The Queensland National Party continued a great tradition of defending the living standards of rural workers this week when the friend of the working poor, Barnaby Joyce, signed off on legislation that will lower them.
Barnaby is a strong advocate for the role of the Senate in being a house of review.
He reviewed the WorkChoices legislation and gave it five stars, although personally he will wait for it to be released on DVD.
He particularly liked the bits that said you have to pay people penalty rates on Christmas day unless you don't feel like it.
The provisions that allow for families to have to pull up stumps and travel across the country in search of whatever work they can get their hands on were particularly appealing to this champion of the regional underclass.
In fact, Barnaby believes he is such a hero to the rural poor he has decided to create millions more.
Barnaby earlier managed to gain major concessions from Prime Minister John Howard, who agreed to amend the legislation to include the special Barnaby Joyce Is A Tops Bloke clause and remove the obligation for workers to have to sing the company song and do star jumps before commencing their twenty hour shifts.
Thanks to Barnaby workers can now be paid once a year, some of them even with money.
Grateful workers will now be able to thank Barnaby for being able to be picked up and put down like a shovel.
While a lesser human would have been swayed by the 18.7 million Australians that aren't as keen to embrace reform as the Cunnamulla Division of the Waffen SS, Barnaby was resolute.
He valued the input from his fellow Queenslanders from the Breatharian Movement, who pointed out to Barnaby that a casualised workforce would be able to live on nothing but Oxygen while they waited until Barnaby's brother Barnaby was able to fire up the Massey Ferguson and once again return Birdsville to its former station as the economic engine room of the nation.
This bold, visionary if somewhat stupid move has ushered in a bright new future for all Australians who don't have to actually work for a living.
For the rest of the population things may be a bit difficult in the medium term, but they can be consoled that Barnaby will have managed to solve the obesity problem given that half the workforce won't be able to afford a decent feed two days out of seven.
The revolutionary new calendar will also gladden the faces of a tired and overworked, yet grateful, nation.
No more will people struggle having to remember the seven days of the week - something that has always been difficult for those members of the Joyce family who only have five fingers.
Renaming every day of the week Monday may strike many members of the community as a tad on the radical side, but we are assured that this is the best way to boost productivity.
Barnaby reassured an angry mob marching on his home bearing flaming torches and farming implements that if the nation did not accept being paid third world wages it would end up being a third world country.
The maverick senator had made quite a name for himself in recent weeks by looking the other way and whistling a Slim Dusty tune after 12,000 Telstra workers were escorted from the premises.
Joyce's fingerprints were found at the scene but it is unclear at this stage if charges will be laid.
Earlier a tight hatband caused him to get lost during a senate vote on Competition Law, and he sat opposite Amanda Vanstone after mistaking her for Belgium.
Joyce has long been hostile to European farm subsidies, much preferring the Australian ones, as his attempts to get a European farm subsidy always seemed to get knocked back.
Barnaby has obviously enjoyed his spell as a political streaker, and is looking forward to a bit of a rest in the Tool Shed after his contribution to flapping his arms about and shouting, 'Look at me! 'Look at me!'
Joyce was very proud of how the new legislation would end the "bullying days of unions" and usher in a bold new era of bullying by bosses.
"The whole farce of open ballots, antagonisation and standovers at the workplace is a dead or dying artform and it is great to preside over the end of those bitter days," said Joyce with a straight face.
Antagonisation has long been a thorny issue in Australian Workplaces, primarily because it isn't really a word and no one knows what it means.
But Joyce, looking fondly towards Bessie, his prize milking cow, added that if people didn't like the new laws they could always leave Queensland, or even vote the government out.
Millions of Australians are eagerly awaiting an opportunity to take our Tool Of The Week's advice.
Member for Robertson, Jim Lloyd, admitted to ETU members that reading the laws was not “humanly possible” but he said he would support them anyway as he was a “Liberal team player”.
Ben Lister, from Energy Australia's West Gosford depot, was part of the delegation that met with Lloyd, an achievement he described as "a definite win" and "a turning point" in the Your Rights At Work campaign that came after weeks of persistence.
