NSW Industrial Relations Minister Jeff Shaw told Workers Online that he would reintroduce defeated parts of the 1996 Act if he was convinced there was a chance they would be passed.
"If I were persuaded that there was a reasonable chance of getting a measure through, I would do it," he said.
Shaw sited provisions giving union officials access to wages records and provisions for encouraging union membership in enterprise agreemetns as candidates for a second look.
Describing his second term industrial relations agenda as "essentially a fine-tuning exercise," Shaw said the lack of interest in industrial relations was a vindication of his consensual model.
But he said that commitments to redressing gender pay equity and acting on the recommendations of a Law Reform Commission report into workplace privacy would ensure the government continued an activist agenda.
Shaw said he hoped a second term Carr Government, would place "a greater emphasis on social justice, on equality and on the free society."
"I think it's now a government which is more experienced and more self-confident and less likely to be buffeted by day to day media pressures," he said.
"I think the pressures for extreme caution are probably less in a second term, particularly if we have a solid win."
See the full ALP Industrial Relations Policy and interview with Jeff Shaw in the Features section.
One is a hardline grab from the Nationals, the other is a few pages pulled out of a Chikka speech.
Journalists seeking details of the Coalition's official industrial relations policy were faxed a three-page extract from a speech Kerry Chikarovski delivered to a business audience in the opening days of the campaign.
The document makes a series of specific undertakings without any unifying vision for industrial relations beyond a commitment to make it "more flexible" and to allow employers to negotiate "directly with their staff".
Commitments, as they are, include:
- providing a mechanism to cut unions out of enterprise agreements (although this is already there).
- abolishing unfair dismissal laws to place onus on the complainant (although this is already the case).
- establishment of an employment ombudsmen with totally undefined powers.
Tacked on the end is an extract from a separate policy document called "More Jobs, More Choices", which pledges to resurrect the discredited and ineffectual Building Industry Task Force.
The big unanswered question is whether these policy clippings over-ride the more substantial document released by George Souris back in February.
This was the speech where the National party leader uttered the immortal line: "it's time to reform industrial relations in favour of the employer."
That policy listed all the standards of hardcore labour market deregulation as well as aspects of Reith's proposed next wave like secret ballots before strike action and bars on donations to political parties.
At the time, a pressured Chikarovski, endorsed the Nationals crazy plan to avoid headlines of another Coalition split.
Where this leaves the Coalition's industrial relations policy is anyone's guess, although our bet is that they would bring in legislation mirroring the Workplace relations Act quicker than you could say "you're just a puppet of Reithy".
AMWU assistant national secretary Dave Oliver says the idea is a response to the shift from long-term permanent jobs to more precarious employment within the manufacturing industry.
"Workers who do not have long-term job security are losing many of the benefits the union movement has won, such as long service leave," he says.
"We want to set up a mechanism to allow workers who have put in ten years service, even if it is to several employers, to be able to take a decent break.
The scheme would also be available to employees of labour hire firms, who could then access annual leave from a central point.
The intiative is based on the NSW Construction Industry Long Service Leave scheme, but will be run by a private fund manager rather than the government.
Under the proposal, the fund manager would levy employers for long service leave and then invest it, so that LSL could be paid at the furture rate, even if it was paid at a lower rate at the time.
Profits above the LSL payments could then be invested back into the manufacturing sector for job-creating projects.
The AMWU also believes the fund could also provide a mechanism for protecting workers entitlements when a firm collapses, often leaving employees with no accrued leave or redundancy payments.
And it would provide a model for unions in other industries grappling with the implications of casual and part-time work.
"The trust scheme would also address many of the concerns about the insecurity of employee entitlements in cases of insolvency," Oliver says
Following on the heels of a series of bank mergers which transformed that industry into one of overwork and precarious employment, the mergers of big insurance firms like FAI and HIH is seen as the start of a similar process.
Already employers in an industry which has been characterised by secure, full-time jobs are employing more part-time and casual workers.
And with big unions like that proposed by AMP and GIO on the horizon, the Finance Sector Union fears large-scale job cuts are on the agenda.
FSU assistant secretary Kirsty Campbell told Workers Online the union was working with its membership to resist the excesses that accompanied the mergers in the banking sector.
"All mergers are about economies of scale," she said. "They're a cost cutting exercise which places the interests of the shareholder above that of the staff and the general public.
"We've seen the effect of mergers and takeovers with banks, with closures, queues and higher charges. The insurance industry has a very big challenge ahead. That challenge is how to address the needs of staff and customers in the face of the demands of shareholders."
The FSU is mobilising to meet the merger challenge, helped by their own integration of banking and insurance sections.
"I think a lot of the lessons learned during the bank mergers will be helpful in the insurance sector too," Campbell said.
As a first step, the FSU is looking at its own performance and has released the results of independent polling of insurance workplaces conducted in February which highlights the Union's high profile, but indicates more organisation is needed.
Key results included:
- 75 per cent of insurance workers surveyed believe that most or everybody is aware of the FSU
- 78 per cent had recently seen a bulletin from the Union
- but only 52 per cent were sure they had an FSU rep in their workplace.
"The survey results confirmed that we need to organise on the ground more in insurance," said Campbell, who has primary responsibility for insurance workplaces.
The results demonstrated a demand for more workplace visits by FSU Officials (47%) and for more written information (55%) - results the Union will act on.
"It certainly backs up our decision to provide more resources for insurance organising, and we are already seeing the results." says Kirsty.
Among recent wins are new commitments from GIO to job security protections and to enterprise bargaining - commitments which have taken years to secure.
None of this is news to GIO employee, Robert Mills: "Given the massive changes in our industry, the best way to protect my job and conditions was to get organised with other FSU members. We got the backup from the Union office, and it has made a real difference."
The survey also showed a wide range of insurance employees joined the Union, and that attitudes towards the FSU were similar across ages, salaries and lengths of service. The survey will be repeated in May to test the impact of new communication and service strategies.
Staff fear that Australian Associated Press wants to turn their wire reporters into jacks-of-all-trades and believe that with current low staffing levels, the increased duties would compromise the quality of their work.
But management says that it must move towards a multi-media news service in an evolutionary way if it is to match other major media outlets like Fairfax, News and the ABC.
The journalists were asked to trial the digital technology for no extra pay, as part of a plan to establish a major new Internet provider.
According to AAP management the introduction of technology will not see a large increase in skills and workload required. They say the digital cameras, for instance, are merely a point and click affair.
But the journalists argue the idea is impractical, especially if they are also attempting to take short-hand at a press conferences. A national ballot of MEAA members rejected the proposal at stop work meetings this week and called on the company to hire photographers to generate the pictorial content.
AAP Editor-in-Chief Tony Vermeer told Workers Online that the company would continue to work towards an expanded Internet service and
"There are obviously concerns we've got to work through, but the issues we are dealing with won't go away; we need to come to grips with this new technology
by Zoe Reynolds
The 40 kids have gone without since the old clubhouse was burnt down during an arson attack a year ago. So club supporter Martin Doherty thought something fireproof might be the best bet. He contacted the union and organiser Glen Wood began the search for a suitable container.
Finding and discarding a few battered old specimens around the cities dockyards, he eventually found a beauty -- it even had windows. But it belonged to P&O. While eyeball to eyeball at the negotiating table wrangling over their enterprise agreement, the Maritime Union and P&O Ports decided to cooperate and help out the kids.
Glen approached P&O terminal manager, White Bay, Jeff Diggle, who agreed to donate the container. Next problem was how to move the 2.5 tonne box. P&O has a haulage company out at Botany. Diggle suggested Wood give David Howe a call. Hearing the container was going to the kids at La Perouse, Howe agreed to donate a swing lift truck to get it there.
"It's an excellent example of unions and employers working together in the best interests of a community project," said MUA Branch Secretary Robert Coombs.
