Shaw, a leading industrial QC before he entered politics, describes the decision to refuse to arbitrate in the long-running Hunter Valley No 1 case as "curious".
The decision is being interpreted as a death knell for compulsory arbitration, after the Commission signalled it was prepared to let parties fight matters out rather than bringing them to a head by ending the bargaining period and forcing arbitration.
Shaw warns the decision puts the long-term viability of the Commission under a cloud, with unions and employers unlikely to put as much faith in the independent tribunal that has overseen industrial relations for the past century.
And he is scathing of the Commission's "risky venture into literary illusion" where it applied the 19th century proverb "all is fair in love and war" to justify its hands-off approach.
"Since there are international conventions and laws which govern warfare and since most would think that there are norms and values applicable to love, it seems arguable that the adage applied to the case is self-evidently wrong," he says.
"It was an invitation to error to consider that there were no standards of fair play applicable to an industrial dispute."
Shaw argues the minimalist arbitration conducted by the Commission does not seem to have been the result of any legal requirement. "The statutory prohibitions against arbitration did not constitute an effective barrier," he says.
Bob Carr announced the State Labor Advisory Council (unfortunately known as SLAC) as he moved to dampen union dissent about government policy at last weekend's State Conference.
The Council will be chaired by the Premier comprise senior government ministers, union officials and party officials and meet regularly to discuss industrial, social and economic policies.
The announcement was roundly welcomed by trade unions as a way of increasing their influence with a government whose agenda has been increasingly shaped by public servants and big business.
But comments since the conference by the Premier, ruling out one of the successful conference resolutions on introducing service fees from non-union members, and Transport Minister Carl Scully, vowing to push ahead with competitive tendering of road maintenance work - should set the alarm bells ringing.
Even after the Premier's announcement, unions combined across the factional divide to endorse all resolutions that unions had framed in their pre-conference priorities document.
And the detente failed to stop Scully copping a loud pasting, being booed of stage and leaving with a Nixonesque wave.
Faction forum to New Year
Meanwhile, the programmed discussion on the future of the party has been deferred until the New Year
But those at the conference said the climate was markedly difference from previous years, suggesting that some cultural change may be already occurring - although there is some way to go.
"Apart from the ritualised Saturday morning factional melee on branch stacking, this Conference will be best remembered for the amount of consensus between the Right and Left unions on key industrial and economic issues," Labor Council senior industrial officer Chris Christodoulou said.
"This no doubt was effected by the Labor Council's initiative in having its affiliates determine priority issues before conference and seeing this as being more important to the interests of their members than the political point scoring that the factions crave," he said.
Richo Interview Sparks Heavyweight Stoush
Comments by Graham Richardson in an interview with Workers Online (Issue#32) were behind Paul Keating's savage conference attack on his former numbers man.
Keating gave Richo the full treatment for his comments that Kerry Packer had "voted Labor a lot more in his life than he's voted Liberal" and had "only had a problem with one Labor politician - and that was Paul Keating."
Keating claimed in his speech that Richo had not just been responding to these questions - but had actually offered them to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Like a fair portion of Keating's dazzling conference performance, this didn't quite fit the facts. The Richo comments to Workers Online were picked up by the Sydney Morning Herald's Brad Norington who ran a piece full accrediting their source.
This was the piece that Keating seized on as evidence of Richo's treachery. If only he had read the fine print he may have ended up as our latest subscriber!
The talk by Des Moore from the Institute for Private Enterprise entitled 'The Need For Radical Change To Labour Market Regulation"
It was hosted in NSW Government's Treasury offices under the auspices of the Economic Society. All members of the Cabinet Office were invited to the lunchtime talk.
A gushing promo for the talk included then following classics:
"As Australia's highly interventionist workplace relations arrangements clearly discourage risk-taking, there is a prima facie case that they are a principal cause of our relatively high unemployment and low employment."
"Further, contrary to popular perception, those regulatory arrangements have arguably delivered less equitable/socially desirable outcomes than more market-oriented arrangements would have. This adds substantial weight to the case for radical reform"
"The AIRC should be converted into a voluntary advisory/mediator similar to ACAS, the apparently successful conciliation/mediation body in the UK. Further, legislation should be amended to codify the common law relevant to workplace agreement-making so as to affirm specifically the rights of employers and employees to contract without significant constraint."
Reforms designed by the NSW trade union movement to sensibly regulate the labour market are currently before the Cabinet Office. How Des Moore's analysis will be applied to these proposals will make for some interesting philosophical debates.
NSW Labor Council secretary Michael Costa says he hopes nobody took anything Moore said seriously.
"Des Moore hasn't said anything of value on labour market reform since he left Treasury," Costa says. "I don't know why public servants would be wasting their time at seminars listening to ideologues when there are serious issues confronting the government."
News of the lecture heightens union concerns about the impact of the Cabinet Office - the body Bob Carr promised to scrap before the 1995 election - on the State Labor Government.
A favourite anecdote comes from those putting together the 1996 industrial relations reform package who swear Cabinet Office chief Roger Wilkins suggested - without a hint of irony - that they might like to look at the New Zealand industrial relations model.
The allegations were made in a resolution passed at the ALP State Conference calling on SOCOG and the Olympics Minister to address concerns about the sourcing of the furniture.
CFMEU organiser Brad Parker, who moved the conference resolution, says the concerns about imported furniture have emerged despite an agreement to award separate contracts for the beds, mattresses and room fittings to Australian companies.
The problem is that these firms are then sourcing the materials for the beds and fittings from overseas in a bid to minimise costs. Parker says only the mattresses are being wholly produced locally.
Games Uniforms Rubbery Figures
Meanwhile, the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union has challenged SOCOG claims that 60 per cent of Olympic uniforms are locally made.
TCFUA state secretary Barry Tubner says the statistics refer to the number of items of clothing, rather than the value. Locally made socks (counted individually rather than in pairs) have falsely inflated the SOCOG figures.
In dollar terms, Tubner has calculated that 84 per cent of the value of the uniforms will be made in off-shore factories in Fiji, Malaysia and Indonesia - although the union has been denied information about their exact whereabouts.
The union maintains that any garments that can be made in Australia, should be; and that any offshore production should be subject to union monitoring.
"Without such a union role in monitoring, any Code of Practice will merely act as a fig leaf to cover the most shameful parts of an exploited industry," Tubner says.
The Olympic equestrian centre recently opened is wares to the public during a recent show jumping event.
Labor Councils` safety watchdog, Mary Yaager was invited with WorkCover for a ride around inspection of the new facilities and to determine if they were up to scratch.
Yaager spotted some cowboy behaviour by two of the contractors who were riding shot-gun on the side of a tractor.
Yaags was quick on the draw to point out to the Olympic organisers that this practice was a real "no no".
She that there are two deaths every month on our farms - the majority involving tractors where someone is riding on the outer mud guards.
In one tragic incident a farmer allowed his two children to ride on the tractors mudguard and when the vehicle went over a rough terrain the children were thrown forward under the tractors massive tyres and were crushed to death.
In addition Yaager recommended that the centre develop site specific safety operational procedures for all employees and contractors which would need to be signed off by the unions.
Australian Workers Union organiser Michael Taylor has also made observations after talking to members at the complex and Yaager will ensure these issues are addressed such as
· provision of work stations with umbrella coverage ,seat and rubber mats and a easy cooler style container drinking water;
· regular transport arrangements to move staff, meals and sunscreen protection creams between outlaying workstations and staff centres;
more staff facilities with dedicated toilets away from the public domain.
On a more positive note the level of organisation including transport was excellent furthermore this is the first time that the equestrian event will be held in the southern hemisphere and Yaager says that judging by what she had seen so far, it will be best.
The mentoring scheme, an initiative of the NSW branch committee of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, is designed to give young reporters an experienced friend in the often alienating world of the newsroom.
The idea followed concerns raised at a recent branch council meeting that younger journalists were not joining the union. There was also a fear that the union was losing its professional focus under amalgamated structure.
The scheme will be launched at a function for young journalists and copykids at the Alliance office, Chalmers Street, Redfern at 6pm on Tuesday, October 26.
If you're a hack with a heart - send us your details.
Most of these employers are not paying correct award wage and penalty rates. And of those employers not breaking the law, up to 28% are using State Workplace Agreements to legally cut wages and conditions.
The survey also revealed that, of 694 employees on State Workplace Agreements, 574 were casual. This high ratio of casuals shows again how individual contracts undercut conditions.
Union Branch Secretary Helen Creed said the study backed up LHMU experience that many security companies are not fit to operate.
'If they can't obey the law and pay legal wages and conditions, then what are these companies doing in the security industry?' Creed says.
by Zoe Reynolds
The exhibition captures the agony and the ecstasy of the Patrick Dispute - the invasion of the docks, confrontation between police and pickets, the key adversaries, the angst when battles were being lost and the jubilation when justice was being won.
These photos are not simply images, they are icons - the shadowy balaclava clad figure in the Patrick shed, the dogs at midnight, a jubilant national secretary held high by waterfront workers celebrating a court victory, - brief moments during the month long confrontation immortalised.
And behind every picture is an untold story. The photographer sacked for withholding an image he believed could be misused; another shunned for breaking ranks and providing a photo his colleagues had agreed collectively would give the wrong picture.
Camaraderie on the picket was not confined to maritime workers. Photographers from competing publications worked together. Friendships were made. So were enemies.
