Secretary Greg Combet announced this week that unions will seek a $28 a week pay rise for low-paid workers who have been hit hard by rising petrol prices, GST price increases and interest rates hikes.
Launching the ACTU's Living Wage Claim 2001 in Melbourne, Combet described the $28 claim as fair, reasonable and affordable.
"The economy may be doing well but many low-paid workers are being left behind. They missed out under the Government's tax cuts and now face $1 petrol, GST price hikes and climbing interest rates. They need a decent pay rise just to make ends meet," he said.
"Workers on the minimum wage of $400 a week got a paltry $9 tax cut under Mr Howard's tax package. That disappears after one trip to the petrol pump."
Greg Combet said that the claim would benefit almost 2 million workers, many of whom are women, casual and part-time employees in industries like hospitality, retail, cleaning, childcare and the clothing trades.
"Low-paid workers are doing it tough. The insurance bill has gone up 30%, gas and electricity is up 12%, petrol and cigarettes cost 20% more and a trip to the take-away with the kids now costs 10% more. Yet many of these workers have had just one $15 pay rise in the past year.
"It is the height of hypocrisy for politicians like Peter Costello who got a $62 tax cut and is in-line for an automatic $140 a week pay rise next year, to argue that low-paid workers shouldn't get a pay rise."
Under the claim award rates of less than $490 would increase by a flat $28 ensuring that the lowest paid receive the most benefit from increases. Award rates above $490 would be increased by 5.7% to make sure that all Award rates remain a relevant safety net for workers in higher skilled occupations.
Combet said the claim would not put pressure on inflation or interest rates calculating the effect of the claim on Average Weekly Ordinary Time Earnings would be less than 0.25% with an overall effect on inflation of around 0.1%.
"It's the GST, not wages, that is driving inflation up. The low-paid who got so little under the Government's tax package need a pay increase to meet the rising cost of living.
"Australia is experiencing one of the longest periods of economic growth in its history. Company profits grew 44% last year and our top executives have helped themselves to a 285% pay rise since 1990. I think there is an expectation in the community that low-paid workers and their families start getting a fair share of that prosperity. We will be calling on employers and the Federal Government to support our claim.
The Australian Retailers Association (ARA), dominated by 4 big retail groups - Coles Myer, Woolworths, Sussan and David Jones - with control over 70% of the clothing retail industry, has written to the Fairwear Code Committee saying they will have nothing to do with the accreditation or labelling systems, or the Product Sewing Manual.
Outworkers are to respond with a rally on Monday at 12.30pm in the Pitt Street Mall (outside Grace Bothers) to protest the ARA decision followed by a march to the head office of the ARA in Yorke Street.
Retailers' participation in these processes, says Fairwear, is essential for the Code to successfully stop the exploitation of outworkers.
Julia Murray from Fairwear says this action is a breach of the good faith these companies have been offered by Fair Wear.
'We have extensively promoted retailers on their word when they have signed the Homeworkers Code of Practice. Now, when they actually have to do something that will finally bring justice for outworkers they have broken their promise,' she says.
On a positive note, Julia says tools have been put in place for the monitoring of the code and an information campaign for outworkers will begin on 13th November with a multi-lingual phone in and promotion in the ethnic media.
An information campaign for consumers will commence in February with the launch of the "No SweatShop" label.
The monitoring consists of:
National secretary Wendy Caird urged the Government to adopt a string of recommendations from the multi-party Finance and Public Administration References Committee, which was openly critical of the way individual agreements have been applied in the public sector.
"People have been forced to take AWAs when a collective agreement, open to public scrutiny, is more appropriate," she said.
"Individual, undisclosed performance bonuses don't sit well in an environment based on teamwork and public accountability. They open the door to favouritism and a loss of independence.
"The Australian Public Service has a proud record of community service, based on openness and accountability.
"When you trample those principles you threaten the credibility of the organisation."
Senators from all major parties, including Liberals and Nationals, signed up for the unanimous report which recommends against performance bonuses and expresses concern about the affects of AWAs on public service integrity.
Amongst senate committee recommendations to Government are...
Ms Caird described the 77-page report as "excellent".
"It exposes Government duplicity in dealing with its own employees," she said. "They talk openness but practise secrecy and obstruction.
"The committee describes the way AWAs are used in some agencies as being 'in conflict with community values and expectations of an accountable public service' and they are right on the money."
ASU Clerical Branch secretary Michael Want says union members in the TAB's call centers have rejected a management pay offer in talks for a new agreement.
'They are only offering 6.5 per cent over two years. Our members at Ultimo and Granville find that unacceptable. They are sick to death of management's attitude which has got meaner and meaner since privatitisation,' he says.
The Labor Council of NSW is to intervene to try and resolve the dispute before the running of Australia's premier race.
by Andrew Casey
Tim Naivaluwaqa, the general-secretary of the Fiji Hotel Workers' Union, says already one-in-four of his union members' have lost their jobs since the May 19 takeover of the Fiji Parliament by the anti-democratic gang led by George Speight.
" Many other Hotel workers are having to work shorter hours or have had to accept cuts in pay," Tim said.
Official Fiji Government data shows that Hotel Workers were the worst hit by the May 19 coup attempt - with more than 2,500 losing their jobs.
" Our union is concerned that this latest action of the Army's so-called Counter Revolution Warfare Unit will have a further serious adverse impact on an already crippled tourism industry," Tim Naivaluwaqa, said.
Mr Naivaluwaqa made the comments when his sister hotel union in Australia, the LHMU, made contact with him to express solidarity with his members who continue to suffer because of a crisis not of their own making.
Fiji's union leadership moved quickly to condemn the latest coup attempt with the Fiji Trades Union Congress (TUC) leader, Felix Anthony, telling local media that innocent people would again have to pay for this latest crisis.
The TUC leader criticised the Army leadership for releasing from prison last week some of the very soldiers who have now attempted the second coup in a year.
" This was bound to happen. The way these people were handling the whole situation indicated that something like this would eventuate," Felix Anthony said.
Mr Anthony said the country would suffer even more, after it had recuperated from the recent crisis, from the wrong decision taken on the release of the soldiers.
" The economic and social health of our nation is once again jeopardised.
" The unions had warned the military that releasing these soldiers and taking them back was not a good ideas. It was a bad decision on their part."
by Dermot Browne
The union claims documents being used in market-testing presentations to Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) staff confirm that government agencies face huge financial penalties for dragging their feet. AQIS are telling staff that the Government's policy of imposing financial penalties on agencies that fail to outsource is a key driver for their decision to market-test.
The documents also confirm that all AQIS functions are to be market-tested and possibly outsourced, a move that has alarmed industry bodies including the Cattle Council of Australia.
Matthew Reynolds, CPSU National President said, "Agencies have a gun at their head - outsource or face budget cuts. Either way, services suffer and the Australian community is worse off.
"Decisions about the outsourcing of government work should be based on a rational and practical consideration of the community's needs, not fear.
"We have seen the results of John Fahey's information technology outsourcing program - massive redundancy pay-outs and promised savings which never appear. Now we are seeing Australia's agricultural and livestock industries threatened by his ideological infatuation with market testing and outsourcing."
The CPSU is calling on the Government to reverse the process and guarantee that quarantine functions will not be outsourced.
by Andrew Casey
" First we had Peter Reith making unsubstantiated allegations that a Hotel receptionist had 'stolen' his Telecard pin number and caused his political and financial woes," Tim Ferrari, the Assistant National Secretary of the LHMU, said today.
" Now another Victorian Cabinet Minister - Senator Alston - has hinted that Government office cleaners might have something to do with the nearly $5 million loss of Commonwealth laptop computers.
" It really was a silly throwaway line by Senator Alston in Senate question time on Thursday that: ' the cleaners might have had a few spare minutes'.
" Hard-working cleaners, contracted to work in Government office buildings, don't have ' a few spare minutes' Senator Alston. They don't have the time to also do your job of finding the missing laptops," Mr Ferrari said.
" Senator Alston's comments, and before him Peter Reith's comments, fit into a pattern from Howard Government Ministers; blame the workers.
" Alston and Reith should learn: ' if you take care of the pennies the pounds will take care of themselves'," Tim Ferrari said. " That way taxpayers money won't continue to get lost, via missing Telecards, or missing laptop computers.
" Cleaners and hotel receptionists have reputations for honesty and decency - unlike some Howard Cabinet Ministers, who are very well-paid, but have an off-handed approach to the misuse of public monies.
" Early on during Mr Reith's self-created Telecard fiasco we asked him to say SORRY, for the insult to hotel receptionists.
" I guess if Peter Reith can't say SORRY it is too much to expect Senator Alston to say SORRY for his ill-thought out aside about cleaners," Tim Ferrari said.
This is thought to be the first time in Australia that a major organisation has implemented a 50% rule on its governing body. The move is also a first for any union body in the world.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the change was a substantial advance for women and showed that unions were committed to equal representation.
"What we need now is for other organisations to do the right thing. Women should be equally represented in boardrooms, the judiciary and the media. When that happens, Australia will be a more mature, rounded society," she said.
"Australian women still face discrimination every day. Women are employed as casuals so their employers can slide out of paying full entitlements such as maternity leave. And the great majority of people who called our recent hotline on workplace bullying were women."
Ms Burrow said the women on the ACTU Executive would work to improve maternity rights. The ACTU has written to the Government urging it to ratify the ILO Maternity Protection Convention 2000, and has urged the Government to implement the recommendations into Australian law.
