It's official; Australia really is a banana republic.
Paul Keating's prophecy came true this week under the guidance of the smirkin' merkin, Peter Costello.
It is true that Costello has produced an economic miracle.
It's a miracle that someone can let infrastructure, social services, education, the nation's skill base and employment conditions collapse during what is allegedly an economic boom.
But then again, Costello is no economist, and he certainly isn't an intellectual, he is, in the fine tradition of Lionel Hutz, a lawyer.
Another miraculous thing about the Prime Minister in Waiting and Waiting and Waiting and Waiting and Waiting and Waiting achieved was yet another reason why it isn't his fault.
Apparently the latest reason why the price of everything is heading north while our job security is heading south, is because of the weather. The man who promised to keep interest rates low is about to keep them rising because of Cyclone Larry doing to the bananas what Peter Costello's been doing to the manufacturing sector for the last ten years.
This is an interesting breakthrough for our esteemed Tool Of The Week as apparently when there is good economic news it is due to his prudent management, while any bad economic news (i.e.. most of it) is due to external factors, such as the weather, sand blight, the drought, people who don't look like us, Hannibal Lecter, Mercury in Retrograde and other scientifically proven economic guides such as goats entrails, comets, white haired children being born and partial solar eclipses.
I'm certainly glad it isn't because of rising fuel prices, after all, Costello's mate, Rupert Murdoch, told us invading Iraq would give us oil at $20 a barrel - and he's another economic genius, isn't he?
Fools are seldom in disagreement.
Why does Peter Costello get within a week's walk of the idea that he is somehow competent to open a can of soup, let alone run the economy?
This is the guy who has lowered unemployment by changing the definition of employment while appointing a tax dodger to the board of the Reserve Bank - and then getting that same tax dodger to advise him on taxation policy.
Fair dinkum, Costello's genius is right up there with getting Ivan Milat to design Australia's tourism marketing campaign.
This is the guy who has built an economy with the trading skills of North Korea and the manufacturing savvy of Zambia.
This fawning, dribbling economic klutz reaches a new nadir of ineptitude with his increasingly embarrassing attempts to cast himself as a statesman.
We are talking here of a man who has all the gravitas of an empty packet of Twisties.
The guy who uses his personality as a contraceptive has encouraged us to have more children, because otherwise there will be "more of them" and "less of us".
Given that any decent person would not wish to belong to any "us" that included Peter Costello, this can be no bad thing.
So, next time you find yourself ruminating on why the hell brown onions are over $3 a kilo, or why it's costing about six hours labour to fill up the fuel tank, just remember, this is all due to the economic brilliance of Australia's longest serving carpetbagger, Peter Costello.
The AWU claims Blacktown-based Complete Traffic Services is using AWAs to slash wages in regional NSW, by $32 a week, increase working hours and junk security of employment.
State secretary, Russ Collison, says the rogue operator is breaking health and safety regulations by handing out traffic contractors tickets to employees who haven't done mandatory inductions.
He says when his union began back pay claims for several Grafton-based members, the company typed up letters indicating individuals wanted to resign from the union and told them if they didn't sign their jobs were on the line.
"This company had unregistered AWAs. They were unregistered because they undercut the award and didn't meet the old no-disadvantage test," Collison said.
"When WorkChoices came in they registered their AWAs.
"We began back pay action for several members who were approached by Gerard O'Neill from Complete Traffic Services with letters authorising their resignation from the union.
"He told them to sign or risk their employment with the company."
Worse still, Collison says, the rogue operator has been rewarded with a 12-month state government contract.
Collision says Complete Traffic Services AWAs undercut the award rate by 38 cents an hour, increase weekly hours from 38-40; reduce overtime rates; impose a three-year wage freeze; and turn regular employees into casuals.
"This is John Howard's gift to regional Australia," Collison said. "Try telling these people that they can just walk away and get another job."