Lloyd had refused to even discuss the WorkChoices laws until electricians delivered a dozen frozen chickens to the MP's office last month.
Lister said Lloyd was open about his lack of understanding of how the new laws would impact on workers, especially how stripping back awards to just five conditions would remove protection for people such as labour hire and contract workers.
Lister pointed out to Lloyd that WorkChoices would allow contractors to be brought in and paid below existing rates, something prohibited under existing agreements.
Lloyd would not guarantee to the delegation that any workers would not be worse off and defended the legislation by saying it would create jobs, but could not provide any evidence when pressed. "If the bloke was selling vacuums I wouldn't buy one," said Lister.
If that wasn’t enough, Barnaby’s Rules slam the door on speedy redress for people who feel they might still have been dudded.
Where an employer plays hardball, people wrongly denied time with their families, can only gain redress through expensive court action.
Joyce used his crucial Senate vote to bring the axe down on state and federal Industrial Relations Commissions as affordable avenues for the resolution of any workplace dispute.
The Queensland National's bid to "save Christmas" ended in farce when he green-lighted a dozen criteria for determining whether or not it was "reasonable" to refuse work on Christmas Day, Anzac Day, Good Friday or four other national statutory holidays.
Only two of those reasons go to the worker's situation - "the employee's reasons for refusing the request" and "the employee's personal circumstances (including family responsibilities)".
Most of the rest are outs business can use to refuse an employee's wish for a day off. These include:
- the nature of the work performed
- the nature of the employer's workplace or enterprise (including its operational requirements)
- whether an agreement, award, industrial instrument, contract, written guideline or policy "contemplates" that the employer "might" require work on public holidays
- whether an employee could reasonably expect the employer "might" require work on public holidays
- the amount of notice given by the employer
- the amount of notice given by the employee in refusing to work
- whether an emergency or other unforseen circumstances are involved
Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, said, whatever else Joyce had achieved, he had not delivered any "right" to spend holidays with families.
"All the onus of proof, in this amendment, is on the employee," Robertson said. "And paying to take an argument over an entitlement to one day off to the Federal Court, will be impractical for nearly everybody.
"Sadly, what we appear to have ended up with, is another kick in the guts for family and community."
Joyce, who earlier this year dogged on an election promise not to support the sale of the public's 51 percent holding in Telstra, turned his back on a petition signed by more than 80,000 workers, in the space of three days, to back big-business' WorkChoices agenda.
In fact, when he spoke in Parliament on the issue for the first time, last week, he sounded more aggressively anti-worker than many Liberals.
"The unrepresentative and bullying days of unions are over and the funding mechanism for the Australian Labor Party is ending," Joyce crowed.
"The whole farce of open ballots, antagonisation (sic) and standovers at the workplace is a dead or dying artform and it is great to preside over the end of those bitter days."
The National Union of Workers took John Danks and Son to the Industrial Relations Commission to have the warnings withdrawn, but the company is refusing to budge.
NUW spokesman Mark Ptolemy said it was likely the matter would go to arbitration. "It looks like the company will fight this all the way," he said.
Danks, which operates a warehouse in Western Sydney, issued the warnings eight days after the protest.
The warning stated attending the rally was "in breach of your contractual obligations to John Danks and Son Pty Ltd."
To make matters worse, a delegate was told he had no right to advocate on behalf of their fellow workers during disciplinary meetings.
NUW organiser Steve Cain said company management seemed to be "spoiling for a fight" which could be avoided if they came to their senses.
"The workers at Danks are not antagonistic towards the company, in fact, it is the other way around," Cain said.
"It was the workers' democratic right to join the rally on the 15th of November, however, it seems the company has no respect for their rights at all."
The matter will return to the Commission this week before Justice Kavanagh.
Long time campaigner for asbestos victims rights, Bernie Banton, was jubilant and emotional after the building company signed off on the agreement last Thursday.
Banton thanked unions for their tireless efforts in achieving such a big win after such a long campaign, singling out the efforts of Paul Bastian from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and Andrew Ferguson from the CFMEU. He also praised the longstanding efforts of fellow campaigner Jan Primrose.
