Workers at TRW Steering and Suspension made the insurance bond an industrial issue when the company was sold to a new owner - complete with nearly $17 million in accrued entitlements.
After a heated dispute with the new management of the company Tri Star Steering and Suspension (TSSA) the unions on the site including the AWU, NUW and ETU, negotiated the acquisition of an irrevocable insurance bond.
The bond will insure approximately $ 17 million worth of accumulated employee entitlements for the life of the current enterprise agreement. This will satisfy any shortfall in TSSA's ability to meet, upon insolvency and redundancy any accumulated employee entitlements.
AWU organiser for TSSA, Ray Sparkes, says the insurance bond provides deserved protection for employees who put a lot into the company.
"We have shown that employee entitlements cannot be abused by irresponsible management. This is the workers money and should be protected as superannuation is."
"The bond covers about 400 employees including staff. We have had some staff members join the union because of this bond."
AWU delegates Dene Fletcher and Peter Boader were part of the AWU negotiating team and reckon employee morale and productivity have improved thanks to the guaranteed safety of their entitlements.
"If this company went belly up a lot of workers could lose a lot of money. There is always talk of retrenchments. But we have managed to guarantee we get what we worked for, and the AWU is stronger for that" Dene said.
AWU State Secretary Russ Collison congratulated the AWU members at TSSA for the teamwork in negotiating the insurance bond and described the deal as a " landmark for industrial relations in Australia.
The Premier gave the idea of the inquiry the green light at this week's meeting of the State Labor Advisory Committee (SLAC), the body set up last year to improve communications between the political and industrial wings of the NSW labour movement.
Labor Council secretary Michael Costa reported that Carr had "acknowledged there were questions to be addressed about job insecurity and accepted that labour hire was part of that."
But the Premier insisted that any move to regulation should be done in concert with Labor Governments in Queensland and Victoria to avoid any capital flight from the State.
The Labor Council had proposed the inquiry as a means of kick-starting its proposal to regulate labour hire, a proposal which has been before the government for nearly 12 months.
While outgoing ACTU president Jennie George had been proposed as an appropriate chair of the inquiry by both unions and employers -although her possible involvement in federal preselection would make this difficult.
Terms of reference for the inquiry still need to be negotiated between the Labor Council, employers and the government, but Costa says for the inquiry to be useful, the terms of reference would need to be as broad as possible.
In other SLAC News:
* The issue of Olympic allowances has been referred to negotiations with the Premiers Department, although Carr is "highly sceptical".
* Unions have asked the government to restructure lease fees at the Port Kembla coal loader to ensure the South Coast coal industry remains viable.
* A SLAC sub-committee is devising guidelines to ensure that competitive tendering is not a policy of first resort for government agencies.
Workers Online understands that reaction in NSW to the Victorian push has been reserved in an industry which is currently enjoying boom conditions.
"While there is interest about the issue on the shop floor, they understand that the deals were struck less than six months ago," one source says.
"Thousands of EBAs signed last October and the 36 hour week was not on the table -we now have to wait three years until our agreements are up for renegotiation; we'll evaluate the merits of the Victorian model then."
Reith's Bargaining Hypocrisy
Meanwhile, CFMEU National Construction Secretary John Sutton says the 36-hour week campaign is an important initiative to get some civilisation back into working hours.
"It will not raise the costs of building projects significantly and provides an opportunity to get more jobs back into the industry," Sutton says.
And h says that Reith's criticism of Grocon Constructions' agreement with the union on the issue only betrays his hypocrisy.
"Construction workers are having to do massive amounts of overtime to get buildings up at the speed expected by property developers today. That obviously impacts negatively on their families and the community," Sutton says.
"The 36-hour week, coupled with a cap on overtime, will represent a significant improvement in working conditions.
"Most importantly it will create the opportunity for more employment in the industry," said Mr Sutton.
Quantity surveyors Rider Hunt estimate that the 36-hour week will only add 2 to 3 per cent to total building costs.
Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association Branch Secretary Dave Robinson said the tactic was a deliberate attempt to restrict Union access to it members. There was no prior consultation or notification.
Union Delegates were also threatened with possible disciplinary action if they globally e-mailed CPSU/CSA information.
Mr Robinson said management was obviously prepared to go to any lengths to stop the Union organising within the Department and the strategy would not go unchallenged.
The Union also believes health and safety representatives have been denied access to safety-related information and this was a clear breach of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
"This is one of the most flagrant attacks on the right of our Union to organise with members ever mounted by a government agency," Mr Robinson said.
When the matter was raised in WA Parliament this week by Australian Democrats leader Helen Hodgson, the Government claimed the e-mail was causing message delays on the Department's mail server.
The CPSU/CSA has rejected this claim, claiming the Department itself routinely sends bulk e-mails to its entire workforce.
Trade unionists, churches and other community supporters of the FairWear campaign will converge on Newcastle for the Surfest finals at Newcastle beach.
Ellisa Sutherland from the Newcastle FairWear Committee says the idea is not to interrupt Surfest, but to make surfers aware of the manufacturing practices behind their designer labels.
"The working conditions of home-based clothing machinists are some of the poorest in Australia," Sutherland says. "Consumers are increasingly concerned about the issue, in Australia and overseas."
FairWear are campaigning for surfers to only buy surfwear from manufacturers who have signed the Homeworkers Code of Practise.
Current signatories include: Rumours, Hot Tuna, Gazal Apparel (including Mambo and Maui and Sons), Hound Dog and Kuta Lines.
The surf campaign follows FairWear pushes in the fashion industry and for school uniforms. Both of these campaigns have led to a successful takeup of the Code of Practise.
by David Whitley and Bernie Deans
The hotel employees came from a number of the finest hotels across Melbourne including the Le Meridien, Hyatt, Hilton, Carlton Crest and Victoria. The workers met in a church hall close to the Industrial Relations Commission where the Living Wage Case is being held.
Chefs, room attendants and ACTU Secretary Greg Combet addressed the cheering workers, as they demanded five star wages for a five star job.
The meeting at the hall represented a new face of Australian unionism, with men and women from all backgrounds and of all ages meeting together to rally around the modest demand of a $24 pay rise.
Bongo Drums, Whistles and Tram Bells
Bongo drums and whistles welcomed each new speaker, the carnival attitude reflecting the excitement of everyone in the hall.
The hotel employees then marched to the Commission along exclusive Collins Street, with toots of support from passing cars. Trams rang their bells in recognition of the hotel workers cause.
Once they reached the commission the 300 made their way up to the 39th floor and quietly filed into the hearing - taking up all the available seating and having to cram into the large court room.
People were spilling out of the door as an ACTU representative put their case to the Commission.
Exec pay storms ahead
On the same day that the Financial Review reported executive pay was going up 6.5 per cent, and interim profits have soared by 14 per cent; hotel workers, working a 40-hour week, are asking for a modest 60 cents an hour pay rise.
The hotel workers are Australian people who want enough money to cover the cost of the GST and increasing interest rates.
With a rapidly growing gap between the rich and the poor in this country, these hotel workers demonstrated that they understand that when profits rise, so should the wages of all the employees in a company, not just the executives.
The guards are frustrated that they have not received a pay rise since 1996 and the fact that Justice and Customs Minister Amanda Vanstone has refused to intervene and settle the dispute.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) believes the Government is failing in its obligation to properly fund the country's counter terrorist agency.
According to CPSU Deputy President Sue Mountford the recent threat to the Queen in Sydney "highlights the need to have a well resourced and motivated security force to counter internal and external terrorist threats."
The action is part of a long-term campaign of rolling stoppages which have already been held at major airports and Parliament House in Canberra. Further stoppages are planned in the lead up to Senate Estimates committee inquiries scheduled for May.
"The Queen's visit and the Sydney Olympics emphasise Australia's need for a properly funded national security force."
