Once upon a time there was a man called Tony Abbott.
All his adult life Tony knew there was a Medicare system. He had just never had access to it.
After all, Tony believed that you shouldn't have access to health care before you could afford it.
So Tony got on with his life, spending his days happily arguing that black was white, down was up and that employers needed unfettered control over their workforce.
This went on for some time and Tony pushed all thoughts of a Medicare system into the back of his mind until, one day, Tony got a new job as Health Minister, and discovered the Medicare system.
Tony was overjoyed. So overjoyed he felt it necessary to tell the world about this long-lost medicare system he had discovered. In the end he spent $20 million telling people how wonderful this newfound medicare system was.
Nonetheless, the news that there was a health care system that looked after all Australians, regardless of income, came as something of a shock to Tony.
Nonetheless Tony took it all in his stride. It was a momentous occasion. He was looking forward to getting closer to the Medicare system he'd only recently become acquainted with. There was so much to catch up on.
Tony decided that what the Medicare system needed to be was a safety net.
Imagine Tony's shock when he discovered that the Medicare system wasn't a safety net, but a universal health care system!
Tony was a bit embarrassed. He'd gone public over the Medicare system being a safety net, and it turned out it wasn't a safety net at all!
He'd promised funding that was an "absolutely rock solid, ironclad commitment".
Then it turned out that there wasn't going to be the funding and that, rather, he'd have to dismantle the Medicare system instead.
Poor old Tony Abbott; things, like promises and commitments, keep drifting in and out of his life.
It's been an emotional time for all of us but luckily Tony lived Toolfully ever after.
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.
As former Attorney General Jeff Shaw prepares a legal team to argue the union case, leading academics and practitioners are forming the view that the radical extension of Commonwealth’s corporations power will be unconstitutional.
Shaw, the architect of the NSW industrial relations system, says unions will have a strong case if the federal government attempts to over ride its existing industrial relations powers. "If the federal government does attempt a hostile takeover using corporations power it would take an activist High Court to rule it was an appropriate use of federal powers," Shaw says. "Even if the court did uphold the use of the powers the result would be patchy and unsatisfactory - with arguments raging about whether public servants, employees in small business and local government workers were outside the scope of the laws." Under our constitution, the Commonwealth has power over a defined list of issues, with the states holding the balance. While there is a body of decisions that extend Commonwealth powers, particularly around the corporations and external affairs powers, legal experts believe they will have to draw the line somewhere. Leading industrial law academic, Professor Ron McCallum, presenting the annual Kingsley Laffer lecture this week, cautioned the government that line was fast approaching. "If the current federal Government believes that through utilising the mantra of the corporations power it is able to enact a set of national labour laws and ride roughshod over the States, it may end up learning a few unpalatable lessons," McCallum said. "Not only may such laws be seen as inappropriate by Australia's industrial citizens, but in order to ensure a balance in our federal compact the High Court may be obliged to draw a line in the sand and limit the relentless advance of the corporations power." And leading constitutional academic and former Victorian solicitor-general Greg Craven warned the federal government the takeover would amount to 'an ideological war on the States'. "I think this is an extraordinarily short-sighted as well as an a-constitutional view of melding policy and constitutionalism," he told 7.30 Report.
Takeover Target Meanwhile, John Brogden's desire to abandon the state IR system, would usher in deteriorating hospitals and schools, according to Unions NSW. Secretary John Robertson says working families will be the big losers if Brogden has his way. "This move would take rights at work away from more than a million workers who deliver vital services to the people of the state," Robertson said. "It would reduce safeguards of service delivery that are included in many state awards and agreements." He cited agreed maximum class sizes, nurses workloads, and police appeal rights as examples.
And foreign childcare workers, included in the Migration Occupations in Demand for the first time, will be shipped into Australia without having any formal assessment of their qualifications.
CFMEU national secretary John Sutton says the extension of the skilled migration program comes at precisely the time in the building cycle and will leave Aussie tradesmen on the scrap heap.