AiG chief Heather Ridout said her organisation never supported the junking of unfair dismissal rights and Australians had ended up with harsher laws than employers wanted.
"The parliamentary system failed us and we got tougher laws than we might have," Ridout told a Women, Management and Employment Relations Conference in Sydney.
Ridout's comments broke ranks with other peak business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the rich man's, Business Council of Australia, made up of chief executives from 200 leading companies.
Both groups have aggressively supported WorkChoices and tried to shout down any opposition.
Ridout said "not ungenerous" provisions for maternity and carers leave were good elements of the new regime but she took issue with key arguments run by the Prime Minister and his big business constituents.
"Workchoices is not evolutionary, it is a revolutionary change," she insisted.
Ridout also challenged the central rationale for WorkChoices, the contention that it would boost labour productivity.
She said Australian productivity was flat and WorkChoices was not a "silver bullet".
Ridout echoed the trade union call for an increased focus on training and skills.
She distanced her organisation from government moves to greenlight unfair sackings.
Ridout told delegates her organisation, which represents thousands of employers, had not supported the abolition of unfair dismissal rights for employers with less than 100 staff, nor for those with fewer than 20 as had been flagged originally.
New polling, in 12 marginal seats across six states, shows 62 percent of voters believe people who sign a Workchoices AWA will be worse off and that 57 percent reject government's central premise of more jobs.
Only 38 percent of respondents agree new workplace laws will strengthen the economy, while just 12 percent believe AWA employees will be better off.
The polling was commissioned by the AMWU and released at last week's national conference.
Melbourne-based MarketMetrics interviewed 1008 people in the federal electorates of Lindsay, Macquarie (NSW); La Trobe (Victoria); Bonner, Herbert, Moreton (Queensland); Makin, Wakefield (South Australia); Hasluck, Stirling (WA); and Braddon (Tasmania);
Forty two percent of respondents said new IR laws were more likely to make them vote for the ALP.
AMWU national secretary, Doug Cameron, said the results showed government's $55 million advertising spend hadn't swung perceptions.
"People know these laws are bad for working people," Cameron said. "They know have had their rights and they know the Howard Government has made life harder for them.
"The community is aware the new IR laws will have a negative effect on people, and they totally reject the push to make AWAs the predominant form of employment contract."
Office of Workplace Services spin doctor, Leo D'Angelo Fisher, conceded the Minister's office had to be in the frame for a report that sought to ridicule five people who objected to being sacked.
"It's a legitimate question but I can't answer it," D'Angelo Fisher told Workers Online.
"What I can say is there is no single report as such. Not in the way it has been portrayed.
"That probably tells me there was information that was sent to ah...ah...ah - that probably takes me too far."
So embarrassed was OWS chief, Nicholas Wilson, that he took the extraordinary step of disassociating his Office from the intimidation campaign by writing letters to metropolitan newspapers across Australia.
It was the third day of an OWS push to distance itself from a pro-WorkChoices campaign in the Daily Telegraph, allegedly based on its work.
The Tele named and pictured Aussies who recounted their predicaments in ACTU adverts and told readers the OWS had found "they had nobody to blame but themselves".
OWS discomfort was understandable as "leaks" of its investigations would breach laws on which it was established by the Howard Government.
WorkChoices regulations only authorise disclosure of information to relevant colleagues or ... the Workplace Relations Minister.
ACTU secretary Greg Combet said the OWS was doing John Howard's dirty work.
"It's pretty hard to escape the conclusion that this was a politically motivated little piece of muckraking instigated by the Government," Combet said.
He said the OWS had only taken bosses' sides of the stories and had not bothered to contact some of the workers it had investigated.
"The OWS appears to have relied upon untested claims by employers as the basis for its so-called independent findings," Combet said.
Cowra abattoir worker Robert Kirkman, who features in the ads, told Workers Online he had had no contact with the OWS and was unfazed by the Telegraph's story.
"I'm not bothered that much - what I said was true," he said.
Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said the ads drew attention to what was legal under WorkChoices laws.
"We have never argued that these workers who appear in these advertisements were illegally sacked - that's the whole darn point," Beazley said.
Drivers have banned the use of buses with external emergency release buttons, saying they allow thugs to swarm onto buses, threatening drivers and passengers.
Almost 50 buses are affected, mainly at Waverly, Port Botany and Randwick depots.
The issue arose a year ago, with State Transit saying it would fit glass covers to the buttons, but drivers reacted when they discovered that the authority hadn't even ordered the glass as of last week.
With patience wearing thin at State Transit inaction, drivers moved last week to take buses that use off the road.
Services ran up to twenty minutes late and drivers reported no hostile reaction from the travelling public.
The drivers and State Transit ended up before the NSW Industrial relations commission over the dispute, with the IRC handing down a series of recommendations, which will go before drivers this week.
"The industrial relations commissioner is right," says Raoul Boanza from the Rail Tram and Bus Industry Union. "This is a very serious safety issue that affects members of the public as well as our drivers."
An incident at Bondi last year saw a driver and passengers fleeing in fear after gang members entered a bus through the rear door, using an emergency door opening button, and proceeded to trash the interior.
"The driver had to run for his life," says Wendy Wirth, a driver from Sydney's Waverly Depot. "He eventually escaped in a taxi.
"The video of the event is absolutely shocking.
"Last month another driver was physically assaulted and passengers harassed."
The bashed driver was left with facial injuries, with similar incidents being experienced by drivers and passengers over the last year.
Boanza called on State Transit to fix the problem immediately.
Workers at three Victorian companies owned by Huon Corporation called off a 10-day strike after their unions secured the deal.
The agreement will see major customers settle debts and pay higher prices until a buyer for the companies is found.
Retrenched staff at Empire Rubber in Bendigo, Mills Elastomers in Dandenong and FRN in Frankston will be paid $1000 for four weeks, with full entitlements depending on the outcome of mediation between the administrator and Huon.
AMWU Assistant Victorian secretary Steve Dargavel said unions had been able to achieve what Huon, the Federal Government or the car companies could not.
"While we wish all jobs could have been saved, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and the National Union of Workers have been able to save over 20 jobs, and a portion of the entitlements of 100 workers who otherwise would have gotten nothing," Dargavel said.
Dargavel said he hoped with a better owner, the companies could turn their fortunes around.
"With a buyer committed to sustaining them rather than stripping away assets for his own personal gain as the previous director did, we hope that at least Empire Rubber in Bendigo and Mills Elastomers in Dandenong can become profitable companies again."
Mediation will take place between administrators and Huon director John Schultz over allegations the company's land was transferred into a property trust controlled by him and his daughter.
If mediation is unsuccessful the matter will go to a full trial.
The National Institute of Economic and Industry Research is urging Canberra to invest an extra billion dollars in manufacturing to prevent the loss of 200,000 jobs by 2020.
Its State of Australian Manufacturing report, launched in Sydney last week, says that level of assistance would sustain 290,000 direct and indirect positions.
The institute advocates a sweep program of industry assistance based on ...
- $300 million for investment allowances
- $300 million for research and development
- a $225 million increase in export development grants
- $50 million worth of incentives to attract foreign equity to small and medium-sized Australian manufacturers, and
- $50 million to attract and train high-skilled workers
Institute economists argue the rundown of manufacturing has seen Australia meet five of six benchmarks identified by the IMF as prevailing at times of meltdowns that rocked European, South American and Asian currencies during the 1990s.
The only "signpost" not pointing in Australia's direction is "falling terms of trade" which the Institute says is largely due to the resources boom.
"Without a change in policy to arrest these unsustainable trends, Australia faces a currency crisis at a point in the future that will most likely coincide with the end of current commodity price cycle," it says.
The warnings reflect concerns of middle Australia revealed in marginal seats polling commissioned by the AMWU.