Banton, accompanied by his family, was given a standing ovation by a meeting of Unions NSW following news of the win.
James Hardie, who have been locked in negotiations with unions, victims and the NSW Government, will also put another $3 million into education and research on asbestos related diseases.
The funding agreement for Australian asbestos-related personal injury claims will kick off with $154 million being placed in a trust fund, with the balance to be paid into the fund over the next 40 years.
Up to 35% of James Hardie cash flow will be paid into a Special Purpose Fund (SPF), with compensation payments determined by the Dust Diseases Board.
The agreement hangs on the federal government allowing the money to be claimed as a tax deduction by Hardies, and for income from the fund to be tax-free.
As part of the resolution of the long running dispute all bans on James Hardie products have been lifted by unions.
Telstra policy excludes retrenched staff from being “re-employed or engaged” by the company or any contractors “carrying out Telstra works” for 12 months after their departure.
If a company does employ a retrenched worker within 12 months to perform Telstra-related work, that company is slugged 64 percent of the worker's redundancy payment.
CEPU NSW secretary Jim Metcher said the policy effectively meant former staff could not be employed in the industry as Telstra owns the network and is the dominant telecommunications provider.
The policy of John Howard's claim that 12,000 staff, marked for the axe, would have no trouble finding jobs elsewhere.
Keith Matson, who was knocked back from a job after he was involuntary retrenched from Telstra, said he laughed when he heard the Prime Minister's comments.
"He doesn't know what he's talking about," the 62-year-old said. "He wouldn't even know how to plug in a phone."
The former line serviceman said a job offer he received was later withdrawn because he had been retrenched from Telstra.
"I was shocked when I found out I couldn't get back in [the industry]," he said.
Metcher said the Federal Government, as the majority shareholder, needed to ask serious questions of the telco.
Telstra CEO Sol Trujillo has announced that up to 12,000 jobs would be shed within five years.
Its new grooming handbook hints that Ralph Norris might fancy himself as a bit of a Ralph Lauren.
The handbook advises female staff to give stockings with shiny finishes a miss because they will "make your legs look larger" and breasts the bra question with detailed advice on style and colour.
"Flesh coloured, smooth finish t-shirt bras will give you the best, most discrete look," it says.
Blokes need to be aware of where their ties hang and nasal hair, especially amongst the more mature, is on the nose.
"Trim your nose and ear hair. Hair in these areas can increase as you age and may give the impression that you are not well groomed," they are told.
"If your hair is light in colour, grey or curly, a shine product can add lustre and help it look healthy."
The Finance Sector Union describes the booklet as "patronising" and sees it as a strong indication to workers that they should spend more of their incomes on personal appearance.
"Although the new Grooming Handbook describes itself as only a guide and not Bank policy, we expect this document will be in managers' hands when they assess staff performance, particularly under the recently introduced Behaviour Assessment Tool," says Finance Sector Union national assistant secretary Sharron Caddie.
"We understand that staff must look professional, but this new Grooming Handbook is completely over the top.
"For example, it recommends staff buy expensive shoes, certain brands, even for female staff to throw out the little applicators that come with eye shadow and buy more expensive brushes instead."
She also says CBA staff may miss out on bonuses most would have qualified for under traditional performance reviews if their "behaviours" are deemed unsatisfactory.
"'Behaviours' are a set of vague concepts of the ideal employee, such as "Empowered and Accountable" or "Discipline and Excellence"," Caddie says. "As far as the FSU is concerned, nothing will stop the Grooming Handbook from being used against employees in such a way."
She says the handbook is particularly galling as the Commonwealth's new chief executive officer, Norris, is yet to address long-standing staff concerns, such as updating wages and conditions under the enterprise agreement, which is now two years out of date.
The handbook lists Bank-preferred styles and brands of bras and tells women to take the time to style their hair before leaving for work.
"Your hands do get noticed - moisturise your hands regularly," it advises.
"Consider having unruly brows regularly waxed or plucked."
Men are told to use eau de colognes on their body rather than after shave lotions and to update glasses at least once a year."
The new Australian Institute of Employment Rights, situated in Melbourne, will embark on the Charter of Employment Rights, which would entrench basic rights like freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain in law.
