The Official Organ of LaborNET
click here to view the latest edition of Workers Online
The Official Organ of LaborNET
Free home delivery
Issue No. 291 25 November 2005  

International Relations
Globalisation drags up all sorts of contradictions, none the least the attitude of nation states to international law, as show by events in Australia this week.


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.


 Senators Back Rorters' Charter

 Families Last in WorkChoices

 Howard Loses Poll Position

 Printers Stamp on Low Paid

 Tough Men Back CFMEU

 Kiwis Fly into Starbucks

 Vale John Ducker

 Iemma Drives Hardie Bargain

 Memberships on the increase

 Uni Union Shown The Door

 In a Flap Over Flu

 Job Cuts Threaten CBA's Bottom Line

 Blackouts as Bosses Cut Deep

 Barnaby's Choice

 Wal-Mart Exposed

 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…

 Demonise the Laws
 Name and Shame
 Unite and Fight
 The Worker's Best Friend
 What Choices?
 Stop the Corporate Rot
 The Telemarketeers
About Workers Online
Latest Issue
Print Latest Issue
Previous Issues
Advanced Search

other LaborNET sites

Labor Council of NSW
Vic Trades Hall Council
IT Workers Alliance
Unions on LaborNET
Evatt Foundation

Labor for Refugees



International Relations

Globalisation drags up all sorts of contradictions, none the least the attitude of nation states to international law, as show by events in Australia this week.

As the execution by Singapore of an Australian drug courier approaches, there has been an increasingly desperate public clamour to have an appeal heard by the International Court of Justice.

It has spoken to an almost quaint faith that when one nation's legal system leaves us unsatisfied, surely there must be something we can appeal to, some higher authority to enforce justice.

At the same time as we are looking for salvation from the hangman, a ruling this week by the United Nation's International Labour Organisation that the Howard Government's construction laws breach international treaties has been all but ignored.

The ILO's Governing Body ruled the laws, which can lead to workers being jailed for refusing to disclose the contents of union meetings, were a breach of core labour standards as laid out in ILO Conventions 87 and 98, both of which have been ratified by Australia.

The government and media have shrugged off the concerns of the ILO as if they come from some cell group of Trotskyists, rather than the world's longest standing international body, established after WWI to erect a system of basic work rights.

It won't be the end of the issue either - the ILO has also put the government on notice that WorkChoices will also breach the treaties guaranteeing Freedom of Association and the Right to Bargain Collectively.

These rulings confirm what unions and church leaders have been arguing, these laws place Australian workers outside the international, turning them into a sort of neo-con experiment in labour market deregulation.

And the breaches of ILO standards are not just academic, as labour lawyers from ICTUR warned the Senate, Australia faces the prospect of being kicked off the ILO's governing body.

Apart from undermining our ability to pressure governments like Burma over their abuses of workers, this expulsion could also harm Australian businesses seeking to operate in the global economy.

One of the less notable international stories of recent years has been UN secretary-general Kofi Annan's efforts to forge a global compact that would incorporate human rights and labour rights into the global trading framework.

Under the Annan model companies from nations in breach of these principles would face barriers to trading with countries that did comply.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in this project has been the attitude of the USA, with the Bush Administration's UN appointment John Bolton seen as being on a mission to sidetrack the Compact all together.

On many levels the Compact is a challenge for developed nations that attempt to flex their muscles and play politics with global issues - because it is actually an attempt to give some consequence to breaches of treaties

But it is a worthwhile project, the disastrous invasion of Iraq is just the most obvious example of the pitfalls of unilateralism in such an inter-dependent world.

For Australia, which blindly followed the Bush Administration into Iraq, the broader implications of thumbing our noses at international law should be one of the things a Senate inquiry, with a responsibility to scrutinise the actions of the executive, would be expected to consider.

Of course it hasn't; it's merely fiddled around the edges and let the Howard Government walk all over its international obligations. After all, when we thumbed our noses at the Tampa and all we got was another Howard Government.

Breaching ILO standards, in itself, won't create any immediate pain. But as long as we stand outside the international legal system, we should not expect it to work for us when we want it to.

Peter Lewis



*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 291 contents

email workers to a friend printer-friendly version latest breaking news from labornet

Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue

© 1999-2002 Workers Online
Workers Online is a resource for the Labour movement
provided by the Labor Council of NSW
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2005

Powered by APT Solutions
Labor Council of NSW Workers Online