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Issue No. 271 08 July 2005  
E D I T O R I A L

Polls Apart
The tragic bombings in London may knock industrial relations off the front pages over the next few days, but it is unlikely to end the groundswell of opposition to the Howard Government's mad grab at workers' rights.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Battle Stations
Opposition leader Kim Beazley says he's ready to fight for workers right. But come July 1, he'll have to be fighting by different rules.

Unions: The Workers, United
It was a group of rank and filers who took centre stage when workers rallied in Sydney's Town Hall, writes Jim Marr.

Politics: The Lost Weekend
The ALP had a hot date, they had arranged to meet on the Town Hall steps, and Phil Doyle was there.

Industrial: Truth or Dare
Seventeen ivory towered academics upset those who know what is best for us last week.

History: A Class Act
After reading a new book on class in Australia, Neale Towart is left wondering if it is possible to tie the term down.

Economics: The Numbers Game
Political economist Frank Stilwell offers a beginners guide to understanding budgets

International: Blonde Ambition
Sweden can be an inspiration to labour movements the world over, as it has had community unionism for over 100 years, creating a vibrant caring society, rather than a "productive" lean economy.

Training: The Trade Off
Next time you go looking for a skilled tradesman and canít find one, blame an economist, writes John Sutton.

Review: Bore of the Worlds
An invincible enemy has people turning against one another as they fight for survival Ė its not just an eerie view of John Howardís ideal workplace, writes Nathan Brown.

Poetry: The Beaters Medley
In solidarity with the workers of Australia, Sir Paul McCartney (with inspiration from his old friend John Lennon) has joined the Workers Online resident bard David Peetz to pen some hits about the government's proposed industrial relations revolution.

N E W S

 Then There Were Three

 Dad's Choice Goes AWAL

 OEA Invokes Sgt Schultz

 CFMEU Resists Standover Tactics

 Tall Tales and Two

 Corrine Throws Stones

 Cardinal Adds Weight to Concerns

 Bosses: Unions Beat AWAs

 16 Hours to Recover Worker

 Choice Gets Confusing

 Attack Derailed In Qld

 PM Pulls Rank On Ads

 HT Lee Gravely Ill

 Activists Whats On!

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
State of the Union
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson lifts the lid on ĎThe Nine Myths of Modern Unionismí

The Locker Room
Wrist Action
Phil Doyle trawls the murky depths of tawdry sleaze, and discovers Rugby is behind it all.

Culture
To Hew The Coal That Lies Below
Phil Doyle reviews Australia's first coal mining novel, Black Diamonds and Dust.

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Our favourite State MP, Ian West, reports from Macquarie Street that the Premier is all the way with a State Commission.

L E T T E R S
 Donít Call Me Customer
 Do It Yourself?
 Goodthink
 Vale the Eight Hour Day
 The vision thing
 Campaign Pushes Right Buttons
 Itís Time to Punt the PM
 Bob Each Way
 Ads Value
 Travel Allowance?
 Hits the Mark
 Reforms not an Erosion
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Letters to the Editor

Donít Call Me Customer


Is the word customer an appropriate label for a government to place upon its citizens; or is this just another subtle way in which bureaucrats and politicians continually but fruitlessly attempt another deceit of the electorate; or is this the ultimate privatisation of community resources that of our government?

If this is the reality in local government, this context being - Penrith City Council - I would bring to their attention these words attributed to Abraham Lincoln.

"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

This behaviour was brought to my attention, when recently I queried the public availability of policies and procedures adopted by Penrith City Council - policies which are required to ensure a consistent application of the Local Government Act 1993 by local government bodies an Act which is effectively the foundation of Local Government within the state of New South Wales.

In an endeavour to obtain a somewhat objective view rather than rely on my own somewhat jaundiced experiences of local government, I comprehensively sought out other views and experiences, from a myriad of sources.

One source that did attract my attention, perhaps through its reinforcement of my own opinions , but credible nonetheless , was the address 'Does the Word 'Customer' Make Sense in the World of Local Government?' by Dr Ted Johns, Chairman of the Institute of Customer Service UK.

In this address Dr Johns, referred to arguments as to the dangers of the word 'customer' being used in local government as promulgated by Professor John Stewart, a one time facilitator of the Institute of Local Government Studies at the University of Birmingham.

Professor Stewart, points out that in truth - there is little or no choice as to the services provided by local government, and the misuse of the term 'Customer' gives a false sense of choice, and I for one would be hard to convince that this was not the intent of these local government bodies who spend ratepayers money on glossy expensive Customer Service Charters which are - and I say with confidence - at best a nonsense and at worst a confidence trick on the electorate.

Would this money not be better spent on actually providing a choice of service or even a service?

One example given in this address was that of railways calling passengers customers, when in fact the majority have no other alternative method of travel.

Another novel example given in this address was:

"Second, local authorities could create more choice for their 'customers' (let's call them that, at least for the time being) if they produced some sort of vouchers enabling taxpayers to select from a cafeteria range of, say, social benefits, like respite holidays, meals-on-wheels, and so forth.

"After all, 'customers' can already choose whether to patronize the municipal library service and can choose their own books when they do so: why cannot this principle be extended elsewhere? If the libraries were run like some local authority departments, on the other hand, then even the freedom to select your own books would be severely curtailed.

"According to the bureaucratic approach, you would be told what books you would be reading each week, and simply sent them through the post. If the professional model were adopted, you would have to make an appointment to see a professionally-qualified librarian, who would ask you questions about your personal habits (your sleeping patterns, your diet, your holiday plans for 2005, and even, as an afterthought, your literary tastes), and then issue you with some books considered suitableā. It is very unlikely that these books would be those that you would have volunteered to read." (www.egovmonitor.com/)

In summation, while I do use the services of Penrith City Council, I do so, as a ratepayer, as an investor, as a stakeholder, a shareholder and as an intrinsic part of this council, with my participation being entirely at my whim as is the participation of the other 178232 * residents of Penrith, I do not purchase these goods or services as a client, customer of some privatized conglomerate.

In short, I find the word customer used in this manner inappropriate and offensive.

Tom Collins

Emu Plains, NSW


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