The Labor Council of NSW is seeking legal advice on suing Phillip Ruddock and his Department for underpayment of wages to the Indian stonemasons, found this week to be working for as little as $45 cash per month.
The workers were being paid $45 per month, with another $100 being sent home to India. They were not allowed to leave the worksite without permission and were receiving just one rostered day off each fortnight.
The workers themselves, whose situation was discovered by the CFMEU and the South Coast Labour Council have joined the CFMEU and walked off the job in a bid to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in under payment.
But the Howard Government has been warned that if the sponsoring employer - who imported the stonemason to build a Hindu Temple at Helensburgh - could not find the money - the Minister could be forced to foot the bill himself.
Labor Council Secretary Michael Costa says he believes the Department of Immigration could be liable for the underpayment because it had failed to meet a duty of care to the workers, brought in on temporary working visas.
"Our belief is that it is up to the federal Department of Immigration to test the bona fides of employers sponsoring foreign workers into the country," Costa says.
"Where this has not occurred, and visiting workers are consequently left with moneys owed, we will argue that the Minister and his Department are legally liable."
The advice is being sought as further examples of abuse of the working visa system come to light. It was revealed yesterday that Indonesian workers were being paid just $100 per week to work at the prestigious Regent Hotel as part of a 'training' program.
Employment Advocate's Role Questioned
Meanwhile, the role of the Office of the Employment Advocate has been questioned after the discovery of another group of workers building a separate Hindu temple near Canberra.
CFMEU officials have been trying to get access to the Canberra site for 18 months to inspect the records but have been turned away by the temple owner who produced a business card from an inspector from the Office of the Employment Advocate.
In the wake of this week's furore, an official was finally granted access yesterday, but an OEA inspector was on job within 15 minutes.
"It is clear that the temple owners are getting their advice from the OEA," CFMEU state secretary Andrew Ferguson says. "While Ruddock maintains this is not a federal issue, a separate federal department is giving employers advice on how to keep unions off the job."
Not a One Nation Issue
South Coast Labor Council secretary Arthur Rorris addressed Labour Council last night and introduced the eight Indian workers, paying tribute to their courage in coming forward on the issue.
Rorris, who has been running the issue hard in the Illawarra, warned that the issue must be handled sensitively or become fodder for One Nation.
"We need to keep making the point that these are not illegal immigrants, they are here legally and they are being exploited by unscrupulous Australian companies" Rorris says.
A rally in support of the temple workers is planned for Friday March 9. venue and details to be confirmed. See LaborNet for further details.
by Andrew Casey
by Noel Hester
Our Future at Work sets out union policies for fairness in the workplace and in the broader community and is backed up by ACTU polling which shows widespread support by voters across the political spectrum for collective bargaining and an independent industrial court.
The poll also shows how deeply workers believe the Howard Government has betrayed them. Contrary to Howard's famous promise, many workers find themselves considerably worse off after five years of Coalition government.
Our Future at Work is the product of a debate among unions which started when more than 700 delegates from every industry sector and every region of Australia met last year in Wollongong for the triennial ACTU Congress. They brought with them ideas that were generated in workplaces and have been moulded into policies that will guide unions into the future.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow says the ACTU believes these policies are also relevant beyond the workplace.
''Our Future at Work' is an agenda for fairness in the workplace - for strength in bargaining, improvements in working hours, a Living Wage and the restoration of powers to the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. It's about better rights for women, young people and casual workers. Unions are committed to fair outcomes in these areas,' she says.
'But people are also telling us that they want a properly funded public health system, a public education system which delivers quality education and reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. They want a fully funded independent national broadcaster, a fair and accessible banking system, access to high-quality aged care, and a compassionate welfare system.'
ACTU Secretary Greg Combet says ACTU research shows that the majority of people believe the pendulum has swung too far in favour of employers.
'Community sentiment is rising against politicians who encourage employers to use aggressive industrial tactics against workers,' he says.
'Unions will make sure the voice of workers is heard in the months leading up to the Federal election. We do not accept the widening gap between rich and poor, between regions, and between social groups. Australia can do better.'