Who is the Protective Service?
As Australia's counter-terrorist first response group, the Australian Protective Service is a Commonwealth owned national security agency which provides security at Australian international airports and other sensitive national sites. Security services provided by the APS include bomb appraisal and explosives detection.
Staffing has dropped from 971 in 1994 to 755 in 1998. Presently, there are about 650 operational staff and 70 administration staff. Also, there has been about a 10% reduction in staff at Melbourne Airport in recent months.
At the same time there has been a reduction in the number of Senior Protective Service Officers who provide a high level of expertise in counter terrorism particularly at international airports. For example, the APS is currently abolishing all four Senior Protective Service Officer positions at Melbourne Airport.
Protective Service Officers have not received a pay rise since 1996 and are currently engaged in an industrial dispute. Protective Service Officers have been taking strike action regularly since mid December. Despite several invitations Justice and Customs Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone has refused to intervene and settle the dispute.
APS management have 'locked-out staff' on some occasions, and used inexperienced untrained private security guards who do not have firearms, the powers of arrest or detainment. Private security guards do not have training in counter terrorism.
by Peter Ross
Australian performers, many who would have to forgo paid work to be involved in the ceremonies, are bitterly disappointed to be denied the opportunity to work on the Games like many other workers.
Alliance Vice President, Actor's Division, Pattie Amphlett, is astounded that performers are still undervalued in this country. "The only option professional performers have to be involved in the ceremonies is if the agree to do so on a volunteer basis. No other industry has been called upon to make the same commitment."
Specialty performer Hemlock says, "I'm continually being approached by SOCOG and told how unique and specialist my skills are. Problem is they're not prepared to pay for them."
The Alliance negotiating team has managed to drag another twenty paid performer positions out of SOCOG bringing the total to 167 paid artists. Two weeks ago the sum total of paid performers was zero. Other concessions include:
An Enterprise Agreement for all employed performers, technicians and musicians working on the ceremonies which will set out terms and conditions of work and minimum rates of pay.
A guarantee that all sub-contractors will be obliged to ensure that all workers are covered by the agreement wages and conditions. A new set of guidelines to be applied the 11,000 volunteer participants.
Negotiations are to continue. The Alliance is still convinced that further funds forperformers can be found within the Ceremonies budget.
by Mikael Kjaerbye
The victory follows a determined campaign by LHMU members, with the Union raising the matter with the Equal Opportunity Commission.
Union delegate George Tsoukalis said more than 20 of the 28 lounge attendants in the exclusive QANTAS Club were women.
'They are supplied with skirts, winter temperatures can drop to five degrees and they want to wear trousers,' George said.
The trousers ban was a QANTAS rule. OGEMI, the contractor employing the attendants, did not supply trousers to women.
'With Terry Breheny from the Union office, we took an anti-discrimination case to the Commission which resulted in QANTAS and OGEMI agreeing that the women could wear trousers,' George said.
'Now everyone is happy, especially the women.'
by Zoe Reynolds
MUA Tasmania branch secretary and local representative for the International Transport Workers' Federation Mike Wickham said the vessel was the worst he'd ever seen
"It should never be allowed to sail," he said. "The conditions the crew survived in are not fit for a dog. The galley is a filthy disgrace, it's a pig sty. The Filipino crew have been eating stores that are full of weevils, the rice is literally infested with it."
Burnie wharfies were loading logs bound for Korea onto the ship on Wednesday when the alarm was raised and the men walked off the job.
Mike Wickham called the Australian Maritime Safety Authority inspector in and the ship was inspected and repairs ordered.
The ITF is also representing the Filipino crew in a pay dispute. The crew have now won US$9,5000 in outstanding wages.
Mike Wickham accused the Federal Government of creating "an environment of piracy on the high seas" by promoting cheap, substandard, flag of convenience shipping at the expense of Australian shipping.
"Under this Government the policy has been to welcome this type of ship in every day," Mike Wickham told the local press. "This is the first of many in an environment of piracy on the high seas that this Government has created."
The Australian trading fleet is being driven out of business as the Howard Government sides with shippers and exporters in driving down freight rates by allowing third rate vessels, crewed by third world nationals, to carry Australian cargo -- even our domestic coastal cargo.
The policy is expected to impact on the nation's inland transport system in the long term. Substandard shipping is also responsible for the majority of the world's maritime disasters, oil spills and pollution.
Meanwhile the Nicolas Star is expected to be held in port all next week. MUA - Tasmanian
General Secretary of the NSW Independent Education Union Dick Shearman says the vote for the strike taken at school-based meetings in 500 Catholic systemic schools, was carried by a 3 to 1 majority.
"Catholic school teachers reject the two and half per cent salary increase for 2000 offered by the Carr Government and Catholic school employers" Shearman says.
"Teachers are also angry at attempts by some politicians and sections of the media to portray them as underworked and overpaid" he says.
The union has taken out full page advertisements in both Sunday Newspapers (26 March) to publicly defend the teaching profession.
"The NSW Government and Catholic employing authorities should act positively for teachers now by substantially revising their salaries offer", Shearman says.
A rally will be held at 10.30 am at the Masonic Centre, Cnr. Castlereagh and Goulburn Sts., Sydney on the morning of the 29th March.
The kit will be launched at a public forum and advice session on Wednesday 29th March by actor Michael Caton
The Rentwatchers kit has collected a range of representative case studies and statistics from a number of Sydney's tenancy advice services and the NSW Tenants Union. The kit also examines the housing market in Sydney and identifies strategies that Rentwatchers believes will alleviate the current squeeze.
Spokesperson for Rentwatchers, Ms Michelle Burrell, commented: "The Rentwatchers kit presents a disturbing picture: rent levels in the Olympic corridor are skyrocketing and evictions in houses, flats and boarding houses are proceeding with unprecedented frequency."
The forum will also provide an opportunity for tenants to obtain advice and referrals from tenancy experts. Ms Burrell commented: "Tenancy services are aware that an increasing number of Sydney's residents are seeking assistance and advice. Rentwatchers' aim is to prepare residents for scenarios when the landlord goes for gold."
Rentwatchers has invited Gary Moore, Director of NCOSS, to speak on the broader social impacts of the Olympics. State politicians, local councillors and international media representatives have also been invited and are expected to attend.
The forum commences at 730pm on Wednesday 29th March at the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre. Speakers include Gary Moore (NCOSS), Michelle Burrell (Rentwatchers) and Nick Warren (Tenants Union), plus tenants from the local area.
For further information contact or comment: Dave Trudinger - 02.96987277 or Michelle Burrell - 02.93986366
This week Wal Liddle received the highest award bestowed by the Labor Council of NSW. He received it posthumously, the first posthumous award bestowed by Labor Council, as Wal died tragically of an industrial illness last year.
Wal's working life started as an apprentice at Waddington's Engineering in Clyde during the Second World War. Aside from building railway carriages he also worked on merchant ships for the American cargo fleet.
As well as learning the trade Wal had the responsibility of 'billy-boy'. In his writings he described it:
"Morning tea was a sacred ritual for the workers of the company and pity help any billy boy who didn't have the water ready on time, or any apprentice who spilled the liquid amber. The twelve billies which were in my charge were reasonably easy to handle on the inward journey but rather difficult to balance on the return. I carried two wooden sticks on which were hung six tin receptacles full to the brim, one stick in each hand."
While just an apprentice Wal also witnessed the fatal electrocution of a tradesman, and saw at a very early age just how dangerous the workplace could be.
At the war's end Wal transferred his apprenticeship to the building industry.
Like many of his generation who had lived through the Great Depression, Wal came to the conclusion that the system itself was fundamentally flawed for working people. So at the age of 17 he joined the Eureka Youth League and some time later the Communist Party.