"Unions have staked their ground here. We are committed to achieving maternity leave for casual workers, and to extending paid pregnancy leave," she said.
The Maternity Protection Convention will:
147 countries have legislated for paid maternity leave. These are some of them:
Ms Burrow said the women on the Executive were concerned at the Federal Government's refusal to sign or ratify the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
"This Government's inability to stand up on human rights issues is turning Australia into an international pariah," she said.
"We are disgusted by John Howard's refusal to promote the rights of women. This Government is tacitly approving the acts of rogue nations that violate women's rights. Australian women expect more."
The Optional Protocol establishes procedures to promote rights that are guaranteed under CEDAW. At the end of September, 62 nations had signed and 11 nations had ratified the protocol.
Steps along the way to equal representation
The move to equal representation began in 1989 when ACTU Congress established three affirmative action positions. In 1993, a target of 50% women on the Executive was set for within 10 years. The process was complete when more than 700 delegates at the 2000 Congress in Wollongong supported the 50% rule. Since then, unions have nominated women representatives, increasing the Executive members from 50 to 64.
by Zoe Reynolds
Union concerns over deregulation of the shipping industry have been borne out this week with the grounding of the vessel which is laden with toxic chemicals and 1,200 tonnes of fuel. The Bunga, which held a permit to carry domestic cargo, has been subject to five port inspections, the last in Port Botany in August this year when it was detained.
"This outrageous threat to our world heritage barrier reef is a direct result of the Coalition Government policy of allowing foreign flag ships to take over our domestic trade," said Deputy National Secretary Paddy Crumlin. "The Bunga Teratai Satu is just one of the new recruits to the Federal Government's shonky fleet. They've got these poorly regulated vessels with badly trained crew undercutting Australian ships in what are effectively tax avoidance schemes getting direct sponsorship from Transport Minister John Anderson and his Canberra mates."
Cabotage laws restrict Australia's domestic trade to Australian flag shipping except where no suitable Australian ship is available, But shippers and freight forwarders, lured by cheap rates afforded by foreign ships employing third world, often poorly trained, and exploited crew finding loopholes in the act to avoid using the national flag.
Port state control (The Australian Maritime Safety Authority) does spot checks on ships, but inspectors are not always able to ensure all ships are seaworthy before sailing in a brief few hours.
In recent years AMSA has seen a winding back of it's funding under current Government policies and a number of senior management people have left disillusioned by Government intervention.
The Bunga Teratai Satu was last inspected by AMSA in Port Botany, on August 8, 2000. The inspector noted officers were not able to demonstrate operation of radio equipment, engine room ventilation fire dampers were defective and the means of lifeboat recovery inoperative. The scrutiny the vessel has been put under in recent years demonstrates AMSA's serious concerns and yet on August 3, just five days before the ship was detained, and after numerous inspections detecting defects, John Anderson awarded a licence for the ship to the carry of Australian domestic cargo for 12 months.
"The MUA is calling for a Parliamentary inquiry into the circumstances around the awarding of this Permit. It's almost as if this government gave this ship the license to pollute and endanger our waterways because of their determination to destroy the Australian shipping industry. Our ships can't compete with these vessels because we maintain safety and training standards second to none in the world. We hold John Anderson responsible for any damage coming out of this. Only two months ago the minister was smugly boasting about his victory in the Federal Court against MUA efforts to prohibit the use of these types of vessels in the Australian domestic shipping industry" Mr Crumlin said.
Shipping paper Lloyds List/Daily Commercial News reports that AMSA has subjected the Bunga Teratai Satu to five inspections in the past two years, detaining the vessel once. The vessel was six miles off course when it ploughed into the reef. It had a permit to carry Australian cargo between Sydney, Bell Bay or Burnie and Fremantle. Minister for Transport John Anderson told DCN that the government could only withdraw its permit to trade on the coast by giving six months notice.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the test cases focused on two of the major issues facing Australian workers - the casualisation of the workforce and the increasingly long and unpredictable nature of working hours.
"These cases are about restoring some balance," said Ms Burrow.
The first case will seek to extend maternity and paternity leave rights to all casual workers with 12 months continuous service with the same employer.
"One in three Australian women workers is employed as a casual. Yet under Federal laws these women are denied access to the basic entitlement of maternity leave no matter how long or how regular their employment has been. No worker should have to lose her job to have a child. Maternity leave should be a right for all women."
In the second case the ACTU will seek to establish new award guidelines that ensure hours of work are not unreasonable. Under the application unions will seek to have factors such as an employees safety, family responsibilities, workload and the total amount of hours worked over an extended period considered in determining reasonable hours of work.
"Despite achieving the 8 hour day over a century ago, almost a third of all Australian workers now work more than 50 hours a week. No employee should be forced to work unreasonable hours. It not only puts undue pressure on the social, community and family lives of workers - it can also be dangerous," said Ms Burrow.
Applications for the test cases will be lodged with the Australian Industrial Relations Commission early next month.
by Rowan Cahill
The damage had been done by departing scabs, recruited interstate six weeks previously by a scab recruitment agency. Their departure was part of the back-to-work settlement.
Power tools had been tampered with. It is understood one incident involving industrial sabotage came close to injuring an apprentice. All equipment will now have to undergo occupational health and safety checks at Joy's expense, and the involvement of WorkCover is expected.
Personal lockers had been gone through, and items removed, including personal papers.
Work clothes and boots were trashed, and the company will have to replace these.
Anti-worker signs decorated walls and lockers.
It is understood a workshop computer holding a special program used in the maintenance and repair of mining equipment, and representing years of work, was rendered inoperable. More company expense.
The previous week when striking Joy workers met at the local RSL Club to wind up their industrial action, scabs in a clearly marked Joy company vehicle attempted to verbally harass them.
Most of the workers were in the meeting, however, and the bulk of the obscene scab tirade fell on the ears of pensioners and retirees entering the Club for a special luncheon and bingo afternoon.
This scab initiative did nothing to enhance Joy's battered local reputation.
It is understood Joy management has withheld final payments to the scabs to cover worksite damage.
Damage done by the Joy scabs is similar to scab damage done to waterfront terminals during the bitter Patrick Stevedores dispute in 1998, where wharfie change rooms and facilities were trashed; tools and equipment were either sabotaged, or damaged by misuse; personal items were stolen from lockers.
Peter Reith's chaotic Workplace Relations Act has nourished the growth of adventurist and opportunist outfits specialising in the supply of scab labour and offering security expertise.
No matter what their letterheads suggest, these parasitical outfits seem little more than havens for maladjusted individuals with low self-esteem, attracting former school yard bullies and anti-social fringe elements.
The Joy company is the latest victim to be taken for a ride.
Henry Reynolds, academic and author of 12 books on Aboriginal affairs, will explain and defend his proposals for the acceptance of Aboriginal self-determination, and also explain how he arrived at the 20,000 estimate forthenumber of indigenouw people killed during white settlement.
His views will be criticized and his numerical estimate disputed by academic and author, Keith Windshuttle, who has written a critique of Henry Reynolds' views and proposals in a series of 'Quadrant' articles.
Sydney jounalist and Leichhardt Council alderman, Paddy McGuiness, editor of 'Quadrant' project in relation to Aboriginal affairs and multiculturalism.
This 'Quadrant' project will becontested and criticized by Bob Gould, Sydney bookseller, researcher and political person.
There will be considerable discussion from the floor in three minute segments. The event will be chaired by journalist, author, and Leichhardt Council alderman, all Greenland.
All points of view on these controversial questions will get the opportunity for expression.
The debate will be held at 2.30pm Sunday, 12 November 2000 at Gould's Book Arcade, Newtown. 32 King Street, Newtown.
The Noel Butlin Archives preserve the historical records of some of the nations largest and historically important companies as well as the records of many trade unions, including the ACTU
Among its statutory responsibilities the ANU is supposed to engage in "encouraging, and providing facilities for, research and postgraduate study, both generally and in relation to subjects of national importance to Australia".
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Deane Terrell, in his recently released "Plan for Growth", reiterated this as being the special role of the University.
The Friends of the Noel Butlin Centre say the Vice-Chancellor is aware that the "Commonwealth Government provides the block grant to us to support this special role". The Senate is questioning whether the ANU is honouring its obligations.
A spokesperson for the Friends of the Noel Butlin Archives Center, Mr Barry Howarth, said, "In discussions with the University it has become clear that what is at issue is not money - ANU had an operating surplus last year of $76.5 million and $80.5 million the year before, so $100,000 or even $200,000 a year extra is nothing - it is simply that ANU has no interest in what doesn't make money, even if is a research resource of inestimable national value."
Staff are to be cut from the current 4.5 to 2. In 1993 there were 8-while, under legal obligations to depositors, the amount of work needed to be done will barely diminish.
"It is ironic." Mr Howarth went on, "that the Archives, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne Archives and other archival establishments, has just won a competitive Rief Grant of some $100,000 for a special project; the Australian Trade Union Heritage Resources Gateway project. If staff are cut to two the Archives will probably be unable to participate in the project."
The Australian Trade Union Heritage Resources Gateway aims to remedy a significant gap in scholarly research infrastructure for unions and industrial relations, and to test emerging Australian and international archival metadata standards for description, resource discovery and publication on the Web. The project will build the first nationally accessible Web gateway and finding-aid linking historical detail, archival and heritage resources and Web sites on Australia's trade unions and peak union bodies from the nineteenth century on. It will also build upon existing archival and library infrastructure. The project will be used by tertiary and secondary educational researchers, industrial bodies and the Australian public nationally.