"It makes me sick at heart to hear highly paid ministers and others sitting there talking with apparent seriousness that some workers earning $484 a week is too much," former Prime Minister Bob Hawke said.
The Institute, created under the auspices of the Monash University Faculty of Business and Economics, will also monitor breaches of employment rights.
Also speaking at the launch, barrister and senior counsel, Mordy Bromberg QC said there was lots of work to do and that it was time for 'good people to put up their hand and show readiness to help'.
Public interest, he said, would be the Institute's guiding principle as it works in a tripartite manner between governments, unions and employers. Mr Bromberg added that competitiveness and employment rights were not mutually exclusive.
Victorian Deputy Premier John Thwaites, who also addressed the audience, said the Institute will better inform government about the contemporary relevance of employment rights and economic reform, consistent with Australia's traditional social compact.
Mr Hawke also took the opportunity to applaud church leaders' opposition to Work Choices.
"We have the conscience of the churches, the intellectual commitment of the academic community," he said. "It is not just about industrial relations. This is about the very soul, the very essence of Australia."
Called '36 ways to get fired thanks to John Howard,' the video gives a scary picture of what job security could be like under WorkChoices.
Some of the circumstances depicted in the video will remain as unlawful dismissals, but workers in businesses with fewer than 100 employees will need to brief lawyers and take expensive court action to seek any remedies.
The LHMU is publicizing the film on their website ahead of a massive campaign to increase awareness of WorkChoices among young people.
An army of LHMU activists and supporters will be handing out orange arm-bands at big concerts like Home-Bake next Saturday (December 3) and The Big Day Out at the end of January.
"There is no way a young person wanting a job over the summer - be it in a pub, a shop or at the casino - can hope to negotiate on an equal footing with their potential boss. This law sucks - and we've all got to stand up and say so," said Big Brother runner-up Tim Brunero.
"I'm joining the people at one of Australia's biggest unions - the LHMU - to hand out their orange wrist bands to remind people that now's the time to take a stand for young people's rights at work," Tim said.
"Band Together, wear the wristbands at work - and let the boss know where you stand on Rights at Work."
Liberal Councillor Brenton Pavier moved a motion instructing the council to employ contractors to remove the ETU signs after a complaint from MP Ken Ticehurst.
"If he is that concerned about the signs on the poles he can't have much faith in what he is trying to sell," said local Energy Australia delegate Ben Lister.
Lister says the signs help educate the community about the effects of the controversial legislation.
Wyong Council does not have the equipment, or training, to remove signs close to high-voltage lines.
"It is obvious the council is happy with Howard's legislation, which is going to screw council workers,'' said ETU state president, Jim Macfadyen, a councillor at neighbouring Gosford.
ETU general secretary Bernie Riordan said any signs removed would go straight back up.
The CFMEU and FSU last week launched an appeal to support Huxley's family while Lauren recovers and to pay for repairs to their fire-damaged house.
CFMEU NSW Secretary Andrew Ferguson said Huxley's father had been an active member of the union for a long time, who supported others in times of hardship.
"The vicious attack suffered by Lauren was unprecedented in its cruelty and has left the Huxley family suffering inconceivable pain, which is why the CFMEU wants to do everything possible to at least ease the financial burdens faced by the family," Ferguson said.
Collections were taken at worksites around Sydney.
Huxley suffered serious head and other injuries four weeks ago when she was attacked in her home at Northmead.
To donate to the appeal visit a CFMEU office at 12 Railway Street Lidcome or 15 Wentworth Avenue Sydney, post a cheque or money order to the CFMEU's Lauren Huxley Appeal, Locked Bag 1, Lidcombe 1825, or call (02) 9749 0400.
Passengers and crew must have been left wondering if they were under attack, according to Brian Orrell, Chair of the ITF's Seafarers' Section.
"The company appears to have, in effect, carried out a raid on its own ships," said Orrell.
The guards boarded the Isle of Inishmore, in Pembroke, and the Ulysses, in Holyhead.