'Confrontation' is a compilation of 19 works by nine of Australia's top news photographers. It is on show until November 14, after which it will go on permanent display in the union rooms.
Freelance photographer Dean Sewell (formerly Fairfax) brought the collection together, the union paid for the prints and the Maritime Museum provided the hanging space.
"I covered the dispute from day one," says Dean. "I guess I must have shot around 600 rolls of film. That's over 20,000 photos." Multiply that by around 40 photographers working on the dispute and you end up with around half a million images.
"The hardest thing was choosing what photos were going in," he says. "We really needed to hire a whole building to do it justice. Rarely does any story hold page one like the waterfront dispute did. It captivated the imagination of all Australians. It was the biggest confrontation I'd ever covered in this country. Since then I've covered Timor. But it is still unforgettable."
Museum curator Susan Sedwick describes the 1998 confrontation between Patrick Stevedores and the Maritime Union of Australia as one of the most bitter disputes in the history of the waterfront: "It threatened the survival of the union. These photographs show the full force of the confrontation from both sides."
The exhibition begins at Midnight on the docks (below) - the only picture recording the events of April 7, 1998, when Patrick Stevedores sacked all its 2000 unionised employees nationwide. The photograph shows the security guards and their dogs invading and securing the wharves - the beasts eyes luminous in the night lights, make for an evocative image.
The photographers were back the next morning to capture on film the helicopters hovering above the portainer cranes at Port Botany. Private transport records how, for the first time in an industrial dispute in this country helicopters were used to ferry non union labour over the picket line.
During the long, cold days and nights that followed the photographers stood vigil ever watchful, recording the sometimes lone worker hunched by a campfire on a Rainy Day; groups of unionists complete with binoculars Watching the scabs, a sea of bodies Holding the Line at dawn as a thousand individuals form one human barrier and the police move in and the confrontation begins once more.
They shot busloads of scabs hiding their faces behind balaclavas or under jackets, unionists and their families shaking their fists, thumping the sides of the vehicle, the frustration and the fury. Like Masked Man by Fremantle photographer Tony Mc Donough these photos were key images of the industrial war, swaying public opinion to the side of the sacked workers.
And when the High Court ruled the union members had been sacked unlawfully and a settlement was reached, the photographers were there to capture The decision, the Victory hug, the Winning Grins, and, finally, the Unlocking of the gates and the workers reclaiming the wharves.
The Maritime Museum exhibition records the milestones of the dispute. A book of some 50 works by the same photographers is also proposed for publication.
ROOTING FOR THE REPUBLIC - THE FINAL FLING WITH ROY & HG
Republicans and really informed players will gather at the Parramatta Leagues Club on Thursday October 14 at 7pm for a final fling at the 'pre' Republic Cup featuring Australia's doyens of trivia and conversation Rampaging Roy Slaven and His Excellency HG Nelson.
The dynamic duo are being supported by the very estimable Tony Squires, the always inspirational Sandman and the very lovely Richard Fidler who will be the evening's Master of Ceremony.
"In honour of our forthcoming republic we feel it is appropriate to put aside politics and engage in a night of culture and quizzing," announced His Excellency HG Nelson. "We are making an early start in creating the intelligent republic by filling the minds of our best and brightest with our knowledge of all things trivial."
The trivia night will see over 300 people gather to test their knowledge and show their support for an Australian republic. With only weeks before the final vote we may finally get to answer the question - how bright are those republicans? The winners will receive The Republic Cup, a trophy specially designed to reflect the best in Australian ingenuity and culture and an all expenses paid tour of some of the high spots of the local district of the Republic of Parramatta, which is hosting this pre-eminent of republican events.
"Intelligent fun, with Aussies together, in close with an Aussie on the top is what being a republic is all about", added Roy. "On one evening in Parramatta we shall be trying to create that feeling of overwhelming joy that we are all going to feel late in the evening on November 6. It will be like being transported through time to one of the great moments of our collective history as a people, and as a nation."
"No true believer should miss it," added HG.
Bookings can be made through Ticketek on 9266 4800
or Ticketek Box Office at Parramatta Leagues Club on 8833 0798
Yes. It's Time
Living legend Jimmy Little will join Karma County at Sydney's Metro on Friday October 29, for the "Yes. It's Time" concert.
There will also be a forum involving Opposition leader Kim Beazley, actor Lucy Bell and comedian John Doyle
All proceeds from the night will go to East Timor relief organisations including the union aid agency, APHEDA.
Tickets are on sale from the Union Shop or the Metro. If you'd like to help by selling a book of ten tickets, click below.
Become a Founder
The ARM's Founder book will be on display at both functions. Supporters of the republic can enter their names in the book, will which will be kept as an historical record of the Referendum.
Labor Council has put up $2000 to go towards air travel for the winner of the organiser of the year competition, which will be awarded at the executive dinner in mid-November.
To enter, just write 500-800 words about an experience where you've put the principles of organising into practise. Send it to Workers Online via the button below.
Entries received by November 6 will be judged by our panel of experts, with finalists announced prior to the dinner.
For further details contact Peter Lewis on 9264 1691 or mailto:[email protected]
APHEDA's Alison Tate says the security of Timorese in Bali and other parts of the archipelago have become the number one priority as INTERFET forces restore order in Dili.
"Australia should be doing all in its power to ensure security for pro-independence et still in Indonesia and wanting temporary safe haven in Australia," Tate says..
The concerns were raised as the Australian Government delayed a scheduled airlift of Timorese to Darwin for a week - meaning some pro-independence supporters have been waiting for a month to get to safety.
"There is no indication that the campaign to identify and intimidate pro-independence supporters has abated," Tate says.
"People think their telephones being monitored and it's not safe to go to UNHCR offices - because of presence of protesters and security forces. As time goes by they are more and more insecure in the places they are hiding."
Tate says she's received reports from people who have fled to Macau - another former Portuguese colony. "While Dili might be safe, the access to Dili isn't.," she says.
Meanwhile, another rally and march will take place this coming Saturday 9 October 10:30am from Hyde Park North.
The rally is calling for the safe return of the 200,000 hostages in West Timor, reversal of Australia's recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor, an end to all military ties, East Timorese to be allowed to stay in Australia if they wish and money for aid and reconstruction.
I find with dismay at the recent rail strike by the RTBU, that Social Democrats have the desire to attack the working class.
It is starting to show what side the ALP is really on. With the Minister for Transport office using the Young Labor members to attack decent workers who are fighting to keep jobs and keep the railways in public hands.
We are now drawn to fighting the Social Democrats. Well, I think cutting off any donations from the RTBU will fix your antics.
RTBU Branch Councillor
I have been working in the Early Childhood field for about 6 years and am now an Advanced Childcare worker (Qualified) in a Preschool setting.
Nowadays, We as Childcare workers and Teachers in Early Childhood are expected to do so much and get little respect and earn less than unqualified people in different fields. Not only do we interact with the children, we are also counsellors, dispense medication, clean, maintain safe play environments, write up philosophies and policies, observe children for records and programming, report accidents, illness or suspected abuse.
In my own vision of things, every person in society adds to it in their calling and vocation. I really feel for those who believe that all I do is drink cups of tea and play with children.
It still makes my day when I think that I could have a furture architect in the Block corner or a furture Archibald portrait winner at the Easel. That, is the bigger picture and the next generation. Everything else seems to pale in comparison.
The redevelopment of Walsh Bay should be interesting, and bring back life to an area better forgotten for its unfortunate connection with Australia's most disgraceful industry.
What use is there in preserving it as heritage when it has no broad social and commercial appeal?
The fact that both sides of State Government when in power have supported this redevelopment dismisses any claims that the redevelopment plans have ever been politically inspired.
Rather, it is a concept with bipartisan support to make a small part of our waterfront economically productive while socially appealing, and revamping it will highlight the positive aspects of its heritage while sweeping away the negative aspects of an unproductive closed shop waterfront.
by Peter Lewis
Why was industrial action necessary last week?
It was necessary because City Rail management walked away from trying to negotiate a proper settlement and tried to use management prerogatives to suggest that negotiations had now been exhausted. Their position was that they were proposing to roll out the station reform without any further consultation with the union.
As someone that's been around industrial relations for a fair view years how do you rate the performance of the State Rail managers?
Well, I think that their performance was pretty poor. They were running a government line, not an industrial line, because what became absolutely clear towards the end of these negotiations was that there was an economic outcome required that had nothing to do with proper station working or improved station working.
What leads you to that conclusion?
Well, we sat at the negotiating table and argued along the lines that the Minister was publicly saying that this reform was about - putting additional people out to service customers, improving customer service. And during the negotiations it became absolutely clear that that was not the criteria that management was adopting, and each time that we put a proposal forward that would have increased the staffing levels above what they proposed, they would run the economic modelling and come back to change their position. So we became absolutely convinced that this was an economic argument and had little or nothing to do with improved station working.
So it really goes back to the Minister doesn't it?
Well, it does go back to the Minister. It became clear that they had little room to move. It's clear to us that Treasury and the Minister have said to management "This is the target that you need to achieve by reducing costs. How you do it? We don't care!"
Stepping back a little bit, you've been around the rail industry for a fair while...
Give us a bit of your background on how you've seen the industry change.