Under the changes announced by immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone this week, the Migration Occupations in Demand list will now include: bricklayers, carpenters, joiners, fibrous and solid plasterers, as well as cabinet makers, plumbers and electricians
Sutton says the net result of the intake would be a new pool of cheap labour in the industry, just at the time when activity is slowing.
"You do not need to be an Einstein to work out that if there is a downturn in the industry, it will be the cheap imports that will keep their jobs," Sutton says.
"In our experience, employer sponsorship of migrant workers has resulted in scandalous exploitation of those workers as cheap labour.
"Migrant workers who are unaware of Australia's health and safety regulations have been exposed to serious injury and in one case death."
Sutton says the Federal Government would be better off employing 20,000 young Australians as trades apprentices, rather relying on migrant intakes and sending 10 department officers to boost employer expertise in engaging migrants.
"The Minister's proposal for recruiting overseas students into full fee paying trade apprenticeships in regional centres is a kick in the pants for young Australians.
Low Pay Drives Child Care Shortage
Meanwhile, the LHMU has warned including child care workers will be shipped into the country without proper assessment processes.
NSW LHMU Child Care Union President Jim Lloyd says the Immigration Department's own paper work issued implicitly points to a problem.
" All other occupation categories have an 'Assessing Authority' listed in the paper work but there is no " Assessing Authority' listed for Child Care Co-ordinators.
" The Department wants to bring these people in from overseas but doesn't seem to know how to assess their qualifications"
Lloyd days good skilled people have left an industry they love because of the poor pay and poor career structure.
" The Howard Government's solution is not to attract them back to this vital industry by supporting improved career structures and wages - but to find cheap alternatives overseas."
A Child Care Co-ordinator in NSW can get paid as little as $28,000 a year. The current NSW LHMU Child Care Union pay equity campaign is arguing for a minimum of $50,000 a year.
Contractors, Thiess Hochtief, introduced ten-cent paper masks for underground workers exposed to deadly silica dust.
Workers say facial hair renders the masks ineffective but Thiess Hochtief has ordered them to have a shave and get on with the job.
"This is cost cutting gone mad," says Andrew Ferguson from the CFMEU. "The real solution is to improve ventilation so there is no need for the masks, or at the very least that something better than a ten cent paper mask from a hardware store."
"This flies in the face of WorkCover order of controls."
The WorkCover rules contained in the OHS regulation say that a risk must be eliminated, and if it cannot be eliminated it must be controlled.
The 'order of control' calls for risks to be minimised by engineering means, such as adequate ventilation, before using personal protective equipment, which should be the last resort in risk management according to the law.
Thiess Hochtief moved to the ten-cent masks after a new occupational exposure standard for silica dust came into effect in January, halving the acceptable levels.
Tunnellers are getting 10-15 minutes use out of each sub-standard masks.
Workers argued in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission that the masks are uncomfortable and impractical in the wet and humid tunnel.
They were refusing to work overtime, or shifts longer than eight hours, to protest against the masks but were ordered back to work by the AIRC.
Inhaled dust can cause silicosis - a scarring of lung tissue which makes it difficult to breathe - and increases the risk of lung cancer.
A WorkCover inspector told the commission the masks were "uncomfortable, you can't communicate in them, they're hot".
A Sydney-based organisation is helping expats exercise their rights in what is shaping as a watershed poll.
New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, has undone much of the damage inflicted by 20 years of hard-Right political leadership, dealing workers back into the national game.
Analysts say another Clark victory, in an election that must be held by September, will cement in those changes.
"We are trying to ensure the re-election of the only Labour Government in the region," NZ Labour Organisation in Australia spokesman, Paul Goulter, says.
"It is an important issue for Australians because, the fact is, we share a common labour market.
"More than that, Helen Clark is prepared to act as a spokesperson and promoter of unions in forums that New Zealand and Australia participate in."
Goulter said she had demonstrated those credentials at APEC and the WTO.
More than 10 percent of New Zealand's population, 450,000 people, now call Australia home.