For further information contact: Dr John Merritt, FNBAC Representative on the NBAC Advisory Committee. (Ph 02 6236 9317; email: [email protected])
Ms Rosemary Webb, President, FNBAC. (Ph.02 6291 9656; email: [email protected])
Mr Barry Howarth, NTEU ACT Division Secretary.
The Sydney Branch, Australian Society for the Study of Labour History Invites You to Join Us for atour of lithgow's labour history sites on Sunday, 12th November
Join the Labour History group on train from Central Station. (last carriage) leaving 8.02 am (Strathfield 8.14, Parramatta, 8.26), arrives Lithgow 10.45 am to meet tour coach. (Train arrives back at Central at 6.23 pm).
The program includes guided tour of "Eskbank House" (built 1842, home of Lithgow Historical Society); Blast Furnace site; State Mine Heritage Park & Railway; Small Arms Factory Museum; and lunch at Workingmen's Club Bistro (children's meal available).
Cost incl. lunch: $35 ($30 concession; $25 children under 12)
(Note: not including return train fare - $19.40, Child/Senior: $3.30)
The MP for Lowe (Outlaw Banks Strike Again, Workers Online Issue 75) compares the actions of the banks with Ned Kelly. At least Ned was honest about his intentions with the banks - the banks are hardly honest with their customers.
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Accept that some days you're the pigeon and some days you're the statue
Workers Online 71 quotes Rick Fowler of the CFMEU favourably of the S11 protest "These alliances must be the basis of future campaigns that will be waged against companies and Governments that do not respect workers and human rights". To achieve this, we need some broader organizing in NSW, open to all the S11 activists.
Unfortunately the S11 Coalition in Sydney bans the far left, one of the most energetic forces behind the success of S11. Melbourne's post S11 work is more promising.
Earthworker is organising a one day conference on November 11 to consider S11 under the title "N11 conference: A Day of Reflection and Strategy". One proposal for the conference suggests that the basis for further campaigns against global capital lies in targeting specific global corporations, known for their violations of workers, women's and indigenous rights and disregard for a sustainable environment. It proposes to unite existing campaigns and trade union struggles which have already laid groundwork. It specifically emphasises the value of organising workers and unions who potentially have the strongest position from which to challenge global corporations.
Post-S11 gatherings could seek to identify which corporations make the most suitable targets for priority campaigning over the next few months, identifying specific demands, allies, and difficulties to be overcome. Open meetings in Sydney, with no exclusions, are the way to do this and build on the spirit and promise of S11 as identified by Rick Fowler.
Yours in solidarity,
Leon Parissi (PSA delegate, in a personal capacity, the above is not official PSA policy)
Dempster has his say
You've described the 1990s as the ABC's most pressured and dangerous decade. How are things looking from your perspective in the Year 2000?
Well, just as bad. And what we are facing now is the consequences of 15 years of de-funding and our inability to migrate into the new media through digital broadcasting and enhancement of our internet services - which have been a success. To stay relevant the ABC needs to be in this area, but the Government refused to give us multi channelling and digital and hasn't come to the party with any money to put content on our new channels.
The ABC has been asked to do more with less, even since David Hill. Is it possible to do even more with even less?
No, it is not possible to do more with less. We have to start diverting money from core services to get at least a foothold in multi-channelling and digital. That is what the argument has been about the Board's decision last week to move money out of the news and current affairs budget into what is called "new media".
Our internet services are a success because they add value to the taxpayer investment through our news and current affairs and other information services in the development of websites. We spend about $3 million a year on our internet services. NineMSN spends about $27 million. Fairfax is spending about $30 million and they are not making a quid out of it. What we are doing, we are getting a tremendous amount of access to the ABC's internet services comparable to NineMSN but for a lousy $3 million. I mean we are making do - we are doing more with less. People come to the ABC because it is the most trusted media institution in Australia.
In an era of media convergence why is there a need for a public broadcaster?
Because we don't come at you with our content with a hard, commercial sell. The history of public broadcasting from the start of radio in the late '20s has been the altruism contained in it. And that is to provide to the polity independent, innovative programming. It is meant to build a sense of cohesion and inclusiveness in a society and in a democracy.
What is unique about the ABC is that we do not have a commercial culture. We are not in the business of trying to get audiences for advertisers. We are not in the market gouging for revenue. As public broadcasters - we try to treat our audiences as citizens in a democracy.
What is your reaction to Jonathan Shier's articulation of his vision last week?
Shier is feeling his way, I am sure at the moment. He has raised some questions about education and health and history and he has got a structure in there which, he says, establishes his credentials in re-making or reinventing public broadcasting. - 21 genres that cover every aspect of human endeavour. Now, on paper that might look OK, but those of us who have been fighting to support the ABC over the years, obviously ask the question "where is the money coming from?"
It is not as if the ABC and its staff aren't used to change. We are more than willing to have change. We are more than willing to talk through programming; other innovative ideas; reinventions; recreations; all that sort of stuff - but what the ABC is facing is a diminution of its services and its capacity for innovation because of Alston's policy of de-funding.
There is a prickly relationship between this Federal Government and the ABC. But is this really a new thing? Is it qualitatively different from the relationship that the ABC had with Labor for example?
No. The major parties - Labor and Liberal - say they have a commitment to public broadcasting. They have all the rhetoric ready at hand, but the facts say the opposite has been the case. Under Hawke and Keating the ABC was run down as Hawke and Keating cuddled up to Packer and Murdoch. The ABC had to press on as best it could, and did very well. I think in anybody's language the ABC is a success story. We are not a huge drain on the public purse when you compare us with Defence expenditure and given the value to the country of having an inclusive public broadcaster.
No, both the Labor and Liberal Parties have always used their patronage system to sometimes stack the board with party political hacks. The ABC has been enduring that since 1932. The point is that we really need to get beyond the political stack and that two party manipulation of the broadcaster, to work out what is in the country's best interest and the ABC's best interests in the years ahead. Particularly with these exciting possibilities with new media. With multi-channelling and digital, with the internet - for not a lot of outlay.
For example, there is alienation in the bush of Australia now, which we know there is because of globalisation. But for not much money we can turn our 48 ABC regional radio centres into television studios. With digi cameras and desktop editing it is cost effective to turn those regional centres into television news outlets so that the local communities can be involved in discussions about things that are important to their regions. We haven't been able to do that. We have been closing down regional television.
I would love to be able to get those 48 regional centres operating in television because we can multi-channel. With digital we can transmit to niche markets. Wollongong could have its own regional news, current affairs. Mackay, Maryborough, Bunbury - all around the country these regional centres could be brought back into the mainstream of broadcasting by having their own outlets.
You describe in your book how American public television has deteriorated to the point where it consists of "Bugs fucking to Mozart" genres. Do you have that feel about the ABC here as well? That we are well down that track?
I fear that we will go down that track. And that was confirmed by the Board's decision to scale down news and current affairs. I mean, do we want a robust democracy? Do we want to see the Prime Minister being subjected to an adversarial interview? I know it is a point of great aggravation between the politicians and the public broadcaster. But it is what allows the public to be involved in the political process. I know Prime Ministers don't like it. I know they don't like being held to account and sometimes asked difficult questions on national television. But it is the contribution of the broadcaster through that process to political accountability and involving the citizens in the debate.
Robert Hughes was quite good in his reference to bugs fucking to Mozart, because that would indicate that you could go to soft-centred programming which didn't offend anybody. Surely we can negotiate and see that it is in the public interest to have a robust exchange. To have a challenge of political orthodoxy; to have a testing of policies; to have a range of ideas.
Do you accept that allegations of bias directed at the ABC are true?
The ABC is a flawed institution. We make mistakes. There are errors or judgement - errors of editorial judgement - from time to time. But it is not a major problem with the public.
There is no systemic bias in the ABC, I contend. The ABC Act requires of us to strive to present material in the highest standards of objective journalism. That there is balance. That there is guarding against undue influence from vested interests; vested political interests and what have you.
Of course people can see bias from time to time and there can be instances of it. We have quite a substantial accountability regime that we are all subjected to. It goes from the ABC Act to the ABC Board's editorial guidelines, which we can all be held to account for. There is the Board's own independent Complaints Review Panel, looking at bias and balance in ABC programming, as well as our Code of Practice which is handed up to the Australian Broadcasting Authority. The ABC is subjected to external oversight. As well, there is the Parliament itself.
As well as that we are also held to account through the Defamation and Contempt laws, Federal and State. There is a huge accountability regime there in a society which is increasingly more secretive. Government which is more secretive. Corporations which are more secretive because of the commercial-in-confidence provisions which they always put up to try to stop debate.
The ABC exists with its own accountability regime in an increasingly secretive society.
What are the flaws in the organisation as you see them?
Well, you name them. I am too biased in favour of the ABC to list them. But the flaws can be where you see inexperience coming up. People not being well briefed or across issues. The ABC audience particularly are very discerning and they can tell when you are not on top of things that you should be.
There are flaws in training and in your own level of experience that come out on air. The public picks up on them and fortunately the interface with the public is very good and they are very quick to phone up and tell us where we have gone wrong.
