Sometimes it pays just to keep your mouth shut.
So NSW Opposition Leader Peter Whatsisname must be thinking after turning a political free kick into a spectacular own goal.
Realising that he'd stuffed up in alleging a Labor minister, presumably John Watkins, was under investigation by the Police Integrity Commission, the Vice-Admiral from Vaucluse re-hashed allegations against Attorney-General, Bob Debus.
Only trouble was, his claims, made under parliamentary privelege, had been investigated and found to be spurious, three years earlier.
Debus challenged Debnam to take 15 paces outside of the chamber and repeat the claims without the protection from defamation afforded by the chamber.
But the only ones taking 15 paces were Debnam's colleagues, who were quickly backing away from their fairless leader.
Now the poor Opposition Leader, used to the camaraderie and fraternity of the military, must feel like he hasn't got a friend in the world - well, except for the David Penberthy.
So unless the NSW Liberal Party's campaign manager - the Daily Telegraph - can save him, the premier-in-waiting has become a lame duck.
And let's be honest, it was only a matter of time. Under the posh exterior, the guy's ignorance and shallowness was bound to show up sooner or later.
Debnam has shown himself to be a galoot and a dangerous one at that.
He famously said that as Premier he would direct police to arrest people of a certain ethnic background and "charge them with anything".
Such a policy would have gone down a treat in 1930s Germany, Mussolini's Italy or during one of the Russian pogroms but, thankfully, it failed to fly in modern Sydney.
Even the police had to come out and concede there was something called "evidence" that stopped them from charging people in the manner advocated.
Later, Debbers was asked on radio if he believed in the "separation of powers".
It's a fairly basic legal concept that defines the separation of the executive, judiciary and the legislature, to provide balance and ensure none of these three "arms" grows too much muscle.
Debnam asked the interviewer, "Which separation of powers are you talking about?"
The bemused announcer responded, "If you don't know then we have a problem."
Debnam's ignorance on basic legal principles is only matched by his lack of policies.
After the NSW Government released its State Plan earlier this week, 2GB's Philip Clark asked Debnam if the Opposition would release its plan.
Debnam replied, "No", but then revealed the Opposition had "sat down and said, 'Here's five or six things we're going to do' ... and that's what people want to see."
So what about his values, his core beliefs?
When doing a profile on Debnam, the Sydney Morning Herald's David Marr asked him to define the "strong" values he said he stood for.
The response came: "Yes. Me."
If only he kept his big mouth shut.
The announcement came after a public backlash to plans to transfer work from the Concord Transactions and unsecured Lending Originations (TULO) Centre to India became public in October
Finance Sector Union national secretary, Paul Schroder, says the campaign workers waged to save their jobs had helped shift the public debate around off-shoring of white collar jobs.
" This is a victory for workers, communities and customers across Australia who stood up for workers rights and have saved jobs and sensitive data from being sent off shore, "Schroder says.
Westpac now joins the Commonwealth Bank in rejecting the off-shoring model of cutting wages and conditions.
"Westpac's decision to invest in Australian jobs and protect the privacy of their customers prove that banks can make choices that are good for business, good for workers and good for customers," he says
"It is now time for ANZ, NAB and St George to step up to the mark and make the same commitment to Australian workers and customers by abandoning any plans to off shore jobs'
FSU member would be planning to build pressure on these banks during the up-coming round of Annual General Meetings.
Australia's 30,000 coal miners are well placed to influence the climate change debate and have an impact on reducing harmful carbon emissions, says CFMEU national president Tony Maher.
The union is calling on coal companies - experiencing record profits as demand from industrialising nations grows - to voluntarily increase spending on clean coal technology.
"The Australian coal industry has committed $300 million over five years to a fund to research the reduction of carbon emissions and to develop clean coal technology," Maher said.
"That's not nearly enough. We believe about $2 billion, about a dollar per tonne per year, would be a more reasonable amount."
To assist the coal producers in their decision-making, the CFMEU has bought parcels of shares in the 10 leading companies.