The ITF is concerned that union representatives have been denied access to the ships in question, despite requests from crew members for a visit. It describes this as a fundamental breach of international conventions, to which Ireland and the UK are party, and which allow the right of seafarers to have access to their representatives.
The disguised guards reportedly tchanged into uniforms in the Isle of Inishmore's toilets before entering the ships' bridges.
The ITF has called on the UK Department for Transport to mount an inquiry into the incident.
I Dream of Johnny
A musical comedy. Opening Thursday November 24,
Newtown Theatre. Cnr King & Bray Sts, Newtown South.
The play is a riotous musical combining 60's psychedelia, Gilbert and Sullivan type songs, dance routines and guest appearances from mythical gods as it steers its protagonists- namely John Howard and Tony Abbott, towards retribution for their policies on refugees and industrial relations.
Regular ticket prices are $25/20 respectively. However, union members are eligable for a $15 ticket in week two- from Tuesday November 29 to Saturday December 3.
The play has been made with generous support from unions such as the CFMEU and the Flight Attendants' Association.
After losing his passport and his memory John Howard finds himself on a boat to Norway as part of a 'refugees for nuclear waste' scheme, devised by his government and outsourced agencies. A series of mishaps lead to him being thrown over-board and stuck on a desert island with an irate Tony Abbott, who has been using his thinking time to devise a new dastardly portfolio for himself called the 'Department of Industrial Convalescence'. After being rescued from the island both men end up in the Baxter Detention Centre and must face the consequences of their past actions which winds up in an all-in rap battle and the appearance of Amanda Vanstone to sort things out.
The play features great musical and dance numbers, choreographed by Mark Daly, with music written by producer/playwright Joel Beasant and musician Matthew Campbell. The play was written by Joel Beasant, Robert Luxford and Leslie Marsh, and is directed by Jenelle Pearce, whose work recently featured in the Newtown Theatre's 'Short and Sweet' sessions. Adam Fraser and Rhys Wilson star as Howard and Abbott, respectively.
The play cleverly uses real dialogue from figures, such as Howard and Abbott, to challenge their actions towards refugees and the disadvantaged by literally placing them 'in the others' shoes'. John Howard finds himself in a number of situations where he appeals for humanitarian treatment, by re-stating quotes he has made in the past however, instead of being delivered by them, he actually gets the treatment his government has metered out. The irony is hilarious and made even better as it is regularly accompanied by groovy singing and dancing. The shows will run from Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm, with a 2pm matinee on Saturdays. Ticket prices are:
$15 special price for union-card holders in week 2, from Tues Nov 29- Sat Dec 3.
$15 special price for students in week 3, from Tues Dec 6- Sat Dec 10.
Enquiries about the show can be made to:
Bookings MCA 1300 306 776 or online: www.mca-tix.com
For further information call Joel Beasant on: 02 9797133
THE OVERLAND LECTURE
Acclaimed novelist, Walkley Award winning journalist and literary editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, Malcolm Knox, will deliver the final Overland Lecture for 2005.
Following on from his provocative article in the May issue of The Monthly, Malcolm will consider: 'The Fate of Australian Publishing'
This lecture will also launch Overland 181 - Intellectual Activism featuring ChristosTsolkias, RW Connell, Andrew McCann, Linda Jaivin, and Vijay Mishra among many others. It's a fantastic issue, which may remind you that a gift subscription to Overland makes a great Christmas present!
Finally, we'll conclude the night with the Overland Christmas Party. You are all invited to attend.
6.30pm Wednesday 7 December 2005
New Ballroom, Trades Hall, Carlton South
$10 full/$6 concession [inc. copy of Overland 181]
enquiries 9919 4163 or www.overlandexpress.org
The Sedition Condition
MELBOURNE DOCUMENTARY GROUP for 2005
SBS and things SOCIO POLITICAL AND SEDITOUS
The on-going saga of SBS and the Documentary Commissioning Editor: A debrief and discussion
Premier Screening of the "THE LAST VALLEY", a social political documentary by Peter Vaughan, with filmmaker Q & A.
