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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

Howard Barges Into Workplace


The Howard Government has given itself the right to veto negotiated conditions under legislation it says will get third parties out of Australian workplaces.

Legal experts say the new Act will empower the Minister to disallow sick leave, notice provisions, redundancy pay and a host of other conditions in AWAs, collective agreements and State awards, without reference to Parliament.

The powers lie in obscure 'Henry VIII' clauses that give the Minister the power to change the legislation by regulation.

The Henry VIII clauses are scattered through the Bill, but the most alarming example gives the Minister for Workplace Relations power to over-ride the will of contracting parties with the stroke of a pen.

"He can just decide he doesn't like them," says barrister Adam Searle.

Legal experts fear the Government is keen to use the new power to scratch provisions he thinks are too generous

.

"The Government has been waiting for years to be able to cut back employees' work conditions in such a way," says barrister David Chin.

'The first attempt to use regulations in such a way was in July 1997, " he says, adding the only reason Government failed on that occasion was that, unlike now, it did not control the Senate.

"The government is enhancing its ability to interfere," says Searle. "They can say you and your employer are making the wrong choice."

Lawyers say the ability to use regulations is important because they do not need to be scrutinised by parliament or made public until after they come into force.

Searle says the government's control of both houses of parliament mean it is practically impossible for any Ministerial decision to be challenged.

"While any member of parliament can object to what the Minister decides, a regulation can only be struck out if the majority of either the House of Representatives or the Senate votes to disallow it," he says.

Other controversial aspects of the Workchoices Bill, include:

- Youth Wages - The Bill does not guarantee a Federal Minimum Wage for junior employees, trainees or disabled employees. Whether these people get a Federal Minimum Wage will depend on whether the new Australian Fair Pay Commission decides to give them one.

- Overriding State Industrial Commissions - Besides getting rid of the power of state IR commissions to create new awards, the Bill also gives the Fair Pay Commission the power to ban them from granting pay rises under existing state awards.

- Banning Industrial Action On New Project Sites - Employees working on new projects will be unable to undertake otherwise legal industrial action for at least one year, with Government backbenchers now pushing for the ban to be extended to five years.

- Jail Sentences for Highlighting Unfair AWAs - Union advocates and journalists who highlight unfair Australian Workplace Agreements could face six months jail.


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