The union will attend shareholders' meetings with employees to raise the issue and will enlist the support of major investors such as super funds with ethical investment guidelines.
Under its climate change policy the CFMEU is also calling on the federal government to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol, invest in renewable energy and implement a carbon trading scheme.
With Australia's coal mining industry forecast to grow dramatically over the coming decade, Australia must be at the forefront of developing clean technology, Maher said.
CFMEU members have embraced the new climate change policy, Maher said.
"They're sick of being blamed for climate change. The argument doesn't have to be between jobs and the environment."
TAFE Directors Australia (TDA) wants to ditch on-the-job apprenticeships for two-year classroom-based diplomas that would force potential trades people to pay its institutions for their training.
The radical proposal, which appears to fly in the face of policies of Labor Governments that oversee TAFEs nationwide, was launched at the TDA conference in Adelaide, this week.
The scheme has been lashed by the AMWU as "part and parcel of John Howard's WorkChoices agenda".
National president, Julius Roe, said evidence showed the TDA's core contention, that traditional apprenticeships were outdated, was "just plain wrong".
He said trade apprenticeships had increased over the last two years in the face of a lack of federal government support.
"There are many more young Australians looking for apprenticeships than places available. The key is to offer them places, not wreck the system," Roe said.
"It is extremely disappointing to see TAFE directors join John Howard's attack on the trades.
"This approach will lead to partially trained workers who don't have the necessary practical experience and learning. It will remove all obligations on employers to contribute to the development of skills and training and shift that burden to students and the public."
The proposal was unveiled barely a month after an arm of TAFE NSW was sprung training Chinese workers for a labour hire outfit that appeared set to use them to undercut Australian wages and conditions.
The NSW Government moved to shut down TAFE Global's arrangement with Skillforce International which claimed "our China office has the ability to tap into this large labour market and source qualified workers".
It used the TAFE brand to sell the skills of a range of Chinese workers to Australian businesses "including, but not limited to, fitters, plant mechanics, metal fabricators, boilermakers, welders, structural steel tradespersons, sheet metal workers, shipwrights, boat builders, carpenters, plasterers, bricklayers, roof tilers, wall tilers, floor tilers, stonemasons, painters and decorators, floor finishers, mining personnel, drillers, maintenance technicians, mechanical fitters, butchers, boners, slaughtermen, bakers and pastry cooks."
In fact, Workers Online understands, Skillforce International is still marketing itself under the TAFE Global logo which bears a striking resemblance to the official TAFE NSW logo.
The breakthrough came, this week, when the Wollongong Uni employer caved in to near unanimous opposition to its anti-union posturing.
Unicentre announced it would enter negotiations with the SDA and LHMU on a collective agreement for employees.
"The Unicentre board has acknowledged the employees' right to a union collective agreement and accepted that the unanimous endorsement of such an agreement by two mass meetings of members indicated the democratic will of its employees," restrained SDA secretary, Gerard Dwyer, said.
Prior to the turnaround, Unicentre had used John Howard's workplace laws to thumb its nose at overwhelming support for the proposal.
For two years, the SDA and LHMU have been trying to get Unicentre around the bargaining table.
Dozens of workers held meetings and wore union badges to press their claim. Several were stood down for donning badges at the height of hostitilites.
Unicentre agreed to a collective agreement, last month, but insisted that it be a non-union one.
"The key issue is a long term one," Dwyer said. "The employee collective agreement, against a union collective agreement, is fundamentally about right of entry.
"This legislation tries to restrict employees' contact with their representatives.
"At least 90 percent of employees are union members, it's not like we're a pimple on the elephant down there. Union members are the elephant.
" The problem with this legislation is their aspirations mean nothing. The employer can simply sit on it hands and ignore them."
Businesses ranging from florists to bookshops, bottle shops to cafes have already signed up to the scheme, which will be promoted by more than 40 Rights at Work committees across NSW.