Representatives from the ETU, CFMEU and AMWU have already joined the campaign, fronted by ACTU officer, Goulter, a former secretary of New Zealand's peak trade union body.
They have linked with Maori and Pacific Island churches and will be bringing high-profile Kiwi politicians to Sydney for meetings. First cab off the rank will be Maori Affairs Minister, Parakura Horomia.
The organisation is preparing flyers for Australian unions to put out on their jobs and fact sheets for organisers with Kiwi members.
Goulter says its "dead set" easy for New Zealanders to vote in their homeland. Essentially, New Zealand citizens only have to have returned home once in the past three years to qualifty.
New Zealanders can get more information or update their enrolment details online at:
Stunned worker representatives are gob-smacked by the Minister for the Hunter’s failure to warn them his government would slash local content requirements for 500 new carriages, from 100 percent to 20 percent.
AMWU secretary, Paul Bastian, said 600 Hunter Valley workers were directly employed by carriage building companies.
"Michael Costa has failed to advocate for his constituents," Bastian said. "Now we have the absurd situation where his failure could lead to skilled jobs, and an entire industry, being exported in the middle of a skills crisis."
In a brief tenure as Transport Services Minister, Costa fought running battles with rail workers and their representatives before being shunted to the Roads portfolio.
Local content rules for rail helped Newcastle, and surrounding areas, grow into an engineering hub.
Currently, most NSW carriages are built at Goninans and EDI plants in the city.
New content rules became public when Railcorp revealed German giant, Siemens, and a Canadian company had been short listed to supply 500 new carriages for Sydney's suburban network.
Workers Online understand that Railcorp wanted local content reduced to 40 percent but that Labor politicians slashed it further.
Combined Rail unions will go the community in a bid to have them change their minds. They have targeted the Labor's 11 Hunter MPs for special attention.
Bastian applauded this week's announcement that Gonninans had won a contract for 81 carriages but said it would not sustain jobs, long term.
"It was a welcome reprieve but not enough to save the industry in the Hunter Valley," he said.
Cabinet Minister Costa has recently drawn fire from Hunter backbenchers who claimed he failed to consult of matters affecting their constituents.
The workers, John Borlini, Leon Strojek and Steven Flynn were amongst 162 CFMEU members who struck over objections to working with "cowboy" contractors.
The maintenance contractors were brought into the Collie coal mine and processing plant after 63 maintenance tradesmen took strike action 43 days ago, after EBA negotiations broke down.
The miners say the new contractors have little experience in mine work, and have been antagonistic to workers on site.
Their employer, Wesfarmers, has launched at least nine separate court cases to try to force workers back to the pit, including supreme court action seeking tens of millions of dollars from miners and tradesmen.
CFMEU member, Borlini, says miners simply want to maintain safe work practices.
"We've had some horrific accidents across Western Australia and we've had a good record at Collie," said Borlini. "We don't want any cowboys coming in and wrecking it."
Wesfarmers, owners of Premier Coal, claim the industrial action is costing them half a million dollars a day.
Tradesmen took strike action over differences with the company on pay rates, rosters and provisions for contractors to be brought on site.
AMWU organiser, Tony Lovett, says the core issue is about the survival of Collie. Premier Coal is citing "managerial prerogative" to try and end consultations before bringing in contractors.
Staff at the Lytton facility identified seventy problems with safety procedure at the site.
The safety audit was prompted by a hydrogen fluoride gas leak last week which hospitalised 24 workers. The employees were rushed to hospital suffering breathing difficulties and skin rashes.
The staff were exposed to the deadly gas while working on an acid return line. Exposure to the gas can damage calcium in bones.
As well as distributing safety blankets to extinguish burning workers, the company will introduce remote alarms, and more gas detectors.
Caltex will also ensure emergency helicopters can land near emergency muster points and increase emergency training for staff.
ETU Queensland secretary, Dick Williams, said the dispute is a timely reminder of the risks inherent in John Howard's proposed industrial relations changes.
