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Issue No. 287 28 October 2005  

A Sick Set of Laws
The Howard Government’s inexorable push to strip workers’ rights continues; despite the warnings of unions, churches, community groups, labour market economists and now, epidemiologists.


Interview: Under Fire
Michael Crosby outlines his agenda to save the movement – and explains why Australians have nothing to fear from the SEIU.

Politics: And the Winners Are ...
Wal King, Allan Moss, Roger Corbett, Chip Goodyear, Michael Chaney and David Murray have lots in common, writes Jim Marr.

Industrial: Un-Australian
Labour lawyer Clive Thompson argues the changes to IR are fundamentally at odds with the national tradition of consesensus.

Economics: The Common Wealth
As the policy wonks debate the future of our cities, Neale Towart mounts a simple argument: It’s the real people in a society, stupid

History: Walking for Justice
The Eight Hour Day, a very Australian celebration, had its origins in New Zealand it seems, writes Neale Towart.

International: Deja Vu
A group of trade unions have walked away from America's peak council, again. Labourstart's Eric Lee was there.

Legal: The Rights Stuff
Terror laws have sparked a fresh debate on a Bill of Rights - and workers have a bigger stake than ever before, writes Rachael Osman-Chin.

Review: That Cinderella Fella
Russell trades the phone for mitts in an inspiring cinematic slug-fest. Nathan Brown is ringside

Poetry: Is Howard Kidding?
Mel Cheal asks who Howard thinks he is kidding to the tune of the ‘Dad’s Army’ theme song.


 Howard's Fatal Laws

 Saving Private Buy-In

 PM Scoffs at Wollongong

 Commo Bank in Denial

 Family Values

 Johnny Fails Comprehension Test

 Dole Bludgeoning - Andrews Comes Clean

 Jason Turns Leave into Leave!

 Halfback Puts the Boot In

 Business, As Usual

 Terror Laws Strike Fear

 Asbestos Giants Claw Back Compo

 Staff Told to Take a Hike

 Activist's What's On!


The Soapbox
No Place For A Woman!
Doreen Borrow spoke to the Public Service Association’s women’s conference in September about her experiences of working life that span seven decades.

North By Northwest
Phil Doyle returns from up north, where he survived on nothing but goodwill, good people and a great big orange bus.

The Locker Room
In which Whatsisname slams the recent poor form of Thingummyjig.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West MLC, gets all casual in his latest missive from the Bear Pit.

 Rung Out
 PM's Fatal Flush
 Sign of the Times
 Labor's Love Lost
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A Sick Set of Laws

The Howard Government’s inexorable push to strip workers’ rights continues; despite the warnings of unions, churches, community groups, labour market economists and now, epidemiologists.

That's right - after much debate about how the changes will affect the Australian way of life; concerns have now been raised that they will be a threat to Australian life itself.

Drawing on the field of social epidemiology - that is the study of how social conditions affect public health - ACIRRT has painted a picture of a society where the gap between the life expectancy of the rich and the poor will widen.

At the heart of the analysis is research showing that it is income distribution and not national wealth that determines a nation's material well-being - which explains why the wealthiest nation on Earth, the USA, ranks just 26th in life expectancy.

The key is what Sir Michael Marmot, a world renowned Australian scientist - has called the social gradient; a calculation of public health based on occupational and social hierarchy.

What ACIRRT concludes is that, under the federal government's industrial relations, changes will increase the social gradient - that is, the gap between the haves and have-nots; with a huge pool of low-cost labour in insecure, unskilled jobs with few work rights.

While there has been much debate of the social cost of this push down the American road, the threats to weekends, annual leave, secure work and the impact of on family and community life, the Marmot analysis is something else again.

What this research says is that labour market deregulation will have a profound impact on the national health in ways we haven't even begun talking about.

These are big issues based on rigorous science that will be easy for the government to trivialise and dismiss.

But, at the very least, it shows why there needs to be genuine community debate about these changes, not just a one week power play, a bodgy Senate Inquiry and a government waiting to rubber stamp major changes to our society.

The Senator, who would come into play if Barnaby Joyce gets an attack of political consciousness before it's too late, Steve Fielding, has been rebuffed in his call for a Family Impact Statement.

That work is now being undertaken by Dr Don Edgar, foundation director of the National Institute of Family Studies, who Unions NSW has commissioned to produce his own analysis.

Both Dr Edgar's work and ACIRRT's report are important research, not just in the current political debate, but in placing on record the damage to Australian society that is about to be done.

The polls say the Australian community does not support these changes and targeted research shows they are deeply confused and sceptical - and the expenditure of $40 million in taxpayer funded advertising has only deepened their trepidation.

What Marmot's research tells us is that the fears are probably even more justified than people realise.

Peter Lewis



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