The program calls on employers to endorse five fair employment principles including respecting the right of workers to be union members and not to use AWAs.
Employers who sign up will display a 'Fair Employer' sticker on their shopfront and be promoted on a special website.
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson said the program was an opportunity for employers who believed in workers rights to make a stand - and be promoted as businesses that working families should support.
"As the Rights at Work campaign has gathered momentum many small employers and business have told me they do not support the Howard Government's IR changes because they see that it will be bad for business and bad for their communities," Robertson says.
"This Scheme will mean that businesses who treat their workers fairly will become preferred suppliers for working families.
"Losing the support of two million potential customers will be something businesses will have to weigh up when they consider taking the low-road of cutting wages and conditions under WorkChoices."
Unions NSW has set a target of 1,000 employers signed up to the scheme within its first 12 months.
The Office of NSW IR Minister, John Della Bosca, has backed the initiative and committed the state government to signing up.
Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, welcomed the establishment of the 42nd and 43 committee - based in the Sutherland Shire and Sydney's Northside - this week.
"These are not groups we have gone out and established," he said. "They are being established in the community because of a genuine desire to get involved and make a difference.
Sutherland Shire Your Rights at Work committee rep, Maryanne Stuart, said her group was established at a meeting of more than 80 people on October 4.
It came out at the Gymea Village Community Fair where hundreds of locals signed onto an activists register and added their names to an anti-WorkChoices petition.
"We've got people from all backgrounds and all political affiliations," she said. "They are there to fight the good fight and get rid of this government."
Your Rights at Work Committees began springing up across the state in the wake of ground-breaking NSW bus trips around regional centres, last July.
They vary in size from half a dozen people to more than 80 activists.
Bathurst, Coffs Harbour, Wagga Wagga, Lindsay and Lismore are all home to active, high-profile committees.
Some are targeting marginal seats in the build-up to next year's federal election while others are campaigning around WorkChoices.
Robertson told Unions NSW delegates, the move had gone national with the establishment of 23 marginal seats committees around Australia.
"But this campaign isn't solely about the next election," he said. "It's about people getting involved in the political process and holding politicians, of all shades, to account.
"It's good for our campaign and it's good for democracy."
Andrews used extraordinary powered he conferred on himself, under special building industry legislation, to rule an agreement that took 12 months to negotiate was not "code compliant" although his own departmental officers had ruled that it was.
Failure to abide by the building industry code blocks employers from access to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of federal government work.
It was drafted to try and drive unions out of the building industry and forbids employers from agreeing to co-operate with unions in virtually any way.
NECA (the National Electrical Contractors Association) and the ETU spent a year thrashing out an agreement that was ruled code compliant by Andrews' officers in the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and Office of the Employment Advocate.
But after 50 Melbourne-based contractors signed on, Andrews decreed they would barred from any federal government contracts because of a deed of agreement they had signed.
Around 4000 electrical workers voted unanimously to endorse the NECA deal at a mass meeting in Melbourne, this week.
ETU secretary, Dean Mighell, said they had "drawn a line in the sand."
"We negotiated in good faith, we struck a deal and we are going to honour it, irrespective of third party interference," Mighell said.
"While we are doing that we will examine our remedies.
"On the face of it, this must be a case for the ACCC. If anyone interfered with a contract as blatantly as this, in the commercial world, it would be anti-competitive conduct."
Mighell said the Minister might also have a case to answer under anti-discrimination laws for seeking to damage employers because of the type of agreement they had entered into.
ACTU secretary, Greg Combet, told this week's meeting the battle was now a political one and that their only effective avenue of redress was to throw the Howard Governnment out of office.
Furious ETU members voted to knock off for the day, rejecting Mighell's warning that such an action could open them to big fines.
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.
"Like everyone else, they saw the ads that said 'protected by law' on transmission of business," said textiles union (TCFUA) state secretary Michele O'Neil.
"They've had generations of hard-won collective union agreements. They can't believe that overnight their employer the company is exploiting WorkChoices to get out of giving them what they're owed."