At age of 23 he was elected union rep for the Building Workers Industrial Union at Vandyke's prefabricated housing factory at Villawood. This was the time of Cold War - fierce struggle between left and right - reflected in an equally intense on-the-job struggle between BWIU and a union the bosses had instigated - called the ASC&J. In what was, at times, a very hostile political environment Wal stood up to be counted while many ducked for cover.
This was the first of many jobs where Wal was delegate for the union. He was also delegate on the construction of the nurses quarters at the Royal Prince Alfred hospital in Camperdown - his first large-scale construction site.
Despite his earlier experiences in heavy industry, Wal was taken aback at the toughness of the work. These were the days when concrete was mixed on site, and it was wheeled about in rickshaws - double sized wheelbarrows full of liquid concrete. These had to be pushed up narrow ramps and across planks by a single worker - it was back-breaking work.
But it wasn't just the labourers who had it tough. In one of his writings, Wal vividly described the conditions that he worked under:
"The methods of construction in some cases were pretty hairy. I remember building the structural support timbers to the nursing quarter balconies. No scaffolding was provided so at one stage you would be balancing on narrow timbers ten feet above the floor below, with the possibility of falling and rolling off the edge into the infinite space down to street level."
Wal was sacked from this job after arriving back to work 5 minutes late from lunch - he'd been doing union work. In an ironic twist, when the case was taken to the Arbitration Court, the proceedings had to be held up because the judge was half an hour late!
After the RPA job Wal worked on the construction of the Kent St parking station in the city, the Redfern Mail Exchange and the Davies Coop Textile Factory building on Victoria Rd at Rydalmere. On all these jobs he was a union rep.
Wal had a great interest in writing and throughout the 1950s and 60s his articles were a regular feature in the union journal, the Building Worker.
Wal was already known to many of the leading figures in the BWIU. But at Davies Coop he also came into contact with people such as Maurie Lynch, Don McHugh and Joe Ferguson - some of the key activists who transformed the Builders Labourers Federation - the BLF - from an obscure right-wing union into one of the most prominent unions in the country.
But they weren't the only significant labour movement figures he met. Another BWIU delegate - who was also an ALP member - Jack Tarlington - had invited a speaker from the Labor party to address the workers because there was an election coming up.
The speaker was the member for Merriwa - Gough Whitlam. This was the period of the Cold War, and in fear of the 'Red Bogey', Labor Party policy was that no member should speak on the same platform as a member of the Communist Party - to do so would mean instant expulsion. Jack Tarlington was well aware of the policy, but he wanted Whitlam to speak to the workers - and because Wal was a leader on the job, as well as a mate - he didn't think it fair to exclude him.
The meeting turned out very successfully, with Wal as chairman, introducing Gough and making some congratulatory remarks at the end. Afterwards Jack walked Gough back to the main gate where Gough remarked that Wal was a 'great fella' and why didn't Jack get him to join the Labor Party? When he was told that Wal was a communist, Gough had a fit!
But Wal's political activity extended far beyond putting Gough Whitlam at risk of expulsion from the Labour Party. He was involved in all the major political struggles of the period - and such campaigns as trying to get the atom bomb banned - and helping with the struggle for aboriginal rights amongst other things.
Wal was also elected by job delegates to represent the union at the World Youth Festival in Poland in 1955. Whilst he remained a socialist to the end of his life, Wal's misgivings about the regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, grew ever larger as the years went by.
Summing up his political thoughts Wal told last years State Conference of the CFMEU:
"The fight has been long and hard with many working-class casualties on the way caused by the stress and strains of being a militant or union rep. For us Communists it was even harder because of the media's 'Reds Under The Bed' campaign. The excesses of the Soviet Union didn't help with the mass starvation caused by the forced agricultural collectivisation of the 1930s, the 'Show-Trials' of 1938, and the continuing torture and imprisonment of anybody who disagreed with the leaders. But the ideas of socialism gave us a steel backbone of which I'm very proud."
Whilst Wal was never a high-flyer in the union, he was a genuine leader amongst his fellow workers - right at the coal-face. And many of the conditions that building workers enjoy today were won through campaigns in which Wal took part - these included numerous wage campaigns, wet weather pay, dirt money, multi-storey allowance, tool allowance, and basic amenities on the job such as decent dressing sheds, and adequate washing and toilet facilities.
Indeed on some jobs - Wal and those with him led the way - such as in the struggle for multi-storey allowance, payment for public holidays and site allowance. And despite the pain of his illness Wal's union activity continued through to the crucial MUA dispute last year.
Beyond the struggles that he personally participated in, and his own writings, Wal has left a further legacy for the future generations of building workers. In appreciation of the assistance of the union's efforts in winning him compensation payment for his illness, Wal made a magnificent bequest to the union. This was to be used to educate younger building workers.
Arising from this bequest, the union will be preparing a series of booklets titled the Wal Liddle Series. In diametrical contrast to the political orthodoxy of Howard's Australia, Wal's life wasn't about 'looking after Number One' - it was about looking after your fellow human being - at times at great personal cost to himself.
While nothing can minimise the sadness of Wal's passing - he has left an enduring legacy for the future...
A roster of bands have committed to benefit gigs throughout the year, to raise funds for a new transmitter for the station - part of the reconstruction of East Timorese infrastructure.
The concerts, to be held under the auspices of APHEDA and red Square music agency, will commence on April 13 and will include gigs in Wollongong, coinciding with the ACTU Congress in June and Newcastle.
People attending the gigs are also encouraged to bring old CDs which will be shipped up to Dili to be used by the station. Who knows? You could help shape the next trend in Timorese pop culture.
The campaign kicks of at the Harbourside Brasserie, Hickson Road, Millers Point, under the south end of the Harbour Bridge on Thursday April 13 at 7.30pm.
The line up for the night include:
- Barbalu (super Afro-Cuban salsa)
- Astro Tabasco (post apocalyptic lounge music)
- Dha (classical Indian/fusion)
- Monsieur Camembert (red hot gypsey jazz)
Tickets: $12 or $10 concession, available from Aaron Magner at the LHMU (9281 9577), Phil Davey at the CFMEU (9287 9387) or Peter Lewis at Labor Council (016 289335).
Bob Carr is concerned about precarious, non-union jobs, but not enough to prevent State Transit from outsourcing state government employment to an anti-union, low wages call centre.
Perhaps he got advice about it from his Parisian luncheon partner, Paddy McGuiness.
Our lively exchange with readers has slowed to a trickle - come one, readers, get vocal and help fill our letters pages!
How did you come to be working as a manager in a Telstra call centre?
In early 1997 I was working for Mal Colston. I blew the whistle on him in what became known as the Colston Affair; there was a huge amount of publicity and it got to the point where it was difficult for me to work in politics.
I had a friend who was working as a casual in a Telstra operator assisted services centre in Southport on the Gold Coast. I applied as a position of operator with them and was accepted. I was working from 11.30pm to 7am which gave me an income while I could still participate in the federal police inquiries into the Colston allegations.
As an outsider what was your impression of work in a call centre?
It's very high pressured, particularly in directory assistance; although having workers in residential sales and service for Stellar, the same pressure applied. It's the constancy of calls, the harassed and troubled nature of people on the phone, people are very impatient, they are very abusive of operators. In an eight hour shift you can cop a lot and you are under huge working pressure. they're called AHTs - average handling times for each call. So Telstra itself places a huge emphasis on keeping the calls as short as possible for the obvious reason that the more calls they take per operator, the fewer operators they have to put on a particular shift. It's a social environment - and that's what appeals to a lot of people when they first go into the call centre industry. But as you settle into it, the pressure begins to build on you.