The industry has gone through massive change. When I joined the railways in 1963 we had close to 50,000 rail workers. Today it's less than 20,000. A lot of that change has been brought about through rationalisation. New technology coming into the industry. Certainly some closure of workshops, and privatisation in some areas. But on the stations in particular, we've not seen a lot change when it comes to the operation of stations. The technology that has come in - there's been some ticket vending machines, the accounting system on stations have changed, the handling of small parcels - small freight - was taken away and that did diminish some jobs but the customer service and ticket sales really haven't changed very much over the last 100 years. The technology that was introduced through ticket vending machines was flawed technology. Most people avoid ticket vending machines and still go to the booking office window.
Less than 12 months ago, we went through an exercise under workplace reform to look at multi-skilling and cross-skilling and looking at how people could be more productive, and that resulted in 250 job positions being taken out of City Rail stations and people being elevated and being given new grades of pay increases.
Now at that time we told our members that this would lead to some job security for them. Now, as I say, 12 months later, because the government appears to have a shortfall due to the State budget, what we are finding is that an economic proposal was put forward and management tried to negotiate that as if it was a genuine industrial issue. It became obvious to us that it didn't matter that what we put forward were sensible proposals about retaining staff; retaining customer service; ensuring customer and staff security. All those issues were not negotiable because every time they ran the economic model through, they weren't getting the sort of savings that the Minister's obviously directed them to get.
So, are these savings the Minister is seeking actually achievable
Absolutely not. They're achievable if you downsize stations by 600 staff, if you take away customer service, if you reduce the number of people who are hands on. This argument means managers are managing one to three is an absolute nonsense. I mean, these guys are workers: they sell tickets, they make train announcements and do day to day work with the wages staff. It's only at the larger stations where you would have a Station Manager, who only manages. But you know, they would have a staff of 50 to 60 and it's quite proper that there's sufficient managerial responsibility to have a full time manager. But, at all the suburban stations - all these so called managers are all working bodies. They don't sit in the back room supervising two staff. And that was the lie that was being put to the public. And that's what really inflamed this situation.
All that said, I still believe we could have negotiated a sensible outcome had the Government agreed that they would take the economics out of the debate and go back to looking at proper staffing and proper customer service.
Do you think Carl Scully has a vision of what he wants the rail system to look like at the end of this process?
It appears to me that Carl Scully is a captive of the Treasury people insofar as he's told that budgets had to be cut. I'm disappointed that he didn't stand up to them and say "Look we are running a public transport system, money has to be found to run a proper public transport system." I'm disappointed he didn't stand up and say "This industry is an industry that's had ongoing reform. That over the last couple of decades we've slashed 20,000 jobs right across the rail industry. It is now efficient and any further attack on staffing levels means that those efficiencies would be lost".
Now, I would have expected a Labor Minister to be arguing that sort of position very strongly with the unions. It seems he's caved in to the economic rationalists and put pressure on his managers to go out on a slash and burn exercise and it hasn't assisted that some of the Human Resource and IR managers who have been recruited from outside the industry over the last couple of years have adopted a very bully-boy, hairy chested approach to these negotiations, saying management's got the right to run the system how it sees fit. And negotiation became a farce in the end.
During negotiations, while our union sat at the negotiation table, District Managers were visiting station by station telling people what the reforms would mean to their jobs; identifying which jobs were surplus; and this was even before we got to a stage of talking about a resource plan. Now, it's little wonder that our members said we don't trust management and it's no good you guys continuing to negotiate because they're not serious about it.
If you were Transport Minister what would be your vision for the future of rail?
My vision for the future of rail is that it's really no different to what the community expects. What the community expects is to ensure that our trains and stations are clean; that there are staff available to meet customer service needs; that security is addressed; ontime running is addressed; and that fares are maintained at a reasonable level.
Now, I don't think the community wants very much more than that from a public transport system. Public transport plays a very important role in the commerce of Sydney. You have a look at our CBD stations where 80 per cent of all passenger journeys end up in the CBD. They bring shoppers to the CBD; they bring workers to the CBD; they contribute to the State economy - and those things need to be taken into consideration - . the role public transport plays in boosting business; creating jobs; and making sure that people in the western suburbs have a reliable train service to get to the jobs they need to.
Now, you don't have to have a great vision for public transport if you meet that simple criteria. It means continued modernisation. Improving the quality of our trains - the comfort of our trains. We need obviously to maintain improved signalling, track upgrading and station presentation. And if we do those simple things, I think the public would be very happy to say we've got a reliable, clean and safe public transport system.
Finally, given what happened in the talks last week, are you confident about your ongoing relationship with the Minister? Can you work with him?
We have to work with whatever Minister is in the Ministry. Whether it's Liberal or Labor. We've done that before and we have to do that. But I believe that the relationship between our organisation and the Ministry, and particularly my personal relationship with the Minister will be one of a professional one only.
I don't believe that we will be able to restore the dialogue that we had previous to this dispute where I thought the Minister was receptive to ideas that we were putting forward from a union point of view. We were able, in a constructive way, to debate some of the issues that the Government was anticipating it might have to confront leading up to the Olympics and the opening of the new Homebush Stadium and the sort of workplace reform that would be attached to changed technology and newer trains coming in. And we were quite open and frank with the Minister during our discussions but it appears to us that the Minister has taken our responsible attitude as a position of weakness. That we'll just roll over. Well, that's not the case and our position has hardened now.
Our members' position has reached a stage where they no longer trust the Government or City Rail management and we now will be consulting very broadly with our membership on all future proposals and we won't be wasting months and months in negotiations. If we can't resolve the issue in a sensible way; in a short period of time; within a reasonable period of time; we'll be taking it back to our membership.
So, we might not have seen the end of the industrial action on the rail?
Well, you know, on any day we have five or six disputes running within the State Rail Authority. I believe statistics would show that this union appears more than any other union in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. We've appeared on over 50 occasions from January this year. .
On 50 different issues?
Well, some of them are the same issues, but certainly where there have been 50 appearances there we have got disputes with our signallers, our train controllers; our station staff; our guards; our workshops; our clerical admin area; the Countrylink. You can just go on and on. There are disputes in every area of this industry. Now, any one of those disputes has the potential to flare up into industrial action of various forms and the industrial relations situation in State Rail has deteriorated and you know, our confidence in the Minister to be able to manage this has diminished when we look at the way he's managed this current dispute and the way he's personally attacked this union publicly to try and discredit us.
by John Macleay
The lanky Stanford professor of biology and best-selling author shows none of his 67 years when he tells his audience that the price of gasoline in the United States is cheaper than Perrier mineral water.
"The price might be that. But the cost is much different.
"We end up paying the cost in other ways, through damage to the atmosphere in the loss to our health with polluted air. These are the things economists call externalities, the things that are not measured by price but which have a cost that we all pay for.''
In fact, Ehlrich's message has not changed in the 30 years he has been a public figure. All six billion of us, and especially the "rich'' one billion in the West are living off the World's environmental capital rather than it's income - the very definition of unsustainability.
"It's really basic economics 101,'' he says, pointing to an article penned by the Australian Financial Review's economics editor Alan Mitchell.
Mitchell, even though he has not read the book, takes issue with the work that made Ehlrich a household name more than 30 years ago - The Population Bomb.
Mitchell, like so other many business economists, sees the fall in the price of commodities as proof that the Club-of-Rome type predictions made by the likes of Ehlrich have been proven wrong. Likewise, his prediction of mass-starvation.
"Sure, the price of commodities now are cheaper than they have ever been But that's not the issue,'' Ehlrich says.
"It's the rapid delpletion of the very things that enable life to take place on the planet. The loss of top-soil at a rate far, far greater than it can be formed, the depletion of fossil water in acquifers, loss of biodiversity at a rate not seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, global warming,'' he says.
All these are symptoms of a economic system that takes no account of the cost of environmental destruction in the pricing of goods. If it did, the price of many goods would be far, far more expensive.
Indeed, Ehlrich lost a famous bet made in 1980, getting on the wrong side of a prediction that the price of basket of commodities would be cheaper by 1990.
Ehlrich, along with two other colleagues were each out of pocket to the tune of $100. But the business economist refused the bet when Ehlrich upped the stakes to $15,000 on the proviso that the criteria should be along the depletion of forest cover, biodiversity, loss of soils and fresh water. In fact, he's still itching.
But this is not to suggest that Ehlrich is down on all economists - just the opposite.
He says some of the most interesting work today in the field of ecology and biology takes place at the intersection of economics. The likes of the World Bank's former chief economist Herman Daly has suggested a new measure of economic well-being which incorporates environmental costs into economic well being.
And as for the predictions of his most famous book? Ehlrich tells his Sydney audience that The Population Bomb was too ''optimistic''. He says that it was written before the ozone hole was discovered, before global warming become known and before HIV/AIDS was ever an issue.
Sure, 10 to 15 million people a year continue to starve to death. That's 300 million to 450 million in quantum since the book was published in 1968 despite the best efforts of the Green Revolution, which made great use of ehancing plant yields with massive amounts of fertilizer and water.
Ehlrich is quick to say he is no expert in the field of gene-technology and, like any good scientist, points out that genetically modified food has to be assessed on a case by case basis. But he holds out little hope that it will be the panacea to feed the world's poor, especially given how quickly insects become resistance to food where so-called "natural'' insecticides have been inserted into them.
Ehlrich is also no stranger to Australia, having spent a year at Sydney University on sabatical in 1965 and has visited the country every year since.