You describe the ABC as having its own personality. What do you mean by that, and how is that personality surviving the funding dramas?
Well, the personality - the argument is whether we had this personality of wanting to serve the public as citizens, or we were going to turn ourselves into a business - be in the game of Pay Television to get revenue from the market - use our strengths in various program areas to get some money from the market. Whether we were going to be revenue hunters or people who had a strong commitment to service to the public. That is what I mean by 'personality'.
How do you think the ABC stacks up in a global context?
The ABC is one of the most cost effective broadcasters in the world, given that we have held on to our bridges to audience.
Triple J for the kids -getting innovative Australian material to air; giving people a go; promoting the musicality of Australians.
Classic FM through the orchestral network. What country in the world has got six symphony orchestras to call on? They are now subsidiary companies of the ABC. That is a marvellous thing for a country of 19 million people.
News Radio for the news junkies. Because of the digital technology, it makes use of all the actuality that comes from having reporters around Australia and the world. Our network of international correspondents reporting for Australia with an Australian perspective on global events. In Sydney against a very competitive redneck radio market we've got 702 and metros all around the other capitals - Newcastle as well - and the 48 regional centres.
All that is sustained on an operational budget of about $480 million. And our television channel - and Radio Australia, which was tragically gutted by the ABC and the Howard Government through the cuts. If there is anything that is close to epitomising the death struggle it is the mindless decimation of Radio Australia through the Howard Government cuts and the capitulation by the ABC to those cuts. I mean we have lost the Australian voice right through Asia up to China and through the Pacific.
Shier's just floated the idea of combining SBS and ABC. What do you think about that?
Well I don't think it would wash politically. I mean SBS was started by the Fraser Government in the 70s because of a need to include the ethnic communities. I mean, one in four Australians is from a non-English speaking background and the ABC was remiss in watching the trends in the changing ethnic mix of Australia. I was a bit distressed that Mr Shier thought that SBS wouldn't be started now because Australia is a multicultural society. I mean, we are considered something of a success as a multicultural society because of outfits like SBS. The ABC has had to lift its game in recognising the ethnic mix. We have been accused rightly in the past of being Anglo-centric and that has slowly changed. SBS has been part of that. SBS gets about $60 million compared with the ABS's $480 million in operational funding and I think that is a very good investment in social cohesion as well.
If you were the Managing Director of the ABC what would be your vision? What direction would you take it in?
I would want to enhance services in new media. One of the things that has been bugging me over the last few years through the Howard Government cuts is that we have been forced to depend on other broadcasters' shelf items. It is cheaper to buy some other broadcasters programs than it is to make it yourself and the ABC has been looking more like UK TV than Australian TV to me. A lot of the audiences love it. Some of the stuff is good quality and we have held our audience in television, but the Act says we are supposed to enhance a sense of national identity - Australian identity. Well, how do you enhance a sense of Australian identity on the Vicar of Dibley and Dinner Ladies and British "fart" comedy like The Royle Family, which I am told is funny to some. But that is where I would take it. I would want to greatly enhance the Australian programming. The BBC broadcasts 90% British programming.
What role do you see for the labour movement in defending the integrity of the ABC?
Well, the Labor Party has to decide whether it wants to hang on the coat tails of Lachlan Murdoch and play tycooning - as Keating and Hawke did pathetically - as Howard is doing with Packer - and get a decent public broadcasting policy. I hope the Labor Party as a result of this debate will reconsider its policy. You know, it won't be a case of Kim and Lachlan and Kim and James Packer. I mean, the Labor Party has been a great disappointment to me since Keating's cross media rule which saw the destruction of the Herald & Weekly Times group. He did it for political reasons but he never had an idea of media policy.
Talk about competition in media. It was a joke! Talk about Fred Hilmer's competition policy. It was a joke when it came to media.
And what about the union movement?
The union movement has to consider the policy as well. Whether it has a public broadcasting policy, or a media policy itself, so that it can feel it is included in the dealings of the country. Whether it can get a fair run. Does the union movement get a fair run out of the Murdoch press? Does the union movement get a fair run out of the Packer press? Look at the question of balance and fairness and see that the ABC charter has allowed unions to get their voice heard. So I think for that reason alone the union movement should be a solid supporter of the enhancement of public broadcasting.
Quentin Dempster has worked for the ABC for 16 years as a political reporter, current affairs presenter and investigative journalist. He was staff-elected director on the ABC board from 1992 to 1996. He has just written a book - 'Death Struggle' - how political malice and boardroom powerplays are killing the ABC. (Allen and Unwin)
Hooked on breast implants, pop music, cars, fast food, diets, exercise equipment, guns and television - they have a political culture to match.
Repeatedly making flawed attempts at cushioning themselves from the harsher edges of reality, they promote politicians who aspire to high and noble ideals that are unachievable given the political environment of television and money in which they operate. America is dreaming - Australia's politics seem very real and gritty by comparison.
Nevertheless - if only because we consume more intellectual product from America than from our own country, because they dominate the Internet, the movies, video games and television - anything that happens in America will inevitably influence Australian culture. And in just four days the marathon campaign to decide the President of the United States of America, leader of the free world, Commander in Chief of US military forces, will reach its climax. The race between George W. Bush, Governor of Texas and Al Gore, the Vice President, is proving impossible to predict.
The gyration of the polls from candidate to candidate has left pundits confused. Bush has emerged as the favourite, having established a sustained lead of three to four points in recent times; although the candidates are within the error bounds of each other. Indeed, in the race to win the States, Bush seems to be on the attack, with Gore consistently being forced to respond.
America's collegiate voting system means that the election is in fact a series of State races. It consists of a 'first past the post' election in every State, each sending a delegation to an Electoral College in proportion to the population. The candidate with the highest absolute number of votes takes all of the collegiate votes from the State. Moving around the country the candidates shore-up support where needed. Bush has been moving through Minnesota, Iowa and California, traditionally solid Democrat States that Gore should have solidly behind him. Gore has been forced to follow in his path, diverting resources from the more marginal places. However, on the strength of his policies in Social Security and Health, Gore has pulled ahead in the critical State of Florida, which he needs to win to stay in the race.
Gore is under additional pressure because as a result of the 'first past the post' election system, the candidate to win each State is the candidate with the most number of votes - unlike Australia there are no preferences. The effect of this is that a strong third party can pull votes away from one of the two primary candidates. Ross Perot's, candidature in the 1992 election pulled votes away from the Republicans and favoured Clinton over Bush. This time the strong running from Green candidate, Ralph Nader, an eloquent, and well respected former corporate watchdog (like America's version of Prof. Allen Fells), is likely to pull votes away from Gore in traditionally progressive States like Minnesota. The Democrats, fearing that a "vote for Nader is a vote for Bush" message will simply discourage progressive voters from turning out, are desperately trying to find a strategy to deal with this.
Notwithstanding Bush's current advantage, the race is still open. Gore supporters are hoping that the polls reflect an unofficial protest against Gore's wooden campaign performance and the unsavoury aspects of the Clinton administration. Americans are used to being polled and understand their significance. It is possible that such a protest could bias the polls, given that we a dealing with a relatively sophisticated demographic. In the absence of an overriding case for change, Democrats are hoping that voters will turn to Gore on the day - as the safer option.
Bush also has his problems. A recent study by a respected educational think tank (RAND) questioned the validity of studies showing improvements in educational standards in Texas - undermining a key campaigning point for the Republicans. Revelations of a drink driving charge (dating from 1976) against Bush have emerged late in the campaign - potentially damaging for a law and order Governor who has signed the death warrants of over thirty capital offenders this year.
The question for much of America is, will the outcome have any practical meaning? Both sides have moved so far to the centre. Gore promises to continue the policies of the Clinton administration, as a moderate Democrat, with Bush positioning himself as a "Compassionate Conservative". It seems that following the years of the failed Republican Revolution under Newt Gingrich, the conservatives are ready to put their ideological zeal on hold in order to achieve the reigns of power. The question is, in an era of poll driven policies and moderate politics, would the behaviour of either candidate in office be significantly different? One potential area of real difference is the Supreme Court.
Over the next presidential term, up to four Supreme Court judges are expected to retire. The President appoints their replacements, providing an historic opportunity to shape the make-up of the bench. The historic Roe v Wade decision, overruling State laws against abortion, effectively allows choice throughout the country. Recently, a narrow four:five majority upheld the decision. The Democrats are campaigning heavily on Bush's pro-life position, claiming that further conservative appointments to the bench will upset the balance and result in the overturning of the right to abortion, as well as a number of decisions allowing the Federal Government to pass laws regarding the environment. Pro-choice groups are campaigning on this issue in an attempt to put pressure on potential Nader voters.
Despite the rush to the centre, in the policy detail there are distinct differences between the candidates. Bush is promising a tax cut plan that would deliver half of the total cut to the top 1% of income earners, whilst Gore proposes a more moderate range of targeted tax relief. Bush, from Texas, has a well-established alliance with the oil companies and believes that environmental standards ought to be achieved through negotiation with industry. Gore has demonstrated his environmental credentials by his commitment at the Kyoto negotiations to establish an international framework from Greenhouse gas reductions.
Australia, a small English-speaking nation heavily influenced by American culture, has a vital interest in America taking an active interest in world affairs. Gore has a solid track record as an internationalist; Bush is an isolationist. What would happen to America's commitment Europe, the Balkans, Indonesia/East Timor, and the Middle East? It is critical for Australia's interests that America remains engaged with the rest of the world and committed to globalisation. For right or wrong, Australia has invested much in its relationship with America and an isolationist America leaves Australia out in the cold.