How did you make the transition into management
In September of 1998 Stellar put out a press release saying they were opening a Telstra call centre on the Gold Coast - I applied for that as an agent and was accepted. That opened mid-December. In February 1999 they asked people to apply for management positions. I was a service manager there for six months and then promoted down to their new centre in Sydney as a human resources manager.
When did you start suspecting things were rotten in the Stellar operations?
Probably within three months of opening. We were given all the company rhetoric about how this was a ground-breaking new venture for Telstra, an exciting opportunity how well we would be treated, how it would run under the American philosophy of 'open book management' - meaning that management would be very disclosive to the staff of all the things that happened at a management level, the philosophy of the company would be clearly shown to the staff and the whole thing would be an open door policy. Rhat quickly ran out of steam and it was quite clear that there were a lot of things that weren't being told to the staff about the agenda of Telstra and why they opened Stellar.
In February of 1999 the CEPU started to agitate for entry into the building and a number of us spoke to representatives - Ian MacLean and Marilyn Swan - who basically said: everyone here should be looking a little bit closer at what you're doing,. because you're being paid one third less than the Telstra award and you are working longer hours, you are not getting loadings for any extra overtime, you're not getting loadings for public holidays. Some of us began starting to query what was the real agenda of Telstra in opening up Stellar.
As time went on management tried to stop access to the union, tried to force staff into signing a certified agreement and then we heard that the certified agreement had been withdrawn from the Queensland Commission because the unions had opposed it, presenting reasons why Stellar should be paying correct award wages. This is where the first inference of transference of business - we had people doing the same work for Telstra working for one third less. Also there was huge resentment from the Telstra workforce towards Stellar - we found out that within Telstra they were continually making operators redundant; but there were always jobs there at Stellar for less wages.
What did you do once you realised you were managing an organisation with a problematic agenda?
I was one of the service managers within the organisation. We started talking to staff, trying to get some feedback, a couple of people joined the union, but without success. The reason being that on the Gold Coast there's high levels of unemployment and its very hard to get permanent work - so people were scared of losing their jobs. And Stellar was really good at reinforcing that fear: you've got guaranteed work, we've got an ongoing contract with Telstra, forget about the unions because this doesn't have to be a union-based organisation.
So they're using permanency as a tool for quelling any dissent?
Absolutely, the frequency of permanent work is so low on the Gold Coast that people are just thankful to have a job. Understand here that apart from two staff members who were ex-Telstra, the rest were virgins in the call centre industry. So they knew no better.
It was a gradual process of awareness; there wasn't one particular thing that people could put their hands on and say 'this is really wrong', because we were always promised by Stellar that the bonus system they had introduced on profit share would well and truly compensate people for any diminution of wages they were taking for not working for Telstra directly. It took a great deal of time for people to realise that those bonuses were not a fraction of the compensation required to get up to the Telstra award. So basically ignored any rumblings and came out with the line 'we don't mind if people belong to a union, but there's no need for it in this place'. That was basically the view of the majority of the staff - and strangely enough still is.
So what prompted you to go public?
I was sent to Sydney to recruit about 110 permanent staff for Stellar Hornsby for the State Transit Authority. I came down to employ most of the people there. My first impression was that it was a good job, only $26,000 but most of the people were from the central coast and had been unemployed for some time - so hopefully it would improve their lifestyle. But after we employed 90 per cent of these people, reference tested them and rang them up and told them they had a job, out of the blue they decided to put everyone on Australian Workplace Agreements. That was kept highly secret because they didn't want the Gold Coast workers to know that AWAs were on the way. So they literally sent a letter out to all the staff saying: if you want the job that you've been given, if you want to attend day one of induction, then you must sign an AWA, it is a condition of employment.
I believe that to be total duress, because the first thing most people do when they get a new job is go out and buy some new clothes for work. They start committing themselves mentally to having that income. Then they're told to sign an AWA or else. If they'd been up front in then interview process about the AWAs, fine; but to my way of thinking this was a subversive way of introducing the AWAs and felt very uncomfortable with that process.
I stayed on with the company through December. then I started to view a number of employment practices, the way managers were treating their staff, I confronted management with this on a number of occasions and the view of the company was: if people don't like it here they can go to buggery. I just thought this was a totally inappropriate way of treating dedicated staff. People they didn't like, they began 'managing out of the company' - particularly when the probation period was up.
At the same time I began to here about the implications of the Wilcox 'Transmission of Business' decision, that Stellar were obliged to pay all of their employees compensation to bring into line with the Telstra award. Even as managers we were told none of this. Yet after the decision, Stellar continued to refuse to do so. It all just reached a head and I decided to walk out.
I finally decided to go public after Ziggy Switkowski announced the retrenchment of 10,000 people. The cold-blooded way he delivered that terrified me because I realised that the whole reason for Stellar and the experiment they've been taking part in through opening call centres with lower wages and conditions, gave them a mechanism for divesting themselves of their permanent workforce.
And what has it taught you about the power of big organisations - particularly in ;light of the Howard Government's push for full privatisation?
The spectre of full privatisation absolutely terrifies me. Granted, the government still has some control over the operation of Telstra, But in private hands there will be no checks and balances in the way they operate and less Parliamentary scrutiny.
When the Wilcox appeal is handed down, which is imminently, I believe the unions will be victorious; I believe then there will be a further round of legal activity - in the High Court - to avoid paying their workforce the proper award. but in the end I think it will emerge that the Stellar experiment has no validity and will fail.
by Mark Hearn
Barry Everett proudly shows me the memo recently sent out by Illawarra Mutual Building Society (IMB) management to all its staff: "we look forward to further input from the union group". No big deal?
For Barry, an Australian Services Union rep who works in IMB's accounts department, that memo represents "the greatest victory" to come out of a dispute that started last Christmas Eve. Aside, that is, from signing up 80 new members at IMB for the ASU's Clerical and Administrative Branch.
It all started with a secret Christmas present. Staff at IMB's Wollongong call centre were offered a significant pay increase - apparently IMB were tired of having their experienced staff poached by rivals. The call centre staff were firmly told by management not to tell anybody else about it.
By lunch time, and just hours before the annual Christmas party, IMB's head office staff were standing outside the building holding a stop-work meeting. They reckoned that as all IMB staff were covered by the same award, they were all entitled to a pay rise.
They also decided to sort out a few other grievances - over redundancy, maternity leave, redeployment issues. It's amazing what a little managerial motivation can deliver, isn't it? Having declared war, the ASU reps set about recruiting some more troops.
"We established an e-mail network to communicate with every staff member", Barry explains. "We marketed membership like a business. Every day we'd send out membership forms and other union information through IMB's courier network (which links all 33 IMB branches)."
"In a month we recruited fifty members and six union reps", Barry says proudly. The overall tally for the campaign has risen to 80 new members. ASU Organiser Rudi Oppitz says "the local reps worked out a clear strategy to recruit non-union members, and they stuck with it."
After a couple more stoppages and hours of negotiation the ASU and the local committee won a 11% pay increase across the board, backdated to January 6, and action on the other grievances.
"We won because we had strong backing from Rudi and the ASU", Barry insists, "and because we always consulted. The negotiating committee never made independent decisions; we always referred back to all the members."
That spirit has even spread to management, now apparently learning the lessons of openness and consultation. Merry Christmas.
by Tom Wheelwright
Workers know the situation only too well. You are working in the Accounts Department and all of a sudden you are told to go slow on paying the bills. Cash is tight. Suppliers start ringing to complain about not receiving their cheques. What do you do? Is the company in trouble? Will it go down the gurgler and take the workers entitlements with it?
It is a terrible feeling and it is all the more stressful because ASU members are often the ones who have to deal with angry suppliers and anxious inquiries from their work mates. Woodlawn Mines and most recently National Textiles have only increased everyone's sense of insecurity.
There are a number of reasons why a company may be slow in paying.