Like Los Angeles where he lives, he's astounded also by Sydney's growing car dependency and says the overthrown of the automobile will be first step towards a livable city. Funnily enough, that comment drew the loudest applause.
He says that if anywhere should set an example to the rest of the world in how to promote sustainability, it should be Australia, given its affluence and relatively low population numbers.
Ehlrich says it is almost a criminal shame that Australia's solar industry has been virtually knobbled by government but this is symptomatic of a wider "brownlash'' taking place against environmental issues.
Although too modest to remind his audience, Ehlrich's most recent book Betrayal of Science and Reason, subtitled How Anti-Environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future, details the concerted efforts being made by some sections of business, aided by a handful of scientific sceptics-for-hire, that have succeeded, for the time being, in milking the urgency and seriousness out of the environmental crisis.
However, Ehlrich only has to point to the warning made in 1992 by 100 nobel laureates that the hour is indeed late and time is running out to turn the situation around.
Ehlrich, Bing Professor of Population Studies and Professor of Biological Sciences at Standford is keen to quote what is accepted scientific fact and what is his own opinion. He says it is fact that there is a 10 per cent chance nothing will happen as a result of global warming and a 10 per cent chance it will lead to complete societal breakdown.
The truth is someone in between in the 80 per cent in the middle. No-one really knows yets given the uncertaintity of the modelling.
But what Ehlrich does know is that times change, attitudes change. All through the nineteen sixties,seventies and eighties the Soviet bloc and communism were thought to be immovable system that were expected to be around for a long time to come. Then they vanished in the blink of an eye. So too, must change come on the environmental front. When business incoroporates envirionmental values as second nature. The goal for us all, he tells us, is to hasten that day.
by Justin Dooley
The Australian Industrial Relations Commission has decided to remove the tally system from the Federal Meat Industry (Processing) Award 1996, the national award in the meat processing industry.
This is a direct result of the Federal Liberal governments award stripping. Some of the reasons the Commission gave for removing the tally system was that the tally:
• was not user friendly,
• lacked the flexibility to meet the variety of work methods employed in the various plants covered by the award,
• did not operate as properly fixed minimum rates of pay as required under subitem 51(4) of the Workplace Relations and Other Legislation Amendment Act 1996 (the WROLA Act); and
• did not comply with the award simplification requirements outlined in subitems 51(6) and 51(7) of the WROLA Act.
Despite the fact that the Union offered to negotiate and vary those parts of the tally system which were seen as deficient the entire system has been stripped from the award.
However tallies themselves are still an allowable award matter and this decision in fact relies on tallies remaining an allowable award matter in order that the Commission has the jurisdiction to fully implement its decision. The Commission conceded that a replacement system would have to take account of the need to protect workers from disadvantage. The Commission said that there was "some evidence of employers moving from tally systems to time work in the context of negotiations on tallies or taking other strategic action such as slowing down the chain speed or not putting up stock and putting downward pressure on earnings".
The Commission realised that without some form of a safety net to protect workers employed on a piece work basis then the potential existed for the exploitation of abattoir workers. Claims by employer groups and Peter Reith that the tally system has been abolished miss the point that there are many enterprise agreements that currently use a tally or incentive/bonus system because both employees and employers choose to work under this system. The tally system that was removed is little used and the main aim for the Union in defending this particular tally system was that it provided the safety net for agreements containing tally systems. The Commission recognised the need for a safety net when it asked the parties to design a system to replace the one removed.
A tally system was first introduced into awards in the mid-1960's, ironically at the instigation of the employers and in the face of opposition from the Union. It came about once a chain system was introduced into abattoirs. This allowed the animal carcass to be hung from a chain and workers to perform the same task on each carcass as it moved on the chain around the slaughter floor. A slaughterman was no longer solely responsible for dismembering and dressing the beast but could now perform an individual task such as fronting out the beast or removing the legs.
The tally system introduced into the award contained units of labour (the result of a time and motion study) used in a formula which takes into account the number, size and condition of a beast, the size of a work team and the prescribed amount of labour input per head to calculate how much a slaughterer should be paid. The fairness of the system lay in that you were paid for the work that you performed. There was an incentive payment made for reaching and continuing beyond a number of beasts processed in a day.
In the meat industry this allowed for a quick killing and dressing of a beast so that it would reach the chillers as quickly as possible while maintaining quality standards in performing slaughtering jobs.
Commenting on the Decision the AMIEU Federal Secretary, Tom Hannan said that if employers interpreted the Decision as letting employers lower the rate of pay in future certified agreements then industrial unrest will be sure to follow.
"It endangers everything that we have tried to achieve over the last six or seven years. That is to give proper wages and conditions to get flexibility in the industry and make the industry profitable. It could fly in the face of all that. We could go back to the battlefields".
However Tom Hannan said that he believed most employers would be sensible as they realised that if they tried to take advantage of workers they would be quickly done over. Employers had thought they had a great victory when tallies were introduced into awards in the 1960's only to find workers adapted to and took advantage of the tally system. There is nothing to say that removal of tallies will not see meat workers adapt once again.
The Workplace Relations Minister, Peter Reith, called it a landmark decision for the meat processing industry. He said it was a great win and an example of the real benefits of the government's award simplification policy. He made no comment on the fact that workers were now potentially facing the prospect of losing between $150 and $250 per week. He also failed to mention that the Commission had recognised the need for a replacement to act as a safety net for workers employed under incentive systems.
The National Meat Association HR manager Garry Johnston called it the beginning of the end for the tally system. This ignores the fact that the vast majority of employees in Australia will continue to operate under the tally system because this is what employers see as the most profitable manner of operation. There are many variants of the particular tally system removed from the award which employers use because they want to, not because the award forces them to. It is only people on the periphery of the industry who do not operate abattoirs, who are bleating about a new golden era in the meat industry due to the removal of the tally system. Peter Reith and the National Meat Association (the employer representative) are simply more interested in gaining glory for themselves rather than the abattoir workers and long term future of the meat industry.
As Tom Hannan said it is the employers (not Reith) who know that they have to be sensible enough to pay workers appropriately, to give workers the right incentives to do the productivity required to the quality that employers want. Otherwise there will be industrial unrest and employers will suffer.
by Dr Patrick Bertola
In the wake of the successful 1997 national conference of the Australian Society for the Study of Labour History hosted by the Perth Branch, members of the Committee discussed a number of ideas for future projects at their monthly meetings. They were particularly concerned to maintain the momentum that the conference seemed to have generated.
At one of these discussions members' thoughts turned to the idea of taking up a suggestion from our President, John Gandini: that we consider a project of writing and recording histories of the government railway workshops at Midland.
In mentioning that centre, John reminded us that at its height the workshops had employed close to 3,200 workers. That number alone made the entity the single largest industrial concern in WA. Indeed, from the time of their inception in Fremantle and subsequent relocation to Midland, the government railway workshops remained one of the most significant sites for the concentration of industrial labour in WA.
Our reflections on the place of Midland in the history of labour in WA simply served to emphasise the breadth of its importance in WA history. For instance, we noted that the workshops were at the centre of a network of railway centres spread around the State. They served as the training ground for apprentices in a vast range of trades and, with other government works that employed relatively high proportions of apprentices, provided a pool of skilled labour for private capital in the State.
Along with other state enterprises like the State Engineering Works, they were at the centre of industrial activity in WA for a very long time. During the Second World War the skills of the workers were employed in manufacturing munitions and in machinery maintenance work for the defence forces. In this way, the workshops made a huge contribution to the war effort.
Of course, Midland's significance was all the greater if one includes in the description of the local economy the other industrial sites in the area: the Midland Railway Company, the brickworks, the livestock saleyards and abattoir, and the many other, smaller enterprises. For at least three reasons, then, one can argue that Midland Junction ought have a significant place in the industrial, social and cultural history of WA.
First, the sheer extent of these sites where people laboured. Secondly, the great breadth of human social and cultural experience that was and is embedded in the lives of the people engaged in such labour. Thirdly, the extent to which the social and cultural dimensions of the lives of so many others were connected to, or shaped in some way, by the workshops and the other industries of Midland.
What these activities point to is the enormous human history bound up with the workshops. Essentially, it is the history of a labouring class, of its managers, and of the community that grew up around this centre of rail and transport for the whole of WA. For instance, the scale and diversity of the workforce meant the workshops were a major site for the activity of several unions and the site in which many union leaders had their training.
The importance of the workshops is magnified, too, when one considers its relationship to the local community for they were synonymous with Midland and nearby areas. The unique links between the community and the workshops can be seen in many ways: in the extent and passion with which the closure of the workshops in 1994 was felt, and continues to be felt in Midland and its surrounding area; in the local society and culture; and, in the multiplicity of ethnicities represented in the workforce and town. More broadly, icons like the
'Rattler' owed their existence to the labour force of the workshops.
Having canvassed these and other thoughts, the Committee decided to do something more concrete and John Gandini and Neil Byrne organised a meeting of committee members, Society members, other interested people, and persons from the four unions representing workers at the workshops. At the first meeting in June 1998 many possibilities were canvassed. Out of the lively discussion grew several ideas: an oral history project, a community day at the workshops, and the development of a workshops collection of documents and the like that would be deposited at the Battye Library of Western Australian History. At succeeding meetings - alternately at the AMWU, the PTU, the ASU, and the CEPU - these ideas have coalesced to the extent that a group recently met with the Battye Library staff to develop a plan for collection.
