered the New Mecca of the New Right Ö

Legal: Leg Before Picket
Chris White looks at how the federal industrial changes will impact on the basic right to strike.

Politics: Business Welfare Brats
Neale Towart asks why the only form of legitmate welfare seems to be going to the top end of town.

Health: Cannabis Controversy
Zoe Reynolds looks at how drug and alcohol testing is leading to some addled outcomes.

Economics: Debt, Deficit, Downturn
As the indicators head south, Frank Stilwell wonders whether it is the way we do economics that is to blame.

History: Politics In The Pubs
Phil Doyle reports on the increasingly-popular Struggles, Scabs and Schooners day out.

Review: Three Bob's Worth
Doing their best Margaret and David, Tara de Boehmler and Tim Brunero have different takes on the new Australian flick Three Dollars.

Poetry: Do The Slowly Chokie
Workers Online bard David Peetz teaches how workers to dance to Howard's industrial laws.


 Freedom From Choice

 Hostile Takeover - Can Howard Do It?

 Premier Sues Miners

 Vanstone Shows Brickieís Cleavage

 Sparkies Refine Safety Tactics

 Ten Cent Deal Cuts Beards

 Kiwis Vote for Flight

 Death Penalty No Deterrent

 Costa Railroads Jobs

 Greystanes Soiled

 Aussies in Ivy league Battle

 Drivers Shake the Cage

 Employers Come Clean

 Big Call in Newcastle

 Bosses Back Gaol for Cowboys

 Activistís Whatís On


The Soapbox
Notes From a Laneway
Mental Health Workers Alliance member Toby Raeburn shares a week on the frontline.

The Locker Room
War, Plus The Shooting
The Socceroos arenít their own worst enemy after all, or so says Phil Doyle

Life Imitates Art
The jokes have been around for some time about the economic rationalist's approach to the orchestra, writes Evan Jones.

The Westie Wing
Ian West takes the secret passage out of Macquarie Street to deliver his take on NSW Parliamentary Committees and other goings on.

 Adler Should Be Hung
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Freedom From Choice

Abysmal take up rates for federal AWAs have pushed the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations into ditching "choice" and forcing new starters onto individual contracts.

The about-face became effective from April 4, provoking allegations of unfairness and contravention of core public service values.

Former departmental secretary, Paddy Gourlay, slammed the new policy as an assault on merit selection.

Writing for the Canberra Times, Gourlay accused activist DEWR secretary, Dr Peter Boxall, of compromising efficiency by "allowing a factor unrelated to a person's relative merit and ability to determine who gets in and who does not."

Gourlay called for action from the Public Service Commissioner.

CPSU representative, Lisa Newman, says the policy is "fundamentally unfair".

"We work with AWAs and people who sign them," she said, "but the bottom line should be that people have a choice between individual contracts and collective agreements.

"When government began promoting AWAs they were sold on 'choice', now that rhetoric has gone out the window."

The Howard Government introduced AWAs in a bid to slash collective workplace strength and drive down wages and conditions.

It set up a whole new section of DEWR, the Office of the Employment Advocate, to promote and spread them.

Within the public service, the drive has been particularly aggressive.

They have been championed by a succession of Workplace Relations Ministers who have steadily whittled away safeguards to make them more employer-friendly and easier to register.

The Employment Advocate has even taken to promoting pattern AWAs, while government is moving to outlaw pattern collective agreements.

Yet, the take-up rate across industry, has failed to break the three percent barrier and still runs at less than nine percent in the public service where, as a condition of employment, whole levels of senior officers are bound to sign AWAs.

Newman says no serving APS member can be legally coerced into signing an AWA but "given this summersault" there are concerns about that safeguard, as well.


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