"Under his proposed changes.....workers will not be free to protect themselves in this way from renegade companies, especially petrochemical companies such as this, which ignore the safety of workers and the general community," Williams said.
During the dispute Williams had described the Caltex refinery as another Longford ESSO refinery explosion waiting to happen.
In September 1998 an explosion at ESSO's Longford gas plant killed two workers and injured eight others. Victoria coroner, Graeme Johnstone, later found ESSO was solely responsible for the disaster and tragedy.
The penalty, arising from the death of Trevor Kelly on the Gold Coast Convention Centre, last year, has thrust industrial manslaughter back into the political spotlight.
Brisbane-based Mulherin Rigging and Cranes Pty Ltd was fined $55,000 in the Southport Magistrate's Court after pleading guilty to breaching workplace safety laws.
Kelly had been working without a harness and had had no site induction, when he fell to his death.
AMWU state secretary, Andrew Dettmer, said the sentence reflected the "complete inadequacy" of Queensland health and safety laws.
"It's time courts were given the power they need to act as a deterrent," he said. "Queensland courts need more serious options, including a charge of industrial manslaughter against company directors or business owners guilty of negligence that leads to the death of an employee.
"The only way business will take this matter seriously is if Parliament starts to take it seriously."
Queensland Workplace Health and Safety laws work on a system of penalty units. A breach, causing death, carries a maximum fine of $60,000 and the possibility of two years in gaol.
Prison terms have rarely, if ever, been handed out but Dettmer says industrial manslaughter laws could rectify that.
"Trevor Kelly's family has lost immeasurably more than $60,000, in personal and financial terms," Dettmer said.
He pledged the AMWU would raise industrial manslaughter, again, at the next ALP state conference.
Meanwhile, Queensland bosses will no longer be able to snoop on job applicants' workers compensation history following state government law changes.
"Unions have been concerned for some time that employers and employment agencies had required workers to provide workers' compensation histories as
part of the pre-employment process," said QCU General Secretary, Grace Grace.
"The practice was clearly discriminatory against workers who had the misfortune of being injured at work."
Over 50 workers have struck after asbestos was found on the site.
The CFMEU says members have identified soil fill contaminated with crushed asbestos products from demolished buildings and infrastructure from the old BMG quarry site.
Organiser Greg Cummings says contaminated fill had been dumped near a new children's playground.
"Asbestos is a very dangerous substance, and if it is being moved around and crushed for use as fill it could be putting the lives of workers and nearby residents at risk, not to mention future home owners," Cummings said.
The CFMEU has called on developers Delfin Lend Lease to properly dispose of the lethal fibres, which they allege if wind blown could travel kilometres.
Cummings says workers allege asbestos has been moved around the site for months by earthmoving company Daracon, with the full knowledge of Delfin Lend Lease
The site neighbours a large Stockland development, the former CSIRO Clunies Ross Research Centre, where work was halted last year due to asbestos on site. Work is yet to resume on that site.
The Bush-run National Labor Relations Board recently stripped the graduate teaching and research assistants of their legal protections for organising unions at private US universities.
In a partisan 3-2 decision, the three appointees of President Bush denied these workers union rights - and struck a major blow to the freedom of association enshrined in the US constitution.
This dispute - which is becoming a high-profile fight - involves several Australians playing key roles in the union-rights campaign.
Among them: Brangwen Stone, a graduate student in the Yale German Department and a graduate of the University of Melbourne and Daniel Mulino, a graduate teacher in the Yale Economics Department and a graduate of ANU (Arts/Law) and Sydney University (Master of Economics).
"My mother is a member of the NTEU, so I know first-hand how important unions are in defending university workers," Stone said.
"I think that Australians should care about this fight because it seems like the US approach to labour is becoming more prevalent throughout the world."
Australia is especially on Yale's radar screen. There are 31 students in Yale graduate schools from Australia - the twelfth largest population of international students by population at Yale-- including those from the Australian National University, Melbourne and Sydney University - and most of them are signed up union members.
