|Issue No 60||30 June 2000|
Reith's Waterfront Ghost Returns
Peter Reith's worst nightmare - the spectre of balaclava-wearing guards and savage dogs on Patrick's wharves - returned to the Federal Parliament this week in the form of questions on notice asked of the Minister by Shadow Industrial Relations Minister, Arch Bevis.
Mr Bevis said Mr Reith is still trying to hide his role in what is arguably Australia's ugliest industrial dispute - a dispute in which the Federal Government employed heinous tactics to attack workers' rights.
Mr Bevis's questions were sparked by the recent publication of Waterfront: The Battle that Changed Australia, which highlighted Peter Reith's involvement in the dispute.
"Peter Reith has avoided any responsibility for this dispute from day one," Mr Bevis said today.
My questions are intended to finally get the truth concerning the Minister's involvement and get it on the public record for the Australian people to make up their own minds about Peter Reith.
"I want Mr Reith to own up to and explain many things, including the following:
* his meeting with Chris Corrigan in late November 1997 when Mr Corrigan was informed that the Reith would take a submission to Cabinet in early December regarding the Government providing redundancies for sacked workers;
* his taunts to John Coombs and Greg Combet at a meeting of 18th December 1997 about what they were going to do when the farmers came and took their jobs;
* what happened on the evening of 7th of April 1998 when he contacted P&O's Richard Hein and said that he was "pushing the button";
* what happened on the evening of the 7th April 1998 when he telephoned then Queensland Premier Rob Borbidge to explain that something would be happening on the docks that night;
* the details of his announcement at a press conference on the 7th April 1998, soon after receiving the press release from Patrick's, that the Government had earlier that night endorsed a redundancy package for the sacked workers; and
* the way he introduced laws into Parliament on the 8th April 1998, the day after the mass sackings, providing for the redundancies.
"The waterfront debacle has become the most divisive and disgraceful part of Australia's industrial history.
"And Peter Reith will be remembered as the evil mastermind, the Dick Dastardly of the whole shameful episode.
"The aggressive and violent nature of the dispute typifies Peter Reith's treatment of working Australians.
"Peter Reith's long political career is eminently forgettable except for one thing - his despicable role in the waterfront dispute. His signature will be the black balaclava and the attack dogs.
"It's now time he told the whole truth about his dark place in Australian political history," Mr Bevis said.
Reith Tables Salami
Also in Parliament this week in an effort to distract people from the manifestly unfair and unpopular GST the Government reverted to type and started a new round of union and worker bashing.
Peter Reith's obsession with reducing the working conditions of Australian workers continued with four pieces of legislation being introduced.
Monday was mandatory secret ballots for strike action, Tuesday saw yet another bill on Unfair dismissals being entered. On Wednesday Reith tabled legislation to make approvals for his unfair and unpopular AWAs even easier and yesterday he moved to remove meat tallies and picnic days from all Awards.
Each of these issues was covered in last year's failed second wave legislation which saw a coordinated a national campaign by both the union movement and the Labor Party which resulted in the comprehensive rejection of all of the Government's legislation.
Currently the Government has at least eight separate pieces of legislation before the Parliament each of them designed to reduce working conditions for all Australians.
Kim Beazley on behalf of the Labor Party tabled a Private Members bill that is designed to restore the powers and discretion of the Industrial Relations Commission to deal fairly and equitably with workers conditions and to resolve disputes.
The Waterfront Questions
1. Do you recall denying any prior knowledge of the Dubai Training scheme to the House of Representatives on the 4th December 1997 - a scheme aimed at replacing union members working for Patrick Stevedore's or related company entities with non-union labour?
2. Did you attend a meeting on the 18th September 1997 at which any of the following were present:- John Sharp, David Rosalby, Allan Hawke, Derren Gillispie, Greg Feeney, Kym Bills, Greg Bondar, Peter Wilson, Stephen Webster or Chris Corrigan and if so, which persons were present?
3. At that meeting did any person give a briefing of plans to completely replace Patrick's workforce with non-union labour that would be trained for the task?
4. (i) Was your former Chief of Staff Peter Richards also present at that meeting? (ii) If so, did he or any other person present; a) take notes; or b) provide a report, in writing or verbally, of it to you. (iii) If not, is it normal practice for members of your staff to represent you at meetings without informing you of what occurred at those meetings?
5. (i) Did a member of your staff, meet with any Commonwealth Public Servants and/or consultants and/or representatives of Patrick Stevedore's or any related company entity, on the 1st of December 1997? (ii) If so, were your staff informed of plans to replace the workforce of Patrick Stevedore's or any related company entity or of any other matters and what were those other matters? (iii) If your staff were informed of such matters, did your staff inform you of what occurred? (iv) If you weren't informed, is it normal practice in your office for staff to attend such meetings without informing you of the outcomes.
6. (i) Did you meet with Chris Corrigan and/or Peter Scanlon, or any other representatives of Patrick Stevedore's or any other related company entity on the 16th of December 1997? (ii) Was the issue of training of replacement stevedoring labour in Dubai discussed at that meeting. (iii) Did you enquire of any Patrick's representative at that meeting, what the company's future plans in relation to their workforce were? (iv) Do you still maintain as you did in an interview on the 4th of February 1998, that Chris Corrigan's interview on the 3rd of February was the first you knew of the details of the Dubai Training Scheme?
7. In relation to the Patrick's waterfront dispute of 1997/98 can you confirm that: (i) the first you were aware of the dispute was when your office was contacted by representatives of Patrick Stevedore's or any related company entity late on the 7th April 1998 and a subsequent press release faxed to your office? (ii) If this was your first knowledge of what Patrick Stevedore's or any other related company entity were planning, then
a) why was it you met with Chris Corrigan in late November 1997 where you informed him that you would take a submission to Cabinet in early December regarding the Government providing redundancies for sacked workers; b) why did you ask John Coombs and Greg Combet at a meeting you had on the 18th of December 1997 what they were going to do when the farmers came and took their jobs; c) why did you, on the night of the 7th of April, contact P&O's Richard Hein and state you were "pushing the button"; d) why did you, early in the evening of the 7th April ring then Queensland Premier Rob Borbidge to explain that something would be happening on the docks that night; e) how could you announce at a press conference soon after you received the press release from Patrick's that the Government earlier that night had endorsed a Government redundancy package for the sacked workers; and f) when did you prepare the Bill on these matters that you introduced into the parliament the very next day.
Interview: Turning Tides
ACTU President Sharan Burrow reflects on the disappearance of the middle class and what the union movement can do about it
Unions: Fear and Loathing in Wollongong
For four days this week, too much unionism was barely enough. We bring you the highs and lows from behind the scenes and inside the bars of this week’s ACTU Congress.
Politics: The Group Hug
Opposition leader Kim Beazley came, saw and conga-ed. Here's what he said to the ACTU Congress.
History: Unions and Family Trees
Trade union records may not be the first port of call for a beginning family historian, but down the track a little, these records could bring to life an ancestor who previously was just a name printed on the page.
International: Fiji Bans Lifted
Fiji employers are expected to start reinstating all their workers over the next week, now that Australian union bans have been lifted at the request of the local union leadership.
Review: Room to Manoeuvre
Full employment with a highly skilled well-paid workforce is a realistic goal for Australia, despite the supposed constraints of globalisation.
Satire: Satan Subpoenaed To Cricket Inquiry
The King Commission of Inquiry into cricket match-fixing yesterday heard evidence from Satan that he never influenced Hansie Cronje to accept bribes.
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