Two members have undertaken training in oral history work and will be part of a project to begin recording and to run a community oral history training session in the near future. As well, the President of the Shire of
Swan, Mr Charlie Gregorini, officially launched the Project at Midland on
21 March, an occasion which included guided tours of some areas of the
workshops and an exhibition of photographs and other material.
What marks this project is the extent to which it is one that will be owned by the community. Not only will the community have a substantial input in terms of the archived material and the oral account, but it will also be directly involved through the recording of accounts and the archiving of the collection. The role of historians like myself will be to support this effort and to advise where needed so that the potential of people to make their own history is realised, at least in the sense of reconstructing narratives of their past and so 'emancipat[ing] the voiceless lost in time.'
In co-ordinating the community involvement the project is fortunate to have John and Neil They have been tireless in their efforts and direction; but, importantly, that work has never overshadowed the very active involvement of a large number of different people and organisations. With such a model, this project has the potential to be unique in the extent to which it will develop from this community base.
Equally, it will be unique in that it is a long overdue project broadly concerned with the history of the labouring class in a particular region. As such, it seeks to give voice to the experiences of those whose lives were so intimately bound up with the existence of the workshops. By- and-large, these people have been almost absent from political history and tend to appear in economic and social accounts as undifferentiated units - 'workers', 'labour', 'residents'. Certainly, their thoughts and concerns tend not to feature in conventional history 'because they live outside the charmed circle of literacy' that gives rise to the sorts of documents and records that many historians have relied on.
The fact that this important project has only begun raises a number of questions about the progress of Western Australian history making to the present. The failure of historians to give adequate recognition to the significance of the former West Australian Government Railways/Westrail workshops at Midland might be the outcome of one of a number of factors. For instance it might simply be the outcome of a relatively small amount of historical writing on WA, though this is unlikely when one considers the rapid growth of the tertiary education sector from the late 1960s.
Alternatively, it might be related to a somewhat myopic view derived from a conservative, even elitist, and certainly consensual view of society that would have excluded the consideration of the lives and culture of Midland - predominantly a labouring class area. Perhaps this view persists in some Western Australian history writing.
However, after World War II there was a more general upsurge of interest in history that took account of those 'below':firstly in Marxian and neo-Marxian analyses, and then, in the 1960s and 1970s of what broadly was known as the 'new' social history. Arguably, in WA these developments should have led someone to focus on the workshops and on Midland. Certainly, the 'new' history in Western Australia led to an increased interest in feminist research, into thestudy of some localities, into a much needed study of questions to do with race and Aboriginal history, and, more recently, into the area of cultural studies.
It seems, however, that the social and cultural history of labour did not feature greatly in these developments. Indeed, during the 1990s, there has been a tendency to discard or reject class and labour (including working class culture) as significant concepts in historical analysis. Moreover, the study of the working class has also suffered because of the more general attack on anything that might even remotely be 'tainted' by Marxian thinking: particularly, that sort of triumphalist conservatism that holds the break up of the Soviet Union as proof of the end of Marx's relevance.
For whatever reason, the lives of that substantial mass of Western Australian humanity who worked and resided at the edge of the Darling Scarp just twelve miles from Perth seems consistently to have missed becoming part of the historical account. In this regard, the failure to draw the workshops and their community into the mainstream of Western Australia's historical narratives represents a significant deficiency.
Of course, in referring to the mainstream of WA history, it should be remembered that there are a number of historians who have worked to lay accounts of working class life, work and culture before a broader audience. One can find representative examples in the work of people outside the academy like Joan Williams, Michal Bosworth or Bill Latter. As well, the Oral History Unit of the State Library and Stuart Reid have done much to ensure that oral accounts of WA working life remain. And in Midland, the Shire of Swan have maintained the position of a local historian who has also worked to retain documentary and oral records. Within the academy the work of a few historians - people like Charlie Fox,Lenore Layman and Janis Bailey, for example, ensures that the histories of that vast labouring majority of society are given scholarly attention.
However, the balance is skewed; for if one looks at the sum of writing on WA, that which takes as its direct subject the many facets of the lives of labour is minuscule in comparison to that which does not.
This project seeks to extend that focus on labour and its social and cultural history. The early objects are quite modest but the potential for extension is enormous. With the community support that it seems to have already generated, it may well become one of the most significant regional historical projects in recent times.
I'll admit it. I've read the whole of the referendum pamphlet.
And I'm worried. The yes case is deceptively well written. Wrong, but well written.
Unfortunately the no case looks like it was developed by a group of conspiracy theorists. You know the type. THEY WRITE EVERYTHING IN CAPITALS, WITH LOTS OF EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!!
Since I made up my mind months ago to reject the republic of the rich, the fact that the argument against the republic is poorly put in the referendum pamphlet is not going to change my vote.
The no position is disadvantaged because it is an amalgam of opposing political forces, ranging from reactionaries to revolutionaries. So the overall message is contradictory. Vote no to protect the monarchy and for a directly elected President.
However the yes case is disadvantaged because it is an amalgam of similar political forces - the rich and their two political parties the Liberals and the ALP. Vote yes for a fake republic.
The Yes/No Referendum pamphlet contains not just the arguments for and against the republic and the preamble. It also has the proposed Constitutional changes if we vote for a republic on November 6.
It's been a long time since I read the Constitution. It was interesting to re-acquaint myself with our founding document, a document so representative of the Australian people that the maximum turn out in any State for the Federation referendums was 46 per cent.
A massive 46 per cent! Federation must have been even more irrelevant and boring for most people then than the Republic debate is now.
So, what is it that the ARM's presidency would do to our Constitution? It starts out simply enough. Cross out the Governor-General, or Queen, or both, and substitute the resident.
But then comes the part about the President. Most people reading this article would know, I hope, that the President will be appointed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament.
This appointed model expresses the fear of the men and women of property about possible challenges to their rule. That's good reason to reject it.
There are certain qualifications a person has to satisfy to become President. The main one is that the President has to be an Australian citizen. No-one has satisfactorily explained to me why this is necessary.
It's crass jingoism to imagine that someone born here or naturalised is somehow better qualified than other residents, or even non-residents, to open schools and fetes, sign legislation on command and sack uppity Labor Governments.
Would Nelson Mandela have made a worse President of Australia than John Kerr?
There are also some disqualifications. The President cannot be, at the time the Prime Minister's motion is moved and affirmed, a parliamentarian. They also can't be a member of a political party.
What is this about? The on-going crisis of capitalism and the dominance of economic rationalism among politicians of the left and right has produced a ground swell of distrust, even hatred, of politicians among ordinary people.
There is anger without focus. It's why, as the recent Victorian election results show, the only electoral certainty is uncertainty.
Excluding serving politicians and members of political parties panders to what the Turnbulls of the world think is our hatred of politicians. It's a political ploy which the ARM believes will bolster the appointed model's chance of success in November.
It shows that the ARM doesn't understand ordinary people. Sure, we despise our politicians for making us work harder for less, for closing hospitals and schools and for watching on while employers restructure our jobs away. But that does not, or should not, translate into a blanket presidential proscription on politicians and members of political parties.
In any event, I don't think the restriction is serious. It will be easy to avoid.
After an examination by the Presidential vetting committee, (set up to make sure the person nominated for President will be acceptable to the rich and powerful), Howard and Beazley could agree that Tim Fischer would be a good President.
Before the Prime Minister moves in Parliament, with Kim Beazley's support, that Tim Fischer be affirmed as President, Fischer resigns from Parliament and the National Party.
Fischer is no longer a member of Parliament or a political party. He is eligible to be appointed President. The fact that he is the archetypal politician, a man whose very essence has been molded by his many years as a Parliamentarian and National Party member is irrelevant under the appointed model. We get a politician in all but name. So why have the exclusion?
Something else worries me about this restriction on politicians and party members.
We have a plethora of bodies, tribunals and commissions to battle against discrimination. And there, at the centre of our constitution, what is the ARM proposing we do? Enshrine political discrimination.
Then there are Kerr's cudgels, the reserve powers. These are the undefined powers the unelected Governor-General illegedly has which enable him or her to sack democratically elected left-wing Governments.
The reserve powers exist politically because the Labor Party in 1975 would not mobilise workers against the Constitutional coup. From a legal point of view these powers may not exist because Whitlam did not test the issue in Court.
But if we vote yes on November 6 we will entrench these vague reserve powers in our Constitution. New section 59 of the Constitution will say that the President may exercise a power that was a reserve power of the Governor-General in accordance with the constitutional conventions relating to the exercise of that power.
What reserve powers? What constitutional conventions? Nothing is spelt out.
That the Labor Party supports this abomination is an indication of its degeneration. It means a future John Kerr can sack a future Gough Whitlam.
Is this what we really want? Surely the result should have been the abolition of the reserve powers, not concreting them into our Constitution? It's another reason to vote no.
The essence of the monarchy in feudal times was the exercise of absolute power without democratic restraint. The essence of the ARM's presidency is the possibility of the exercise of absolute power overriding the democratic choice of the Australian people.
If we are, as the ARM proposes, to give the President such vague yet absolute power, should the President not be wlected so that the exercise of that power, if it occurs, flows directly from the Australian people themselves?
by Brenda Finlayson
The critical November report is the result of two inquiries this year by a UN committee which has considered submissions from individuals, non-government organisations and the Australian Government.