"We always try to help good community causes and this time we were grateful to be able to do something because the people involved with the club backed us last year during the waterfront dispute."
The Maritime Union has a long history of support for Aboriginal Australians, including the La Perouse community. In 1956 the Seamen's wives committee raised funds from ships' crew nationwide to help set up the first club for children at La Perouse. They bought tables, chairs, blackboards, footballs, dolls and a rocking horse.
Over the years both wharfies and seafarers have thrown parties on the docks and ships for outback mission children, funded scholarships for Aborigines to attend university and given their support to equal pay campaigns like the stockmen's strike for equal pay in 1966.
In 1971 wharfies made world headlines after donating $10,000 to the Gurindji land rights claim. And each year the MUA donates around $5,000 towards Sydney's Tranby (Aboriginal) College.
The comprehensive survey on the impact of increased working hours, casualisation and job insecurity on working life has been distributed to all affiliates. A copy of the survey is linked to this article.
The ACTU's media officer Clare Curran say she plans to compile a sector-by-sector analysis of the issues to develop theme's for the Work/Time/Life campaign which has been endorsed by the ACTU executive.
The information will be used to help formulate industrial, political and media campaigns around the issue.
"We recognise there is no one size fits all approach to this problem," Curran says.
"We're trying to find out which issues are resonating in particular industries and then coming up with appropriate responses."
Curran hopes unions will use their organiser and delegate structures to get the survey out and about; with responses due in by mid-April.
"It's not just valuable information for the ACTU," she says, "it's also a good reason for unions to go into workplaces and talk to members and prospective members."
Click here to print out and complete the survey.
Pallas told Workers Online he had taken leave without pay until the election, expected any time after June this year, to fill the position of Chief-of-Staff to the new Labor leader.
He says his move is indicative of the entire Labor movement rallying around efforts to reclaim government in Victoria.
"The reason the ACTU allowed me to go was that the election of a Labor Government in Victoria is one of the most effective things that the trade union movement can do right now."
The move occurs against the backdrop of trade union antagonism towards former leader John Brumby, which culminated in a walk-out by some union officials during the ALP State Conference last month.
Pallas says he was enjoying the new challenge. "It's an entirely different environment," he says. "It's very much political, greater emphasis on the day to day thrust of politics with a range of issues that are of critical importance for unions."
They have written to SCLC president Mike Dwyer citing alleged irregularities in the voting process and requesting that a fresh ballot be run.
Supporters of CPSU official Arthur Rorris walked out of the ballot on Wednesday night, claiming irregularities including the credentialing of voters.
While Matters is claiming is victory, the Rorris camps says there's a long way to go before the issue is resolved.
Matters wouldn't discuss the allegations with Workers Online.
"I'm pleased to be re-elected as secretary of the South Coast Labor Council and I'll be working very hard over the next term," he said.
We the inhabitants of this land
bonded and woven by the mateship of
blokes and sheilas, meat pies and Holden cars
Commonwealth Bank and Telstra shares
And from countries near and far
generation upon generation
guided here with hope in God
to this land of sun and surf
cossies and mozzies, sunnies and minis
Free to be proud of the great Aussie salute
to our pollies and dollies, dagos and nimbies
and in this spirit we commit ourselves
and the generations to come
to this great island continent and nation
Hey Eds: what about a competition to help Howard improve his mateship preamble!
Eds Reply: Why not - give us your preamble. We'll think of a prize after Easter!
If you want to make sure you're hiring a real worker when you plan your next function, contact Megan Elliott at the MEAA.
More airing of Generation X isues is good.
What about incentives to baby boomers to job share/mentor young ones. Also early retirement options for over35-40s
My area of interest is Labour Law. I am doing a research paper on the lact of preventative laws regarding to industries such as 24 convenience stores, petrol stations, etc.
I came across your site, and maybe you have info about your business and its lack of preventative laws, procedures, etc.
If you can give me a case study of your ideas eg; a particular incident that led to a death or injury which could have been avoided by proposals you indorse, that could be helpul to me.
by Peter Lewis
A week out from the state election, how do you think it's going?
It will all depend on the marginals; its a question of whether Labor can win a few seats. I think people will see that Labor has actually achieved some substantial reforms over the last few years and I think the public are too sceptical to accept as whole raft of promises from the opposition.
Industrial relations hasn't exactly been at the forefront of the campaign, but in your time in the electorate, has it been resonating with people?
In a sense the fact that its not a major issue is a vindication of the state system. It's been quietly devolving, quietly doing good things for industries, small and large business and the workforce. Our state system has kept the peace. I'd be worried if state industrial relations was on the front pages of the papers because that would mean that there was conflict and strive. The consensual underpinning of the state system has meant that its a quiet issue. There's even a quote from the shadow minister around saying the state system is working pretty well. I believe that's correct.
If you win a second term what would be the main things you'd want to achieve in industrial relations?
I'll think there'll be more significant test cases adding to the rights of workers, but allowing employers to undertake reform at the workplace. I think the spotlight will be on the interaction between casual, full-time and part-time work and an effort to improve the balance by boosting the growth of permanent part-time work, which obviously gives workers entitlements to sick leave, maternity leave and the like.
But what real impact can a state government have on what is basically a global issue --the breakdown of the notion of the permanent job?
I think we can encourage part-time work to the detriment of casual work. I think that would particularly benefit the female workforce. It's true we're buffeted by pressures of a global nature for more flexible work arrangements, but there's no reason why these more flexible work arrangements can't carry with them greater rights to things like sick leave and maternity leave. There's also the issue of greater security of employment; the part-time worker is engaged through an ongoing contract, the casual worker is employed from day to day.
The Labor Council in planning a job security test case later on this year, what would be a Carr Government's attitude to that sort of case?
Certainly the statutory framework we have and strengthened position of the independent Industrial Relations Commission in NSW, enables this sort of test case to be brought. And if the Labor Council brings it, we'll give due to consideration to the claims that are made. My inclination would be to positively support moves to more secure employment and moves away from the insecure forms of casual employment. But obviously we'd need to see the precise claims and the arguments brought by the trade union movement before finalising a position.
What about broader ideas like mobile entitlements, which already occur in the building industry with long service leave?
That should certainly be explored. We'd obviously be cautious about imposing any costs on business which made NSW less competitive than other states, but in a cautious way we can work with employers and the trade union movement to explore moves of that kind.
One of your big achievements in your first term was the limits you placed on video surveillance in the workplace. You've got a Law Reform Commission report looking into the broader issues of privacy and unions are particularly interested in the issue of electronic surveillance. Where's that up to and what can we expect from it?
The Law Reform Commission report will look at privacy considerations generally, both in the workplace and beyond it. It will take account of other technologies that may be used. It will be available in the next couple of months and obviously we can reconsider our legislation in the light of that report. But it's important to note that we're the only state that's moved to give any protections to workplaces so far; and I say that without any disrespect to the Labor governments in Queensland and Victoria -- they may well be working on such a project and they haven't been in office very long. But it is good to be leading the way in this area -- and with a reasonable degree of employer cooperation.
Are the other Labor states talking to you about bringing in IR systems that reflect the spirit of the NSW Act?
Queensland is in close touch, and they're looking very favourably at the NSW model. They've got Professor Ron McCallum working on their model and I met with the Queensland industrial relations minister recently and there's no doubt that the NSW system will be a significant influence on their thinking.
One of the things that was talked about when the NSW Act came in was the expectation that some federal workers would move to the state system. Why hasn't occurred?
I think the legal difficulties of moving out of the federal system are so great that it's a real problem that would require very significant legal resources for the trade union involved to do that. There would also be employer resistance, so you could expect a fully fought out case in the federal jurisdiction before any federal award were modified or rescinded,. There are other problems such as the relationships between NSW branches of unions and their federal office. understandable enough, the federal office would generally be resistant to the idea of breaking up the federal award structure. So, I never regarded the test of the NSW system as whether or not there would be some flood from the federal system into NSW. I think there are other more sophisticated tests of how the system's working, particularly the user satisfaction, which I believe is very high.