The two US union locals at the centre of this strike are GESO at Yale and GSEU at Columbia. Both are part of the progressive activist labour unions (UNITE HERE for GESO and UAW for GSEU) famous for their successful and aggressive organising drives.
These unions are reaching across the globe to help win these fights at Yale and Columbia because these two Ivy League universities promote themselves as global institutions.
"Yale and Columbia are marketing themselves to the world in order to get cheap graduate labor. We want the world to know the real working conditions on campus", Ben Begleiter of UNITE-HERE said.
In recent weeks UNITE-HERE have informed the leadership of the National Tertiary Education here in Australia about the history of the dispute.
The NTEU has asked all their university branch activists to mount campus actions across Australia this coming week to show their support for this struggle.
The NLRB's decision to cut down union organising drives followed the desire of Presidents Levin of Yale and Bollinger of Columbia University.
Yale's President Levin has been a leader in opposing the unionisation of graduate teachers while at the same time, steering his university towards close alliances with for-profit corporations.
President Levin of Yale is particularly close to the Bush White House.
Levin was the first overnight guest of the Bush White House and was appointed by Bush to the WMD Commission.
On both campuses, strong majorities of graduate employees have stated their preference to deal with these issues by forming a union and bargaining a contract with their employer.
This majority preference in favor of unionisation on both campuses has been certified by public officials in New York and Connecticut.
"Democracy has a place in every workplace," Bob Proto of UNITE/HERE Local 35, which represents service and maintenance workers at Yale, said.
"The goal of this job action is to convince administrators at Yale and Columbia to respect the rights of their own teachers."
The key issues in the dispute:
* A Living Wage for graduate teachers. Without a Living Wage many lower income students cannot afford to attend graduate schools. This is especially critical for married international students who, because of US labour law, are the sole source of financial support for their families
* Fighting for affordable healthcare for union members and their families.
* Fighting for visa reform to enable international students to travel to and from their home countries more easily.
* Fighting against racism, sexism and discrimination of all sorts. See the Yale Unions most recent report on women and minority hiring in Ivy League universities (Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton etc):
Act Now: Show your support for this dispute - send an e-mail to the Presidents of Yale and Columbia with this special LabourStart campaign:
Drivers have criticised the welded mesh screens, saying they leave them open to being spat on, abused, stoned, poked and assaulted.
Three hundred drivers responded to a survey on the safety screens by the Transport Workers Union (TWU), many complaining about their lack of effectiveness.
The TWU, representing the drivers, is calling for a summit to thrash out the issues surrounding bus driver safety in WA.
The union has approached the minister responsible for workplace safety, John Kobelke; the workplace safety authority, WorkSafe; the WA Public Transport Authority; and the three provaite bus operators in Perth to join the summit.
"We're hoping to get a consensus on a cage design," says Mick Knowles from the TWU. "The stress these drivers are under is immense."
"With keeping to running times, timetables, and then something happens and these drivers snap."
Figures provided by Perth's three private bus companies to the media show more than 400 incidents involving anti-social behavior by passengers or projectiles being thrown at buses in the past six months.
Drivers Robbed, Pelted with Stubbies
Meanwhile bus drivers in Sydney's southwest have faced further violence with a driver doing a Claymore route having beer bottles thrown at his vehicle, and a bus driver at Airds being threatened at knifepoint, robbed and assaulted in the last month.
Campbelltown Busways TWU delegate Paul Tucker told media he would ensure the safety issue was on the agenda for a meeting with Busways.
The concession came at the launch of an ACT Cleaning Industries Code of Practice, designed to drive shonks out of the territory.
The code, developed by the LHMU and Building Services Contractors Association of Australia (BSCAA), has the Spotless Group, Tempo Services and, importantly, the Westfield Group as backers.
Westfields is especially important as a major shopping mall landlord. Contracting critics have singled out building operators whose only consideration is price, as the driving force behind rip-offs.
BSCAA president, Rodney Barnes, agreed "some" contractors were causing problems by illegally sub-contracting and failing to provide correct insurance or workers compensation payments.
