||Issue No. 293||20 December 2005|
Waves of Destruction
Interview: Back to the Future
Unions: A Real Page Turner
Industrial: The Pin-Striped Union
International: Around The World In 365 Days
Legends: Terrific, Tommy
Your Rights At Work: Worth Fighting For
Politics: The Year That Was
Economics: Master and Servant Revisited
Culture: 2005: The Year of Living Repetitively
Bad Boss: The Bottom Ten
Religion: Hymns from a Different Song Sheet
The Locker Room
Free to Rat
Tax Cuts and Cockroaches
Proportion, Not Distortion
Waves of Destruction
In between, a hard-fought, but in the short-term losing battle, for the most fundamental of rights, the right to be treated with respect and dignity at work. And if you don't see the connections between the three, then you are not looking closely enough.
Let's start at the ocean's edge - the outpouring of humanity that greeted the tsunami, represented a real engagement with our Asian neighbour's, that did much to resurrect Keating's fallen legacy of active engagement with the region. Indeed, the public support for appeals was so stark that the Prime Minister was forced to dig in too, his contribution to Indonesia's relief efforts being an act of genuine goodness.
Then he went about undoing all this good work by pulling his extreme industrial relations agenda out of his back pocket - a happy convergence of corporate power and political opportunism dressed up as economic mumbo-jumbo that even his own Treasury wouldn't buy.
With control of the Senate in the hands of a suicidal Nat who would not even stop the sale of Telstra, the changes were never going to be stopped; that they caused the level of public debate is some achievement. At least the lemmings knew they were jumping over the waterfall.
The heartening news was the way that the union movement, that most local of institutions, managed tor ally community opposition to the changes - not through traditional tactics like general strikes but through smart new moves like building alliances with the churches, TV advertisements, video link-ups and SMS trees.
Operating in an hostile environment could well bring out the best in a movement that has only ever been as strong as its base; but we can not under-estimate the challenged ahead: union activity has basically been criminalized; government policy is to push individual contracts any way it can and the electorate has the attention span of two-year-old.
The one thing missing from the government's $55 million advertising blitz and attempt to deflect union arguments as a 'scare campaign' is the courage to admit these laws for what they are - a concerted push to integrate Australia's labour market - holus, bolus, into a global economy without rules.
Which brings us to Cronulla ...
If there was a message that sparked these riots it was delivered by the PM in 2001 - 'we decide who comes into this country' - after adopting One Nation's policies and rhetoric and selling as a future Australia's 'freedom' to harbour racist sentiments.
His studious silence in the face of the Cronulla riots can only be interpreted as an attempt to hedge his bets on the race card. As the Tampa election showed, this is the one card that trumps dissent with economic globalism.
A government responsible for further reducing the economic barriers to the world economy can only make citizens feel secure by diverting attention to cultural barriers; they may destroy the notion of an Australian economy but they can turn refugees around.
Australia is currently a nation in confusion - buffered by global change and our tenuous place in the world; desperate for some sense of controlling the madness, yet being led deeper and deeper into the world of corporate power free from rules and regulations.
Howard's industrial relations changes will only heighten these insecurities - less job security, lower wages, more jobs shipped offshore and no bargaining rights - all handing power to the employer and make workers feel more desperate and alone.
If the market swallows up working life, what have we left? Expect our fears of the outside world - where we will be more likely to blame an outside for our troubles than hold out a helping hand.
If fear and loathing reigns, Howard will be in the box seat. And if that doesn't work, there's always the tax cuts.
But no more gloom so close the Christmas! Here's to more battles in 2006 - because while those who would destroy us have never been in a stronger position, hubris is real.
Finally, seasons greetings to all our readers and if you want to send Workers Online a bit of festive largesse, don't forget to vote for us as the Labourstart website of the year.
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