But the time for speculation is drawing to a close, with only four days to go our suspense is soon to be lifted. This time next week, we'll have a new leader of the free world. Whatever the outcome, there is unlikely to be any wake-up call to America.
Until next week, stay tuned to Workers Online for our post election spin.
Here's what Truth Squad members have to say about Goerge W. Bush:
"People should know that George W. Bush is easily swayed by corporate money. When you take into account his attempts to privatize social services and the prisons, nobody benefits but the corporations," says Sheri Cagle, a 12-year veteran correctional officer who left her job because of frustration with Bush's changes in the prisons.
The Texas Truth Squad member says the Texas prison system has been neglected under Bush. There is little concern for the safety of its employees, she says, and the growing privatization has put correctional officers, citizens and even inmates at risk.
"There are private prisons, places where people are making minimum wage, that do not always attract the caliber of people you need to run a professional and safe institution," says the AFSCME Local 3848 member.
The 31-year-old Amarillo mother of one daughter says Bush's record on the environment, privatization, school vouchers and other key issues is clear: "He is nothing but a mouthpiece for the corporations."
Cagle plans to enter college in the fall to study occupational therapy and maybe devote more time to coaching her daughter's soccer and baseball teams.
In Texas's Rio Grande Valley, Arister Reyna is a little better off than many of the tens of thousands of agriculture workers whose pay is set by the state's minimum-wage law at $3.35 an hour. Reyna, a member of the Farm Workers, earns $5.15 an hour.
"If I cannot support my family at the minimum wage of $5.15, I do not understand how farm workers can support their families at $3.35," he says.
Reyna, who speaks only Spanish, is touring the country this summer as part of the AFL-CIO's Texas Truth Squad, telling people how difficult it is to make a living in a state where Gov. George W. Bush supports the state's $3.35-an-hour minimum wage for agriculture and domestic workers.
Reyna and his wife Elia, parents of four children, work side by side, most recently picking onions or harvesting cantaloupes. But his hours are not guaranteed.
"Sometimes I work 27 hours a week, 18, 12--it varies. George Bush says there is work, but really there is not in the Texas region. George Bush says that he is helping us out, but I have not seen anything wage-wise. I would like to make a decent living in the Valley. But I need more work with better pay to support my family," Reyna says.
Lack of health insurance forces him and his family across the border to Mexico, where medicine and health care are cheaper. But that also means he and his wife miss a day of work, which they can ill afford.
"Governor Bush said that they [workers] would do all right with that minimum wage, but it's hard to support a family with those low wages and weekly hours. We've got to fight for better wages and work," Reyna says. "If Bush wins, it will only get worse."
Life Is No Bed of Roses for Working Families in Texas
With George W. Bush as governor, the state of Texas has earned a mass of unpleasant distinctions.
Among all states, Texas ranks second to last in children with health insurance, but first in handing out large tax cuts. The state ranks 41st in people above the poverty line and 43rd in hourly earnings, but first in industrial air pollution. And Texas ranks first in having the country's largest criminal justice system and the most executions, but 34th in per-student education spending.
Working families are asking: If this is what Bush has done for Texas, what would he do for America as president?
Harsh Realities for Texas Working Families
"One of the nation's worst" in public health records. (Adam Clymer, "Bush and Texas Have Not Set a High Priority on Health Care," The New York Times, April 11, 2000, citing data on health insurance, infant mortality, cancer deaths, rates of diseases such as AIDS and diabetes, immunization, access to physicians and "distressful" health conditions along the Texas-Mexico border)
Second to last in children with health insurance. (Children's Defense Fund, The State of America's Children 2000)
49th in all people with health insurance. (The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, Uninsured in America: A Chartbook, Table 23, May 2000)
45th in babies born to mothers who received early prenatal care. (Children's Defense Fund, The State of America's Children 2000)
47th in fully immunized 2-year-olds. (Children's Defense Fund, The State of America's Children 2000)
45th in SAT scores. (Children's Defense Fund, The State of America's Children 2000)
34th in per-student expenditures for education. (Children's Defense Fund, The State of America's Children 2000)
Workers' Wages and Rights
43rd in average hourly earnings. (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employment and Earnings, May 2000")
41st--ninth worst--in overall poverty. (U.S. Department of Commerce)
46th--fourth worst--in child poverty. (Children's Defense Fund, The State of America's Children 2000)
42nd in the proportion of unemployed workers who receive unemployment insurance. (Maurice Emsellem, Katherine Allen, Lois Shaw, "The Texas Unemployment Insurance System: Barriers to Access for Low-Wage, Part-Time & Women Workers," National Employment Law Project, Feb. 1999, p.i)
49th in union members as a percentage of the population. (Barry T. Hirsch, David A. Macpherson, Union Membership and Earnings Data Book: Compilations from the Current Population Survey, Bureau of National Affairs, 2000)
1st in giving the largest tax cuts in 1999. (Robert Pear, "States Gather Big Surpluses, Benefit of A Strong Economy," The New York Times, Jan. 5, 2000)
1st in largest criminal justice system. (Fox Butterfield, "On the Record: Governor Bush on Crime; Bush's Law and Order Adds Up to Tough and Popular," The New York Times, Aug. 18, 1999.
1st in executions. (Anthony Lewis, "Shallow and Callous," The New York Times, June 17, 2000)
1st in industrial air pollution. (The Sierra Club, cited in Peter Marks, "The 2000 Campaign: The Ad Campaign; Bush Environmental Record," The New York Times, May 24, 2000)
1st in factories violating clean water standards. (The Sierra Club, cited in Peter Marks, "The 2000 Campaign: The Ad Campaign; Bush Environmental Record," The New York Times, May 24, 2000)
1st in most smog alerts in 1999. (Bob Herbert, "Bush Goes Green," The New York Times, April 6, 2000)
1st in most carcinogens discharged into the air. (Bob Herbert, "Bush Goes Green," The New York Times, April 6, 2000)
by Stuart Macintyre
"Their Long Lost Mother". A mocking 1899 Worker comment on the efforts of pro and anti-federationists to woo Labor's support at the colonial referenda on the Constitution Bill.
Something irrecoverable passed from Australian community life in the lean last years of the nineteenth century. That keen-eyed labour historian Brian Fitzpatrick has likened what took place to the end of a childhood: the curtain's fall on wide-eyed expectation, the entrance instead of uncertainty doubt and mistrust. In this painful adolescence during the industrial turmoil, depression and drought of the 1890s two thresholds of adulthood were crossed. The six colonies joined to form a federal Commonwealth, and the labour movement made its political entrance. The two developments were closely linked and have influenced each other ever since. The Labor Party is the only party to have participated continuously in national politics since its inception; from an initial preoccupation with an independent and racially exclusive nationhood to the more recent striving for a multicultural republic, it has always stressed its national credentials. The Labour Party of Britain, the Socialist Party of France, the Social-Democratic Party of Germany saw no reason for a patriotic prefix; in this country the Federal Labor Party saw fit to style itself the Australian Labor Party and still retains that distinctive national designation.
It came into being, moreover, in response to the creation of a new polity, the Australian Commonwealth, so that the organised working class would be represented in the Commonwealth parliament. The fledgling labour parties had formed in order to put into the colonial parliaments representatives who could influence the legislative, administrative and judicial operation of the colonial governments. Trade unionists wanted to restrain the repressive role the state had played in the Maritime Strike of 1890 and subsequent industrial disputes, and they hoped that by political action they could win back some of the ground that had been lost to employers. This turn to electoral activity and parliamentary politics during the 1890s was contested by some sections of the movement who argued that it dampened class ardour and encouraged reformist illusions. The formation of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party, in advance of the extra-parliamentary machinery of Conference and Executive, confirmed the commitment of the Australian labour movement to parliamentary gradualism.
Federation and the labour movement were thus joined at their inception and have remained closely intertwined, yet have never been satisfied with each other. The colonial labour parties played little part in the federal movement. They were unrepresented at the first Convention of 1891 and only one labour representative was elected to the second Convention of 1897-98. They were dissatisfied with the federal schemes devised by these assemblies and deeply mistrustful of the motives of those who devised them. Having failed to achieve the democratic provisions they sought in the draft Commonwealth Constitution, leading members of the labour movement opposed its adoption during the referenda conducted between 1898 and 1900. Unable to persuade the voters to hold back from such an imperfect union, they had no alternative but to participate in it.
The process that led eventually to federation began with the return to office in New South Wales of Henry Parkes in 1887. This devious, vain, posturing, massive and durable old man had long since abandoned the advanced opinions with which he had entered politics. Hence his denunciation of the republicans who disrupted Sydney's official celebrations of the royal jubilee during 1887, his ban on their Sunday evening meetings and his resolution whereby the Legislative Assembly declared its unalterable attachment to the British empire. But Parkes possessed a talent for divining the popular mood. Sensing the growing strength of Australian national sentiment, he was determined to place himself at its head. Accordingly he joined in the criticism of Britain's neglect of Australian interests in the Pacific region, welcomed proposals for greater co-ordination of the colonial military forces and led the opposition to Chinese immigration. Gratified by the response to these gestures, he cast himself in an even more heroic role, that of the 'father of federation'. His speech at Tenterfield in October 1889, calling for national union, led quickly to a meeting of colonial representatives in 1890 and then to the meeting of delegates of the Australian and New Zealand parliaments in the 1891 Federal Convention.
