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. 305 05 May 2006  

Contract With Australia
If WorkChoices is the legislative expression of the Howard Government’s ideological hatred of unions, the Independent Contractors Act is the product of an altogether more dangerous form of ideological zealotry.


Interview: Out of the Bedroom
Reverend Jim Wallis is leading a crusade to take the moral debate into the public arena.

Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
The Howard Government has begun a series of workshops to sell its WorkChoice vsision. Sean Ambrose sneaked through the doors for Workers Online.

Unions: Lockout!
Jim Comerford’s eyewitness account of the 15-month Lockout of 10,000 New South Wales miners in1929-1930 records the inside story of Australia’s most bloody and bitter industrial conflict

Legal: The Fantasy of Choice
Professor Ron McCallum argues the WorkChoices laws are built on a fundamental fiction.

Politics: Labor Pains
Labor has dealt itself out of the crucial workplace relations debate by failing to articulate a credible policy alternative to Howard’s new WorkChoices legislation, argues Mark Heearn and Grant Michelson

Economics: Economics and the Public Purpose
Evan Jones pays tribute to John Kenneth Galbraith, a big man who never stopped arguing that economics should serve the public good, not create public squalor.

Corporate: House of Horrors
Anthony Keenan takes a tour of Sydney’s notorious, Asbestos House, courtesy of Gideon Haig.

History: Clash Of Cultures
Neale Towart with a new take on Mayday through the words of a punk icon

International: Childs Play
An ILO report into Child Labour shows some progress is being made to curb this gobal scurge .

Culture: Folk You Mate!
Phil Doyle dodges Morris Dancers to find signs of Working Life at the National Folk Festival in Canberra over the Easter Weekend.

Review: Last Holeproof Hero
Finally, a superhero who has worked out how to wear his underpants. Nathan Brown ogles V for Vendetta


 Andrews Axes Safety

 Plant Fission for Cost Savings

 Spotless Bosses Blame Howard

 Aussie Bushman Pronounced Dead

 Who's Smirking Now?

 Yellow Bosses See Red

 Amber Light on Howard's Way

 Secret Police Spook Mum

 Wally Pollies Set for Cracker

 Qantas to Parachute In Pilots

 Unmask the Puppeteers, Union Demands

 Cleaners Mop Up

 Cane Toads Hop Into Johnny

 King of Onkaparinga Cries Poor

 Activist's What's On!


The Soapbox
Albo's Meltdown
Labor's environment spokesman Antony Albanese argues that Chrernobyl is one reason why the ALP should stand firm on nuclear.

The Locker Room
A Sort Of Homecoming
Phil Doyle plays to the whistle.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West reports from Macquarie Street on some strange collective acction.

 Restaurant a Rip Off
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



Contract With Australia

If WorkChoices is the legislative expression of the Howard Government’s ideological hatred of unions, the Independent Contractors Act is the product of an altogether more dangerous form of ideological zealotry.

These laws will risk going under the radar because, by their nature they are so complex as to induce slumber in even the keenest student of industrial relations. But seasoned observers warn their impact could be even more profound than WorkChoices.

So what is being proposed? Couched in the language of 'freedom' and choice' these laws are designed to break the link between labour law and contractors. It is this link that has provided a modicum of protection for workers forced from secure jobs onto sham contract arrangements in recent years.

By allowing contractors who are dependent on a single business for work to be 'deemed' as employees, industrial tribunals have ensured these workers have had access to superannuation, workers compensation and some legal recourse when treated unfairly.

All this will end under the ICA, due into Federal Parliament this session. Industrial tribunals lose the right to 'deem' contractors as employees and the unfair contracts jurisdiction is abolished, meaning any disputes have to go through the altogether more expensive avenues of Supreme Court action.

The laws also continue the attack on unions. If you are contractor you will have no 'choice' about being represented by a trade union in negotiating a contract. You will be truly on your own.

The good news this week is that outworkers in the textile industry and transport industries have won exemption from the laws for time being, following effective lobbying of the Coalition back bench.

The outworkers scored a win on moral grounds, the truck drivers more on the political realisation that those being done over are Howard battlers. But the question must be asked, if these laws are bad for outworkers and truckies, why aren't they bad for everyone?

The loudest advocates of this legislation, mysterious commentators like Ken Phillips from the secretive Independent Contractors Association, wrap their arguments with a fervour not seen since the end of the Cold War - 'contractors are happier' he claims, while publishing titles such as 'Independence and the Death of Employment"

Phillips would argue that contracting is a pure expression of the desire of workers to break free of their bonds of employment - that attempts to legislative labour rights are a dangerous constraint on this freedom.

But the evidence suggests otherwise. It is corporations that are driving contracting out regimes in a bid to cut labour costs, not the workers seeking some form of free enterprise nirvana.

It was not the Optus technicians who bowled up the idea of trashing their jobs security, super and compo, so they could lease the vans the company used to provide them and go out and compete with each other.

How many of the migrant women at Kemalex were agitating with the idea of quitting their job, getting an ABN and rejoining the process line as a small business operator?

Of the million Australians currently deemed 'contractors, University of Melbourne research suggests up to 40 per cent do all their work for one boss - they are not entrepreneurs, they are employees without rights.

They are the victims of this legislative double-whammy that nobody saw coming before the last election. WorkChoices provides the mechanism to expel unions from the workplace. These laws provide the mechanism to send basic rights out the door by taking away the ability to expose a sham contract.

Ultimately, the Independent Contractors Act is the legislative expression of free market ideology, as championed by Hayek, who believed that every human interaction could be boiled down to a market transaction.

Its merit rests squarely on a values call - whether the spread of contractors is the ultimate act of freedom or the ultimate act of control. While those with freedom in the hearts may yearn for a world where the former prevails, evidence clearly suggests the latter.

Peter Lewis



*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 305 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: 05 May 2006

Powered by APT Solutions
Labor Council of NSW Workers Online