The first thing is to try not to panic. Good companies can find themselves in a cash crisis because they are growing too quickly to buy more stock and extend the necessary credit to their customers. In this case, an enlightened bank should step in to help, because the business is sound. Sometimes the Board has decided to enter a new market and it takes a while to build market share. It is also possible that the shareholders or a bank are supporting a new management team who are turning a company around. In these cases, it is really the fault of management for not sharing important information with the workforce.
The situation is more serious when a good company is faced with a declining industry or, worst of all, when a company is the victim of bad management.
What is the difference between "administration" and "liquidation"?
If the worst happens and the company cannot pay its bills, the Board of Directors will in nearly every case appoint an "Administrator". Basically, the Administrator tries to find a way to keep the company trading, so that the creditors, including the workers, can eventually be paid all or part of what they are owed.
At this point the role of the workers often becomes crucial. Five days after the appointment of the Administrator by the Board. a meeting of all the creditors, including the workers, is held to confirm that appointment. The workers vote is important because the creditors can appoint a different Administrator if they are not happy with the one originally appointed by the Board.
The Administrator has 21 days to complete his or her investigation into the company's affairs and to report to a meeting of creditors. The report will recommend:
1. whether the company should be returned to the original owners and management;
2. whether the company should continue to operate but under a Deed of Company Arrangement; or
3. whether the company should be put into liquidation.
If an Administrator cannot see a way to keep the company trading he will recommend to creditors that he be appointed as Liquidator for the purposes of winding up the company. This is usually the worst option for workers and unsecured creditors because the assets are usually mortgages to specific lenders and the company has lost the ability to generate cash.
Where do workers stand in the pecking order of creditors?
Generally workers have first call on the "floating assets" of the company, which means cash in the bank or the proceeds of customer accounts that are yet to be paid. In reality, a company that is under administration has little in the way of floating assets - which is why they are in trouble!
When the "non floating" assets of the business are sold the proceeds are firstly applied to the benefit of the secured creditors. These are usually banks or other lenders who have a mortgage over specific assets like plant and equipment or land. Next come the workers, for their unpaid employment entitlements and last are the unsecured creditors. The unsecured creditors are often small businesses who have not been paid for the work they have done and it should be remembered that they have workers too.
What should union delegates do if the company is in trouble?
It is always wise to take an interest in a company and to ask questions about its welfare. However, the answers can be technical or the delegate may doubt the truth of what he or she is being told. In that case, or when workers are aware that an Administrator or Liquidator has been appointed, it is time to call for expert advice.
Millions of dollars in workers entitlements can be involved. An adviser to the workers can ask the Administrator or Liquidator whether the assets are being sold to the highest bidder, especially if the buyer is connected with the Board. An adviser can ask to see evidence that money promised to workers, in return for supporting a deed of arrangement, actually exists and is likely to be forthcoming. If the offer is for only a portion of what is owed to the workers, an independent adviser can advise on whether or not the offer represents the best workers are likely to get.
All too often, workers are given a document and told that if they do not support it, they will get nothing. They sit in creditors meeting like kangaroos in the spotlight, accepting whatever they are offered because they feel they have not option. At least ASU members know that through the union they can get advice that puts their interests first.
Tom Wheelwright has been a member of the ASU since 1981. He spent 10 years as a stockbroker and an investment fund manager before serving as a Labor Sentor for NSW. Tom was defeated in the 1996 federal election and has since run his own business. He often deals with insolvent companies through Stapleton Corporate Advisory Services.
by Lee Rhiannon
It started with a series of lies about the Teachers Federation's bans on a literacy test and reached fever pitch last week in a three days of "special reports" in the Telegraph. Premier Carr has taken a leading role in the assault.
Teachers in NSW knew that the propaganda war was on in earnest when they read the Sydney Morning Herald of Friday 10 March. In response to a Teachers Federation ban on this year's literacy test, the Department of Education and Training had spent more than $8,000 to place an advertisement, supposedly apologising to parents that their children would not be tested this year and suggesting that they address their complaints to the Teachers Federation.
These were mere crocodile tears. The government could have solved the issue at any time by promising to not re-allocate specialist teachers for students with learning difficulties (STLD) based on the results of the test.
The reality is that the State provides a mere 341specialist teachers learning difficulties. This is just not enough, and until funding is found to match the need, teachers and schools will zealously guard their specialist teaching positions. As long as the Department and the Minister refuse to guarantee that no school would loose its specialist teachers based on its literacy test results, no teacher of good conscience could allow the test to proceed.
This was not, however, the government's real agenda. They were in the middle of a six week negotiation period with teachers and their union over the award.
The following week, Rupert Murdoch's Telegraph picked up the cudgel and set to, with a three day "Special Report" that promised to expose the real power in the Federation. Starting out with quotes from Federal Education Minister Dr David Kemp and disaffected former union executive and now Education bureaucrat, Van Davy, the Telegraph sought to establish that the Federation used stand-over tactics and has wilfully and maliciously blocked every reform proposal advanced by the current Labor government. Murdoch's journalists used every trick in the book to smear the Union as undemocratic and obstructionist.
The Greens experience of the Federation is that it is a role model of democratic decision making, managed by people who work hard to protect and promote the social benefits of public education. Like all big lies, the Telegraph's rantings sought to turn reality on its head .
It is commonly accepted that the driving force behind the so-called special report was Carr, Aquilina and their bureaucrats. In the early days of this NSW Labor government, Murdoch's Fox organisation was given the old Sydney Show Grounds in Moore Park to develop an entertainment complex and film studios in a highly contentious deal, the details of which are yet to be fully explained. Many people would argue that Rupert Murdoch effectively sits at the NSW Cabinet table.
It appears that Labor will stop at nothing to force through their award proposals, which would savagely damage public education and further erode teachers' pay and conditions. Truth is mere road kill in this game.
Behind this distortion lies a frightening reality. No government has been prepared to address the chronic funding crisis in public education. Until funds are found to pay teachers and resource classrooms, the drift to private schools will continue to accelerate with massive adverse social justice consequences.
This is a matter of government priorities. Total government expenditure on private schools since 1993/94 has grown by almost 25% in real terms while there has been a significant decline in expenditure on public education. The Greens have developed a private member's bill that would begin to address this unfair and dangerous funding bias. We hope to have it debated in the NSW parliament later this year and to start the process of securing a real growth in funds for public sector education.
It is shocking to see a Labor government resort to Peter Reith smear tactics. Bob Carr and John Aquilina have become the enemies of both public education and have alienated an important element of the trade union movement. The Greens call on them to remember the origins of their party and to stop reading the Telegraph.
by Neale Towart
The Bush, Regional Australia and Rural Australia, those mystic entities, have been getting lots of attention form the media and the government lately, as the Feds try to shore up the vote for the National Party.
Bush workers have been concerned about their plight before, only the methods of dealing with the problem differed. Neither the National Party nor its predecessors were not looked to, nor were the equivalents of One Nation. Instead, those curiously old fashioned ideas of solidarity and class struggle were used as organising and agitating methods, as the following from the Bush Workers' Propaganda Group shows. Communications technologies and methods were part of their concerns too!
1. To unite all the militant elements toiling in the Australian Bush, to enable them to act in an organized method in acquiring and spreading among their fellow workers a true knowledge of the class struggle.
2. To establish a system of travelling libraries of books and pamphlets of an elementary character for the mutual education of all concerned.
3. From time to time to issue leaflets on all important questions affecting the Bush Workers, and, where deemed necessary, to take the initiative in dealing with such matters.
4. To expose and fight against corruption and opportunism in the Industrial Movement.
5. To distribute among the Bush Workers the world's best literature on the principles of class struggle.
6. To establish in suitable centres libraries of working-class literature for propaganda purposes.
7. To assist in the establishment of similar groups in other centres when practicable, and generally to act in conjunction with kindred bodies for the furtherance of these aims, consistent with the maintenance of our own autonomy.