It was hardly surprising that the newly elected Labor members of the New South Wales parliament were highly suspicious of Parkes' initiative. They had memories of his loyalist attachments and further, more recent and bitter experience of his anti-union role during the Maritime Strike. Federation at this time carried overtones of strengthening the ties of the British empire to meet the growing challenge from other imperial powers. That was one impulse for the formation of a Federal Council in 1885, which Parkes had initially proposed but then rejected. His preference was for a stronger national union that would have a more equal place within a reconstituted empire. At the same time as he launched his campaign for federation he wrote to the British prime minister suggesting such an arrangement.
The Parliamentary Committee of the Trades and Labor Council of New South Wales completed the platform of the new Labor Electoral League on 6 April 1891, just three days before the close of the first Federal Convention. The twelfth of its sixteen planks called for 'The federation of the Australasian colonies upon a national, as opposed to an imperialistic basis'. Two months later a general election returned 35 members of the Labor Electoral League to the Legislative Assembly. Labor had arrived as a new force in New South Wales politics and quickly made clear its dissatisfaction with the federal scheme that had been devised at the Convention. The new Labor members particularly criticised the undemocratic nature of the proposed constitution, the unrepresentative nature of the Senate (in the 1891 draft its members were to be chosen by the colonial legislatures) and the absence of manhood suffrage for the House of Representatives. More generally, they regarded Parkes and his Convention as unsympathetic to popular aspirations and intent on imposing a restrictive arrangement with precipitate haste.
The mechanism of federation envisaged at the Convention was that the various colonial legislatures would endorse the draft Commonwealth constitution for enactment at Westminster. But after the election of June 1891 Labor held the balance of power in New South Wales and left Parkes in no doubt that it would not co-operate:
'In spite of the titled and beribboned gentlemen who met recently in this Chamber to formulate a scheme for a Commonwealth of Australia, there will be no federation of the Australian colonies except upon a basis vastly different from that put forward by the Premier.'
Faced with this obstacle and the antagonism of his political rivals, Parkes made no effort to carry the federal scheme before he was removed from office at the end of the year. All subsequent efforts to do so foundered on Labor opposition and without the participation of New South Wales, there was little chance that other colonies would adopt the measure. In its political infancy the labour movement had in effect vetoed federation.
The federal movement revived on a new and more popular basis. In response to the failure of their earlier attempt to work through the parliaments, the federalists hit upon the idea of a directly elected convention that would submit its proposals directly to the citizenry through referenda. This was the procedure that was devised at the Corowa conference in 1893, which was itself organised by the enthusiasts of the Federation League who proclaimed its spontaneous and popular character. The author of the Corowa proposals, John Quick, claimed that they arose out of the impulse of
'groups of men out of Parliament, but animated by patriotic impulse and interest in the common cause of federation, who thought the time had arrived when national unity should be made a people's cause and should be no longer dependent on the battledore and shuttlecock of colonial Parliamentary parties.'
The Federation League made a virtue of its non-political character. It limited the proportion of parliamentarians on its governing body and forbade on pain of expulsion the introduction of political topics other than federation. Yet the chief initiator of the League was Edmund Barton, a leading member of the New South Wales parliament. Speaking at the meeting at the Sydney Town Hall that established the League, he defined it as 'an organisation of citizens owning no class distinction or party influence'.
Barton was no friend of labour and his subterfuge was a red rag to the members of the Labor Party, who invaded the public meeting at the Town Hall where the League was to be formed. In response to Barton's resolution 'That it is expedient to advance the cause of Australian federation by an organisation of citizens owning no class distinction or party influence...', the president of the South Sydney Labor Electoral League, W. G. Higgs, moved the following amendment:
'That it is expedient to advance the cause of Australian democracy by an organisation using its best energies to establish Australian Federation on the following basis:
1. That the colonies federating shall form themselves into a democratic republic to be called the United States of Australia.
2. That all laws necessary for the peace, order and good government of the republic shall be made by a Federal Parliament consisting of only one chamber.
3. That the Federal Laws shall provide for
(a) One Man One Vote throughout each State
(b) the Nationalisation of all Land
(c) the Abolition of all Legislative Councils and the Substitution of the Referendum
(d) the total exclusion of all Asiatics and other aliens whose standard of living and habits of life are not equal to our own, and whose entering into competition with Australian wage-earners is a direct menace to the national welfare.'
Higgs was supported by George Black, a Labor MLA and leading figure in both the Australian Socialist and Republican League, and by the young orator of the Australian Socialist League and future premier, William Holman. The Lord Mayor ignored the forest of arms raised in support of the amendment, declared it lost, hastily pushed through the constitution of the Federation League and closed the meeting.
The proceedings at Corowa a month later could only have hardened the hostility of the labour movement. The organisers had issued credentials freely and the handful of Labor delegates was outnumbered by an informal coalition made up of representatives of the Federation League, the Australian Natives Association and employers' organisations; the Melbourne secretary of the Imperial Federation League played a prominent role. The conference began with a resolution 'That in the opinion of this Conference the best interests and the present and future prosperity of the Australian colonies will be promoted by their early union under the Crown...' That final flourish provoked Dr William Maloney, the prominent Melbourne socialist and Labor member of the Victorian parliament, to declare Australia was marching towards a republic. Amid cries of 'No, no', 'Question' and 'Chair', the chairman called him to order. 'If that sort of question ... was not allowable,' Maloney persisted, 'he would say that he trusted the federation of Australia would go forward and bring about a civilization that would wipe out poverty from our midst.' One or two other delegates ventured to make remarks on the same lines but were not allowed to proceed. Another Labor man wanted the conference to endorse the principle of one man one vote, but he was ruled out of order. The original motion was put and carried.
The scheme adopted at Corowa for federation on a popular basis by direct election of a new Convention and direct submission of its proposals to a plebiscite gathered momentum, nevertheless. A conference of the premiers at Hobart adopted it in early 1895; five of the six colonial parliaments passed enabling legislation over the next eighteen months, and in 1897 four of the colonies conducted elections for the new Convention. Western Australia chose to appoint its delegates and Queensland still held out altogether, but in the four south-eastern colonies there was growing support for federation across party lines. The pro-federal alliance of leading politicians, liberal and conservative, protectionist and free-trade, deprived New South Wales Labor of its power of veto and threatened to marginalise the smaller labour parties elsewhere.
The labour movement remained highly suspicious. 'All history', declared the election manifesto of the New South Wales Labor Electoral League, 'proves that a Federal Constitution, once in force, is almost impossible of alteration ... If you send into the Convention men whose political ideal is the perpetuation of those unjust privileges that today disfigure all our institutions and poison our national life, then you will of your own act fasten the rope around your necks'. A speaker at the conference of the Labor League in the previous year went even further:
'The forces of capitalism and conservatism throughout Australia had become alarmed during the last four or five years at the great wave of Democracy which had passed over the colonies, and they hoped to defeat its objects by building up a huge Federal Parliament to protect their interests as in the United States of America.'
This interpretation of the motives of the fathers of federation hardened later into an unshakable conviction. According to Arthur Calwell, 'Many Labor men and women feared that the federal constitution would be so drafted as to ensure the disproportionate power of the wealthy ', and Fin Crisp supported him with the authoritative exposition of the argument that the Commonwealth Constitution was created by 'conservative men of property'. 'Capitalists rejoiced', wrote W. G. Spence, 'in the hope that now they would have a Parliament to which Labor could never attain', and Brian Fitzpatrick affirmed that the aim of the champions of federation was 'to control the disposition of the coercive forces of organized society'. There is no lack of contemporary evidence to support these allegations. During the elections to the Convention in 1897 Bruce Smith, that champion of the unfettered rights of capital, said he expected federation to serve as a barrier to the growth of Labor's political influence. At the Convention George Reid read out the powers that would be invested in the federal parliament and observed that the sphere of the 'socialist agitator' was absent.
Even so, to see the labour movement thwarted in its desire for a stronger and more comprehensive Commonwealth is to succumb to anachronism. In 1911 and 1913 a Federal Labor government sought to expand the powers of the Commonwealth; in 1918 the ALP adopted as policy the plank: 'Unlimited legislative powers in Australian affairs to be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament'. But in 1897 the colonial labour parties had no such desire. They were more hopeful of securing improvements in factory legislation, pensions, health, education and other matters of concern to the working class by operating within their own colonial parliaments. Their chief concern with the prospective new parliament was its undemocratic character, and especially the prospect of a Senate that would be dominated by the less populous and more conservative colonies. Hence the adoption by the intercolonial Federation of Labor of a federal platform that called for a unicameral parliament, full adult franchise, payment of members, elective ministries and direct initiation of legislation by referendum. The last of these demands betrayed a fear that Labor would be outnumbered in a national parliament.
Professor Stuart Macintyre, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne. This is an edited extract from Professor Macintyre's contribution to a new collection of essays, Working Life and Federation, 1890-1914, edited by Mark Hearn and Greg Patmore, to be published by Pluto Press in February 2001. The book includes the full article with footnotes.
by Andrew Casey
Last week the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions demonstrated outside a McDonald's outlet, and called for a boycott to highlight the deplorable working conditions and the anti-union policies at McDonald's.