Godfrey Hirst Australia, which is purchasing carpet-maker Feltex's operation, has insisted the workers sign AWAs which get rid of most of the award conditions included in the Feltex union collective agreement, which doesn't expire until mid-2007.
The AWAs reduce a host of entitlements including redundancy, maternity leave and annual leave; as well as giving the employer greater power to stand workers down and unilaterally change their duties.
Godfrey Hirst clams it will be free of redundancy or severance pay obligations if workers refuse to sign the AWAs.
The TCFUA is fighting Godfrey Hirst in the Federal Court and the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, arguing it is unlawful to force people from a current collective union agreement onto an AWA.
Meanwhile, the workers are attracting support at home and abroad. The ACTU has thrown its weight behind the campaign, with secretary Greg Combet meeting the workers this week.
"The Federal Government promised that under its IR laws workers' pay and conditions would be protected for 12 months following the transmission of business to a new owner," he said.
"But Godrey Hirst has joined the list of an increasing number of employers using the new laws to cut workers conditions when they take over an existing business.
New Zealand Feltex workers have delivered petitions to management in support of their Australian colleagues.
Average weekly earnings increased by just 2.8 percent in the year to August, as the big end of town helped itself to average 12 percent salary raises.
The Australian Financial Review's eight annual study of executive salaries showed that average CEO salaries, across Australia's 300 largest companies, had jumped from $1.9 a year to $2.1 million.
Topping the list was Macquarie Bank boss , Alan Moss, who helped himself to more than $21.2 million, an increase of 14.3 percent on last year's "earnings".
Macquarie Bank paid four of its executives more than $14 million with annual increases of up to 37.7 percent.
New Telstra CEO, Sol Trujillo, who has authorised sweeping job cuts and presided over the loss of billions of dollars in company value, took home $8.71 million for his efforts.
Every one of the 30 top paid Australian executives made more than $7 million.
Meanwhile, responsibility for the smallest average annual earnings increase for the rest of us in seven years, has been sheeted home to WorkChoices.
ABN Amro chief economist, Kieran Davies, attributed the "surprisingly small" rise to federal industrial relations reforms, according to the Australian newspaper.
"We think the changed behaviour of wages is due to industrial relations reforms breaking down pattern-bargaining across industries and reducing the bargaining power of workers," he said.
Annual inflation is expected to come in at between three and four percent.
The disconnect between super rich executives, earning more than $80,000 a day, and the rest of Australia has prompted Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, to call for a "serious rethink".
Robertson said average CEO salaries at Australia's 50 largest companies had ballooned from 20 to 70 times the average wage in 20 years.
Robertson wants a community debate about that situation.
"It's a complex issue that involves the mix between shareholders, wage-earners and executives," he said.
"But, what is clear, is that executive salaries are running rampant, often with no connection to the profitability of a company. And there is little evidence of executive pay being linked to company performance.
"It is equally clear that the federal government is using WorkChoices to hold the rest of us down.
"I think it could be useful to actually link executive pay to wages - it would certainly remove the incentive for CEOs to cut the average family's income."
Where industry funds charged on average $453.26 a year to manage members' nest eggs, retail funds charged $763.07 according to the Australian Securities and Investments Commissions, which has been tracking the fees since the Federal Government introduced 'choice of fund' legislation last year.
Industry funds were only beaten on fees by in-house company-managed funds, which are becoming much less prevalent.
ASIC's is just the latest in a string of studies which show union-backed industry super funds deliver better outcomes in returns and low fees for fund members.
Over time, higher fees have a considerable impact on returns, ASIC said.
On a $50,000 account balance with annual contribution of $5000, total fees per year can vary between zero and $1800, with the average about $650.
ASIC estimated that paying 1 percent less in fees could mean a 20 percent boost in super benefits over 30 yea
The Smithfield Retail Fulfilment Business Unit, where 36 employees prepare orders of stationery and other retail goods for post offices statewide, is set to join another Australia Post warehouse operation at Wetherill Park in March.