Sharan Burrow and Greg Combet will launch Our Future at Work at Tyco Electronics, 421 Victoria Street, Melbourne, Midday, Monday March 5, 2001.
The ACTU will also release the results of a nationwide polling survey that tracks attitudes to workplace issues and the role of the Howard Government over the last five years.
The Australian Workers Union has raised the issue, calling on the Premier to bring his departments into line with the recent federal Metalworkers decision on casuals, which confers permanency after six months continuous employment.
AWU state secretary Russ Collison says the worst offenders are the Roads and Traffic Authority, national Parks and Wildlife Service and State Forestry.
Collison says the practices of keeping workers on long-term temporary employment affects their ability to secure housing loans or entering other long-term financial commitments. "The uncertainty of security of employment is unnecessary and unfair," he says.
The AWU has called for a coordinated trade union approach on public sector casuals and for the issue to be taken up directly with the premier.
"We continually find ourselves talking to bureaucrats and hitting a brick wall," Collison says. "It's time for the issue to be addressed at the highest levels."
The Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union this week marked the first anniversary of the battle with the Prime Minister's brother, with the preview screening of a documentary of the dispute which grabbed the nation's attention.
The documentary recounts how the National textile workers applied pressure on the Prime Minister until he guaranteed their full entitlements, more than $11 million in total, embarrassed by his brother Stan's role in the saga..
But TCFUA secretary Barrie Tubner says it's sobering to realise how many of the 340 workers have failed to secure new full-time jobs.
"This shocking statistic yet again emphasises the real need to ensure that sacked workers are paid out their full entitlements - and not just the measly crumbs available under the Howard federal scheme," Tubner says.
While the federal government has established a 'safety net' entitlements scheme, the unions regard it as grossly inadequate, with workers only able to recover a fraction of what is owed because of statutory caps on key entitlements like Long Service Leave.
by Zoe Reynolds
The Maritime Union of Australia has launched legal action against Patrick Stevedores for breaches of health and safety laws in the NSW Industrial Relations over the work practices.
The injuries result from labour cutbacks which force straddle operators to work day after day in cramped, poorly designed cabins, with only one break, every shift. Operators must contort their bodies while driving sideways, their heads and necks twisted and strained up to 90 degrees for hours at a time.
Prior to the dispute in 1998 and the enterprise agreement of the same year, three operators were allocated to each two straddles, ensuring job rotation and reducing strain. Down drivers worked on other duties.
But in the pursuit of profits and higher share prices for parent company Lang Corp, Patrick cut back on drivers, job rotation and breaks. This is despite current research and a series of reports recommending a maximum time frame of four hours (in total) over an eight hour period for awkward working postures.
APESMA is seeking to have a full bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission confirm a ruling that it's member, Stephen Craig, was enetitled to redundancy.
APESMA last year successfully argued that Craig should be paid redundancy, despite the fact that neither his contract of employment or relevant award, contained termination provisions.
Instead, the union relied on Article 12 of the ILO's Termination of Employment Convention, to guarantee redundancy to all workers.
If successful, the APESMA case will be relevant to thousands of workers who's contracts are not formally covered by these types of provisions. The full bench decision is expected to be handed down later this year.
by Alison Peters
Labor Council and several affiliated unions have lodged submissions in response to the Government's discussion paper "Working with Government - Private Financing of Infrastructure and Certain Government Services in NSW" . In the discussion paper the Government promotes using the private sector to fund the construction of new infrastructure.
The union movement accepts that the private sector has made, and will continue to make, a significant contribution to the building and establishment of schools, hospitals, roads and other forms of infrastructure. However, the discussion paper goes much further than paying business to build things. What is being discussed is having business pay for the construction of the infrastructure and then to be allowed to operate it (through a leaseback or user charge) in order to recoup their costs and to make a profit.
Such schemes already exist in NSW and are known as BOO (Build, Own, Operate) schemes and don't have a particularly good reputation as far as taxpayers are concerned. The Harbour Tunnel and other toll roads, for example, were critisised in various Auditor General's reports because the contract required the Government to make up any shortfall in revenue to the private operators.