Ninety three percent of more than 1000 people interviewed agreed it was "essential" to maintain Australian manufacturing, even if it require government support.
Sixty eight percent of voters did not believe the Howard Government had done enough to support industry, while only 12 percent believed the government was powerless in the face of globalisation.
Sixty five percent would prefer to see budget surpluses invested in industry support rather than personal tax cuts.
AMWU national secretary, Doug Cameron, said the result showed the government should and could play a role in manufacturing's survival.
He said, on average, the sector had shed 184 jobs every week since the Howard Government took office in 1996.
"The public understands these issues and is crying out for the federal government to show some leadership," Cameron said.
"People understand that putting all our hopes in the mining boom makes us very vulnerable.'
ended with a win for maintenance staff that stared down AWAs to pick up a union agreement.
The new agreement delivers maintenance staff $8 an hour more than the individual contracts, which United Group Services tried to impose in February.
Workers picketed opera goers after being told they had to sign non-union contracts stripping them of up to $20,000 a year, or face the sack.
"It's a victory," says CFMEU secretary Andrew Ferguson. "We recognise the role played by (Arts Minister) Bob Debus in recognising these arrangements breached labour principles.
"We also recognise the key to success has been months and months of picketing and pressure."
US multinational United Group Services had replaced the previous contractor, Lucas Stuart, who had a collective agreement with the workers' union, the CFMEU.
United Group Services said they would only take on the former Lucas Stuart employees if they signed AWAs offering inferior conditions.
Ferguson said it was important to pressure companies that used new laws to attack workers.
He acknowledged the assistance of NSW Minister for the Arts, Bob Debus, saying he recognised that these sorts of arrangements were not consistent with the principles of the labour movement.
ESS, owned by UK-based Compass Group, sprung the individual contracts the day before an enterprise agreement was due to be finalised.
The contracts rip up to $8000 a year from fireys' pockets at Victoria's Bandiana army barracks and take away conditions from fire fighters at bases near Wagga Wagga.
They also force fireys to cover for security guards on breaks.
Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) country organiser Greg Matthews said fire fighters doing security would have to wait for military police to replace them if a fire broke out.
Compass Group won two categories at the Prime Minister's Employer of the Year Awards in 2003.
Meanwhile, NSW fire fighters have won paid asbestos tests after putting the torch on the fire brigade.
The brigade will provide free lung tests for the state's 6000 fireys as originally promised, after trying to welsh on the deal last week.
Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) secretary Simon Flynn said legal action was on the cards if the brigade would not agree to tests.
"I think for the first time it's a recognition that fire fighters are exposed to asbestos," he said.
Fireys were promised the tests after revelations some were exposed to asbestos during anti-terrorism training at Holsworthy Army Barracks.
Asbestos has also been an issue for fireys confronting buildings that may contain the deadly building material.
The construction union is putting the acid on NSW federal MPs and shadow ministers to talk with building workers in the lead-up to the next election.
To make it possible, MPs have to be on the job by 6.30am so they don't eat into company time and expose workers, and possibly themselves, to massive fines.
Gillard told building workers she completely endorsed Kim Beazley's promise to do away with WorkChoices.
And she turned over a personal donation of $150 to a fighting fund for 107 Perth workers facing $28,000 fines for supporting a sacked job delegate.
Mal Peters, a safety rep from that site, and his wife Bernadette, joined Gillard at the Parramatta meeting.
Workers Online understands the Prime Minister's secret building industry police force tailed the Perth couple around Sydney meetings.
Industry sources say Building Industry Commission inspectors visited a Sydney University construction job after the couple spoke there.
They said the spooks made inquiries about right of entry, meeting authorisation, and whether discussion had gone beyond the lunch break.
CFMEU state secretary, Andrew Ferguson, said he had been made aware of Commission activity.
"It's what they do," he said. "The Commission was set up by the federal government to run a campaign of intimidation and it does that to the best of its ability.
