||Issue No. 274||29 July 2005|
The Heart of the Matter
Interview: Battle Stations
Unions: The Workers, United
Politics: The Lost Weekend
Industrial: Truth or Dare
History: A Class Act
Economics: The Numbers Game
International: Blonde Ambition
Training: The Trade Off
Review: Bore of the Worlds
Poetry: The Beaters Medley
The Locker Room
Poetry in motion
Losing the faith
Unfairness For All!
The sweating heaving frame of Peter Costello lurched from the cabinet room, smoke billowing out of the door behind him as the groans and cries of his colleagues emanated from the interior.
"More!" Cried Costello, his face contorted into a grinning rage. "More! I must have more reform!"
"She cannot take it, Peter!" cried the wavering voice of Kevin Andrews, who was nervously toying at his ecclesiastical collar. "She's going to blow!"
"More!" Roared Costello. "I must have more reform!"
Andrews shrunk back from the demented treasurer, cringing as Costello leapt forward once more into the cabinet committee...
A lovely glimpse into life after John Howard retires, or finally disappears up George Bush's fundament, was revealed to us all during the week when the increasingly erratic treasurer blessed us all with his finite wisdom.
Just how finite it is became apparent with a generous self-assessment of his own unfair dismissal proposals.
Readers will be pleased to hear that Peter thinks they're tops. In fact, he doesn't think that unfairness should be limited to just small to medium to rather large employers with under a hundred wage slaves, but his munificence should be extended to all employers, so that every Australian can share in the benefits of unfairness.
The argument that sacking people creates jobs has deeply impressed the Australian public. As has Costello's proposition that most of us don't want holidays, or even a break for that matter.
The Australian public is very forgiving by and large, and many would have noticed that Peter's statements came after he had spent some time in the tropics, and his departure from the script could have been put down to a mild case of Beri-beri, or Ross River Fever. They were certainly received with about as much enthusiasm.
Peter was up in the tropics gritting his teeth as Dear Leader Howard was playing GI Joke in Baghdad and Lords, so no wonder getting someone out of a job has been playing on our Tool Of The Week's mind.
The laugh-a-minute Costello show showed further intellectual alacrity by pushing a line that ran at about 180 degrees from what his hapless colleague, the Rev Kev Andrews was saying.
While the Rev was taking a big breath and attempting again to sell what has fast become a big bag of rotten fish guts, Peter was up in the tropics, catching a tan, grinning like a loon and gibbering into anything that looked like a microphone that we needed workplace reform to fix the economy.
It was a tad embarrassing that the economy that needs fixing is the same one he is assuring us is humming along nicely under his capable guidance.
While this split-personality economy may match Peter's own psychological state, it has become somewhat disconcerting for the rest of us. Let's just hope our Tool Of The Week isn't being left alone with sharp objects for any length of time.
While many of us have grown used to Peter's increasingly erratic mutterings as John Howard has stayed on and on and on in the job, most of what he gibbers on about is considered to be about as engaging as shower mould.
But this exceptional effort over the past week, where he went on the record as saying that he wanted to give people the power to lose their holidays and meal breaks, has been truly remarkable.
It's the closest we've got to anyone in this government publicly acknowledging that negotiating as an individual in the workplace is the 900-pound gorilla at the kitchen table.
What do you say to a 900-pound gorilla sitting at your kitchen table?
Whatever the 900-pound gorilla wants you to say.
"You'd be foolish if you took away that right to negotiate," says Peter.
Which is exactly what the trade union movement is arguing.
Apart from Peter saving the trade union movement a lot of time and money by being an excellent argument as to why these changes should be dumped, he is also a wonderful character study should anyone wish to sketch a character of a man unraveling in the public gaze.
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