Critics argue that these schemes are used to get around Government policy to reduce debt and government borrowings. The Government (and the taxpayer) ultimately pays for this infrastructure but at the same time have passed responsibility and control to business.
This is no different to other forms of privatisation and has all the same sorts of problems :-
· job losses
· reduced employment conditions
· loss of expertise within the public sector
· loss of government revenue streams
· loss of control
Labor Council's submission calls for proper consultation with the union movement and the broader community about how important infrastructure should be funded and how it should be operated. This needs to occur well before developing procedures to manage private sector funding of infrastructure projects which seems to be the sole aim of the discussion paper.
For copies of Labor Council's submission please email Alison Peters at [email protected]
by Paddy Gorman
Picket Lines have been set up at Peak Downs, Saraji, Norwich Park, Crinum and Gregory mines despite threats of legal action by BHP.
The 7-day strike follows the scuttling of agreement negotiations with BHP issuing a hard line take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum. Our Union's General President Tony Maher said there is still room to negotiate a settlement "but BHP has got to drop its narrow ideological dictates and accept that the workers have a right to important issues like job security".
Queensland District President Andrew Vickers confirmed that the differences were not about money. "Our members want job security. In the past few years we have made considerable concessions at BHP operations in recognition of the difficult market conditions and the decline in coal prices. Now the pendulum has swung.
"BHP is reaping a bonanza with record coal profits and coal export prices have risen dramatically this year. All we want now is a fair share of the prosperity we have helped create. We want security of employment conditions restored and preference of employment for retrenched mineworkers", he said.
BHP Closes 'Viable' Cordeaux
Meanwhile, despite the recent coal price increases rendering the Cordeaux mine in the NSW South-West viable, BHP has gone ahead with the closure of the underground mine, giving the workforce four weeks notice from today.
District President Howie Fisher has condemned the company's callousness in throwing another 40 workers onto the industrial scrapheap. "There is no reason that this mine should close other than BHP's insatiable greed", he said.
The workers, members of the Transport Workers Union, are in dispute with Chubb Security over the companies' plans for fulfilling a contract with Westpac Bank.
To work on the Westpac contract Chubb is demanding that the workforce perform cash pick-ups previously performed in four man armoured cars by themselves in non-armoured cars.
Chubb workers told last night's Labor Council that, with the cut to safety, cash deliveries and pick-ups will be fraught with danger.
"You are asking people to go into jobs blind, with noone looking out for you," says Joe Caljin, who has been involved in armed hold-up himself.
Colleague Sean Walton says workers just want to know that they will make it home safely at the end of each day.
The Chubb workers walked off the job for a 24 hour stoppage last week and were locked out by management for three days. More action is likely.
by Amanda Tattam
It is the GST that is causing headaches, not the idea of a new industrial tribunal.
Victorian small employers overwhelmingly support the State Government's Fair Employment Bill and think low paid workers need an independent umpire, according to a survey by the Victorian Trades Hall Council.
Ninety one percent of employers said there should be laws regulating minimum employment conditions for low paid workers, while 93% said there should be an independent umpire in Victoria.
The Bracks Government introduced the Fair Employment Bill to the Victorian Parliament in October, 2000, but the Liberals and Nationals rejected the Bill in the lower house and have signalled their intent to use their majority in the Legislative Council to block it when the Bill returns for debate on 21 March. Liberals and Nationals have been conducting their own "surveys" of business which are more like push polling.
To get a true picture of small business opinion, Victorian Trades Hall Council commissioned a survey, on behalf of the Fair Employment Coalition*. It is the most comprehensive independent survey of Victorian employer attitudes to industrial relations since IR deregulation started in 1992. Four hundred (400) small businesses took part in the telephone survey conducted by independent research company Sweeney Research.
The survey of 276 businesses in the metropolitan Melbourne area and 124 businesses in non-metropolitan areas, also found:
* The GST is hurting small business (83% ranked this as number 1)
* 73% say the Fair Employment Bill should be passed.
* 79% said independent contractors like owner-drivers should have the right to turn to an independent tribunal.
* 75% supported the re-introduction of overtime for non-federal award workers.
* 64% supported the re-introduction of penalty rates for weekends and night work.