In August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) met in Geneva to consider the Government's response to its earlier finding in March that the 1998 Native Title Amendment Act discriminated against indigenous Australians. CERD also said the Government had failed to consult indigenous leaders.
This places the Government in breach of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Australia signed in 1966 and ratified in 1975. In its March finding, CERD urged the Government to suspend implementation of the Native Title Amendment Act and resume talks with the National Indigenous Working Group. The Prime Minister, John Howard, and Attorney General Darryl Williams responded by saying the Government would take no notice of the findings.
Australia will now be reported to the General Assembly in November for failing to address breaches of the convention. The two reports by the CERD committee - made in March and August - will be presented, along with the Australian Government's August submission.
In that submission, the Government moved from defending its native title policy to promoting its racial harmony campaign, reconciliation, health, housing and the push for Aboriginal self-reliance.
The Government told CERD: "A concerted effort is being made to pursue tangible improvements in the critical areas of indigenous health, housing, education and employment. The Government is funding strategies which encourage commercial enterprise and long-term self-reliance, rather than perpetuating welfare dependancy."
However, critics say it is the Government's duty to improve health, housing and education standards for indigenous Australians and that to boast in an international forum that these "concerted efforts" are proof of the Government's credentials on race is a distraction from the real debate. Acceptable standards of housing, health and education are a basic human right, and one that most non-indigenous Australians take for granted; efforts in these areas do nothing to distill the United Nations finding.
Defenders of Native Title and other groups working for indigenous justice reacted to the August decision by calling for Mr Howard to take decisive action to halt international criticism over its indigenous policies.
Australia is the first Western nation to be called before the committee to explain its policies on race. Other countries called to account include Algeria, Bosnia, Burundi, Russia, Rwanda and Yugoslavia.
Credibility at stake
Amnesty International, responding to CERD's initial finding, said the Australian Government's inappropriate attitude to UN criticism placed at stake the credibility of Australia's human rights diplomacy.
"How can Australia play a credible role in responding to UN efforts on human rights protection in Indonesia, East Timor or elsewhere, if it fails to consider seriously the findings of the UN's oldest and most experienced specialist committee on human rights?" it said in a statement from London.
Amnesty said it was concerned about the Australian Government's reported claim that the findings "discredit" the UN human rights committee system.
"Like any other government, Prime Minister John Howard's administration must accept the scrutiny of its human rights record by UN mechanisms which were established and promoted through decades of commendable Australian diplomacy," said Amnesty.
"The sweeping dismissal of the committee's findings is regrettably in line with the Government's previous negative responses to UN recommendations on Australia's human rights practices. This dangerous trend risks undermining international efforts to allow specialist UN human rights scrutiny in Australia's Asian neighbourhood."
Three members of CERD asked to visit Australia in mid-1999 before they report to the General Assembly. UN protocol requires that an official visit can only proceed if a Government formally invites the delegates - but the Government rebuffed the committee members in April, saying the visit "would be of little value".
Victorian ATSIC Commissioner Geoff Clark said at the time: "The Government can't expect any credibility by arguing that the native title amendments are not racially discriminatory and then slamming the door on a UN committee that wants to check the facts. It should stand by its claims and be open to scrutiny. "
A jarring contradiction
The Government's reaction to the Geneva findings - describing them as "an insult to Australia" - stands to damage this country's reputation on the international human rights stage. When criticised, the Government dismisses a UN committee as "irrelevant"; yet it seeks UN support when responding to a neighbouring humanitarian crisis.
The Government is at odds with international experts when it denies that the native title amendments discriminate against indigenous Australians, and there seems little doubt that Australia is contravening its obligations to an international convention on race. The Australian Government will be reported to the UN General Assembly at the same time the draft Document for Reconciliation is being circulated, in what will be a jarring contradiction for the many Australians who are working towards grassroots reconciliation.
The Government must appear in Geneva again in March 2000, when CERD will widen its focus to consider three overdue periodic reports from Australia on its obligations under the convention. Les Malezer, Deputy Chairperson of the National Indigenous Working Group, predicts that attention will then focus on the Government's record on Deaths in Custody, the Stolen Generation and the reconciliation process. Mr Malezer also expects many submissions to be made by Australian and overseas NGOs.
Every voice raised in this debate will have an impact. Your opinion can count if you help pressure the Government into implementing the recommendations made by CERD in March by:
· Expressing your concern to the media and to Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer at [email protected] and/or the Aboriginal Affairs Minister, John Herron, at [email protected] Ask them to forward the message to the Prime Minister, John Howard. It is important to copy this message to Kim Beazley, [email protected]
For those without email, write c/- Parliament House Canberra 2600
· Informing community groups about the issue
· Writing to CERD in Geneva asking them to maintain pressure on the Australian Government to fulfill its treaty obligations:
Secretariat of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneve 10
· Contacting talkback radio and writing letters to local, metropolitan and national newspapers and magazines calling on the Government to act on the CERD recommendations
Points that could be included in letters and raised in the community include:
· Australia is in breach of its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination
· Australia is the first Western country subjected to CERD's early warning procedures
· CERD found that while the original Native Title Act recognised and gave protections to indigenous title, provisions that extinguish or impair the exercise of indigenous title rights and interests pervade the amended Act. While the original 1993 Native Title Act was balanced between the rights of indigenous and non-indigenous title holders, the amended Act appears to create legal certainty for governments and third parties at the expense of indigenous title
· CERD was concerned about the 'lack of effective participation by indigenous communities in the formulation of the amendments', and called for the suspension of the implementation of the 1998 amendments
· The Australian Government refused to endorse a visit by three CERD members in April
· The 1998 Native Title Amendment Act breaches the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination because it:
- does not protect the land ownership of Aboriginal people
- increases the legal ownership rights over land held by non-Aboriginal parties, such as pastoralists, and increases the other land ownership rights to the corresponding detriment of the Aboriginal people
- prefers the interests in land of non-Aboriginal people over the interests of Aboriginal people in all instances where invalid titles occur through duplication of ownership
- interferes with Aboriginal landowners' rights to negotiate their interests over their land
- does not have the informed consent of Aboriginal people
Submissions and background information can be found on the website of the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action: www.faira.org.au. Please send copies of submissions/letters to Les Malezer - mailto:[email protected]
During a bloody confrontation on Thursday 23rd September, at least two people were killed; hundreds injured but denied medical care, while hundreds of others were reported to have disappeared during the bloody clashes with the Moroccan forces. Demonstrations are continuing and have spread to others areas of Western Sahara such as Smara in the East.
The spokeswoman of the UN mission for the referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), Patricia Lome, has confirmed to Reuters on 28-9-99, that "some 200 students and workers took part in the protest...and that protesters threw stones, set cars afire and smashed shop windows to protest against Moroccan police's use of violence in dispersing a peaceful sit-in last week". Moroccan officials have too confirmed these events.
During the past two weeks hundreds of Sahrawis have been demonstrating in the occupied capital of Western Sahara Laayoun. They have been protesting against the Moroccan obstructions and delays of the UN referendum due to be held in July 2000.
These demonstrations were suppressed by the Moroccan forces under the supervision of the Moroccan interior minister Dries Basri, dispatched to the territory for the occasion.
The Moroccan authorities have encouraged the Moroccan settlers in the occupied area of Western Sahara to go on rampage. They have attacked Sahrawis civilians, set Sahrawis houses on fire and looted shops of suspected demonstrators.
Polisario leader Mr. Mohamed Abdelaziz, sent a letter on 26 September, to the UN General Secretary, Koffi Annan, calling for UN protection of Sahrawi civilians who came under Moroccan attack while demonstrating in front of UN headquarters in Laayoun.
What is alarming is that Morocco seems to be trying to disrupt the UN peace process since it is clear that if the referendum were to be held next year it would lose it. We are concerned that Morocco may also be trying to create a situation similar to that of East Timor. But in this situation there are no media reporters or independent observers in Western Sahara. An information black out is imposed on the area.
The Senate passed a significant motion on Western Sahara. The motion was moved by the Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown and supported by the ALP and the Australian Democrats.
The motion supports the organisation of a free and fair referendum in Western Sahara, conducted by the UN-OAU. It calls on Morocco to abide by the peace plan and to fully cooperate with the UN. The motion further urges the Australian Government to extend all due assistance to the UN mission in Western Sahara and to establish official contacts with representatives of Polisario, the independence movement representing the people of Western Sahara.
If you need further information please contact: Kamal Fadel, Polisario Representative on: 02. 9818 32 84 or 02. 93193211. Mobile: 0416.335 197.
by Neal Towart
He generally receives a serve from the likes of Robert Manne and Peter Craven (by name and nature) for daring to remain committed to the idea of a democratic socialism. This collection of essays is a bit of a mixed bag, mainly because it is such a disparate collection of articles drawn from material previously published in 24 Hours magazine and the late Independent Monthly.
That said, the articles should generate debate as McQueen applies his acuteness to questions of poverty, Australian exceptionalism and democracy, the future of the ABC, why you shouldn't read newspapers or watch television, the multinational toy industry, animal rights, multiculturalism and more. The essays are organised into broad sections; the first: Power From the People contains discussion of the nature of democracy and the exceptionalism of Australia's democratic achievement. He emphasises the long Australian commitment to liberal democratic ideal, workers rights, votes for women, contrasting this with European countries, our supposed models, where as recently as the early 1980s a military coup was attempted. However the last chapter of the section gives the reader a guide to the enemies of this democratic ideal.