"Any effort to build solidarity or stand together with fellow workers gets their attention because the government doesn't like it and they are a political police force running a political agenda."
Mid North Coast manager, Michael Sharpe, was forced into an embarrassing backdown after he gave assurances no jobs would be lost in Taree, and nearby Old Bar.
The newly-appointed Sharpe said he had looked at the wrong place name.
"Unfortunately that's what happened," Sharpe told the Manning River Times.
"(The list of redundancies) didn't specifically mention Taree, so I believed that meant it was not to be affected."
The redundancies are part of the 207 technicians' jobs being ripped out of regional NSW.
The Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union (CEPU) says the losses come as at least 3800 phone faults are waiting to be repaired in regional NSW.
CEPU secretary Jim Metcher said there are more than 900 reported faults in the north coast alone.
"These are only the fault figures, there are hundreds of other customers waiting new phone installations and broadband connections and numerous other install jobs waiting to be done," Metcher said.
Metcher said the Telstra phone network could collapse if regional areas received heavy rainfall, which causes more faults.
"These fault figures are caused by minimal rainfall that has recently fallen across the state. It is now alarmingly clear that any area that receives heavy rainfall that the Telstra phone network could collapse."
A Fair Pay Commission boffin says a $125 cut to the minimum wage would create more than half a million new jobs.
Phil Lewis, an economist at the University of Canberra, says the minimum wage should have been frozen at the 1996 rate..
In 1997, the minimum wage , currently $484.40, was $359.40 per week.
"That's less than $400 a week to pay the rent or mortgage, meet utility bills, and cover food, clothing and transport when they're working a 38-hour week," says ACTU president Sharan Burrow. "I don't think any Australian would think that would be fair or possible."
Labor has dismissed as nonsense suggestions a lower minimum wage would have made room for an extra half a million Australian jobs over the past decade.
"There is no link between increasing employment and increasing the minimum wage," Labor's industrial relations spokesman Stephen Smith said in Perth. "This is an economic and a social nonsense.
"It belies the experience in the United Kingdom and the United States, and it is also counter to the OECD employment outlook report of 2006 of a month or so ago," he said.
The new Fair Pay Commission, which now has responsibility for setting the wages of the nation's lowest paid workers, has released his own modelling of the impact of minimum wage rises.
The Fair Pay Commission is expected to hand down its first decision on the minimum wage - affecting 2.5 million Australians - before the end of November.
Talks with TNT in The Hague on the fate of 36,000 workers in its soon to be sold logistics division broke down last week.
Global union federations the ITF (International Transport Workers' Federation) and UNI (Union Network International), spoke of their disappointment that, just days before a bidder is likely to be announced, TNT was not willing to discuss the future for its 36,000 employees whose jobs are 'up for sale'.
ITF and UNI have not opposed the sale of TNT Logistics. Workers are simply asking TNT to ensure that existing terms and conditions, collective bargaining and working arrangements are a condition of the sale to a new buyer.
Despite having some 20% of its total global Logistics workforce in the UK, the company has refused to enter into consultations with the Transport & General Workers' Union, which represents 15,000 TNT employees.
"While TNT puts itself at the forefront of corporate social responsibility by signing up to initiatives such as the United Nations Global Compact, its lack of any meaningful dialogue with unions shows that this is little more than rhetoric," says John Pedersen, UNI Assistant General Secretary.
"The people who work for TNT are being kept in the dark," says Stuart Howard, ITF Assistant General Secretary. "Unions will mobilise to press for a just and transparent process of sale which protects workers' rights."
Unions from more than 20 countries, jointly coordinated by the ITF and UNI, have proposed a global Guarantee of Workers Rights aimed at protecting the 36,000 employees whose jobs are up for sale.
Australian TNT employees are covered by the Transport Workers' Union and the Australian Services Union, who are backing the Guarantee.
