||Issue No. 333||17 November 2006|
Interview: Common Ground
Industrial: A Low Act
Unions: The Number of the Least
Politics: The Smoking Gun
Economics: Microcredit, Compulsory Superannuation and Inequality
Environment: Low Voltage
History: The Art of Social Justice
Review: Work’s Unhealthy Appetite
Culture: A Forgotten Poet
States Quarantine Remaining Rights
As the NSW Labor government moved to quarantine workers from the federal laws, unions placed themselves on a political footing to knock over the laws at the ballot box.
In a decision legal experts warn is the death of states rights, a 5-2 majority of the High Court ruled the Commonwealth could use its corporations power to establish a national industrial relations system.
But while the ruling means that the formal industrial relations powers have been over-ridden, there are still large swathes of the workforce that do not fall under the expanded federal jurisdiction.
State public servants and employees from unincorporated business will not be covered by the WorkChoices laws, meaning that state systems will continue to set their wages and conditions.
To shore up these workers, the NSW Government this week introduced new legislation to protect frontline public sector workers like nurses, TAFE teachers and ambulance officers. It also has new legislation before State Parliament to ensure young people under 18 are brought under the protection of the NSW industrial relations system.
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson said the decision put an end to more than 100 years of protection of workers rights under the Constitution.
"Every single worker in Australia is now vulnerable to the government's extreme IR laws," Mr Robertson said.
"This result should send a shudder through every nurse, teacher, police officer and every other state employee - your conditions are no longer safe.
"What this decision means is that a campaign to defeat the Howard Government and their unfair laws is more important than ever."
Meanwhile, the Australian Lawyers Alliance warned the decision will erode individual rights.
The ALA's Bob Whyburn said the decision opens the door on the federal government to uses its constitutional power over corporations to encroach into more areas of daily life.
"This decision expands the use of Corporations Power in a way that puts the interests of big business ahead of the rights of individuals," Whyburn says.
"The ALA is concerned the decision will embolden the Commonwealth to take more power away from the states, particularly in areas like workers compensation and Occupational Health and Safety where state laws offer greater protections for individuals.
The ALA endorsed the views of dissenting Justice Michael Kirby who accused majority of the Court of ignoring the "repeated negative voice" of the Australian people who, through repeated referendums, voted against extending the power of the federal government with respect to industrial disputes.
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