What the pamphleteers were seeking was the establishment of the One Big Union (O.B.U.) and to attack what they saw as the hopelessly compromised leadership of the AWU. They proposed a complete overhaul of the AWU constitution to ban parliamentary members from holding office in the union, delegates at conferences to be drawn from real live workers in real industries, paid organisers not to be delegates at annual conference, no MPs to have any role in any newspaper of the union, membership to be open to all regardless of race, colour or creed.
The AWU annual conference in 1922 had voted in favour of the AWU but the AWU executive was bitterly opposed to the whole idea and the executive retained its positions.
Signatories were Arthur Rae, J.R. Sullivan and Sidney T. Smith The Manifesto was issued on May Day 1922.
Rae was an early organiser for the AWU and was General Secretary in 1897-98. He was denied AWU membership in 1920 after he refused to pledge his undivided loyalty to the prevailing union leadership. He later became an ALP Senator.
by The Chaser
The pressure comes after a toddler died in his mother's car outside a pub while she used the poker machines inside.
The newly elected Victorian government's "Compassionate Gambling" policy is aimed at cutting down the social costs of gambling. "If pubs are going to encourage parents to gamble then they should provide cr�ches or at the very least employ someone on hot days to sponge down the kids in the parking lots."
A spokesperson for the pub involved in the death said it regretted the incident. "We were offering very long odds on the baby dying so we had to deal with several large pay outs. I had no idea how weak toddlers are - my dog survived longer than him."
Meanwhile, an internal police investigation is underway after it was revealed that the fatal car received two parking tickets in the period while the child struggled inside. A spokesperson for the Roads and Traffic authority has denied that their officers may have acted without compassion. "We acted very humanely, we should have towed the car, but we're tracking lightly".
Police described the scene that met them when the child's steaming corpse was brought to their attention. "You just can't believe that something like this could happen" said Inspector Mueller of the Victorian Homicide Squad, "the kid was completely crisp on the outside but still tender on the inside. We got there just in time ... before he was overdone."
"We were very tempted to just add some seasoning and tuck in."
The death has led consumers groups to call for cooking timers to be installed in all family vehicles. The issue intensified late last week hen a 14 month old child was rescued from a black BMW which he'd been left in unattended by his parents in Dee Why.
Police were immediately called to the scene and arrived within minutes, breaking the car's windows to release the boy after a terrifying 10 minute ordeal. BMW has announced an inquiry into the incident. A company representative said that BMW was concerned that it took less han 15 minutes to break in to the car, and announced it would be improving the strength of its car windows.
The mother was angry about police involvement incident. "I can't believe they rescued the baby at the expense of that window. Both take nine months to replace, but you have to pay to replace the window. It'll ruin my no claim bonus."
by The Great Constitutional Swindle'
It appeared that Sam Griffith had performed a miracle. During Easter 1891 he had produced a document of remarkable lucidity. This, compared with the American federalists who met continuously for four months with only one adjournment, seemed unbelievable. Alfred Deakin wrote: "in every clause the measure bore the stamp of Samuel Griffith's patient and untiring handiwork, his terse, clear style and force of expression. The Bill as a whole speaks for itself. There are few even in the mother country or the United States who could have accomplished such a piece of draftsmanship with the same finish in the same time.
We now know that Griffith's miracle was due to the Tasmanian who was holed up in a Sydney hotel with the flu during the famous voyage of the Lucinda. Andrew Inglis Clark devised a seven part, 96 section draft "Bill for the federation of the Australian Colonies" and circulated it to select members of the Sydney constitutional convention in February 1891. Griffith received his copy in January. It was this draft that was the real foundation of the Australian constitution as we know it today. It was the raw material for the Lucinda editorial group; it gave the 1891 Sydney convention its importance and Sam Griffith his glory. Of Clark's 96 sections, 88 survived Sam Griffith and the Lucinda editorial process and 86 are recognisable in the current Australian constitution.
It is to Clark that contemporary scholars have turned to discover the meanings and ideals of the constitution, and they have not been disappointed. Clark was an Australian Jefferson, who, like the great American republican, fought for Australian independence; an autonomous judiciary; a wider franchise and lower property qualifications; fairer electoral boundaries; checks and balances between the judicature, legislature and executive; modern, liberal universities; and a Commonwealth that was federal, independent and based on natural rights. When Clark first stood for the House of Assembly he was attacked by the Hobart Mercury for holding extreme "ultra-republican", "revolutionary ideas". Clark's vision was of "an indestructible union of indestructible states" that preserved the autonomy of local regional life. He was a nation in which state and regional powers/interests were autonomous but compatible with those of a central government. This was to be achieved by a bicameral national parliament representing the people as a whole with state interests represented through a senate. A high court was to be established to guard and interpret the constitution, the division of national powers and to hear appeals from state courts and legislatures. This Australian court, not the privy council in England, was to be the place of last appeal.
Clark's knowledge of federalism, the division of powers, the role of the senate and the high court was superior to any of the leading constitutional thinkers, including Griffith, Barton and Deakin. His draft Bill was developed during a year of travel in 1890 when he visited England and the United States from May to November. It drew on the British North America Act  UK, the United States constitution, the Federal Council of Australasia Act  UK, and the Australian colonial constitutions. There is an element of 'the fitter' about Andrew Clark's Bill. As Helen Irving has written, it involved in handywork - was itself characteristically Australian." But more than this, Clark saw into the future; his ideas resonate more now than they did to his colleagues.
Throughout the constitutional conventions, Clark played a behind-the-scenes role and left the political running to Barton and Deakin. The 'stranger from Hobart' seemed almost purposefully to avoid the spotlight. The Sydney Morning Herald described him "as an active little man", but as he had missed the Lucinda editing voyage due to ill health, so too, for similar reasons, he missed the 1897 conventions, preferring to send written comments and suggestions.
Clark was sometimes annoyed by his colleagues' inability to grasp the substance of federalism and particularly the separation of powers. In the 1897 debate on the Commonwealth Bill in the Tasmanian House of Assembly, Clark told his colleague that after the 1891 convention, "he found that the Supreme Court of Australasia was not as he had made it in his original draft ... a permanent part of the constitution" but rather, "the creature of the Legislature of the day". Speaking of the blunder, Clark was reported as follows: "The Drafting Committee of the convention went for a picnic on the pleasure yacht, Lucinda, and while enjoying themselves they took it into their heads to tinker with the Bill and they altered all the clauses relating to the judicature ... and he took leave to say, messed it. The second convention (1897-98) had restored it to its right position.
Clark's non-appearance at the final constitutional conventions to support his suggestions - a provision to deal with deadlocks between the upper and lower houses of parliament, the Hare system for senate voting, the introduction of an Australian Bill of Rights provision into the constitution and the right of each State to appoint and dismiss its own governor - seems tragic. Even if these suggestions were too far ahead of the times and would not have been accepted, we would have gained more insight into Clark's vision for the country through the transcripts of the proceedings. Bernhard Wise put forward Clark's proposals at the 1897 Melbourne convention and spoke to them based on a memorandum from Clark. The convention failed to give its assent to any of them as debate became mired in technical detail.
Perhaps the most import of Clark's ideas - that of constitutionally enshrining the inalienable right that no man shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law along with other protections against state administrations - could not have been sustained in the Australia of the 1890s. Clark's notion of inalienable rights would have called into question Section 51, Clause Xavier, six, which provided for special laws and immigration standards on racial grounds. The same man who could write: "I am a believer in the fundamental rights of man was also in favour of racially-based immigration restrictions. Clark believed in the emergence of an Anglo-Australian ethnic community, which, was not only racially dissimilar to the "Asiatic" peoples, but was also distinct from his "homo-lingual kinsmen" in Britain, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. By restricting entry to immigrants on racial grounds, Clark believed, as did most Australians of his time that Australia could avert a "civil war" between white and "Asiatic" peoples, and, most importantly, that the purity of the Anglo-Australian ethnic community could be preserved. Such were the flaws in even the best of our founding constitutional writers and thinkers.