The idea of popular sovereignty pervades all the essays. The small l liberals resent that the populace is not content to be guided by experts. Thus they equate the notion of populism with the politics of One Nation, rather than as essential "activity by the people to secure social justice. Populism in the sense of direct participation remains essential to extend popular sovereignty to all areas of life, to work and to leisure". Brecht has commented on the Difficulties of Governing that these "experts" face:
It's only because they are all so stupid
That a few are needed who are so clever.
Or could it be that
Governing is so difficult only
Because swindling and exploitation take some learning?
Section Two examines the poverty largely generated by those who have followed in the path of the enemies of democracy. An appreciation of Tom Fitzgerald, a "humane face of economics", shows McQueen's generosity to someone who did not share his Marxism but who was an unprententious democratic public citizen. That Fitzgerald's only good view of the public sector came from his time working with Nugget Coombs exemplifies the temper democratic that McQueen searches for in his hope for an exceptional Australia.
Part three deals with cultural issues, but not in the current vein where anything goes and has equal legitimacy. McQueen does not waver from his Marxist analysis and provides stimulating discussion of advertising, toy marketing, the ABC, and the Net (his attitude to the Net is neatly summed up in the index with a cross reference from the "internet" to "junk") and the future of the Australian film industry in an increasingly deregulated (ie regulated by Hollywood's demands) market. The response of Pasolini in the infamous Salo to the commodification of everything is the summing up of this section. Refusal to consume is necessary if we are to avoid the barbarity Pasolini highlights.
McQueen is interesting on science with good discussion of the so called gay gene and the current manifestation of Social Darwinism, namely genetic determinism, and the rights of other animals. Section five looks squarely at cultural issues, again not accepting things as they are sold to us, but applying sharp political economic and cultural analysis. The Right in the form of Boyer lecturer Pierre Ryckmans and the fascist movements of the twenties get a thorough going over via a discussion of D H Lawrence's Kangaroo. Political Correctness and multiculturalism are also discussed from unexpected angles (given the shallowness of these debates from right wing commentators and PoMo cultural theorists).
The concluding essay on Barbarisms and Civilisations questions the distinction of the two, given that these civilisations were built by workers, but celebrations of them ignore the labour and cheer the barbarous rulers. Again Brecht has been here:
Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will find the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
McQueen has written elsewhere that he approaches the world with Marx's view that "the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle". The response to that as we face the ever spreading hand of monopolising capital (the latest word for it is globalisation) is the apparently simple call of Theodore Adorno that "there is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no one shall go hungry any more." That apparently simple cry would require the most dramatic changes imaginable in the global order.
(Humphrey McQueen: Temper Democratic: How exceptional is Australia? Wakefield Press 1998)
by The Chaser
by Neal Towart
Paradigm Crossed? The statutory occupational health and safety obligations of the business undertaking
Examines Australian statutory OHS obligations in the context of the changing nature of the Australian labour market. The focus is on the statutory "general duties" owed by employers and self-employed persons to both employees and persons other than employees. The scope of these duties when applied to traditional forms of employment and to newer but increasingly common work arrangements such as contracting, outworking, labour hire and franchising is examined. Reforms to deal with the changed labour market are suggested.
(Australian Journal of Labour Law; vol. 12, no. 2, September 1999)
'Take It Or Leave it' AWAs: A Question of Duress?
Joo Cheong Tham
Looks at the ASU v Electrix Pty Ltd case where Powercor Australia (the corporatised successor to the State Electricity Commission of Victoria) outsourced the meter reading function to Victorian Meter Management Pty Ltd (VMM). VMM went into receivership and was replaced by Electrix.
The now retrenched VMM workers were invited to apply for employment with Electrix as meter readers. Some ex VMM meter readers appointed the ASU as their bargaining agent. The manager of Electrix told the meter readers that if they were to be employed by Electrix they had to sign an AWA proposed by that company. The ASU representative was bluntly told "if people don't sign an AWA they won't get a job". (italics appear in transcript).
The question was then, whether Electrix had applied duress to the meter readers by requiring the signing of the AWAs as a condition of employment. The explanatory memorandum that accompanies the Workplace Relations Act, unfortunately for the ASU, seemed to cover such a situation, by stating that the employer can offer employment on the basis that an employee enters into an AWA.
Marshall J., in this case however, said that the plain and unambiguous intention of the Act (s170WG(1)) was to prevent duress, and that extrinsic material such as the explanatory memorandum could not contradict the Act. Thus Electrix had a case to answer and interlocutory relief for the meter readers was granted.
The ASU has since discontinued the case, but similar issues will be debated in a case before the federal Court involving Employment National, another corporatised entity where new employees must sign AWAs.
(Australian Journal of Labour Law; vol. 12, no. 2, September 1999)
Outsourcing: Federal Court Full Bench throws up another obstacle
The above decisions pre-date the North Western Health Care network case, the Stellar Call Centre case and the PP Consultants/St George Bank case. These are discussed at length by Jim Nolan, especially the substantial identity test, in a previous issue of Workers Online, a version of which article is in Australian Industrial Law News.
Also Ron McCallum discussed the issues on Radio National Law Report, on a program devoted to the economic and legal implications of outsourcing. Transcript available via the web address below.
Australian Industrial Law News; newsletter no. 9, 28 September 1999; http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/8.30/lawrpt/stories/s55464.htm
Outsourcing: the Jury is Still Out
There is strong statistical and anecdotal evidence that outsourcing in Australia is increasing, yet the implications of this are not well understood. Closer scrutiny of the claims of privatisers and proponents of outsourcing is beginning, as evidenced by the CEDA/Melbourne Institute report discussed in issue 26. This article outlines directions for further research into outsourcing.
(IR Intelligence Report; issue 5, 1999)
Storage and Handling of Dangerous Goods
The National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (NOHSC) is finalising a new standard for the storage and handling of dangerous goods which is intended to become the basis of legislation in all states and territories.
The approach of the NOHSC is a shift away from the totally prescriptive philosophy to a performance based approach. What this means is that the occupier of premises where dangerous goods are stored will have the total responsibility for the safety and health of employees, the public, property and the environment. The national standard will set out performance requirements but not how they are to be achieved.
As the system is likely to be welcomed by manufacturers and distributors, workers will have to be especially vigilant that cost cutting does not compromise safety standards.
(Occupational Health and Safety Update; newsletter no. 8, 6 September 1999)
unions@work: will it work?
According to unions@work the lessons learnt from the experiences of successful overseas unions point to the need to:
· Redirect union resources to organising and recruiting new members, especially by focusing on non-union workplaces;
· Spend more on delegate and activist education;
· Improve and modernise union information and communications systems;
· Use specialist organising teams in strategic recruitment campaigns;
· Build community and workforce support for the industrial and social priorities of the union movement
The article discusses these issues and policy priorities needed.
The conclusion is that unions@work tries to chart a course between the so-called organising and service model of unions.
(IR Intelligence Report; issue 5, 1999)
Cutting Wages a Cure for Unemployment?
Peter Reith sees cutting wages as a key to creating employment. The Five Economists see cutting wages as a key to creating employment. They propose different strategies, but on that aspect they are in agreement.
This paper, based on research conducted by Ian Watson of ACIRRT for a Parliamentary Library research paper, takes issue with this argument.
"the projected effects of the five economists' proposal do not stand up well to critical scrutiny.
· It is probably not possible to achieve the reductions in wages growth by the methods they propose because of the decentralisation of the system. Award wages already lag far behind others and thus imposing restrictions there, which in effect already happens, does not impose restraint on other sectors.
· Cutting wage costs does not mean employers would employ more people.
· Even if new jobs are created, how likely is it that the new workers would come from the ranks of the unemployed or from new labour market entrants.
Very large wage cuts of 25 to 30% could lead to jobs growth at the bottom of the market. Such cuts would ensure massive social dislocation without having any large effect on unemployment because they could only be achieved by subsiding jobs (govt paying part wages) thus contributing to labour market "churning" without creating structural improvements in job opportunities.
The "clever country" of skilled workers does not seem to match such activity aimed at low end jobs.
(IR Intelligence Report; issue 5, 1999)
If you pay more tax than you legally have to, you need your head read, according to one of Kerry Packer's more notorious pronouncements.
Contained in his abrasive short-hand was the seed of corporate practice the world over; and one of the more socially offensive sub-plots contained in proposed changes to Australian business taxation arrangements.
At the end of the day, the multi-national approach to global tax minimisation amounts to "beggar thy neighbour" tactics.
How else can you explain the short-term and utterly predictable effects of competition philosophy? Today's world's best practice, in whatever operation, can be under pressure again within a few years.
50% cuts in Australia's Capital Gains Tax rate - proposed by the Howard regime's Ralph review - are allegedly intended to encourage more highly speculative and/or volatile forms of investment.
Do we want more of this "hot" money? Has this been discussed?
And even if the Government manages to give the big end of town a huge capital gains tax handout, which other countries will drop their rate even further? France, perhaps, or Japan, the USA maybe ... probably a number of countries seeking a "competitive advantage." And it will happen within a handful of years.
Then the Australian government is once again placed under pressure to drop its pants on rates so as to allegedly maintain its, "competitive position."