Brissie APHEDA Fundraiser
August 4, Friday, Trivia Challenge 2006
Happy Hour 6pm - 7pm, Trivia 7pm sharp
2nd Floor, TLC Building
16 Peel St, South Brisbane
Teams of 8, $15 per person
Drinks available at bar
NOTE: Table numbers strictly limited to 25
To donate prizes or more info contact:
Joan Skewes, Paula Rogers, or Beth Mohle on 3840 1444
Warm Up For Winter
August 5, Saturday, "Warm Up for Winter" Annual Dinner
6.30pm Thirroul Railway Institute, Railway Pde, Thirroul
$35 per head, Mike Deakin on piano, special guest David Field
Union Aid Abroad - APHEDA NSW South Coast Activists
Book now by calling 02 4229 6737 or emailing [email protected]
Philippines Human Rights Tour Public Forum
4.30 pm Friday, 4th August 2006,
AMWU Auditorium, Granville
Speakers: Filipino Member of Congress - House of Representative from Bayan Muna Party - Joel Virador and KMU Union leader - Angelina Ladera
Filipino Food available after the meeting
Any further information contact
Peter 0418312301 or Margaret 9897 9133
NATIONAL INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS FORUM 2006
Ends with cocktail evening
Fair Go From Here?
2nd in the 'Fair Go' conference series
Hosted by the Australian State and Territory Governments, this one-day event provides an opportunity for employers, workers, social commentators and academics to engage in constructive and open debate about the real impact of the federal Work Choices legislation on the Australian workplace.
The forum provides an affordable opportunity to hear a balanced and broad range of views from reputed experts in academia and advocacy and will discuss the implications of the federal government's industrial relations changes examine ways of working under these changes and the implications for IR in practice and explore ways forward in the new IR environment.
Date: Thursday 24th August 2006
Location: Sofitel Wentworth, Sydney
Time: 9.30am - 5.10pm
Conference website: www.iceaustralia.com/ir
Fair Go website: www.fairgo.nsw.gov.au/Conference/index.html
Email: [email protected]
Pope Talks IR
Monday 25 September 2006.
Brisbane Work and Industry Futures QUT, and the Department of Industrial Relations Griffith University are convening a one-day conference that explores Work, Industrial Relations and Popular Culture.
David Pope, the cartoonist behind the Heinrich Hinze cartoons will be Keynote Speaker with his presentation - "Is the pen mightier than s356? Cartoons and Work" (www.scratch.com.au)
We welcome any paper that explores the manner in which popular culture is used by unions, management or policy makers or alternatively, how work and industrial relations is represented within popular culture.
Sub-themes for the conference include: - Policy, Influence and Modern Mediums - Which is Reality, Work or TV? - Popular Music: Is it the End of the Working Class Man? - Working in the Movies: What do we see? - Popular Culture as a Teaching Tool. Call for Papers. Abstracts are due 14 July 2006 Full papers are due 11 September 2006 Location; Southbank, Brisbane.
The convenors would welcome participants to submit proposed titles earlier to assist in preparations. For further information please contact Keith Townsend ([email protected]) or David Peetz ([email protected])
Rekindling the Flames of Discontent: How the Labour and Folk Movements Work Together
A Conference - Dinner - Concert
The Brisbane Labour History Association is holding a Conference/Dinner/Concert on Saturday 23 September. This event will explore the historical relationship between the labour movement and the folk movement in Australia with a particular emphasis on Queensland.
Why? To celebrate the history of the interaction between the Folk and Labour movements, and promote its longevity.
When? Saturday 23 September. Conference from 1pm. Concert from 7pm.