Whatever the outcome of the election, it looks like another hung Upper House. In terms of IR legislation how much of a difficulty has that been for you?
It was a hard battle to get the major model through and some aspects were defeated, for example the right of entry of trade union officers was diluted and the moderate provision we had for preference for trade union members in enterprise agreements was defeated. Other aspects of the legislation were modified. But at the end of the process we got a model that I think we could all live with and perhaps the employers were to some extent placated by some of the Upper House amendments. My legislative program in the second term would be essentially a fine-tuning program which I think will be broadly supported, so I believe that the Upper House, or at least a majority, would be persuaded to undertake an evolutionary approach to the 1996 Act.
Would you consider bowling up any parts of the Act that got knocked off in 1996 if there were a change in the composition of the Upper House?
If I were persuaded that there was a reasonable chance of getting a measure through, I would do it. Certainly in terms of access by trade union officers to wages records, there's room for improvement in the legislation there and room to revise the Upper House amendments. There may be other areas as well where it's worth reconsidering parts of the NSW legislation. But it's dependent on the political realities of the upper House and, frankly, we're not going to know that for quite some weeks.
Unions are trying to formulate a new conception, not of preference, but of encouraging union membership in the workplace, would that be something you'd be happy to look at?
Yes. Provisions facilitating union membership in enterprise agreements is an item worth considering.
On a broader level, what would you like to see being the themes and directions of a second Carr Labor Government?
I think a stronger focus on social justice, on equality and on the free society. I think it's now a government which is more experienced and more self-confident and less likely to be buffeted by day to day media pressures. I think the pressures for extreme caution are probably less in a second term, particularly if we have a solid win.
So you're optimistic that if there's a solid win there'll be more of an opportunity to get some good things done?
I'm optimistic that in the areas of law reform and industrial relaitons we can do some more good things, we can build on the achievements of the first term and that the government will be encouraged if NSW, in a difficult election, sticks to a Labor Government.
Working together for a secure, fair and productive future
The industrial relations system developed by the Carr Labor Government stands in stark contrast to the Howard/Reith model supported by the NSW Opposition.
In 1995, the Carr Government brought employers and employees together to develop a system where conflict is minimised and reforms can be achieved quickly and effectively to meet changing work conditions. Guaranteed minimum conditions and family friendly practices are built into agreements.
The NSW industrial relations system enjoys the support of the majority of employers and employees. In February this year, the Coalition agreed: "The state system ... has the support of most employers and the support of the labour movement, and by and large, it's delivered good results for the people of New South Wales. " (NSW Opposition industrial relations spokesman, Chris Hartcher ABC radio, 8/2/99).
Industrial disputes are at record lows with only 67 days lost per 1,000 workers, below the national average of 71 days. In the 12 months to October, 1998 Victoria which handed over its system to the Howard Government recorded the worst record in Australia, losing 130 days per 1,000 workers due to strikes.
At a time of great change in the workforce, NSW has the most stable and responsive system in the country.
Despite the recent public endorsement of the Carr Government's industrial relations achievements, the NSW Opposition will either hand over our system to the Federal Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Peter Reith or replicate his laws in NSW.
This has been the Opposition's consistent position. They have promised to abolish the NSW industrial relations system and strip back conditions. To quote the Opposition in Parliament when the Carr Government was introducing its industrial relations laws: "Australia should adopt a single integrated industrial relations system ... The Coalition parties are opposed to this legislation; the Coalition parties will resist this legislation; and, upon attaining office in 1999, the Coalition parties will repeal this legislation." (Hansard, 4/6/96). Despite their recent statements to the contrary, a NSW Coalition government would:
Dismantle employment rights.
Remove the minimum conditions set by the Industrial Relations Act 1996 which prevent employees being disadvantaged by enterprise bargaining.
Limit the powers of the Industrial Relations Commission so that it cannot function effectively as an independent umpire.
Ignore equal rights for women.
End the unprecedented harmony achieved in NSW between employers and employees.
Our community will find itself suffering from an increase in social dislocation with a widening gap between "the haves" and "have nots" and the creation of a working underclass.
The Industrial Relations Act 1996
Labor's Industrial Relations Act 1996 is the cornerstone of industrial relations in NSW.
On gaining office, Labor repealed the Greiner Government's 1991 Act which was condemned by employers and employees as highly legalistic and technical which led to a gross waste of resources on appeals and points of law.
The 1991 Act resulted in ineffectual enterprise agreements and the removal of basic award rights and minimum standards.
The Labor Government brought together the peak employer and employee groups and after extensive consultation introduced a new, practical, broadly supported industrial relations model.
The tripartite approach has been the foundation of industrial relations harmony in NSW and has the support of the majority of employer and employee bodies.
Links enterprise agreements with the award system.
Applies the "no net detriment" test which ensures no enterprise agreement can, in the aggregate, deliver worse pay and conditions than the relevant award.
Requires that awards be reviewed at least every three years to ensure they remain relevant, fair and flexible.
Ensures an active role for an independent Industrial Relations Commission (IRC).
Eliminates excessive legalism.
Encourages a non adversarial approach with greater emphasis on conciliation and agreement.
Integrates the Industrial Court with the IRC so that a single, cost effective and independent commission is able to deal with questions of law, enforcement, conciliation and arbitration in one proceeding, eliminating excessive litigation.
Allows for an effective system of sanctions for breach of agreements or awards with the imposition of penalties as a last resort.
Working in partnership
The Industrial Relations Consultative Committee (IRCC) is the peak consultative body which advises on industrial relations in NSW. The committee meets regularly so that employer and employee concerns are constantly monitored and reforms can be introduced when required.
The IRCC is chaired by the Minister for Industrial Relations and has representatives from the major employer and employee groups.
The Industrial Relations Act 1996 and the IRCC are the key to NSW's harmonious and flexible industrial relations environment. The overwhelming majority of employer and employee groups support the NSW industrial relations system. They agree that there should be decent minimum standards of wages and conditions and an independent umpire (the NSW Industrial Relations Commission) with sufficient powers to properly resolve industrial disputes.
Work and family strategies
In March 1996, the Carr Labor Government established the Women's Equity Bureau to investigate the pay and conditions of women workers and to develop strategies to ensure family friendly workplaces.
The foundation of the work and family strategy is the IR Act 1996 which allows for innovative enterprise bargaining.
Since the introduction of the Act, nearly 25 percent of enterprise agreements have contained:
Changes to core working hours.
Flexible starting and finishing times conducive to caring for children and/or elderly or sick family members.
Job sharing under the part time provisions of the Act.
Return to work on a negotiated part time basis for women returning from maternity leave.
Employer sponsored child care.
Working from home when a family member is ill.
In Labor's 1995 document, Industrial Relations Policy for the 1990s, the government made a commitment to eliminate the wage gap between male and female workers and make sex based discrimination in over award conditions unlawful.
The Carr Government's 1996 Act removes deficient and outmoded equal pay provisions. The idea of "equal pay", which previously focused only on rates of pay, was broadened to incorporate all forms of remuneration.
The Industrial Relations Commission must now ensure that awards provide for equal remuneration and conditions of employment where the work being undertaken is of equal or comparable value.
To achieve further progress towards pay equity, the government created a taskforce to investigate the factors associated with undervaluation of women's skills and equitable access to all forms of remuneration. It brought together experts from a variety of employment areas, including senior representatives of peak industrial organisations, public sector agencies and experts in the field of women's pay. The principal recommendation of the taskforce was that the Minister make a reference to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission on work value.