* 63% agree that Victorian legislation should allow union officials right of entry to workplaces.
"These very positive survey results debunk the lies and scare-mongering of the Liberals, the Nationals and Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry," said Leigh Hubbard, Secretary, Victorian Trades Hall Council.
"It's the GST that is hitting business, not things like unfair dismissal or the idea of unions visiting workplaces. Our survey shows that even retailers, whose peak body has been vocal in its opposition to this legislation, support the need for Victorian laws regulating the minimum employment conditions of the 250,000 vulnerable Victorians who don't have the benefit of comprehensive federal awards. They want a level playing field for employers and employees," said Mr Hubbard.
"The Liberals and Nationals are out of touch with the people they pretend to represent. They have to realise that their ideological position which punishes low paid and their families, will backfire badly at the ballot box, just like it did in Western Australia. We will continue to campaign in marginal Liberal seats on this issue until this 12% of the work-force get justice" he said.
*The Fair Employment Coalition comprises Trades Hall, Victorian Council of Social Services, Regional Trades and Labour Councils, Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria and the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees' Association.
by Andrew Casey
by Andrew Casey
In recent days, hotel management has launched a raft of actions against the workers including damage to property, reputation and restraint of trade.
" These actions are intended only to intimidate employees and their union representatives, " ACTU President Sharan Burrow said today.
Ms Burrow - who is also President of the ICFTU-APRO - was speaking from Tokyo where this Asia-Pacific regional trade union organisation is meeting and has resolved to act against the Shangri-La hotel and resort chain in other countries.
Already in Australia construction unions have threatened not to build a new Shangri-La hotel in Melbourne while the hotel and resort chain is in dispute with Indonesian hotel workers.
ICFTU-APRO is a 50 year old peak regional trade union organisation with its head office in Singapore and about 40 peak national trade union affiliates from throughout Asia and the Pacific.
The Shangri-La hotel and resort chain - headquartered in Hong Kong - specialises in setting up facilities throughout the Asia and Pacific with 37 hotels and resorts in this region.
Many of these hotel and resort facilities are in countries where the ICFTU-APRO has active national trade union affiliates including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Fiji, Philippines, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.
The ICFTU-APRO conference has today expressed its deep concern over the actions of the management of Shangri-La Hotel Jakarta against the members of the Shangri-La Hotel Workers Union.
" These actions include dismissal of union officers and union members," Ms Burrow said.
" The conference condemns recent actions by the Hotel management to initiate legal actions against local union representatives and employees for damages of US$8.9 million.
" Such actions are intended only to intimidate employees and their union representatives."
The ICFTU-APRO conference also noted that the Shangri-La Hotel Group operates the Traders Hotel in Burma and as such will become a part of the broader campaign initiated by the international union movement against companies in Burma.
ICFTU-APRO called upon the management of Shangri-La to respect the rights of employees and to agree to enter into genuine negotiations with the Workers Union.
by Mary Yaager
Financial mismanagement by Korean Daewoo executives based on huge illegal overseas loans has seen 4,000 workers sacked, with the remainder taking a 30 per cent paycut.
On one occasion more than 4,000 armed police, using forklifts, surrounded and rammed Korean workers and their familes.
Daewoo is now bankrupt; the owner is in hiding; and the Korean Government is seeking to sell Daewoo. General Motors Holden is the only prospective buyer - but on the condition that there is major restructuring.
Daewoo employees are demanding long term job security through public ownership of Daewoo, as was done for Chrysler, VW and Renault by their respective governments. They are demanding no redundancies and no sale to overseas interests.
John Robertson, Assistant Secretary, Labor Council of NSW, said it is important with the continued growth of globalisation that unions also act globally and support the rights of workers to take industrial action.
Paul Bastian, Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union said that the threat to jobs and job security is not just at Daewoo. All Korean workers face job insecurity while ever the Korean government adheres to WTO and IMF Free Trade Policies.
Paul went on to say the AMWU completely opposes free trade policies and this is the ugly face of globalisation.
Costa will be the official guest of the Greek General Conferation of Labor at their 30th Ordinary Conference between March 15 and 18 in Athens.