In these trying days for documentary filmmakers, the MDG presents a program to get it all off your chest and view a film that will make your production difficulties seem like a romp in the park
DATE: Tuesday December 13
TIME: SBS discussion: 6.30 pm
Screening: 7.30 pm
VENUE: Cinema 2
VCA Film and TV School
Grant St, South Melbourne
RSVP: [email protected]
NOTE: RSVP is a must due to limited seating. No RSVP, no entry
THE LAST VALLEY
It's social, it's political and it may be seditious
Peter Vaughan's "The Last Valley" challenges the myth that Australia is a land with a limitless frontier and inexhaustible natural resources. The film is set in East Gippsland, a remote region in far eastern Victoria far from the eyes of the world. For fifty years it has been logged unsustainably to supply the bulk of Victoria's timber needs, and as a source of cheap woodchips for the Japanese paper industry. The Last Valley chronicles the conflict and change that accompanied the closing scenes of Victoria's old-growth logging era."
Peter Vaughan followed the events that unfolded in some of the old growth forests of East Gippsland, from 1999 to 2003. For 3 years he lived locally in Orbost, and gained access to the stories of the loggers, the conservationists and the townspeople. The film examines what happens to a community when the resource that had supported it runs out. It also examines the political/environmental consequences of government mismanagement of a finite resource and the conflict that results.However the story of the film is only half the story...
ATTEMPTS TO STOP THE FILMING: THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOU!!!
During the making of the film the logging department, then the DNRE, now renamed DSE (Dept of Sustainability and Environment), went to great effort to prevent its completion. Tactics ranged from trying to insist that the production pay a retrospective "license fee" of $5000 per day for any filming that had already been undertaken in state forests or National Park (both publicly owned areas). The DSE also insisted that the filmmakers get release forms from any government officer that had been filmed, before filming anywhere else in state forests. They threatened legal action if there was failure to comply. The production received legal advice that these demands had no legal basis.
Peter was arrested by the DSS on two occasions whist filming, but was not charged. However in early 2003 the DSE began a legal prosecution against him alleging that he had assaulted one of their officers. He was also charged with "littering'; "obstruct a lawful logging operation" etc, etc. The matter went to two trials and the DSE withdrew all charges on the second day of the second trial after Peter screened his unbroken video record of the events. Peter will attend the screening to talk about these and many, many more issues that surrounded the making of the film, not the least being the long and wearying attempts to secure a broadcaster (it is now with ABC TV) and financing.
URGENT!! I reckon we shd try to get together A Million Mothers March to Canberra ASAP for all those who have had/who are/were/will be mothers (or even parents whatsoever). Recently NATSEM highlighted the incredible disadvantages sole parents will suffer under the wicked Welfare to Woe package. What seems to get little mention is the horrendous double triple plus whammy of people losing current benefits such as health care cards, transport concessions, and access to public housing. So it won't just be they lose $100 but will end up being minus almost everything - except the kids they are trying to look after! And maybe they'll lose them too if they have nowhere to live and can't support them. People with disabilities will suffer too whether they are women, men or kids - or mothers, fathers or kids.
PLUS the revolting Workplace Relations changes which will mean that mothers, fathers, kids, people will have to work in even more substandard conditions and for even less money.
PLUS the deplorable situation of people suffering from Domestic Violence and having no where to go (highlighted in the SMH yesterday 24/11/05 and today) plus the totally unreasonable changes to the family Law Act ...plus and plus. All this and more adds up to a very much minus situation for women and children today.
Ariel Johnson, NSW
AUSTRALIA'S 3.5 million pensioners stand to have increases to their allowances cut as a result of the Coalition Government's controversial new industrial relations reforms.
Not only does the Australian Government want to abolish basic working conditions, they also intend removing the power of the Industrial Relations Commission to set the minimum wage. This is not only bad for paid workers; it is also detrimental to pensioners.
The pension in Australia is calculated according to the Social Security Act, 1991.
The Base Pension (ie. not the pension supplement) is indexed twice yearly based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) but is also benchmarked against Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE) at 25%.
March, 2005 this year was the last time the pension went up.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) publishes the CPI quarterly. The Base Pension is then increased by the percentage change in the CPI over a six month period.
The new CPI indexed amount was then compared with the latest MTAWE figure.