In November, 1997, the Carr Government requested the Industrial Relations Commission to conduct an inquiry into equal pay. The commission's recently released pay equity report endorsed the Act's ability to deal with equal pay and supported the central role of the IRC with evidence clearly establishing that centralised industrial systems narrow the pay gap between men and women.
The Commission found that remedying long standing undervaluation of women's work will not damage the economy. Indeed, it found that removing discriminatory pay rates on a case by case basis will produce positive economic outcomes for women and the broader community and could reduce reliance on welfare support.
To quote from Her Honour Justice Glynn's findings: there will be a better allocation of resources in the economy which is likely to lead to higher levels of productivity ... such an outcome is in the interests of everyone, including employers." (vol. 1, p7 1).
The Report found that there was significant undervaluation of remuneration in female dominated occupations and industries. The Report and its recommendations strongly endorsed the framework of the NSW Industrial Relations Act 1996 for its ability to deal with equal remuneration.
Privacy at work
The Carr Labor Government introduced the Workplace Video Surveillance Act 1998 prohibiting secret taping of employees in the workplace without court authorisation.
Secret video surveillance is only legal where employers receive authority from a magistrate who is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to suspect one or more employees are engaged in an unlawful activity.
The NSW Law Reform Commission is conducting a broad ranging inquiry into privacy and electronic surveillance and further reform in this area will be guided by the report.
The National Occupational Health and Safety Commission says more people die as a result of workplace injury or illness than on the roads.
The Carr Government has recognised the human and economic costs of unsafe work practices and worked in partnership with industry to encourage safe work,
The Carr Labor Government has:
Doubled maximum penalties for breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1983, from $250,000 to $500,000.
Increased the number of safety inspectors from 254 to 270.
Established industry specific work safety policies.
Launched NSW's first work safety advertising campaign.
Established an Upper House enquiry into occupational health and safety.
Doubled fines and included imprisonment for compensation fraud.
Established the Workers Compensation Advisory Council (peak employer and employee groups) when it was discovered, on gaining office that the Workers Compensation Scheme had suffered a nearly $1 billion blow out in costs under the then Minister for Industrial Relations, Mrs Kerry Chikarovski.
Reversed the run down in cashflow with the scheme now experiencing a $215 million surplus cash flow and assets of approximately $5 billion.
Established the workers compensation resolution service to reduce litigation resulting in substantial savings to the scheme.
As with the IR Act 1996, achieved extraordinary consensus with employers and employees as evidenced by the joint press release issued in January, 1999 by the Employers' Federation and the Labor Council expressing support for the government's reforms to workers compensation.
Dust Diseases Legislation
In November, 1998, the Carr Government introduced historic legislation for dust disease sufferers which:
Lifted the bar on general damages being payable to a deceased claimant's families.
Dispensed with the need to take evidence from gravely III people before they die.
Minimised litigation by allowing evidence to be used in multiple hearings.
The legislation was hailed by the Asbestos Disease Foundation of Australia who described it as an "historic victory". The president, Ms Ella Sweeney said: "This will mean the end to bed side hearings with victims of mesothelioma, thus the last few weeks of their life will be spent with their loved ones as it should be. They can now know their families will be looked after when they're gone."
Approximately 120 people die from asbestosis and mesothelioma each year. The disease typically has a long latency period 20 years is not unusual and once diagnosed there is no cure, with death usually occurring in 12 18 months.
The Coalition vigorously opposed the legislation after being lobbied by the asbestos companies and even sought to reduce existing rights. Despite this, the legislation was passed by Parliament.
The Carr Government's plans for the future
Work and family strategy
The Carr Labor Government in its second term will:
· Build and promote successful family friendly practices such as those developed by the NRMA which found its strategies, including employer sponsored child care, returned $8.6 million to the company over four years.
· Promote flexible work practices through Enterprise Agreements (EAs) such as return to work on a negotiated part time basis for women returning from maternity leave.
· Promote, through EAs, job sharing under part time work provisions.
· Focus on the success of smaller companies such as a publishing company which provides staff with facilities to work from home when a family member is sick or a pharmaceutical company which provides 10 hour shifts, nine day fortnights, 19 day months or extra paid annual leave in return for less pay per hour.
· Amend the Anti Discrimination Act to include family responsibilities. This will recognise that many carers, particularly women, are unfairly disadvantaged in the workforce when they try to balance work and family commitments.
· A Labor Government will make it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of family responsibilities.
· Commit to equal pay for men and women as reported by the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) within the framework of economic responsibility.
· Develop a new equal remuneration principle to give greater weight to skills used in female dominated industries and carry out the other major recommendations of the IRC's report into equal pay in consultation with all parties.
· Review maternity and parental leave entitlement provisions in light of changing work trends.
· Amend the Act to give long term permanent casual workers (ie those who have worked more than two years for an employer) access to maternity leave provisions.
· Provide seminars for business on the implementation of family friendly work practices.
· Continue to undertake research into the implementation of family flexible work practices throughout the public and private sector.
Remove discriminatory provisions from the Long Service Leave Act which prevent young workers accruing long service leave.
Better protect employees' privacy rights with the implementation of the NSW Law Reform Commission's recommendations on electronic surveillance.
The second Carr Labor Government will:
Implement the safety recommendations of the Upper House inquiry into work safety.
Expand the work safety awareness campaign.
Build industry specific work safety solutions.
Ratify International Labour Organisation conventions including those involving occupational cancer, air pollution, asbestos, chemical use and mine safety so that NSW is committed to international best practice in work safety.
Outworkers in the clothing industry
Unacceptable employment conditions continue to affect the mainly non English speaking background women who often work in deplorable conditions. Typically, such workers earn only 20 per cent of the award rate of pay, and miss out entirely on other employment benefits and statutory entitlements, whilst enduring extreme job insecurity, lengthy delays in receiving payment, dangerous working conditions and sometimes harassment and assault.
A recent report to the Minister for Public Works and Services noted that working conditions have probably deteriorated in the last decade as a result of the abundance of available labour and cost pressures on manufacturers (Reforming Homework, May 1998). Evidence presented to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission confirmed this finding, and also highlighted the prevalence of family members, including young children, doing clothing outwork, even at times using specially crafted child size industrial sewing machines.
It is estimated that in NSW there is a work pool of some 50,000 clothing outworkers, assisted by as many as 20,000 unpaid family members (Reforming Homework, 1998).
The Carr Labor Government is developing a far reaching approach which is influenced by the extremely successful US "No Sweat" campaign, and which builds on existing government, industry, union, church and community
initiatives. It encompasses a wide cross section of interests, including a significant sector of the clothing industry itself and ethnic communities whose members make up most of the industry.
In the second term, a Carr Government will:
Introduce a new Act, and other legislative amendments which will focus greater responsibility on companies at the top of the clothing production chain to ensure that the garments that they supply are made in accordance with NSW labour standards. Manufacturers, retailers as well as sub contractors will play an increased role in monitoring the practices of their suppliers, significantly increasing the pressure on compliance in the industry.
Establish an Outworkers Protection Agency to monitor and discipline those who exploit outworkers.
Conduct a public relations and consumer education campaign to mobilise community purchasing power to reward ethical companies and to motivate recalcitrant ones. The campaign will aim to officially recognise industry leaders who promote compliance with State industrial laws by taking the initiative and responsibility for ensuring the workers who produce the garments they manufacture or sell are paid industry awards rates.
Conduct an education and retraining campaign for outworkers.
Continue enforcement activity as a high priority by the DIR and WorkCover to encourage and monitor compliance.
Increase distribution of information in the ethnic community media.
Appoint two bilingual inspectors with either a Vietnamese or Chinese background.
by Margo Beasley
Control of labour supply was central to the recent dispute between the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Patrick Stevedoring. It is an issue that has long concerned maritime workers in Australia mainly because it is closely connected to continuing efforts by governments and employers to reduce wages and conditions. The 1998 struggle over the introduction of non-union labour on the wharves has a history that predates the amalgamation of the Waterside Workers' Federation and the Seamens' Union in 1992, which led to the formation of the MUA. The WWF's history is replete with passionate incidents resulting from efforts to weaken or break the union.