Where? East Brisbane Bowls Club, Lytton Rd, East Brisbane, Next to Mowbray Park
It is still in the formative stages, but to date the following are confirmed:
1-5pm CONFERENCE (will include music with the presentations):
Doug Eaton on John Manifold & the Communist Arts Group in Brisbane, Brisbane Realists
Bob & Margaret Fagan on Sydney Realist Writers
Mark Gregory on trade union & labour songs/music, nationally/internationally
Lachlan & Sue on international perspectives
5 - 7pm Drinks followed by DINNER
7 - 11pm CONCERT
Combined Unions Choir
Bob and Margaret Fagan
Come on guys, bit of balance in your coverage, claims and offers of support for the people in the current crisis in Lebanon. We have families of both Lebanese and Isreali extraction here in Australia and it is not our place to fight their battle. It would appear, as with most strife, it's not the parties who are directly affected causing the trouble. Most sides are suffering the consequences and should be supported equally.
It's a bit like swimming against the flow - fighting WorkChoices and John Howard. We tend to live and work with people who think like us, but tiger country can be any country town.
Can you understand a boss of 35 people put a note in every pay packet informing his workers if Labor won the election they would not have a job?
It did happen and not all that far from the big smoke. My point is the Your Rights at Work bus is on the road again, and doing a great job. Why do some not go to see it first hand? Do not wait for others to carry your lunch box, you may go hungry.
Allan 'Belly' Bell
It may be of possible interest to the low income earners, unemployed workers or injured workers, who find they need to access welfare assistance, they are in the main redistributing the taxes they have paid (food, assistance with bills, etc).
The largest source of income for charities is the Government. The Government contributes 43 per cent of the charities total income, ie $946,098,239 out of a total figure of $2,208,140,371 ( 2.2 million )
For every dollar a charity raises by means of fundraising, it receives $1.65 from the Government. So, don't feel guilty, don't feel shame, if you need help, ask for it.
His government had nothing to do with smearing sacked Australians who stood up against WorkChoices. We know this because, according to Sydney's Daily Telegraph, a "Government spokesman" told us so, "saying the OWS was an independent body".
It was a repeat of Howard's disclaimer on prosecutions against 107 building workers in WA. When they were announced, Howard declined to comment on the grounds that his Building Industry Commission was an "independent body".
Similarly, Honest John wouldn't have anything to do with the annihilation of the ABC as a force in news and current affairs. After all, the board of the ABC is an independent body.
All these independent bodies have in common is that the Prime Minister stacks them and gives them their riding instructions.
They are about as independent as an Australian foreign policy would be if it had been crafted in Texas.
So, the bloke's sneaky, surely it goes with the territory?
To a degree, that's true, but in a healthy democracy the tendency to obscure and deceive is countered by an active, independent media.
And that's Australia's big problem. With the ABC trussed up in a corner, there appears little stomach for challenging power or pricking pomposity.
The Terror's handling of the WorkChoices beat-up was a case in point. Firstly, the story was not given to the person who handles the industrial round and would know the surrounding issues.
The facts, in brief, were these:
- the ACTU, according to polls and commentators, has run an effective campaign against WorkChoices
- an important part of that campaign has been a series of adverts, showcasing real people who have lost their jobs and incomes, claiming they have no redress under the new regime
- in some of these cases - including the highly-publicised Cowra Abattoir dispute, where an employer sacked staff so he could undercut a negotiated contract - the facts were not in dispute
- without instruction from any of the individuals concerned and, in some cases without even speaking to them, the OWS appears to have "investigated" their cases and concluded they had no redress under WorkChoices
- the Tele deduced from this that the sacked workers had "only themselves to blame" and the ads they appeared in were a "fiction"
Arguably, the case raised real issues that should have addressed.
Why had a government agency chosen to investigate critical individuals and prepare dossiers on them?
Why had commentary been included about pre-WorkChoices situations over which the agency had no authority?
Why had it purported to make "findings" when, according to the Act, its powers are limited to investigating and, where necessary, prosecuting?
Unfortunately, the Tele didn't think to raise any of these questions.
You couldn't call it fearless or crusading but, if you were John Howard, you might call it independent.
- Jim Marr