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Issue No. 288 04 November 2005  

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.


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.


 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!


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

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

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

 We're Next
 Australia, 2005
 Truth in Advertising
 Investment Advice
 What a Woman!
 It's Not Pretty
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“Choice” By Decree

The federal government will lavish hundreds of millions of dollars on partisan agencies to ramp up its attack on Australian workers.

Nearly half a billion extra dollars have been set aside, over four years, to bring “Workchoices” to fruition with most of the spend earmarked for the Office of the Employment Advocate and an expanded Office of Workplace Services.

The OEA, created by John Howard and headed by hand-picked activists, will relieve the 100-year-old Industrial Relations Commission of agreement certification responsibilities.

All agreements, individual and collective, will have to be ticked off on by the OEA which has aggressively carried Canberra's ball against the CFMEU and collective bargaining.

The organisation, originally headed by Jonathan Hamberger and, more recently, Peter McIlwain will have the power to strike down any collective agreement that doesn't get the nod of its political masters.

At the same time, it will continue spending taxpayer funds on the promotion of secret, non-union, individual agreements.

Canberra moved to deny workers choice about AWAs, and to strip away the no-disadvantage test they had been measured against, after the OEA failed to convince Australians of their merit.

An aggressive eight-year campaign on behalf of AWAs, by the Office, had seen less than 2.5 percent of Australian workers take them up.

Even so, the OEA was pinged in court for failing to apply legal safeguards it was obliged to administer.

Last year, the Federal Court in Perth, heard evidence that the OEA had been registered fraudulent individual contracts that workers had neither seen nor signed.

The evidence was not contested but repeated efforts to have the matter investigated have drawn a blank.

Justice French called an admission by the Office's WA manager that it was registered AWAs outside the 21 days permitted by law "surprising".

He also heard evidence that the Office routinely accepted AWAs without signatures.

All those requirements have been removed by the new Workchoices legislation.

McIlwain told a Senate Committee hearing, last week, that his organisation would no longer be required to check on whether or not workers had genuinely consented to being covered by AWAs.

"I don't believe I will have that requirement placed on me," McIlwain said.

He also confirmed that his Office would no longer check the contents of AWAs and that they would be enforceable, immediately, an employer declared they were legitimate.

The new legislation, introduced to federal parliament this week, green lights the sacking of workers who refuse to sign individual contracts and continues the existing policy of allowing employers to refuse jobs to applicants who opt for collective coverage.

A new section of the law specifically states that employers do not apply duress "merely because the employer requires the employees to make an AWA with the employers as a condition of employment".

It will remain an offence, punishable by jail, however, for unionists to try to "coerce" an employer or employee to make a collective agreement.

Howard's expanded Office of Employment Services will take over policing and prosecuting the new laws from the IRC.

That office will have the power to prosecute unions and union officials who ask for prohibited matters, even those employers have already signed-off on, to be included in future collective agreements.

Such requests carry possible six months prison terms and the government has authorised enforcement agencies to prosecute them, with or without, the support of affected employers.

Government currently spends $86 million a year on IR agencies. Over the next four years, it will add $486 million to the figure, massively increasing workplace regulation.


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