Lessons of the Past
Australian wharf labouring unions were established in the late nineteenth century in response to appallingly dangerous working conditions which included twenty-four and sometimes forty-eight hour continuous shifts in the peak wool and wheat seasons, when turnaround time (unloading and loading) was at a premium for international trade.
Wharfies were employed under the notorious `bull' system, where they assembled at a particular point to be chosen for work on the basis of brute strength, and, sometimes, compliance. The bull system forced wharf labourers to compete against each other for work, even at the expense of their own health. It existed until the Second World War.
The WWF was formed in 1902 under the leadership of (later Prime Minister) Billy Hughes, in part because of the use of non-union labour during the 1890s depression which saw many wharf labourers' families on the brink of starvation.
In the General Strike of 1917 wharfies and thousands of other unionists in several states struck in support of striking NSW railway and tramway workers. As a result, a National Service Bureau was established to recruit strike-breaking wharf labour from farms and country towns. Such recruits included clerks, students and returned soldiers as well as unemployed labourers, criminals and drifters. Loss of livelihood and the threat of starvation often prompts violent response and although non-union labour had police escorts to and from the wharves, they were hooted, jeered at and pelted with potatoes and bluemetal, and subjected to sporadic violence.
The most serious consequence of 1917 for the WWF was the formation of so-called `scab' unions (i.e. employer sponsored and strike-breaking), one of which, the Permanent and Casuals (known as the P and C's, ironically also the acronym for one of the National Farmers' Federation companies in the recent dispute) dogged the WWF until the 1950s. Many WWF members were denied the opportunity to work for several years to come.
Fremantle in 1919 was the scene of an extraordinarily violent riot. Western Australia was isolated by a seamen's strike and an outbreak of the deadly influenza virus. There was insufficient work for everyone and when the Dimboola arrived with urgently-needed medical supplies and foodstuffs it was unloaded by non-union labour, (brought onto the wharves in the 1917 strike) before the quarantine period expired. The wharf was picketed by WWF members and they and their wives assembled daily to prevent non-union labour getting to the wharves. Thousands of people joined them, including returned soldiers carrying revolvers. When barricades were erected on 4 May, (known subsequently as `Bloody Sunday') indicating a renewed effort to bring in non-union labour, bellmen ran through the streets calling out the populace, priests alerted their congregations and townspeople, women, children and other workers streamed down to the wharves.
Non-union labour arrived in launches, accompanied by the West Australian Premier, Hal Colebatch, and were greeted with a barrage of scrap iron and stone missiles from the bridge above. In what became a head on confrontation between the two groups WWF member Thomas Edwards fell, fatally wounded, and died a few days later, giving his union its first martyr. A truce was declared, the non-union labour left the wharves and wharfies and their supporters were persuaded to disperse, but high feeling continued for several days and there were isolated attacks on police. Most of the non-union labour left Fremantle in the face of ongoing hostility.
In 1928, as the great depression was just beginning, the non-union labour fallout from a disastrous national strike all but killed off the WWF. Conditions on the wharves remained appalling. Wheat, cement and potatos weighing up to 92 kilos were shifted mainly on wharfies' backs, sulphur caught fire and turned holds into poisonous pits, carbon black stained the skin for weeks, and hides arrived from South America rotten and oozing with maggots. Wharf labourers often died on the job when loads fell into the holds, landing on them, and they were sometimes speared to cargo by steel rails which slipped from their slings. They worked unprotected in freezer holds, and bare chested in north Queensland summers where they were paid bee money for stings endured when loading sugar.
In 1928 the WWF sought a new award which would include the abolition of the twice daily pickup, enforcement of their preference for wharf labouring work (i.e. WWF members to be hired before others) and increased overtime rates. But the new award that was handed down in January 1928 was worse than the old. It continued the double pickup, cancelled the single pickup in those ports where it existed and removed restrictions on overlong shifts because they slowed ship turnaround times.
Wharf labourers were now to be paid less for evening and night shifts than they would for the horror shifts - making them dangerously attractive. All appeals for safeguards against excessive strain and over- work were rejected, as were claims for improved safety. Spontaneous strikes broke out in ports around the country. The Federal WWF leadership was confused by the vehemence of its members' reaction and was unable to lead or coordinate. Shipowners brought in non-union labour and bitterness was particularly rife in Melbourne. There were riots, assaults and arrests. Alan Whittaker, a Gallipoli veteran, was shot from behind. Dying a short time later, he gave his union another martyr.
Late in 1928 the Transport Workers Act was introduced federally. It controlled the engagement, service and discharge of wharfies who now had to have a license, known as a `dog collar', to work. The Act was a grave threat to the existence of the WWF, many of whose members could not gain licenses. When the remnants of WWF branches returned to work defeated it was too late - most of the jobs had been taken by the growing bands of unemployed. The P and C's re-emerged in Melbourne and became an alternative federal union, providing work for its strike-breaking members. The WWF's circumstances worsened during the depression and the union almost died because of the general destitution of its declining membership.
The turning point for the WWF's fortunes was WWII. Well-known Communist Jim Healy, admired by friend and foe, became general secretary in 1937. During the war wharf labour was in demand for the first time in decades, and the WWF capitalised on its new strength. The Stevedoring Industry Commission was established by the Curtin government to improve efficiency on the wharves and new working arrangements were implemented. They included abolition of the bull system and, significantly, the WWF gained the right to recruit wharf labour.
The WWF emerged from the war with renewed vigour and became a leading union in the labour movement as well as a significant and effective presence in peace and civil rights matters. During the Cold War, as a result of the Communist presence in the WWF, and its industrial strength, the union was much demonised by the Menzies government and employers.
Early in the 1950s the WWF absorbed the P and C's, thus emasculating it as a rival labour force and in a major dispute in 1954 the WWF demonstrated that it could at last fend off the threat of an alternative non-union labour supply.
The Federal Government announced proposed amendments to the Stevedoring Industry Act which, among other measures, would give employers the right to recruit wharf labour independent of the WWF, that is non-union labour. This revived the old fears of an alternative strikebreaking labour force and the union struck nationally for a fortnight in November, perceiving the issue as one of survival. The 1954 strike was a period of great solidarity and is still remembered as a high point in the WWF's history. The Stevedoring Act amendments were passed and even though the strike ended soon after, the unions worked to make the new legislation unworkable. In fact, the government never used the recruitment amendments. At a conference held by Minister for Labour and National Service (later Prime Minister) Harold Holt in early 1955, a new recruiting agreement was drawn up protecting the WWF's right to recruit labour, effectively an admission of defeat by the government.
In the period since 1954, the waterfront and its unions have undergone profound changes. Where once there were about 25,000 wharfies in Australia, today there are less than 4,000, largely due to the automation of the late 1960s. Because of the industrial strength developed under the leadership of Healy and his successor Charlie Fitzgibbon, there was no further attempt to introduce non-union labour on the Australian wharves until last year. In sheer organisational scale the Patrick Stevedoring's non-union enterprise far outflanks anything which has come before.
Margo Beasley is a professional historian who is currently completing a PhD at Wollongong University
by Peter Lewis
Bob Connolly's warts and all chronicle of the Leichhardt Council 1994 mayoral elections is a classic portrait of raw political power. While it's been run several times on television, the documentary's recent appearance on the video shelves gives a welcome opportunity for an encore viewing.
For those interested in new ways of thinking about politics and power, it shows how strong the tradition of Machiavelli still is today. Friends are enemies' enemies; alliances are constantly shifting; principles are cloaked in self interest and the greater good is a forgotten casualty.
A council split between Labor independents and independent Laborites; each faction split within. A mayor who knows his number is up unless he can split the Labor ticket.
