||Issue No. 298||10 March 2006|
Interview: Organising In Cyberspace
Industrial: How Low Is Low
Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
Unions: Bad Medicine
History: Right Turn, Clyde
Economics: Long Division
International: Union Proud
Politics: Howard’s Sick Joke
Indigenous: The year of living dangerously
Review: Lights, Camera, Strike!
Culture: News Front
The Locker Room
Howard's Bastard Under Lock and Key
Billy was the callow youth who nailed the Prime Minister's “choice” lie in the lead up to Work Choices.
Conceived as a star of the campaign to sell radical workplace change, Billy became a serious embarrassment, and was shunted into storage, where he remains today.
Canberra is sitting on nearly six million WorkChoices booklets, apparently embarrassed to put them into the public domain.
Part of a $55 million taxpayer-funded advertising blitz, the publications are gathering dust at private warehouses in Sydney and Brisbane.
Most look set to remain there for a long time yet, while taxpayers fork out $8000 a month to keep them on ice.
The situation was revealed by Department of Employment and Workplace Relations official, John Kovacic, at a Senate Estimates hearing.
Kovacic confirmed the 68-page booklets were supposed to have been distributed prior to the federal government passing Work Choices into law, last December.
But, the Senate Committee learned, only 217,000 of more than six million copies were ever released.
The publications have been a constant source of embarrassment to the government since it was revealed the first run had to be pulped after the Prime Minister's Office insisted the word "fairer" be used to describe legislation that removed unfair dismissal rights and choice of coverage from millions of employees, and severely curtailed their rights to collectively bargain.
Then there was Billy, who de-bunked the whole Coalition sales pitch.
"The AWA Billy is offered explicitly removes the award conditions for public holidays, rest breaks, bonuses, annual leave loadings, allowances, penalty rates and shift/overtime loadings," the booklet gloated.
"The job offered to Billy is contingent on him accepting an AWA."
The graphic example led to the use of the verb to billy, as in 'government comes clean on its plan to "billy" young people out of holidays, allowances and overtime'.
The Prime Minister went on national television to try and defend his treatment of Billy. He said it was reasonable to cut his entitlements because, in the example quoted, he had been unemployed and had had somebody bargain on his behalf.
When he was asked to confirm the same would apply to "many, many people", irrespective of personal circumstances, the Prime Minister refused to answer.
Disowned, Billy has been left in the "care" of Salmat Document Management Solutions. Kovacic was unable to say when he would be released.
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