Controversially, Clark, the principal writer of the constitution, did not vote for federation at the 1898 referendum. He was not satisfied with the financial division of powers between the states and the Commonwealth because Tasmania, more than any other state, would be vulnerable to the Commonwealth takeover of customs and excise duties. He wanted the Commonwealth to agree to manage state debts in return for trading away the source of over 40 per cent of Tasmania's public revenue. History again favours Clark's judgement: with the passing of the Financial Agreement Act  C'wlth, the Commonwealth did indeed take over the management of state debt. Because of its small population and lack of bargaining power, no state gained more from central fiscal coordination and harmonisation than Tasmania.
But in these matters of principle, and in his shyness to appear at the constitutional conventions, Clark did not serve his own cause well. He did not receive the rewards of high office that fell to better known federalist peers such as Griffith, Barton and Deakin. Such is politics. With 100 years of reflection, however, we should give appropriate acknowledgement to Andrew Inglis Clark. His ideas, more than any other of his time, shaped the nation.
The internet is rapidly influencing the very nature of politics all over the world. But how much of politics has already been influenced by the internet? And what is likely to happen in Australia in the lead up to the next federal election?
The growth in the internet over the past few years has been phenomenal. The internet is already being used for voting in elections, making political donations, campaigning on issues and targeting voters.
According to the ABS, half of all Australian adults have accessed the internet over the past year and this proportion is increasing fast. More than 250 million people are connected to the internet around the world and there are over 10 million internet sites.
Every aspect of our lives is being changed by the internet. You can already trade shares, buy groceries, conduct banking, gamble in Monte Carlo, find out the latest news and weather, participate in real time discussions and video conferencing.
The ALP has often been at the cutting edge of new technology and campaign techniques. In fact the ALP first established a web presence in 1994, one month before the Democrats in the US. But a well maintained website is only scratching the surface when one looks at what is already possible.
Who would think that the fantastic spectacle that is the US primaries could have got more amazing? Well it did.
The primaries are where candidates run for the presidential nomination of their party by contesting ballots in states where they win delegates to their respective national conventions who vote for the candidate.
In December last year, the Arizona Democratic Party contracted a US company, Election.com, to run the world's first ever binding on line election.
The result was that almost 40,000 Arizonans cast their vote online from the closeted security of a computer console. This figure more than tripled the total number of votes cast during the last Arizona Democratic Primary in 1996.
The voting took place over 4 days with a mixture of online voting, postal voting and polling booth voting. Of the three options, nearly 80% chose the internet as their voting method.
For those who chose to vote online, a voter certificate and a PIN was sent out to all the registered Democrat voters. After each vote was cast, their PIN was "punched" so that they couldn't vote again. All in all, it took about 2 minutes.
Is this an option for Australian elections? Why not? Even if a conservative federal government doesn't leap into the information age, there is no reason why trade unions couldn't conduct their elections online. Perhaps not exclusively online, but members could be given an option to vote via a postal ballot or online.
Already in Australia, HSC and university exam results are available online. All a student has to do is type in their student number. Many people conduct banking and buy books online, how is voting any different?
What online voting does is make it easier for people to engage themselves in politics. For those countries without compulsory voting, it may significantly increase voter participation.
Who knows if web users are more likely to vote for the Coalition than the Labor Party, but such considerations will be minor as access to technology, particularly in public spaces, continues to increase.
One of the great inequalities that will emerge in the next few years will be between the information rich and the information poor. Access and affordable access to the internet will be a major policy challenge for politicians in this decade.
That is one reason why it is essential that Telstra remain in majority public ownership. Private telecommunications companies will not invest in remote regional areas to develop communications infrastructure. This is where Telstra can correct a market failure. The $2 billion profits earned each year can be used to roll out internet access all over Australia.
Some commentators doubt the effectiveness of the internet as a mass campaign tool, but few would deny that well targeted email campaigns can be highly effective. Campaigners sending unsolicited email to voters will damage their cause. Email campaigns (not spampaigns) targeted to voters as part of an overall web presence can, however, be an election winner.
In the 1998 US Minnesota gubernatorial race, former wrestler Jesse Ventura relied heavily on email to organise thousands of people all over the state. He advertised his website and was able to compile a 3,000 member index of potential voters and volunteers. Daily emails was sent to voters (who registered) and they were encouraged to send it on to their friends, follow the campaign on his web site, and to participate in an online discussion forum on particular issues. Ventura is now the Governor of Minnesota.
But what is in store for Australia? During the 1998 federal election, all major parties had web sites with news and information updated daily. The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald hosted special election websites with updates by the half hour. The ABC had a similar web presence. By the next federal election we can expect this and much more.
Each candidate in every seat will be expected to have a web presence. Email, online chats, discussion groups and more will be a regular aspect of day-to-day campaigning. Advertising political messages on popular sites such as Yahoo, news sites and banking will be an effective way of reaching voters.
Raising funds online will also be an important campaign tool. US politician Bill Bradley raised over $500 million through his web site in his failed presidential run. Log on now to Tony Blair's Labour Party or the Democratic Party in the US and you can donate any sum of money online with a credit card.
In the not too distant future, families will be able to watch digital television, go shopping, surf the internet and download movies from you local video store all without leaving your favorite lounge room chair. The new Sony Playstation console released in Japan weeks ago has internet access which you can enjoy with a remote control or game joystick.
Former Clinton pollster Dick Morris predicts that the internet (or Fifth Estate as he calls it) will usher in a new form of direct democracy which will represent the triumph of the people's politics over the power of the press and broadcast media.
The internet offers each candidate the opportunity to bypass the mainstream media and target voters directly. No longer will voters have to rely on reports by journalists to find out information about a candidate or their policies. The voters can go straight to the candidates web site with the click of a few buttons and find out for themselves what their position is.
Morris predicts one future scenario when you will be able to log onto a candidates web site and talk directly with a video image of the candidate and ask questions and counter questions on many different issues in a sort of virtual reality meeting. People will know that they are not talking to the real person, but the candidates answers and words are theirs as they have programmed in perhaps hundreds of different responses to a variety of questions.
What is possible on the internet is only limited by our imagination.
It has previously been written that the last time that a medium transformed world politics was in 1960. That medium was of course television, and the key event was the presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon broadcast live to a national audience. Many say that Kennedy won that debate and the election because he mastered this new medium and skillfully projected himself and his ideas through the television to a captive electorate.
Like the emergence of television in the 1960s, the internet in the 21st century will continue to transform politics in every possible way.
Troy Bramston is the President of NSW Young Labor. Troy will be online to chat about this piece in Virtual Trades Hall at 1pm this Tuesday
My team was been written off as has-beens. Probably never-were-going-to-be's. All the pundits said it. No Plugger, no Paul Kelly, no Swans. Huh! Two weeks into the season and two from two - and both away from home. OK, This doesn't mean a flag, but eating Crow for the pre-season experts could be on the cards.
Last week I went to Mexico for our first game of the year. It was at the World's Most Modern Arena - Docklands Stadium. I'm not going to call it by it its corporate name because the machinations of high finance will probably cause a name change in the near future. "Which Stadium", perhaps?