LHMU representative, Lyndal Ryan, called the code a fresh start for the industry.
"For this initiative to work, we need property owners and managers to embrace the idea that it is not only ethical to prefer code cleaning contractors but it also in their commercial interest," she said.
"These will be corporations that want clean buildings without the use of dodgy employment methods, unsafe working conditions and sweated labour."
The launch, at Canberra's Hyatt Hotel, attracted widespread community support.
ACT Industrial Relations Minister, Katy Gallagher, launched the initiative before representatives of the union, Westfield, shopping malls, ACOSS, the ACT Multicultural Council, and Labor Lawyers.
Casual sheet metal worker, Greg Wannan, rang the AMWU Newcastle office to check out how workmates at Collex could improve their families' living standards.
The 10 originals, employed on maintenance at the Eraring Power Station, all joined the union and used the casual conversion clause in the Metal Trades Award as leverage to get wage increases of between $100 and $250 a week.
"Having that clause was an important lever in our argument," AMWU organiser, Daniel Wallace, said. "Some of these people had been casuals for over seven years.
"Collex were pretty reasonable, once their responsibilities were pointed out."
The campaign started with off-site meetings and finished with three months of negotiations that delivered an EBA.
Key gains included hourly rate movements of between 14 and 23 percent; uncapped redundancy at 2.6 weeks per year of service; a range of allowances, including $1.50 per hour for everyone at Eraring; and transfers to fulltime terms.
Wallace said one of the most pleasing outcomes was evidence that improved wages and conditions, helped the employer.
"When we started this process, Collex had 10 trades people and now they have 20 and plan to take on at least another five," he said.
"It's been win-win, all round."
With union support, Collex has adopted training and safety procedures that open up asbestos removal for which it pays workers an additional $2 an hour, on top of a 25 percent off-site loading.
Wallace said Wannan, a 22-year AMWU member, had been the catalyst for the improvements.
The finding was welcomed by Commerce Minister John Della Bosca and echoed union calls to gaol killer bosses.
"Workplace safety is not just a union issue," says Andrew Ferguson from the CFMEU. "Safety is everybody's issue, and the sooner Government, unions and employers work together to crack down on the handful of rogues who cut corners with safety, the sooner we will see a marked drop in the number of deaths and injuries at work."
Della Bosca says employers have consistently told him they want "cowboys" gaoled if workers are killed.
"I will continue consulting to ensure we develop laws that target the irresponsible rogues, which is what the entire community wants us to do," Della Bosca said.
The State Chamber of Commerce polled 245 businesses in Sydney and across regional NSW.
Following recommendations from a panel of eminent barristers, a draft Bill was released for public consultation in October last year. The Bill contains no new duties for employers and no new offences; however, concerns have been raised about some aspects of the draft.
The Minister has given assurances it will not be introduced in its current form.
Union Aid Abroad APHEDA raffle
The annual Union Aid Abroad APHEDA raffle is on again. There are wonderful prizes including an around the world trip for two and the proceeds go to UAA-APHEDA's work to help build human rights, workers' rights and justice in developing countries. If you can sell a book of tickets to friends, family and workmates please contact UAA - APHEDA on tel. 1800 888 674 or by email [email protected]
The raffle closes on June 2nd with the winner drawn on June 16th.
Amnesty International Australia (AIA) presents a public forum on Directions in Corporate Responsibility with Professor Timothy Devinney (Director, Centre for Corporate Change, AGSM) and Mavis Robertson (former CEO of CBUS one of Australia's largest industry Superannuation funds).
When; 6pm to 7.30pm on Thursday 21st April
Where: Level 2, Bowlers Club of NSW, 95-99 York St, Sydney
Cost: Free (but donations to AIA to cover the cost of room hire would be appreciated)
RSVP: [email protected]
Representatives from the NSW Business Group of AIA will also give Amnesty's perspective on the development of the UN Human Rights Norms for Business and will examine the story of Bhopal, 20 years after one of the world's worst industrial disasters.
