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Issue No. 288 04 November 2005  
E D I T O R I A L

Terror Laws
It was poetic really, the WorkChoices legislation, all 1,000 plus pages of it, introduced into Federal Parliament this week under the cloak of terror.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Public Defender
The CPSU's Stephen Jones has confronted the Howard Government's IR agenda at close quarters.

Legal: Craig's Story
An inquest in western NSW is a cautionary tale of the use of AWAs, writes Ian Latham

Unions: Wrong Way, Go Back
The WorkChoice legislation sends Australia down the wrong economic road by smashing the instittutions that have made it strong, argues Greg Combet.

Industrial: WhatChoice?
The Howard Government has shown itself to be the master of illusion, writes Dr Anthony Forsyth

Politics: Queue Jumping
The changes to industrial laws, betray a new vision of Australian society, writes James Gallaway.

History: Iron Heel
Conservative governments using laws to take away basic civil rights. It's nothing new, writes Rowan Cahill

Economics: Waging War
When was the last time you heard an Australian politician talk about incomes policy, asks Matt Thistlethwaite

International: Under Pressure
The push for UN intervention in Burma is intensifying, following a report by Vaclav Havel and Bishop Desmond Tutu into slave labour.

Poetry: Billy Negotiates An AWA
More and more people are meeting Billy, the hero of page 15 of the WorkChoices booklet, including our resident bard, David Peetz

Review: A Pertinent Proposition
Nick Cave's "Australian western" touches on some themes still relevant today, Julianne Taverner writes.

N E W S

 D-Day For Political Rights

 Bosses In Sack Race

 “Choice” By Decree

 Howard Barges Into Workplace

 Della Grounds Boeing

 Wal-Mart Sees the Light

 Libs Chicken Out

 Shame Ships Filch Fish

 Multis Line Up to Cheer

 Feds in Dock

 Santoro Waves Red Rag

 Activist's What's On!

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Men and Women of Australia
What makes a perfect speech? Michael Fullilove has scoured Australian history to find out.

The Locker Room
The Hungry Years
Phil Doyle gets the feeling we’ve been here before

Culture
From Little Things
Paul Kelly's song about the battle for land rights misses one important character, writes Graham Ring

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Ian West takes a look at Public Private Partnerships, and wonders if we should all just drink rum…

L E T T E R S
 We're Next
 Australia, 2005
 Truth in Advertising
 Investment Advice
 What a Woman!
 It's Not Pretty
 Screwed
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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News

Bosses In Sack Race


Employers will get the green-light to victimise trade unionists under new laws that allow them to sack anybody in Australia, as long as they are clever about it.

John Howard's “Workchoices” give employers the right to punt anyone for “economic, technical or structural or similar” reasons. His legislation describes these broad get-out provisions as “operational”.

The Prime Minister admitted in Federal Parliament, last week, that the provisions were drafted to "clarify" a situation that arose at a Rio Tinto's Blair Athol mine, in Queensland.

What the Prime Minister didn't say was that in the late 1990s unionists at the mine were victimised through a "black list" that singled them out for termination under a redundancy process.

The skilled miners were reduced to menial tasks such as chipping weeds with a hoe, rather than using weed killer, in an attempt to force them to accept a redundancy packages, the AIRC found. They were eventually sacked.

The case was pursued by the workers under unfair dismissal provisions. After numerous cases, appeals and further appeals, most of the workers were reinstated and the case was settled with the unanimous approval of the workers.

Earlier this year, federal government flagged its intention to green light unfair sackings at businesses with less than 100 employees. The Blair Athol amendment opens the floodgates for every employer in Australia.

Griffith University industrial relations specialist, Professor David Peetz, says that this amendment would have prevented the miners from pursuing their claims.

Lawyers from Freehills, who represented mining giant Rio Tinto in the Blair Athol case, were involved in drafting the WorkChoices legislation.

Professor Peetz says that the Blair Athol amendment will give large employers, who are over the 100 employee threshold set by the unfair dismissal exemption, the same freedom to unfairly dismiss as small employers will have, provided they reorganise their affairs the right way.

"In effect a company won't be constrained from unfairly dismissing an employee so long as they can demonstrate that the dismissal was done partly for genuinely operational reasons, including economic reasons" Professor Peetz says.

"Economic reason could cover all sorts of things. It could cover replacing more expensive workers on awards or collective agreements with cheaper workers on just the four minimum standards. That would provide a genuine economic benefit to the corporation," he says.


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