While McDonald's seeks to globalize their anti-union US-style employment practices, the international union movement is working hard to publicise their practices, and bring community and political pressure on governments to rein in this anti-union corporate giant.
McDonald's has recently taken a beating from local unionists. After a two year campaign at the McComplex food processing factory the union members have forced the company to recognise their union and bargain collectively.
The International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) has for some time actively backed the McDonald's campaign in Russia through their local affiliate - the Commerce and Catering Workers Union - and is now organising global protests to back the workers in China - and demand independent union rights for the workers..
The McDonald's workers in Russia appeared before a parliamentary commission of the State Duma to give, sometimes harrowing, evidence of the poor working conditions they suffer at the food processing factory - and the stand-over tactics the company has used to fight unionisation.
A Moscow Times reporter wrote that the food-processing plant workers told parliament that the food freezer section was so cold that: "One of our colleagues got frostbite on his penis!"
"We regularly get ear infections. Look, we have to work an hour in our freezer shop, where the temperature is minus 26 [degrees Celsius], and we have only 5-minute breaks to warm up."
Innokenty Dukhovlinov told the Moscow Times that when he complained about such work conditions, the personnel department chief told him, "I will draw a circle on the floor with chalk and you will have to warm up in it."
Yevgeny Druzhinin, a forklift operator at McComplex and a member of the union committee, recounted taking management to court after he was reprimanded for breaking a piece of equipment. On Oct. 16, a Moscow court agreed with Druzhinin that the equipment broken was not nearly as expensive as McComplex management had asserted. But he said his path to that court victory was paved with intimidation.
"Igor Lobanov, our security boss, told me that he would have me put in jail," Druzhinin told the parliamentary hearings.
"And indeed, some Captain Titkin called me two days afterward and told me to come to 38 Petrovka [city police headquarters]. Titkin said I must talk less and then there would be fewer problems for me at McComplex. I understood that Titkin was Lobanov's friend."
Arrogantly the company refused two invitations from the Duma's MPs to turn up and give their side of the story.
McDonald's has been exposed for contracting out to toy factories which rely on child labour, the production of the billions of toys McDonald's needs as an integral part of their global promotional strategy.
At a plant in Shenzen - just across the border from Hong Kong -some 2000 workers, mostly young women, work unlimited hours at a fixed daily wage of less than $US 3 per day.
Unpaid overtime - frequently stretching into the early hours of the morning - is typical according to a report in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
The South China Morning Post reported last month that workers as young as 14, worked 16-hour days in spartan conditions. The minimum employment age in China is 16.
Some of the young workers were quoted by the Post as saying they lied about their age to gain employment at the company, City Toys, which produces such items as Snoopy, Hello Kitty, and Winnie the Pooh dolls sold with McDonald's meals.
The Post said one of its reporters mingled with some of the youngsters in a guarded factory complex. It said 16 workers sleep in a single room on wooden beds with no mattresses.
McDonald's has poured enormous financial resources into a campaign to bust unions in Canada; in Germany the company aligned itself with a notorious 'union' with a Nazi past, while in Indonesia union organising efforts have been thwarted by sacking leaders and activists.
You can get the a lot more news and details about McDonald's in Russia and China from Labourstart
The Asia-Pacific office of the IUF, which is based in Sydney, has produced a leaflet to hand out at McDonald's outlets . Ring 9264 6409 for more information, and ask for Jasper Goss.
by The Chaser
Wiranto will spend every cent raised helping the militia groups to continue their humanitarian work in West Timor. "We have already done so much to alleviate the burden of troublesome possessions on the island, but there is much more to be done," he said. When asked his motivation for his sudden interest in charity, Wiranto admitted that having created so many of Indonesia's refugees, he felt a certain sense of responsibility. "My army did so much for refugees before Wahid threw me out," he said. "Without us, there would be hardly any refugees in Indonesia, but today there are nearly a million. If the TNI had not become involved, there would still be all of those buildings and belongings that stood between the Timorese people and all the benefits of refugee status. Many of them received free holidays in places like Australia, all thanks to our efforts."
The album features the smooth, crooner-style delivery that has seen Wiranto described as an Indonesian Val Doonican, or perhaps Perry Como, while his links to organised crime have already lead to flattering comparisons with Frank Sinatra. The former chief of the army has chosen a very special selection of sensual classics for his new album, including Talking Heads' 'Burning down the house', the Corrs' 'Runaway', and the Beatles classic 'Happiness is a Warm Gun'.
Wiranto's innovative idea has already inspired other former perpetrators of genocide, with Slobodan Milosevic announcing his own album plans last week. The former Serbian President is raising money to pay for the funerals of many Kosovars. When asked why he suddenly wanted to help in this way, he explained that in keeping with the tradition started by his army during last year's conflict, the funds would be made available only on the conditions that the Kosovars were buried alive.
The album's first single is expected to be a cover version of U2 and Brian Eno's 'Miss Sarajevo.' However, Milosevic has rewritten the lyrics to reflect his belief that no-one would have actually missed Sarajevo if his troops had succeeded in razing it to the ground.
by Neale Towart
Some of the yarns:
A Long Way To Tipperary
'You realise,' said John Whelan to his old friend Michael Costa, 'you're the first ethnic to become secretary of the NSW Labor Council.'
'You Irish don't regard yourselves as ethnics, do you?' said Michael, without the slightest hint of irony.
'Of course not,' replies Whelan. 'There was a time not so long ago when the Labor Party and the Labor Council was full of Murphys, O'Briens, O'Tooles, Hanrahans, O'Deas, Shahahans and Riordans, but look at it now. John Della Bosca has moved into the NSW Parliament and been replaced by Eric Roozendaal, and then there's Mark Arbib, Karl Bitar, Thai Lo Lee. It's good', he added good-humouredly. 'I just hope you don't give the Irish the flick.'
'Of course not,' replied the Labor Council secretary. 'There's no ethnic takeover going on.'
'Good,' said Whelan and walked towards the door.
As he did, Michael called out, 'Oh, by the way, I've just appointed a new organiser.'
'What's his name?' asked Whelan.
Barrie Unsworth and Meredith Burgmann both tell the Miss Australia story. This revolved around Barrie, as Secretary of Labor Council, announcing that Miss Australia would address the next Labor Council meeting. Meredith explains that women had been arguing to get a representative of the Equal OpportunityTribunal to address Labor Council. This was strenuously opposed by the powers that be.
When Barrie made the Miss Australia announcement, hissing and catcalling began. Barrie proceeded to pour petrol on the fire by saying 'Well, if Miss Australia did come and address the Labor Council she wouldn't get any competition from you lot.'
There was stunned silence at the crassness of the remarks, then all the women left the meeting, very noisily.
Meredith continues " when we got outside we didn't know what to do so we listened in and heard the blokes who were supporting us telling Barrie what a terrible thing he had said. The rest of the men couldn't quite work out why we'd stormed out. Eventually Barrie apologised and we came back in, but most of them didn't have a clue why we were so offended by his remarks.
"I realised we had a long way to go when we all went to the pub for a drink and a little bloke from the Printers Union came up to me and said, 'Never mind dear. I think you're pretty.'"
Howard Nathan, QC related a few stories for Barry Cohen including the following:
Howard appeared before the Workers' Comp Board, for someone who claimed that his back had been injured at work, and that he was in terrible pain and would never work again. Everything was going well until the insurance company's barrister produced the inevitable video showing our hero standing on the back of a ten ton truck while someone threw cement bags up to him. He in turn was going up like Tony Lockett taking a mark and then placing them in a stack on the truck.
'That's you, isn't it?' asked the Defence Council.
'Nah,' he replied.
The barrister smirked, 'Well, who is it?'
'It's me bruvver,' was the reply.
The barrister's response indicated that he had heard that particular excuse before. Howard Nathan immediately called for an adjournment and then said to his client, 'We have two choices. We can leave the court immediately and we shall not see each other again or you can come back immediately after lunch with your brother.'
To everyone's surprise Howard's client turned up after lunch with someone who looked very much like him. 'They re-ran the video,' says Howard, 'and lo and behold it was the brother. Well, the Beak was outraged. He abused the barrister, the insurance company, the photographers and then awarded us megabucks. It was three or four times what we had hoped for in our wildest dreams.'
As they left the court Howard turned to his client and said, 'well that was a pretty good result, wasn't it/'
'Yeah,' said the client, 'but I'm pretty pleased about one fing, Mr Nathan.'
'What's that?' asked Howard.
'Those cameras didn't pan around and see who was throwin' the bags up to me bruvver.'
by Peter Lewis
I set out three months ago with a grab-bag of stated missions:
Even while away, I realised that this last goal was going to be an impossible ask. The Olympics are universal and they were everywhere. The desire for people to grab onto something of there's and feel like they have a place in the world has, if anything, been heightened rather than diminished by globalisation. Now I'm home and everyone tells me how great the Games were and I'm genuinely happy for them - tinges of regret at missing a great moment tempered by the fantastic experience of watching my home town from afar. But more on that later.
As for my other goals, the results were mixed. My beloved technology was a headache almost from the start. A techno-dummie travelling around with a laptop and mobile phone, it was always going to be a big ask. Three weeks in the laptop crapped out and I was left with the mission of finding public access Internet as I made my way access in Europe. This was fraught with difficulties, even in the larger cities. There seemed to be a far lower take up of the Net than here, which can partly be explained by the fact that it is still a medium dominated by the English language and will remain so until Babel software really takes off. This low take up means that cable rollout is not such a high priority, so while the potential for connectivity is great in a continent of Europe's wealth and diversity, it is sill early days.