For more info on this event and other AIA campaigns call 1300 300 920 or visit the website www.amnesty.org.au
2. Amnesty International Australia (AIA) NSW trade union group
Alison Peters is keen to establish a AIA trade union group in NSW. The group would work on campaigns where people have suffered human rights abuses for establishing, joining or belonging to trade unions and also to involve NSW unions more broadly in AIA's campaigns. If you are interested give her a call on 0425 231 814 or email her at [email protected]
Could Chifley win Preselection Today?
Getting better Labor candidates.
Does Labor have a problem with preselections? Do the factions have too much control? What about the local branches? the trade unions? And who should be getting preselected?
The NSW Fabian Society is conducting a seminar with
John Button (Former federal Minister)
Tim Gartrell (ALP National Secretary)
Rodney Cavalier (former State Minister)
When: Weds 20th April, 6pm - 7.30pm
Where : Gleebooks, 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe
Evatt Breakfast Seminar 21 April: John Edwards will speak to his new book on John Curtin: "Curtin's Gift".
7.30am for 8 am Thursday 21st April, at the new venue: The Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts, 280 Pitt Street, near Town Hall Station.
The controversy of one man - Kisch in Australia
When Czech journalist and peace campaigner Egon Erwin Kisch (1885-1948), came to Australia in November 1934, he challenged a conservative Lyons government, caused a media sensation and won the hearts of many
The renowned political activist will be remembered in a new exhibition - Kisch in Australia - opening at the State Library of NSW on 14 February 2005.
The exhibition tells the story of the man who publicly defied the government's ban on his entry to Australia by jumping overboard at Port Melbourne (breaking his leg) in his determination to reach the Australian public with his message of anti-Fascism.
According to State Librarian & Chief Executive Dagmar Schmidmaier AM: "The fascinating story of this extraordinary man will be brought to life through original items from the Library's renowned collection, including Kisch's hand-written notes used in his public speeches."
The exhibition panels also include newspaper reports of the controversy surrounding his arrival, rare protest posters campaigning for Kisch's release and letters written in defence of Kisch's freedom.
Dr Heidi Zogbaum, author of the recently published Kisch in Australia: The untold story (Scribe, 2004) said, "Kisch had the ability to give rousing speeches with limited English and drew enthusiastic crowds wherever he went."
"Kisch was convinced that his ban was the result of Nazi pressure on the Australian government," said Dr Zogbaum, "but he was quite wrong. The newly appointed Attorney-General, Robert Gordon Menzies had staked his reputation on keeping Kisch out of Australia."
After his return to Paris, Kisch worked tirelessly on behalf of his fellow writers who had fallen victim to the Nazi regime. Upon the fall of France in 1940, Kisch managed to escape to Mexico. He returned to Prague in 1946 and died of a massive heart attack in 1948.
"The memory of Kisch is kept alive in Germany through the renowned Egon Erwin Kisch Prize for journalism, which honours the "reporter of truth" in a most fitting way," said Dr Roland Goll, Director of the Goethe-Institut, Sydney, who initiated and is supporting the exhibition.
Kisch in Australia is a free exhibition in the State Library's Picture Gallery from 14 February - 24 April 2005. It will then travel to the Migration Museum in Adelaide.
Justice for Jack film screening -- 'The President versus David Hicks'
Jack Thomas currently face 55 years in jail under the Howard governments anti-terror laws. Thomas - regularly referred to as "Jihad Jack" by the media - is being prosecuted using evidence obtained in Pakistan where he was held and tortured for five months without charge in 2003. As concern grows over the ongoing erosion of basic human rights in the "war on terror", Jack's case represents an important test on the use of evidence obtained under torture without access to legal counsel.
Come along to this special screening on the closely related story of David Hicks and help support basic human rights and civil liberties in Australia. All proceeds will go to Jack's defence fund.
The President Versus David Hicks
Directed by Curtis Levy and Bentley Dean
"This is a documentary which every concerned Australian should see." David Stratton - The Movie Show
Plus a short documentary on the Jack Thomas case.