While many have said this documentary was Larry Hand's undoing, I think he emerges as the hero; not because he eventually wins the mayoral election, but because it is he who is the most honest about his intentions. The camera follows Hand as he makes the calls, does the deals, drops the porkies and talks to reporters off the record.
Larry loves the camera; of all the players, it is Hand who least tries to ignore it. As the race tightens I reckon he knows he is making his little bit of political folklore. He hams it up at times, but he is after all a first-time actor. Or is there really so little difference between the two? The documentary becomes a study in the Deal as Hands turns his skills on the Party that taught, then expelled, him.
Meanwhile his deputy Kate Butler, is placing her party membership on the line, "following her conscience" to back Hand over her ALP colleague. There's something noble about her ignoble act; or is it personal animosity that's driving her? The dumping of the principle of Party endorsement for the number one candidate. Instead submitting to a draw from the hat. And the Old Guard candidate, Neil McIndoe, getting up with the backing (treachery?) of Evan Jones. Kate and her New Left Wave mate Trevor, feeling very done in by people they have only animosity for.
From a seemingly hopeless position, Hand connives to split the vote and sail through the middle to win; and as he leans back in the mayoral robes at the end of the vote you wonder what he could achieve with these skills if he were put them to some constructive use. Which is what you can't evaluate in Rats in the Ranks. The Deal scenes are so compelling that there's little focus on the constructive side of local government and so, I suspect, gives critics of this form of government unjustified ammunition.
The documentary works because Connolly is able to shrink the characters down to a very attainable level; showing that there is nothing particularly special about local government; apart from the universal rules of loyalty, conscience and treachery that permeate all levels of politics. In doing so, the film also raises profound questions about the way we govern ourselves at a local level.
Addendum: Where Are They Now?
Larry Hand and Kate Butler were both re-elected to Council at the 1996 election.
Neither ran for the positions they won in 1994, but both remain on Council. Hand is said to be retiring later this year.
McIndoe and Jones still sit on Council, but agreed to a draw from the hat that placed newcomer Chris Kruden in the mayoral robes.
Kate and Trevor were expelled from the Party and have not reapplied for membership.
And old Nick Origlass died last year. There's a biography of him floating around. Try Goulds.
by Peter Lewis
If you are reading this message now, it means that the Carr Government has been returned.
The No Mistakes game paid off, the professionalism of the campaign a personal triumph for both Carr and John Della Bosca, who will leave his position as General Secretary of the Party for the ministerial offices of the second Carr Government.
It was a campaign where, despite being outbid on spending promises by a ratio of nearly four to one, Carr refused to run negative; not once uttering his opponent's name. And he made very few promises, instead emphasising experience.
Remarkably brash or calculatedly cautious, the move was a winner. The final week's advertisements struck a chord which was at once sincere and reassuring; the hard-working leader reporting back to his people. Carr's performance was almost flawless; dominating the news agenda without firepower; remaining composed and focussed.
But Carr's mastery of the campaign can not mitigate some of the shortcomings of his Administration. As a one-time Ministerial staffer, I don't want to gratuitously dump on my old masters. Running a state government is, above all, a shitty job; dealing with the refuse of the age without having the mechanisms to deal with its source; channeling increasingly scarce funds into a health system collapsing under the weight of an aging population, an education system coming to terms with the new demands of the Information Age and a social security sector struggling to deal with the distress and dislocation caused by economic reform.
But there are still aspects of this Premiership which bear scrutiny, even at the moment of victory, in the hope of seeing a better government this time around.
One recurring complaint has been the reactive nature of Carr's Government. With a narrow majority, it was argued, Carr was too preoccupied with winning the daily media. He and his minders regarded the media as an endlessly recurring battle to secure the nightly news grab. This focused policy on a very narrow basis; each day requiring a story that trumps anything the Opposition could come up with.
This deferral to the tight timeline of the news cycle prevented some issues being properly thought through. Indeed, some of the Carr Government's biggest mistakes were the result of attempts to win the day. The ill-fated decision to close St Vincent's Hospital, for instance, was released to coincide with Carr's appearance before the ICAC. The consequent backflip, when it was realised that key stakeholders like the nurses' union had not been consulted was as predictable as it was unnecessary. In the process an important part of the government's health reform agenda was abandoned essentially because of lack of preparation.
On one level this is the price of modern media management done well. But there's another price for this style of leadership. You risk losing your sense of purpose. By setting a series of policy signposts that lay the path for your rule, you can give it some meaning.
So what does Carr stand for? When you consider the Carr Government was the sole ALP administration at the end of the Keating era, there's not much to get excited about. Just law and order and the failed attempt to sell the power industry.
Carr can rightly blame the media for whipping up the law and order issues, but at the end of the day they can only feed on what they're thrown. And Carr has been a master thrower; reacting to each crime headline with a "solution", creating a false impression of his control over the vagaries of life. Fairly or otherwise, this feeds the idea that it is an innately reactive media which has ultimate control of the public agenda.
Where Jeff Kennett stimulates debate, Carr has attempted to control it; and in doing so he has narrowed the notion of leadership to a sort of superintendent of public sentiment. In doing so, he has fed the prejudices that Labor purports to change. Too timid for gay law reform or drug law reform, Carr has been more interested in holding on to power than using it to promote a Labor agenda.
And then there's the great unwritten story of the first term, the influence of the Cabinet Office. It was established by Greiner to act as a barrier between the Premier and his Ministers and drive the market-oriented economic reforms which characterised his government. This process can delay, frustrate and often kill off proposals before they even get to Cabinet. The failure to abolish the Cabinet Office and return it to Premier's Department was in fact the first broken promise of the Carr Government, not the tolls as is often supposed. Frustration with this impediment in the Carr Government has permeated all ministries.
This central role of the bureaucracy was matched by an acceptance of the economic orthodoxy, which saw the public sector reforms initiated by the Greiner Government such as the contracting out of government services continued, albeit within a "no forced redundancy" strait-jacket. At a time when the public was losing faith in an economic rationalist agenda, Carr saw the wind change too late, and even now has offered nothing else apart from a sophisticated form of crisis management.
Carr has played a game that set a none too healthy tone of public governance in this state. It is a tone that tapped the same vein of isolation and mutual mistrust that drives wedge politics - reinforcing the stereotypes of disconnection rather than working at fostering a stronger community. Being tough on crime, rather than generating a public discussion about its causes. Banning heroin trials rather than debating them. Chasing investment without ever asking: what kind of investment do we need or want in NSW?
In attempting to control the public debate, Carr narrowed it at the very time the community needed a mature discussion about the State and what we should expect of its government. Carr might argue that a government that started with a one seat majority and a hung Upper House could never be too bold. But to accept this is to embrace a conservative breed of Laborism which is not so much social democratic as conservative reactive.
At the end of the day Carr received the support of the trade union movement at this election on the back of Jeff Shaw's industrial relations platform and a fear of what a Coalition Government dominated by the uglies could do to it. Indeed, several unions who had supported the Party at previous elections refused to endorse Carr's Government. One branch passed a resolution explicitly forbidding its executive from endorsing Labor. Another withdrew their normal financial support for the Labor campaign. This is a sign of Labor's drift away from its people, a drift that needs to stop in the second term.
Unions also expect greater access to the Ministers they have helped re-elect. It was a common complaint that Ministers and their senior staffers had an open door for business but not for unions, curious for a Labor Government. This increased the distance between the government and its supporters.
Labor needs to realise the extent to which it is the energy of the union movement that gets them elected to office. They don't need to do everything the unions say, but they must give them access and due consideration. The Government must realise that the views of the workers and the unions who represent them are at least as valid as the spivs in the Senior Executive Service advising on corporatisation and competition policy.