As in previous years, if the new CPI indexed amount was less than 25 percent of MTAWE, an extra amount is added to the base single pension so that it is at least 25% of MTAWE.
The MTAWE figure includes the earnings of men on the minimum or junior wages as well as higher paid workers.
The Australian Government wants to take the minimum wage setting powers away from the Industrial Relations Commission and give them to it‚s handpicked Fair Pay Commission. We can only wait to see how much of an oxymoron this name becomes. The American equivalent hasn't increased their minimum wage since 1998.
The Fair Pay Commission will make it‚s first minimum wage decision in late 2006, and the implementation of this pay rise adjustment‚ could be delayed even longer.
The incumbent Australian Government, considers the minimum wage too high: it wants to take penalty rates out of awards. This will mean a catastrophic drop in wages for shift workers.
Naturally prices will continue to go up including the basic necessities of life (because of petrol prices of which more than 33% goes to the Government in tax).
When the MTAWE goes down so will pensions. This will mean pensioners will have difficulty paying skyrocketing bills for essentials such as food, housing transport and health services. One must ask how are people going to save up enough in superannuation to afford a decent retirement?
The proposed industrial relations changes are unjust, regressive and will guarantee greater inequality. The pension will be eroded in real terms relative to prices.
The IR changes must be opposed to prevent looming impoverishment of wage earners (the working poor will be a reality) and people on fixed incomes (pensions).
After 14 years of prosperity this is what we get offered. These changes must be opposed. If you are not happy with these IR changes, lobby your local Federal member.
Mike Hudson, NSW
My philosophy? I assume the very worst is possible then go about protecting yourself as much as possible from the potential downside, especially when times are good.
I think it is much safer to be and pessimist and essentially defensive in nature when looking at economic realities - the damn thing is so hard to predict. Let's face it, we have had an extremely good run over the last decade, and eventually all good things must find a balance.
None of this is rocket science, it simply takes into account the type of outcomes that seem typically associated, historically, with economic 'boom' and 'bust' cycles (in other words, generally predictable dynamics). The problem as I see it is 'when life is good we tend to forget past horrors, until once again reminded through painful experience that life does have checks and balances'.
I think we are now just seeing the tip of the iceburg when it comes to the reporting of corporate scandals, and the only reason many of these cases have remained largely undetected (except for the spectacular collapses such as OneTel and HIH) is because we have had it so good (economically) for so long. When cash (supported by excessive lending and borrowing) is freely flowing and everything looks rosey we have tendency to overlook any negative long term-consequences that may be lurking around the corner (life is good , so who gives a shit!).
However, when the tide goes out and the economy slows, we should start getting a pretty good indication as to who the patsies and sharks have been.
There also seems to be an emergence of what can only be described as an 'unholy alliance' between business and government, and unfortunately our pollies are not the savvy dealmakers they may think they are.
In my limited opinion, the mechanics of business and politics are worlds apart - just look at the deals being brokered between the NSW government and private enterprise - unintended consequences are rife and proving to be very expensive lessons. It is clear here who the patsies are, and it is not the private deal makers.
As for the the housing market, it should throw up some mouth watering bargains for the savvy bargain hunter, as many lenders are now trying to recoup money from people who overextended themselves by borrowing in a overheated market.
I am also convinced that Mr Howard has tried to put the cart before the horse by trying to introduce his IR reforms in their current form. In fact, if he focused on addressing major corporate governance issues, red tape, and taxes, by the time he got around to addressing IR, the glaring holes and opportunities for abuse would probably reverse his thinking drastically (couldn't help having one last dig about IR).
John McPhilbin, NSW
The one advantage of the proposed IR laws is that they are radicalising a new generation. But with unions unable to recruit at many workplaces, and new employees (the most vulnerable) being offered AWAs without guidance, there is a need for a union advisory service for the unemployed and school leavers. Maybe something on-line linked to the Bored of Studies http://www.boredofstudies.org/, similar sites and chat rooms (and the chance to set up face to face meetings if necessary). I know it could be labour intensive, but if unions don't step in here, no-one will. Plus the information that after they get the job the service is for members only.