Morale at the Smithfield site has plunged, said union rep Blake Colbran.
"We don't trust management at all anymore because they haven't told us what's going on. We've been told there will be surplus staff but we haven't been given a new staff structure, so everyone fears they won't have a job past March," he said.
The warehouses at Smithfield and Wetherill Park are both operated by Australia Post's subsidiary business unit Post Logistics, but the Wetherill Park site was established only to store and handle goods for third party companies like department stores.
While Smithfield staff are employed under EBA 6, staff at the Wetherill Park site are on another enterprise agreement for Post Logistics third party work.
Despite promising to consult with the union over the conditions of the relocation, in October Australia Post unilaterally informed the Smithfield workers about the move and foreshadowed transferring them from EBA 6 onto the third party agreement or offering redundancy, said CEPU organiser TK Ly.
Union and Australia Post officials attended a conference at the Australian Industrial Relations Commission on 30 October, where management agreed to suspend the staff notification and renew consultations with the union.
The CEPU will fight any move to transfer the workers out of EBA 6, said Ly.
"Some of the people here have been here a very long time and no-one wants to go on to the new agreement. They're saying a base level worker will be better off, but for most people it will mean worse conditions," said Colbran.
Under the terms of EBA 6, Australia Post is not allowed to contract out Australia Post work, including the storage and supply of retail goods to post offices, which would prevent the workers being moved to the third party agreement.
Under new industrial laws, it will be difficult for the union to enshrine the same conditions into the next enterprise bargaining agreement, said Ly.
"But if this issue isn't resolved, we won't agree to recommend the new EBA7 to the members."
Re Article States Fall to Unions
Take a look at the website www.billionairesforbush.com.
Something similar here in Australia would not go astray. I'm sure our commrades at MEEA could pull it off with aplomb. People in business suits get more attention from the media than those in jeans.
The majority's expansive use of the corporations power to over-ride defined limits on federal encroachment on the states speaks to the pervasive nature of the corporation in modern life.
That the regulation of workers and employers - and the operations of their industrial representatives - can be construed as part of the regulation of corporations, rather than the carefully construed limits to industrial relations elsewhere in the constitution, is the beginning of the end of states rights.
Because modern life. with its privatisations, corporatisations and public private partnerships has been so captured by the corporate model that almost all aspects of public policy - from retirement savings to child care, health and education - fall within their purview.
Ironically it was left to the court's most conservative and most radical judges to question this thinking - wondering whether there would be any rights for states at all - and warning that such an expansion of powers had been repeatedly rejected by the public.
What is clear, is that the notion of a Federation of States is history - the state systems of industrial relations that underpin competition between the states are terminal and the nation's economy will be less dynamic as a consequence.
What it means to the current debate around IR is less cleat - the High Court has departed the field when it comes to workers rights and without these limits, the federal government can do anything it wishes free of judicial review.
This will force the labour movement further down the path of direct political and community action - ironically, the areas where they have performed so spectacularly in recent times.
Politically, the mass mobilisaitons will continue - with the next major event just weeks away when workers will fill the MCG, and Jimmy Barnes will belt out his working class anthem in a program to be beamed to venues around the nation.
Meanwhile, Unions NSW has launched a ground-breaking initiative that will take the campaign into hitherto untapped areas of small business operators who want to give their employees decent secure jobs.
The fair Employers Scheme will see Rights at Work campaign committees around the state support businesses that to turn their backs on WorkChoices and AWAs.
There is a natural alliance between decent small business operators and workers - both v victims of the ruthless power plays of the big corporates who view competition and respect as commercial impediments.
By supporting each other - by choosing to do business with the businesses that treat workers with respect - the scheme could provide a counter-balance to the seemingly compelling logic of dragging down wages and conditions to match competitors.
In this way, the corporate interests protected by our highest court could just come undone by ordinary men and women who are building a high road on the high street.