||Issue No. 275||05 August 2005|
Interview: On Holiday
Unions: One Day Longer
Industrial: Never Mind the Bollocks
Politics: Spun Out
Economics: If the Grog Don't Get You ....
History: Taking a Stand
International: The Split
Legal: Pushing the Friendship
Poetry: Simple Subtractions
Review: Sydney Trashed
The Locker Room
AFL-CIO Not The Only War
We Love Morris
A Readers Suggestion
While the commentariat debates whether this is a necessary spring clean or the baling out of a sinking ship - what is certain is that the effectiveness of the new Premier will have a concrete impact on the living standards of NSW workers.
We know the scenario. Morris Iemma comes to the leadership at a time when NSW workers face a hostile takeover of its industrial relations system; a play that would put basic rights such as weekend penalties and annual leave up for grabs.
The outgoing Premier took a strong line against these changes; giving a guarantee that he would hold onto the state system, challenge the federal laws in the High Court and campaign on the issue all the way to the next state election.
His successor's challenge is to seize both the moral and political challenge of turning the protection of workers rights into one of the foundation stones of his Premiership.
Looking at Morris Iemma's background gives some grounds for confidence.
He began his career as an industrial officer with the Commonwealth Bank Officers' Association, dealing with the daily issues working people face.
As a Minister he may have had a low public profile, but he has gone the extra mile for workers - bringing in a ground-breaking procurement policy as Minister for Public Works that required firms to meet basic labour standards before they could win government contracts.
While this use of purchasing policy is merely applying the same standards the Howard Government has been using to bust unions, it took significant drive to get it through a habitually cautious Cabinet.
But while the new Premier has some runs on the board there are also concerns.
Already we have seen the new leadership team fall into the ritual of 'discovering' a massive budget hole - opening the down for big cuts to public spending even as taxes for property speculation are cut.
And while we love Michael Costa dearly, the idea of him calling the economic shots in the State fills many with trepidation; after all, this is the guy who has turned economic rationalism into a fetish.
The government's broader policy challenges are about its failure to invest in public services in a bid to pay off debt that could have easily been serviced.
He needs to free up funds to improve public services; most critically in transport.
While vows to maintain the policy of no forced redundancies in the public sector are welcome, there are genuine concerns about where the new premier goes with this.
If he falls into the trap of playing to the financial markets by privatising public assets and cutting public service jobs, we could find the cure could be worse than the malady.
As for valedictories - Bob Carr can proudly point to the 1996 NSW Industrial Relations Act, the leadership role he played during the MUA dispute, the strong stand he took against James Hardies.
Some of us may never forget the workers compensation blockade of State Parliament and the two-fingered salute as he used police horses against workers, but it would be wrong to see this as the whole story.
What we shouldn't forget is that Bob Carr came to power as the only Labor Premier, and left power with all states and territories under Labor rule.
As Morris Iemma is about to discover, every Labor leader is a product of their times; with the capacity to shape the future for working people. It is a heady responsibility.
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