$12 full price
7pm, Tuesday April 26 at the Kaliede Theatre - RMIT, Street Level, Building 8, 360 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Phone bookings 9662 3744
Tickets available from the New International Bookshop - Trades Hall, 54 Victoria Street, Carlton.
Organised by the Justice for Jack Campaign
MAY DAY TOAST
7pm Thursday 28th April at the South Sydney Leagues Club, 256 Chalmers St, Sydney. Cost is $20 each and bookings/inquiries can be made to Jaime Midson on 9265 8438.
MAY DAY MARCH
Unionists are asked to assemble from 11am on Sunday 1st May in Hyde Park North with the march starting at 12 noon. Speakers are John Robertson (Unions NSW), Maree O'Halloran (NSW Teachers' Federation), Senator Kerry Nettle and Hannah Middleton (peace activist)
Rodney Adler, a man who had every priviledge and opportunity but still took the low road should face a much harsher punishment than a mere two and a half years in the big house.
This is a man who abused his priviledged position, one most ordinary Australians could only dream of.
People who commit lesser crimes, and have none of the lawyers and priviledge he had do much worse by comparison.
He fought tooth and nail for two and a half years to get out of trouble costing the taxpayer millions in the process and then expected he should have got leniency for for pleading guilty a the last minute.
He should have been given a much harsher sentence.
One of the targets of the early days of his government was the High Court, which he accused of being activist for having the temerity to invoke the external affairs power to rule that the blackfellas had been occupants of the continent before Captain Cook sailed over the horizon.
Howard and his minions systematically went about intimidating the Court, running a coordinated campaign to stem its perceived 'activism' by appointing a succession of black letter, conservative judges who would read doen the Commonwealth's powers.
Fast forward and Howard, the reinvented radical, has a different agenda - an aggressive and hostile move into states' rights, fuelled by a Senate majority that gives him unbridled power.
The wish list is growing by the day, ministers in education, health and defamation are all rubbing their hands and wondering how they can extend their influence.
But this new Radicalism is centring on the hostile takeover of state industrial relations laws, under the auspices of the Commonwealth's power to regulate Corporations.
This brazen play is the constitutional equivalent of a ram raid, using the Corporations power to bust through the shopfront of state's rights.
In effect the Howard government is saying that it's power to make laws about corporations totally overrides its existing constitutional limits on industrial relations, rendering an entire section of Constitution irrelevant.
While the balance of state-federal rights is hardly a barbeque stopping topic, there is a breed of lawyers who get very excited about the issues.
Lawyers like Greg Craven, a mild-mannered constitutional expert and former Victorian solicitor-general who let fly with an absolute spray about the Howard government's new modus operandi.
Here's a flavour what he had to say to Maxine McKew on the 7.30 Report:
"(I) think that conservatives have always understood that federalism is a form of insurance; that you divide power to make absolutely certain that you don't get a situation where any one person or entity controls the entire policy agenda and to make certain that if a particular person gets into a position of power, they do not have all the instruments of power at their beck and call."
"There may well be any number of reasons why you might want to pursue industrial relations reform.
"What you don't do is pursue it at the price of the constitution, because our federal constitution - which has worked, I think, brilliantly, as the Prime Minister keeps telling us, for 100 years - has always worked on the basis that you divide and balance power to make sure that power is not abused, and quite frankly, that is bigger than anything on the policy agenda, even including industrial relations."
If you were to pigeon hole Craven it would be along the following lines - conservative, black letter, not given to judicial activism ... Hold on, Johnnie, isn't this the job description you've been putting out for the High Court?
And here's the rub, in bludgeoning the High Court over native title and the expansive interrpetation of the external affairs powers, Howard now has the sort of court that will think long and hard before trashing the fundamental principles of federalism.
Our system of government is based on the lines between commonwealth and state powers; we can argue about where the line lies, but there is a line to be drawn. If a hostile takeover of state industrial powers doesn't cross that line, in comes very close.
One thing is clear, with this type of High Court, we should not be giving up on the state industrial relations system just yet.