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Issue No. 266 03 June 2005  

An Act of Faith
After a week of watching the Howard Government attempt to explain their vision of work relations we have a clearer picture of what the social safety net will be in the future � an act of faith


Interview: The Baby Drought
Social ethicist Leslie Cannold has delved into why women - and men - are having fewer children. And it all comes back to the workplace.

Industrial: Lies, AWAs and Statistics
David Peetz uncovers the truth behind the latest statistics on earnings under Australian Workplace Agreements.

Workplace: The Invisible Parents
Current government policies about work and family do not reflect the realities of either family life or the modern workplace. writes Don Edgar.

History: Bruce�s Big Blunder
The Big Fella, Jack Lang, gives an eyewitness account of the last time Conservatives tried to dismantle Australia�s industrial relations system.

Politics: All God's Children
The battle for morality is not confined to Australian polittics. Michael Walzer writes on the American perspective

Economics: Spun Out
The business groups are feeling cocky. The feds have announced their IR changes, business says they don't go far enough. What a surprise, writes Neale Towart

International: Shakey Trials
Lyndy McIntyre argues the New Zealnd IR experiment provides warnings - and hope - for the Australian union movement.

Legal: Civil Distrubance
Tom Roberts argues that there is more at stake than an attack on building workers in the looming legsilation.

Review: Crash Course In Racism
Paul Haggis flick Crash suggests that when cars collide the extent of people's prejudices are revealed sans the usual veil of political correctness, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: You're Fired
New laws will leave bosses holding the whip and workers with a Raw Hide, writes resident bard David Peetz


 Beattie Dares Job Vandals

 Broken Hill Confronts "Choice"

 BHP Faces Losses

 Howard Threatens Babies

 Working Between the Flags

 Hadgkiss Makes History

 Bob The Organiser

 Johnny Packs Toothbrush

 Security Blunders to the Max

 EDI Court Out

 Feds: Do As I Say �

 Soaring Mercury Sparks Walk Off

 Unions Offer to Play Libs

 Education Stands Up To Howard Assault

 Dodgy Bosses Get a Tick

 Weight Watchers Raise Scales

 Hyundai Showdown a Riot

 Activists' What's On!


The Locker Room
Ashes to Dust
In which Phil Doyle travels to distant lands in search of a meat pie, and prepares for the joys of sleep deprivation

The Westie Wing
Ian West lists the Top Ten reasons why workers in NSW can gain some solace from having the Labor Party sitting on the Treasury benches�

The Soapbox
Dear John
In response to this year�s Federal Budget, Bishop Kevin Manning wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard

 Patriot Doug
 Remembering Workers In Cairns
 Bad Law
 Fair Go For Injured Workers
 A Question Of Choice
 Galahs Up The Cross
 National Solution
 Bomber�s Classic
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An Act of Faith

After a week of watching the Howard Government attempt to explain their vision of work relations we have a clearer picture of what the social safety net will be in the future � an act of faith

Faith is emerging as the lynchpin of these reforms, with the Prime Minister's sardonic entreaties to 'trust' him that things will keep going along swimmingly as awards are slashed and workers shifted to contracts.

Meanwhile, his point man, Kevin Andrews, has been telling us to relax about the minimum wage because the decision will be left to the 'experts' who he'll stack on the spookily named Fair Pay Commission.

Given this reliance on faith, it's been interesting to see the reaction from the experts in the field - those who have built their careers on communing with the great unknown.

Some of these religious leaders have already come out publicly opposed to the Howard Government plans.

Bishop Manning has written to the Prime Minister raising his fears about the changes which he says "promises little joy for the poor". It remains to be seen the response of the PM, but other religious groups have been slapped down for raising their concerns.

Uniting Church Reverend Elenie Poulos has raised concerns about the changes to the minimum wage, warning that the most vulnerable would be forgotten in the 'rush for profit'. This drew a stinging editorial from the BCA's official mouthpiece, 'the Australian Financial Review' which accused Reverend Poulos of 'leaping to her lectern' to run an argument that would (I kid you not) lead to an increase in child labour.

This is becoming the government-business modus operandi of dealing with dissent about the changes; personal attacks on individual workers who speak out (including property searchers); a gang tackle on St Vinnies for having the temerity to suggest the gap between rich and poor is growing, even an attack on your's truly by the Minister in Federal Parliament this week! (I wear it as a badge)

Judging by the reaction, you'd think the government was feeling a little vulnerable about the response to their 'liberation' of the Australian workforce.

There was more debate from faith specialists at a Working NSW forum, 'Things Break Down', convened in Sydney this week to discuss the changes.

Archdeacon Derek Howe from the Anglican Church spoke of the sacredness of Sundays, how a strong family life required time and rest and how deregulating work laws attacked these basic goods.

Michael McDonald from the Australian Catholic Commission for Employment Relations spoke of how both the current and previous pontiff believed the right to work with dignity was a t the core of a fair and good society.

As for David Knoll, president of the NSW Jewish Board of deputies, he claimed Moses was the first advocate of workers rights - the founder of a faith that has always been based on building work around family and not the other way around.

"Moses taught us that the obligation of every employer was to create the conditions to allow family life to flourish," Knoll said. Moses was obviously not a member of the Business Council of Australia.

Interestingly, none of these leaders of faith have backed the theological argument put forward by Andrews when questioned about the reforms in light of his own religious conviction at the National Press Club this week.

Andrews, it seems, has no soul-searching around the IR changes because, he says, "the ethical core" of Christian thought on employment was that no-one should be locked out of a nation's economic life.

This may pass as absolution were it not for the fact that the changes will rip away at job security, reduce the wages of the poorest in society and wave goodbye to the idea of the weekend, that most sacred of family times.

And it totally misses the key point that leaders of all denominations have been making over the past week: that workers rights are pillars of stable families and strong communities - and that these laws will tear them down.

Any attempt to spin the current attack on workers rights as anything other than an attack on our way of life and our social and spiritual well-being are either self-deluded, hypocritical or calculated to deceive.

Whatever way you look at it, in most people's language, it constitutes a sin.

Peter Lewis



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