Perhaps because of this, there is not a lot for Australia to learn from European unions' usage of the Internet. With the exception of the excellent FNV site in Holland, most sites are little more than brochures, a few with discussion boards. One of the difficulties in many European nations is the fragmented nature of the labour movement - in Italy and France there are no less than three peak bodies - making a coordinated web strategy impossible. Unfortunately, plans to get north to Scandanavia came unstuck under the weight of the high fuel prices - up to $3 per litre! With membership rates above 80 per cent, they were my best chance at inspiration. Maybe next Games ...
More fascinating was the way Europe is grinding towards unification. Even over the three months I was there the debate shifted around me, culminating in the fall in the value of the Euro and the Danes decision to walk away from it. Despite these setbacks, it was interesting to note that all union bodies across the continent endorse European integration, it is the nationalist urges outside the political elites, whipped along by xenophobic media (and the Olympics?) that stand as its greatest barrier. As I discussed last week, the European model is fundamentally different to the US, premised on social partnership rather than rampant individualism.
But back to the Games, Yes, they were fantastic and did Australia much credit. But they are now over - it is time to put the laminades in the glory box, stop chanting "Oi,Oi,Oi' and move on. As a long-term critic of the Olympics, I still have concerns about whether the resources and effort put into the two week mega-event were the best ten-year growth strategy going around town. Maybe the tourism that the Olympics encourages will justify those millions, but the reality is that we are still regarded internationally as an 'Old Economy' - and staging big sporting events are not necessarily going to alter that perception - it certainly didn't stop the dollar plummeting through September.
For me, the best part of the Games story is that it's ended and we can get back to the real game of trying to work out how we can create a cohesive society out of the opportunities and threats that the Information Age presents. The main lesson out of Europe is that there is no one approach to dealing with this change. Europe is interesting because, apart from Britain, it is adopting an approach different from America. With a stronger sense of community and a commitment to social partnership, both between member states and within, the European model offers not just an alternative but a threat to the laissez fair orthodoxy of America.
For Australia, it is not a case of choosing between the two models - Europe is as much a captive of its history and geography and as we are. Rather we need to take strength and build our own way of running our society - a way that draws on our diversity, optimism, egalitarianism and own tradition of respect for working people. If there is a positive message from the Olympics, its not that Cathy and Thorpie won gold, or that Juan Antonio said we were' the best ever'; it's that we can finally discard the cultural cringe which started with the Anglo-phile cultural set and has evolved into Big Mac munchie individualism. We've shown we can be world's best - now we just need to translate it to something other than sport.
by Mark Morey
The whole process of sides proving that they could fulfil the ARL criteria is shrouded in the shadow of backroom deals. Why do we have a side like the Wellington... no....Auckland...no....New Zealand Warriors in this competition? How can a side that is unable to honour the contracts of its current players have met the criteria in the first place? Why is it that Murdoch money is more acceptable than money provided by Souths Juniors of Kerry Stakes?
Having a team like Souths in the competition is not about having a cashed up side of stars. Its about having a side that makes the statement "we were there at the beginning, we represent what this game is about, loyalty, friendship, camaraderie, the worker and ever present players called Tugger".
Has the administration of the ARL got no vision? If this were a private company with honest family shareholders, these people who purport to be managers would have been given thousands of share options and pissed off years ago. This is the worst reading of the mood of supporters since Caesar entered the Senate for the last time.
Many may state that things have to change, nothing is permanent, who remembers the blue bags? But some things are sacred and should not be touched because what they stand for can never be recreated no matter how much money you have to throw around.
As league fans we have put up with an awful lot over the last 5 years. Our gate money has gone into lawyers' pockets rather than into the development of the game. We have had retired rugby league players lecture us on the economics of the game. Doesn't anyone find a league player talking economics a little unbelievable? We have accepted the Super League war and its shameless grab for cash and the transition of our game into a pay TV sports content filler and we have take the merging of our teams into soulless shadows of their former selves, we even accepted our game being promoted by poets - blow that whistle ref blow! But I doubt many will accept this decision.
Where were the games administrators when we needed the people's game protected? They had their heads up their corporate arses. They are the real criminals, the ones who should be on trial. If for nothing else, for at least being responsible for creating an environment where Ray Martin actually made sense.
I doubt that emotional pleas will make any difference to the heartless juga naught that is "the new game". The game will limp on with supporters slowly drifting off into new sports where tradition means something. If the game of league was not already in serious trouble, it certainly is far worse off after today's decision. Unfortunately, I think this season I will have to buy the Fletcher Jones tweed jacket with the leather elbow patches and take up supporting rugby or the swans.
This week I stumbled upon the website of Tasmanian ALP Senator Sue Mackay http://www.suemackay.tassie.net.au. Senator Mackay who is also the Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government had obviously invested a fair bit of time and cash into this site which was launched on 14 September 2000.
It's not clear if Senator Mackay outsourced the design of the site or if she has a very talented staff member but nevertheless this is definitely the best site for any Senator of all political persuasions. Apart form being attractive and easy to navigate it contains lots of info on her shadow ministries and her home state of Tasmania, check it out.
With only several days until the US Presidential Elections SpeakOut.com's Election site http://www.speakout.com/Election2000 is definitely the place to be. With up to the minute polls, commentaries, profiles on all Presidential, Senate & House of Reps. Candidates plus much more ... well worth having a look at.
Save those Rabbitohs
With the outrageous decision handed down today by Justice Paul Finn in the Federal Court upholding the ban of South Sydney's participation in the NRL all Workers Online readers should surf over to a few South's sites and give them some support in their fight for justice in League:
South Sydney Official Site: http://www.souths.com.au
Unofficial South's site "Rabbitoh Warren": http://www.rabbitohs.com
Another fan site "Support Souths": http://www.southsydney.homestead.com
And now for something completely different
The webpage of Landover Baptist Church "The largest most powerful assembly of worthwhile people to ever exist" http://www.landoverbaptist.org is a classic example of pure web satire. Featuring Christian Voter Guides, Banned book of the month and much more.
If you have any sites you think Paul shoudl review or be in the LaborNET Links section send him an email [email protected]
George W(anker? easel? oeful?) Bush, plutocrat, failed businessman, son-of-President, archreactionary, coke-snorting, church-going playboy, and biggest black stain of all - Governor of Texas is on the cusp of assuming the world's most powerful job.
Let's consider his CV:
George W Bush managed to go through $4.7 million put up by family friends and wealthy republicans in the oil business in the 1980s. He nearly ran two energy companies into the ground and only turned a profit in 1990 when, on the eve of the Gulf War, a third company in which he was involved won a lucrative oil exploration contract from Bahrein - at the same time his father was President.
Texas is among the ten worst states in terms of the population living below the poverty level. It is in the bottom fourth in social indicators such as the number of physicians, full-time college enrolment and infant mortality.
It now ranks last in terms of state spending per capita.
Texas has little in the way of mass transit, neighbourhood playgrounds or other urban amenities.
It is responsible for more water and air pollution than any other American state. Hundreds of ageing utilities, chemical plants, and oil refineries are exempt from pollution regulations. Houston beat Los Angeles in 1998 as the city with the worst ozone levels in the US. (One of George Bush's top environmental appointees once testified in Washington that ozone is a benign substance.)
Texas incarcerates more people than any state in the US. Although it only has one tenth of the population it has a prison population that is now greater than France, Germany and Italy combined. Texas has 250 county sheriffs, 500 plus municipal police departments and more judges than in the whole of Great Britain.
More than 200 prisoners have been executed since the 1970s.
As A Moron
Here are some of George W.'s contributions to intellectual life:
'Anyway, after we go out and work our hearts out, after you go out and help us turn out the vote, after we're convinced the good Americans to vote, and while they're at it, pull that old George W. lever, if I'm the one when I put my hand on the bible, when I put my hand on the bible, that day when they swear us in, when I put my hand on the bible, I will swear to not - to uphold the laws of the land.' Toledo, Ohio, October 27, 2000
I think if you know what you believe, it makes it a lot easier to answer questions. I can't answer your question.' - in response to a question about whether he could take back any of his questions in the first debate. Reynoldsberg, Ohio, October 4, 2000.
'I think we ought to raise the age at which juveniles can have a gun.'
'It's going to require numerous IRA agents.' - on Gore's tax plan, Greensboro. N.C., October10, 2000.
It's not just George W. Bush who gives cause for concern. Last week the Herald quoted an American voter in a vox populi:
'I'm going to vote for that George Bush. I thought he did a real good job the last time he was in.'
So next Tuesday, be afraid.
Postscript: Workers Online Studies The Footy Entrails
The result of the Washington Redskins' final home game before a presidential election has accurately predicted the presidential result for the past 15 contests. History has proven that if the Redskins win, the incumbent will stay in the White House; if the Redskins lose, the opposition party gains control in Washington. The Tennessee Titans visited Washington this week, and won 27-21. Bad luck Al!
For those of you who can't get enough horror a lot of the information in this article came from an excellent analysis called 'The Backward State of Texas' by Daniel Lazare of Le Monde Diplomatique and can be found on the web at www.monde-diplomatique.fr/en/2000/09/14texas. It's a scary read.
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LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSWURL: http://workers.labor.net.au/76/print_index.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005