Only one winner in this game.
Have you, comrade reader, taken part in any debate over the so-called business tax reform process? I know I haven't. But we've all seen and heard the attempts to "manufacture consent" by self-interested parties in the Federal Government and big business.
At first, the whole Ralph Review process was intended to be "revenue neutral" - that is to not increase or decrease the actual percentage of revenue raised from the business sector overall - according to regular public comments by Howard and Costello
Yet, the Government now proposes cutting Capital Gains Tax and handing an additional $700 million a year to the business sector, with the cost to be funded "from the surplus" according to Costello, while the Government has negun advocating cuts to the disability and single parent welfare payments ...
Any genuine debate over business taxation would have raised the desirability of the corporate sector paying a share of taxation approaching the levels of the rest of the community.
The Democrats, to their credit, raised a minimum business taxation rate option several months ago. It's a simple concept. No matter the structure, all businesses would pay an absolute minimum rate of 20% of gross income.
While I haven't heard this one being spoken of recently, the Democrats have tabled the only decent idea to emerge from this whole shabby pantomime.
New Ways To Tax?
We stand on the verge of an electronic era - and its attendant opportunities to raise huge amounts of taxation revenue from the tax-shy corporates.
Here's a few ideas that are floating around:
- US1 cent on every e-mail - easily collected via Internet Service Providers. US2 cents on each business e-mail.
- one per cent of every gross futures trade / two percent over $US1 million - easily collected via the Futures Exchange's automated trading system.
- one per cent of every gross share trade / two percent for trades over $1 million - easily collected via the Stock Exchange's automated trading system
- one per cent of every gross currency transaction / two per cent over $US1 million - easily collected via the Currency Exchange's automated trading system.
- one per cent of every credit card transaction - collected via banks. Two per cent on business credit cards.
- one per cent of business vehicle value per month - a Federal tax on companies grossing over $5 million annually.
- twenty per cent minimum business taxation rate - for those businesses grossing more than $5 million. The idea the Democrats floated originated with the Canadian left. The labour movements of Europe are also interested in this concept - they can see really desirable social outcomes way beyond the obvious economic benefits. By reducing the efficiency of complex accounting techniques, a "minimum" business tax would make evasive activity marginal to their 'bottom lines' and therefore immediately unattractive to business.
- two per cent carbon tax on all non-renewable fuels and energy - business and domestic - to fund global reforestation.
- one US cent per Internet search - easily collected through search companies. Two US cents on business Internet searches.
- Two per cent on every standard airline ticket / four per cent business class / six per cent first class.
- Two and a half per cent business turnover tax - an idea floated at Hawke's 1984 Taxation summit. Apply to companies grossing more than $20 million per annum.
- End deductions for negative gearing.
- Maintain the current Capital Gains Tax - no return to taxpayer subsidised long lunches.
And to stop the inevitable business bleating about Australia "losing its competitive edge," why not lobby all 29 OECD nations to introduce these measures simultaneously? The collector country could retain 75% of revenue with the balance forwarded to the UN - ensuring, for the first time, it was a truly independent organisation with sufficient resources to do its difficult job.
RAY HUNT is a Sydney-based broadcaster and writer
Denton, a fierce supporter of the bunnies will be marching along with thousands of other red and green supporters from Redfern Oval to the steps of Sydney's Town Hall.
Departing from the home ground at 11 am, the march with head to Belmore Oval near Central station to pick up many Souths supporters from 22 junior rugby league clubs in the area before marching on to the Town Hall for a 1pm start
Souths can certainly lay claim to having the highest profile fans in the competition.
Ray Martin, Russell Crow and even Tom Cruise have one eye red and the other one green.
And the organising committee of the rally would neither confirm or deny the possibility of Tom Cruise turning up to the Town Hall.
"I won't say he is, but I'm not saying he won't be there," Denton told us Guest speakers will include legendary Souths player John Sattler, Laurie Brereton, Martin, Denton and Souths president, another legend, George Piggins.
Not only are the Souths supporters expected to turn up by many from country areas including Gunnedah, Newcastle and a stack of folks from the Central Coast.
Meanwhile on the other side of the harbour, talks continue with the possible merger of Norths and Manly.
This is all getting a bit confusing to the public but the chances of a joint venture between the two rival clubs is getting stronger by the day.
"Save The Bears" a committee, led by David Hill, set up to establish a way of standing alone are doing everything in their power to stop the merger.
The Manly members will vote this Saturday at the Manly Leagues Club and decide whether to stand-alone or join the Bears.
Lets leave with a tip this week and get far away from the troubled world of rugby league.
Testa Rossa should be too good for Redoute's Choice in the Caulfield Guineas on Saturday.
The Dean Lawson trained three-year-old won the Vic Health Cup last start courtesy of a brilliant ride from Damian Oliver.
Redoute's Choice ran third in that Group One feature but should have finished last after the torrid run being trapped out six wide on the track.
As for the Caulfield Stakes - if you believe Shane Dye, Tie The Knot will beat Intergaze.
I'm not as confident as Shane but I will be backing him to be right.
The Australian Centre for Lesbian and Gay Research, located at Sydney Uni, produced the report following focus groups earlier this year, in which numerous union members and officials participated.
Labor Council secretary Michael Costa will launch the leaflet, which is being prepared in conjunction with the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, and details what steps a worker can take to end the discrimination.
This follows Labor Council's recent appearance, with gay and lesbian members, before the NSW Upper House Committee investigating whether to amend legislation so that gay and lesbian couples would officially be recognised as de factos.
Labor Council is also taking part in a nationwide coalition of peak gay and lesbian rights lobbies pushing for changes to superannuation laws. The coalition is developing a broader community and industry campaign around the issue of gay and lesbian superannuation rights.
Within the union movement, Labor Council also plans to trial information sessions for organisers in select unions as to what are their responsibilities in ending discrimination at the workplace, and is looking at extending gay and lesbian workplace support groups via the internet.
Without wanting to make light of another's physical disabilities, Cookie has a most apt condition for a man in his position - he is literally one-eyed. This characteristic shines through in Cookie's editorials, which typically begin with the line that unions are out of touch with reality and end with a condemnation of whatever they are fighting for this week.
Whatever the facts, the Telegraph faithfully sticks to this line, opening themselves up to serious problems when complex issues unfold like last week's rail strike action in the lead-up to State Conference.
Cookie fired his first shot on the Thursday under the heading "Carr must stand up to union ploy". The previous day's strike was "one of the worst acts of industrial bastardry in recent years". It had been "orchestrated under the nose of the NSW Trades and Labor Council as a prelude to the NSW ALP annual conference".
Why? Easy, says Cookie. The rail strike was all about forcing through the "outrageous proposal" to charge a service fee to non-members who receive a pay rise because of the work of the union they refuse to belong too. If only all proposals for user-pays met with the same resistance.
He concluded his first vignette by calling on Carr to embrace small business and "reduce the undue influence on policy wielded by a collection of unions whose philosophy and methods belong to a past century."
By the time Cookie was stepping up to the plate for the next day's efforts, it had been revealed that State Rail management had boycotted a hearing that could of averted the action and that a Scully staffer had asked Young Labor to drum up phoney opposition to the strike on talkback radio.
Both significant stories were run as separate briefs in the Terror - seriously downplaying the issues that handed the high moral ground - and then victory - to the union. Cookie ignored them too - linking the stoppage to another dream story for anti-Labor forces - the allegations of a bashing linked to branch-stacking claims.
Decrying a "resurgence of public sector industrial action", Cookie couldn't be bothered to ask what could force workers into unpopular strike action, instead using it as another tool to mount his anti-union thesis.
While the previous day the rail strike had been orchestrated to back the service fee resolution; this time the strike was the reason why the proposal should not be supported. "The unions' behaviour ... have demonstrated far more eloquently than any words why they are not worthy of support".
This was all exposed as rubbish when Scully admitted that State Rail management had gone too far pushing rail reform and the Premier agreed that better consultation with the unions was needed.
A mea culpa from the Terror? No way. These new facts merely became more fodder for Cookie's third and most confused attack. "Council a victory for unions" the editorial thundered - which may have suggested a positive analysis until you realise that the Telegraph rates unionists on about the same level as paedophiles.
The formation of the State Labor Advisory Council, in Cookie's mind, was a direct response to the wave of strikes that had been "orchestrated" (that word again) by the unions who are "by its nature" opposed to competitive tendering and restructuring.
The Council was "a method of saving face on the Conference floor", rather than a recognition that unions, who represent real workers, might sometimes have something to contribute to the economists and bureaucrats who drive government policy.
According to Cookie, the outcome was a unmitigated disaster: "instead of a respectable distance between the Government and the Labour (sic) Council, the government has brought it into the fold." What outrage! A Labor Government forced to talk to its industrial wing.
Looking at the three editorials as a series, each becomes more distorted than its predecessor. the . As the facts behind the strike and the sensible conference deal came to light, Cookie grappled to fit them into the false little box he had already constructed. Problem was they didn't fit.
It also shows why the Telegraph's general coverage of the week was so off beam, especially compared to the Sydney Morning Herald's analysis which picked the underlying problems with Scully's handling of rail even before his full complicity became public.
It's the difference between analysis and rhetoric. In an increasingly complex world, the rhetorician can end up looking very dim indeed.
© 1999-2000 Labor Council of NSW
LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/34/print_index.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005