A majority like the one Carr has won, will give the Premier an opportunity to redefine his leadership. It provides him with great stature and a great opportunity to, in the words of his Attorney General, place "a stronger focus on social justice, on equality and on the free society". In doing so, he may help convince those of us who congratulate him on being a successful Premier, that he is also a great Labor leader.
This work deals with the highly topical issue of multiculturalism and, as such, a warning is necessary. It is written for those who are, or aspire to be, members of the intellectual elite.
These are the people who believe that knowledge is the product of hard labour; the people who believe that you need to do a great deal of time-consuming research, read a lot of books and reflect on many difficult philosophical, empirical and theoretical issues to produce intelligent knowledge.
In John Howard's Australia, there seem to be many individuals who feel 'relaxed and comfortable' in talking about issues about which they haven't bothered to read a single researched article, let alone a book. Apparently, 'life taught them'.
In fact, such people are so 'relaxed and comfortable' that they believe that the more someone works at trying to learn about an issue, the more they become pare of an ignorant and arrogant lot: the intellectual elite. The role of this elite is apparently simply to put down naturally intelligent people and find ways to stop them from expressing the truth they capture so effortlessly by merely living.
When I used to visit my grandmother in Bathurst in the late 1970s, she would often make comments such as 'You've been reading too much' or, even more explicitly, "People who go to university become mad." Although such comments helped me reflect on how and why university knowledge clashed with everyday knowledge, I resented pronouncements such as "You have read books, but life has taught me.'
I used to say, "But Granny, I have a life as well you know, and it teaches me, too. Can't you see that books and research provide me with extra knowledge." I was naive even to try.
"The so-called 'intelligentsia' always looks down with a really limitless condescension on anyone who has not been dragged through the obligatory schools and had the necessary knowledge pumped into him. The question has never been: What are the man's abilities? but what has he learned?' To these 'educated' people the biggest empty-head, if he is wrapped in enough diplomas, is worth more than the brightest boy who happens to lack these costly envelopes."
This is neither my granny, nor any of Australia's anti-intellectual populists speaking, but Adolf Hitler. And I cannot help thinking of him when people start abusing intellectuals.
Hitler was the classic anti-intellectual: a man who had enough intellect to be a mediocre intellectual and enough also to realise that he wasn't a member of the intellectual elite.
Like many mediocre intellectuals, he thought he had a natural talent for knowledge, rather than realising how much hard work is put into whatever knowledge people end up gathering.
Hitler was not, however, the sort of person who would just sit there and take it. He was too motivated by dreams of social political and intellectual mobility to allow himself to just sulk and do nothing. So, he found the time-honoured way to 'beat' the intellectual elite.
This is the road often chosen by people who want to be recognised as intellectuals, but who are either not socially equipped to be so or feel they have better things to do than putting in the hard labour necessary to achieve such status.
These people compensate for their lack of knowledge by speaking in the name of 'the people'. The people' becomes such a formula of success for mediocre intellectuals they make themselves - and some others, too - believe that they actually are 'the people'.
The mechanism is very simple:
(1)'The people' already know everything there is to know: 'life taught them'.
(2) Consequently, anything that the 'intellectual elite' says which is not known by the people is superfluous knowledge, if not actively against the people.
(3) Therefore, any attack on the knowledge of the intellectual elite is a defence of the knowledge of the people.
And who else is better at defending the instinctive knowledge of the people if not the instinctively intelligent, mediocre intellectual? In reality, 'the people' are too busy living. In addition, one can be certain that anyone who uses the concept of 'the people' is already someone who distinguishes himself or herself from them.
Driving back to Sydney from Bathurst, I used to feel safe that my grandmother and her ideas would not travel too far away from her, wherever she was ... there ... in her house ... up in Bathurst ...away from the institutions of knowledge and the institutions of power that feed them and from them.
This, however, was the 1970s. Today, and ever since John Howard made Australia for all of us, everywhere I look, whether it be in the morning paper or on the Internet, my Granny is there voicing her criticisms: 'Life has taught me', 'I am worried about the size of the immigrant intake', 'Farming has taught me', 'Ghettoes are worrying'. 'Fish and chips have taught me', 'The state is too biased towards Aboriginal people'! It's a nightmare: my Granny is seizing power.!
It is in this atmosphere that authors of the sort my Granny likes can write political bestsellers. Some can do so by electing Sydney and Beijing's competition for the Olympics 2000 into a competition between simplistically stereotyped national moral characters and by celebrating Sydney's win with an infantile triumphalism (Beijing is polluted. Sydney is clean. 'China lost, nah-nah-nanah-nah.')
These are authors who believe that reading four or five books - as opposed to those who don't read any and those who read 'too many' - and using the word 'scholar' to describe every person who agrees with them (even when those 'scholars' haven't published a single academic work on their supposed subject of expertise) give them definite answers about the world.
They write confidently, and without blinking, about how Australia can become an 'eco-superpower' with its 'green corps': a kind of politically correct, post modern version of the 'one day my nation will be great' story, and which, of course, cannot happen until we deal with the internal enemies (Asian crime, Asian ghettoes and anything to the left of the Liberal Party wets). Some also write of the international conspiracy represented by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
Luckily, the Olympic committee was not on the look out for moral pollution when 'China lost'.
If there is a single important, subjective feeling behind this book, it is that I, and many people like me, am sick of 'worried' White Australians Ύ White Australians who think that they have a monopoly over 'worrying ' about the shape and the future of Australia.
They are constantly finding a source of concern: look at how many migrants there are, look at crime, look at ghettoes, look at tourists. Such pathological worry is that of people who use worrying to try to construct themselves as the most worthy Australians in the land: 'Nobody cares but us real Australians. That's why we are worried and others aren't.'
Why aren't migrants worried about ghettoes and about immigration and about crime? The answer is, of course, because they are not really committed to Australia. Paul Sheehan (1998) gleefully publishes in the first pages of his book Among the Barbarians a list of people who criticised him - some of whom ended up receiving hate mail - and excerpts of what they have said.
But far be it from him to allow this to make him think that maybe he shouldn't be so confident about the truth of what he has written. In fact, the published criticisms simply work to confirm Sheehan's view that multiculturalists are only worried about multiculturalism.
Only 'real' Australians, fine, 'aggressive', and 'fire-loving' Eucalypts' like him are worried about Australia.
Paul Sheehan's discourse and many other from Geoffrey Blainey to Pauline Hanson provide clear examples of the pervasive national fantasy analysed in this book; a fantasy centred around a 'white and very worried about the nation subject.'
It should be remembered, however, that worrying can be the last resort of the weak. There are many people for whom worrying is the last available strategy for staying in control of social processes over which they have no longer much control.
My grandmother, funnily enough, was also a great worrier. She spent a lot of time worrying about everything: she worried about Australia, she worried about the Catholics in Lebanon, she worried about my marriage and she worried about me driving on the highway to Bathurst.
It was her worrying which taught me that this is what people who are losing control over their social life (overly represented among the elderly) do to compensate for their loss.
They worry themselves back into the processes from which they feel they have become alienated. (This is probably a factor in explaining the inordinate number of elderly people who feel alienated from national processes in the ranks of the White-and-worried-about-the-nation Hansonites.)
In a book which advocates the ethical importance of the intellectual art of listening and understanding even to the most unsavoury views, I want to think of the anti-intellectual elite people who have recently invaded the Australian public sphere as a family problem.
This is also how I will be treating all those who express Hansonite views in this book - even if some of them may not like to think of me, with my very woggy name (if only they could hear my accent!), as a family member.
And after all, like most people, I loved my Granny.
Extracted from "White Nation - Fantasies of White supremacy in a mutlicultural society" by Ghassan Hage. Published by Pluto Press, 1998
by Noel Hester
AJC advertising for their autumn carnival seems to be aimed at scatty, pea brained, North Shore corporate types who think racing is all about wacko hats and dilemmas about what coloured Zampatti uniform to wear to Randwick.