Joanna Mendelssohn, NSW
I note with bewildered bemusement, the call by the "ITF" for the United Kingdom government to mount an investigation into the apparent raid by Irish Ferries, on its own ships, the Isle of Inishmore in Pembroke and the Ulysses in Holyhead, in order to remove the unionised crews and install cheaper scab crews from Eastern Europe.
Are these the same trade union complainants who have in the past condemned not only fellow unionists employed in the Belfast Shipyards, but also the government of the United Kingdom in its efforts to maintain democracy in Northern Ireland, and rejected the FAVOURABLE findings of all the inquiries into allegations of inappropriate behaviour by law enforcement bodies entrusted with this responsibility?
It would appear that the Union movement in the United Kingdom has all but run out of friends as it continues to alienate the common man (and woman), and the British Labour Party moves further to the right.
We in Australia should be aware that with Globalisation, these changes no longer take years to reach us , rather weeks and months.
As for the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Bill 2005, I am currently (temporarily) employed under an AWA , and have found the conditions and wages in this agreement more amenable that any agreements I have been employed under for over 25 years.
Having said that, I will continue to salivate at the prospect of Comrade Beazley, on the election of the ALP at the next federal election, actually implement his gesticulated promise of tearing up this abhorrent legislation, and tossing it as political garbage.
Perhaps in the same manner as HIS Roll Back of the GST!
Tom Collins, NSW
The PM's ideological obsession is old news. Barnaby's buffoonery and ultimate back down was to be predicted and the Opposition parties' outrage, while well-executed, was never going to change anything.
What has been more striking are flaws in our system of government that have been exposed, the failure of our democratic structures to fulfil the basic roles they were created for.
When a 700 page Act has a six day Senate Inquiry and then when the Senate has just two days to deal with more than 300 government-sponsored amendments, any pretence to being a House of Review should be dispensed with.
Of course, we are in an unusual moment in our nation's politics - never before has such an extremist and ideologically driven administration had control of both Houses. However, it does expose as farcical the alleged separation of legislative and executive power.
In the current circumstances, the Federal ALP are - along with the workers of Australia - the victims of this convergence of political and corporate power. But in many ways it is also one of the architects of the system.
Why is it that in countries with comparable democracies, like the United Kingdom, a Prime Minister who over-steps can be rolled by his own party inside the Parliament and still survive? The situation is even more stark in the USA.
It comes down to Australia's rigid notions of Caucus solidarity - the locking in of votes in the party room before elected representatives get the opportunity to exercise their vote on behalf of their constituents.
This principle goes to the way our parties operate and to the sort of people who are elevated into the parliament. Many are compliant yes-people who know that loyalty is their core job requirement and key performance indicator.
Sadly, the last vestige of independence are in the 'wet' Liberals, throw-backs to the time when the Coalition was not dominated by neo-conservatives.
We have seen how dissent within the party room has shifted the PM on sedition. Judi Moylan's statements on Welfare to Work are a rare voice of criticism on an issue of social policy. But even here, abstaining from voting is as far as political dissent in this country seems to go - an exercise in pure futility.
There are obvious dangers in freeing up politicians to think and vote on issues on their merit - but there are even greater dangers in the current situation that vests so much power in the Prime Minister.
In America, where individuals have more discretion to vote across party lines, the system is corrupted by big business, election funding, lobbyists and interest groups that have captured the process. But learning from this experience and enacting strong campaign funding laws could create a different sort of independent voice in Australia.
There is also the reality that an independent legislature makes the task of governing that much more difficult - but if we really want a dictatorship why go through the charade of elections?
Freeing up individual MPs to vote on the basis of their conscience would be a radical step, but it may just be the fillip the major parties need as more and more people turn to minor parties, independents, or worse still, turn off politics altogether.
It's a bold step and one not without short term pain, but a party with the faith in its internal workings to choose the sort of representatives who would use this freedom wsiely would give politics in Australia the sort of shake-up it has need for a long time.
Would the public see this as a rabble? It's a risk - but my bet is that the sound of politicians being themselves and standing for what they believe in, even when it runs contrary to the party line, may be music to their ears.