||Issue No. 266||03 June 2005|
An Act of Faith
Interview: The Baby Drought
Industrial: Lies, AWAs and Statistics
Workplace: The Invisible Parents
History: Bruce’s Big Blunder
Politics: All God's Children
Economics: Spun Out
International: Shakey Trials
Legal: Civil Distrubance
Review: Crash Course In Racism
Poetry: You're Fired
The Locker Room
Remembering Workers In Cairns
Fair Go For Injured Workers
A Question Of Choice
Galahs Up The Cross
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.
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