Workers Online, on the other hand, knows that the racing industry is built and sustained through the sweat of working people.
And from the strapper hitting the track - when the day is darkest before the dawn - to the weekend punter financing the whole shebang we approach racing with intellectual rigour, analysis and courage.
Workers Online enlisted Ian Craig - 2KY's race caller - to give us a few tips and help us get the analysis right. Here's how Ian calls the main races:
'The Golden Slipper puts Sydney racing on the map. It always attracts a massive crowd. Some astute judges only bet on 2 year olds. They race more consistently before they've learnt any bad habits.'
'I like Redoute's Choice - he could be something out of the box. He's drawn perfectly and he has the right race winning jockey in Shane Dye. I think if he is going to go down Shogun Lodge is the one that could do it.'
'A very tricky race. The lack of pace in it will be a key factor. Intergaze is racing well but he likes the speed on. Darazari is in good form and Tie the Knot - he needs the pace on as well.'
'I'm going to stick with Tie the Knot. Arena, the three year old, will be hard to beat.'
'A great race to watch and call. Sunline is the one here. The barrier's not so important in the Doncaster - you can draw wide and win. But I'd like to see her draw around 8 or 9. She was scintillating in the Moonee Valley Oaks. It's hard to compare horses from different eras but I think she is as good as Emancipation.'
'The danger - Referral. A horse on the way up as he showed with his win in the George Ryder.'
'The depth in this race has been enormous in recent years. This year's no different with Sky Heights, Dignity Dancer, Lawyer and Arena.'
'I'm sticking with Dignity Dancer with Sky Heights the improver.'
Other horses Ian says to watch during the carnival
La Zagaletta from the Freedman stable. A real chance in the Carbine Club Stakes later in the carnival.
Allez Suez from the Cummings stable. He's being aimed at the Derby and isn't out of it. Follow Bart - his horses are coming to hand beautifully including Catalan Opening - winner of last year's Doncaster.
Twyla - beautifully bred by Danehill from Dancing Show, related to Hurricane Sky and also Dignity Dancer. Won easily the other day with J. Cassidy aboard.
Ian says there is nothing like the autunm carnival - a time when racing fans feel a frisson of excitement.
'The Autumn carnival is a race caller's delight. You have the best horses in the land. The top races like the Golden Slipper, the Mercedes and the Doncaster are a buzz to call. The adrenaline pumps harder,' he said.
During the election campaign both major parties have sought to make industrial relations a non issue. But irrespective of the election result there are issues in the current legislative framework that Labor Council will be raising with the Government of the day.
One issue that will create substantial debate is the role unions play in the enterprise bargaining process and methods that can used for payment by non union workers who reap the benefits of that representation. Payment would be made for the resources put into the process by the respective union.
In preparing an enterprise agreement, unions will normally conduct research into the issues that concern the workers, then develop and prepare materials and a draft enterprise agreement. The direct negotiation of the enterprise agreement requires the attendance of officials from the union during negotiations and reporting to the workers on the status of negotiations. The union is then finally involved in the voting for acceptance of the proposed enterprise agreement. All of this involves a substantial amount of union time and resources.
While in the majority of instances union involvement will be in workplaces where all the workers are members of a union, there will be many where only a portion of the workforce are unionised. In those workplaces where a portion are not union members, they are still represented by, and receive the benefits negotiated by the union, without contributing to the costs.
It is in this latter situation that alternate methods need to be developed to ensure that everyone who benefits from the role played by the union and the resources put into the negotiations contributes to meeting the costs.
One solution that is still wheeled out by some union officials is the old chestnut of the 'closed shop'. This they argue is a concept that we should be lobbying to re-introduce.
There are, however, a number of conflicting views on the merits of the 'closed shop' and whether this is in the best interest of a movement trying to reinvigorate itself and its activities. Some have argued that all those who benefit should contribute and the 'closed shop' would address this problem, while others argue that the 'closed shop' made unions lazy and this has been a major factor in the decline of union participation rates. While both points make for an interesting debate, it is not proposed to canvass that debate here.
A concept that would address the view that all those who benefit should contribute is negotiating a provision in an enterprise agreement that requires the payment of a service fee to the union for the resources it has put into the successful negotiation of the enterprise agreement. The fee would nominally be at the same level as a contribution for union membership and paid by all employees for the life of the agreement. This however would not be required for financial union members.
The effect of this proposal is firstly that the union receives a service fee for the resources put into the development and negotiation of the enterprise agreement and secondly that all those who benefit contribute without being compelled to join a union. This would then not compel nor discriminate against a worker who chose to join, or not to join, a union.
The inclusion of a provision as part of the enterprise agreement in similar terms to those above would have to be voted on and supported by a majority of those workers to be affected. If the majority of employees have voted in support of the proposal through a legitimate and democratic process, the provision should be implemented.
The basis for the introduction of freedom of association provisions was to provide choice or remove compulsion to join a union. The above proposal maintains the ability for choice through a democratic process.
The service fee concept means that the union effectively front end loads the cost of providing the resources for the negotiation of the enterprise agreement which is then repaid by non union workers over the life of the enterprise agreement ensuring that those who benefit contribute.
But Teachers Federation president Sue Simpson says the personal attack was water off a duck's back and has only added to the resolve of her union to push both sides of politics to work harder on education.
The front page attack, which read more like a shit sheet than a serious news report coincided with a strike called by teachers in response to the major parties' refusal to engage in a serious policy debate on education before the State Election.
Simpson says she turned up at the strike meeting without even seeing the front-page photo.
"The funny thing is I didn't even see it on the morning; I found out about it from journalists who were ringing me for interviews that morning," she told Workers Online.
"In my position I expect to be a target -- which is something you wouldn't say about the kids from Mt Druitt High".
Simpson sees a consistency in the Telegraph's use of computer-manipulated photo with their handling of the education issue.
"Because the Telegraph never give us credit for anything, they are totally discredited amongst our members. This was just another example of the Tele going over the top.
"The paper takes a totally unfocussed oppositional approach to anything we do. With the exception of Marilyn Parker's column, they are not prepared to engage us in a serious debate. "
Simpson says she'll be keeping the front page as a trophy: "it was actually a reasonable photo of me!"
Here is a full transcript of the Teachers Federation letter to the Daily Telegraph in reply
The public cannot rely on the Daily Telegraph for honest, accurate or balanced reporting. More and more editorialising invades the news as The Telegraph campaigns against anyone or any organisation who challenges your views or the way you operate.
The Telegraph has been campaigning against the NSW Teachers Federation since we took you to the Press Council over the Mt Druitt High School story on the front page of 7 January 1997.
You campaigned against the Minister for Education on the same issue running a 'Wanted' poster of him. The posters ceased when you got exclusive rights to print the report on Mt. Druitt High School. The Federation will not submit to this form of blackmail.
Your attacks on the Federation have included personal attacks on myself and my predecessor. You continue to deliberately misrepresent the structure and decision-making process of the Federation.
The Federation is far more democratic and representative of teachers than any government in this country. Our Annual Conference has one elected teacher delegate for every 120 teachers and our Council has one elected teacher delegate for every 250 teachers. Our Executive consists of 18 people; the three presidential officers and 15 practising teachers.
When I speak as President I am representing the decisions made by one of these bodies. I did not as Piers Akerman said take my members on strike; teachers decided at democratic forums to take strike action.
The Federation is not opposed to basic learning tests as stated by your columnist - our Annual Conference is opposed to the way some people wish to use the results of these tests.
We are strongly opposed to paedophiles in schools - it is the way the Department has treated some teachers who have been accused that we feel is unfair and unjust.
We are not opposed to students being taught spelling but teachers are heartily sick of politicians attempting to score dishonest points particularly at election time.
Do you ever wonder what effect you are having on society when you regularly run your dishonest campaigns?
© 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/6/print_index.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005