I have to say that I was impressed with the facilities, although there were a few things I wasn't overly enthusiastic about. First, they only sold light beer. Next, a bottle of mineral water cost $2.70. Also, the door we had been walking out of all night to have a smoke was closed when the game was over. That meant we had to battle the multitudes on the way out. There was one other slight concern. After every goal had been scored the punters stamped their feet on the floor. The bloody thing shook. The floor that is. I'm sure it's over engineered and perfectly safe, but it was a minor concern. Minor quibbles, perhaps, and mostly administrative. Funny about that.
So, what of the year to come? Well, as I said, the Swans have confounded the doom sayers, for the moment. A win in Perth, over the West Coast Eagles, is regarded as being as good as two. That makes them three wins from two. The crystal ball shines with optimism. I only hope complacency doesn't, yet again, set in and become a problem.
West Coast started with a blinder against the reigning premiers, North Melbourne - Kangaroos, if you insist - and everyone was talking about a return to the glory years. That lasted for a week. Age may not weary them, but a lot of old legs may make them sort of there-abouts again.
North. Two loses on the trot! They started that way last year and still won the flag. But back to back premierships are hard to come by, and, along with that, losing appearances in the pre-season comp final usually spell doom in the main game. Let history be right. Also, the World's Greatest Ever Sportsman - Wayne Carey - has had a couple of shockers. Long live the king. Long live the Barry Crockers.
Essendon. History, once again, intervenes. Pre-season comp grand final wins rarely translate to successful seasons when it really counts. Another one point loss in a preliminary final? Yes please. If they make it that far. They have the air of invincibility about them, so they say. These tags tend to make teams believe the hype. And when that happens......
Brisbane? The Roy Boys, (in honour of their merger with Fitzroy), loom ominously large. But I suspect they may have the old Queensland Sheffield Shield problem: "Maybe this year". Next year the same, I hope.
Carlton are trying to prove last years Grand Final appearance was no fluke. Even though they, and everybody else, know it was. They will be competitive, but President John "Pig's Arse" Eliot (who cares how you spell his name) will be drinking VB on his own.
Footscray, aka Western Bulldogs. Another scratchy season? Well that's what the allegations say. Another almost-made-it-year, says the trusty crystal ball.
Adelaide have a new coach and their first pick ruckman is back this year. They also seem to lack a forward line structure. You need to kick a score to beat the opposition. The head says be wary, very wary. The heart they will be around about there, but not quite. The heart wins.
Their mortal enemies and neighbours, Port Adelaide, are pretenders rather than contenders. They tend to drag the opposition down to their level and bore them into submission. Another finals campaign? Perhaps. But, if they get there, it won't go far.
Going further west, Fremantle have had a shock win. Perhaps this will inspire them to greater things. Perhaps. I reckon the cellar still beckons, but they may not be as bad as many make out. Could be a bit of a "Smokey".
Back to the southern climes. St Kilda started badly and will finish badly. A few performances in the mid season could save coach Little Timmy Watson from being shown the door before the end of the year, but the option of renewing the contract may not be taken by the club. Poor old Timmy will be scratching his head looking for what's left of his hair, and his perennial under achievers will move on to other clubs, if anyone else will have them.
Richmond, another dose of under achievement. Another new coach, but may survive the historic revolving door. The Tigers have had more coaches the Manchester United have had strip changes. No consistency, no success.
Hawthorn also have a new coach, and two loses from two. Young, and still rebuilding. They seem to be a long way from regaining their glorious past. Geelong - new coach. They will win a few, and maybe even some at home! The crystal ball fogs over when I ask where they will finish up at the end of the year, but I will be tipping against them more often than not.
Melbourne are Melbourne and back to their mediocre best. That is, at best they will get out of the bottom four. No new coach, and no hope. An unremarkable player list and an attitude that says put down the glasses. For all the wrong reasons. They will be so far behind you won't be able to see them OK, they beat North Melbourne, but so what?
And the that leaves Collingwood. Yes, new coach. Yes, two wins to start the season. Yes, the Colliwobles will set in. Their fans are already seeing glory and will once again be disappointed.
Well, that leaves me with six months to wipe off the egg. I expect minor changes to the top eight and live in hope that the Swans will break the drought. See you in Mexico in September. I will be the one singing "Cheer, Cheer, the Red and the White". Onwards to victory.
The forums, titled "The Bald Truth, Politics in the Information Age" were held at Sydney University, UNSW, UTS and UWS, organised by the National Union of Students and promoted by labour clubs across the factions.
The forums were lively and challenging and drew out the perceptions of the labour movement which are held by students. With the "Latte set" on Sydney more interested talking about "neo-liberalism" and the "short blacks" on UTS more interested in "rockin' the revolution" then over to the "Blend 45's" at UWS wanting to know what a union will do for them, it led to interesting discussions and debate and showed the definite political and cultural divides that exist between the campus'.
Discussion was varied and entertaining at UTS & Sydney we had the International Socialist Organisation lecturing Costa on how the Teachers Dispute is not about wages and conditions but however an ideological battle by the teachers to emancipate the worker class and lead them to a glorious workers paradise and of course Resistance poked out its head to see what their former comrade had to say.
However there was genuine interest and debate on the way forward for the movement. Questions were asked about the accord and would any future ALP government would rehash it and what the union's response would be, a lot of discussions also focused on the Organising Strategy and if its was a rebirth of "militancy" within the movement? The Victorian Building Workers campaign for a shorter working week was also discussed at length.
Costa also spoke on the way forward for the ALP. Students asked Costa of his opinion on the "Third Way" ideology currently being espoused by Mark Latham and the British Labour Party as well as the future of factions.
Participants in the forums explained their frustrations with unions and also gave good feedback about what they believe could be areas in which the unions could improve.
If there is a lesson to be learnt from the campus sojourn it is that if unions are to increase membership we need to continue to reach out to all sections of the community to gauge what the general feeling about the movement is.
Whilst there will always be a section of the community who are anti-Union surveys have shown that the vast majority of workers support trade unions however with Union membership at 28% and still declining support is obviously not translating into membership and that is our challenge for the next period.
Paul Howes works in the Union Shop
It was a Monarchist's wet dream - the defender of the realm gets to deliver Australia back to his monarch after slaying the Republican infidel.
It was all planned out to perfection - the trip through the regions, where support is deemed the highest, steering clear of the republican strongholds of Sydney and Melbourne.
But wait, something's wrong - the Queen starts talking about the sort of issues that make Johnnie uncomfortable and decidedly unrelaxed- like reconciliation and multiculturalism.
She starts sounding more like that mad, modern G-G of her's, Wild Billy Dean, than the Menzian fairy princess frozen in the 1950s who Howard fought so passionately for.
It's true. In her visit, the Queen has shown the sort of heart that Howard has never been able to muster from the cavern where there should be a soul.
Freed of protocol you could imagine her making the formal apology that Howard says isn't necessary -- just like the Pope has done recently on behalf of the Catholic Church for everything from the Crusades to its silence during the Holocaust.
While Howard has spent much of the week one step behind HRH, in attitudes, outlook and downright class, he's light-years behind.
It's been that sort of weird, surreal visit - a conservative figure preaching progressive values - raising challenging issues for Monarchist and Republican alike by failing to fit stereotype..
In embarrassing Howard this week, the Queen has clearly illustrated why we need a meaningful symbol.
While , Howard might not like her message, this has raised just as many headaches for the Republican cause.
The Queen's consummate states-womanship has placed the onus clearly on Republicans to give shape to the sort of national symbol which they propose should replace the monarchy.
It's a factor that should feed into the ongoing debate between the Minimalist republicans and the Direct Electionists . Do we want our head of state exercising power, like the US President, or exercising influence through moral authority, like the Queen.
Rather than trashing the Queen personally, Republicans need to focus on what value she fills as our head of State - and her performance this week provides ample material to work with.
One thing's for sure, it's going to take more than a bunch of long-winded over-achievers talking about apron strings to carry that argument.
Check out the Toolshed.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005