He says the trip will also provide an opportunity for the NSW union movement to share their experience in organizing Games workers at the Sydney 2000 Games.
And he predicts it will be the first of a series of trips for Labor Council affiliates in the lead-up to Athens 2004.
by Mary Yaager
Charlie Donzow, Secretary of the Meat Employees Union said "the vaccine for Q Fever has been dropped from the list of scheduled vaccines and I believe that this will have a devastating effect on the current immunisation programme which is in place for abattoir workers."
According to Professor Boughton, an expert in infectious diseases, each year there are 500 to 1,000 cases of Q fever reported nationally. While a majority of patients recover, others may experience serious complications and can go on to develop sub-acute endocarditis, which has resulted in the recent death of a 55 year old meat worker. Other complications are chronic fatigue syndrome, orchitis, and hepatitis. Pregnant women are at particular risk because of the possibility of the disease being passed on to the newborn child.
Q Fever is a highly infectious zoonotic disease, which is passed from animals to humans. It is caused by a bacterium found in small bush animals. Cattle, sheep and goats are also infected from time to time
Professor Boughton said workers in abattoirs, or even those visiting, are in a particularly high-risk category of contracting Q fever because the bacteria is released into the air when an animal is slaughtered. It is very resilient and easily inhaled. This is why individuals need to be immunised prior to entering an abattoir.
Michael Costa of the Labor Council is seeking urgent talks with the Minister for Health, the Hon. Craig Knowles, to review the decision and have Q Fever reinstated to the list of scheduled vaccines.
Corporate Scumbags Tour
Find Out What The Corporate World Is Really Up To ...
We live in a society, which is increasingly dominated by, and run in the interests of the corporate elite. The recent push towards "globalisation" has in effect created nothing more than a global race to the bottom in terms of living and working conditions.
Organisations such as the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund have been responsible for putting corporate interests well before workers rights by removing any barriers to free trade such as environmental and labour regulations, and by forcing IMF "restructures" on governments across the world.
In Australia the Liberal Party has been completely complicit and has shown its only interests lie with the corporate dollar. The 'Liberals' have been responsible for the GST, an unfair and inequitable tax that has served to drive down the living standards of Australian workers while giving billions to business by lowering the corporate tax rate. They have also been responsible for attacks on union rights by instituting the Workplace Relations Act, allowing thousands to be sacked and casualised in the name of profit.
With this in mind the Corporate Scumbags Tour of Sydney has been called for the 17th March. This will be a tour of the worst corporate offenders in the Sydney CBD and will depart from the Hyde Park fountain in Sydney at 12 noon.
Scumbags nominated so far include Australian Correctional Management, Caltex, McDonalds, Commonwealth Bank, Nike and "Honest John Howard".
Nominations can be faxed in on (02) 9699 1960 or emailed direct to mailto:[email protected]
FairWear to Picket Parliament
The FairWear Alliance will rally outside State Parliament to pressure the Carr government to come good on its promise to protect outworkers.
Wednesday 7th March, 12 noon to 1pm outside NSW Parliament House, Macquarie Street.
Picket the corporate HQ of Australian Correctional Management (ACM) Wackenhut, the US multinational which profits from the misery of Ruddock's detention centres (and private prisons).
Meet next Wednesday 7 March at midday at Town Hall steps in the city, then march to their HQ which is in the National Mutual tower at 44 Market St (corner of York - diagonally across from the QVB).
We'll have placards and leaflets explaining about the detention centres and ACM, plus the facts on refugees, but please bring your own signs and materials for other events as it's a busy spot in the city and we hope the media will be all over it.
Forum + video showing on Thursday 15 March, from 7pm at the Govt Transport Club, 19-25 Regent St (near Broadway, UTS and Railway Sq bus stop)
For more info call Cyrus on 0413 486231, Ian on 0417 275713, or Sydney Uni
Direct Electionists renew Republic debate
Forum: Models for a Republic:
Sunday March 4, 2001, 2 pm -3.30 pm, Coles Room, State Library of NSW, Macquarie St, Sydney
Speakers: Richard Fidler, Phil Cleary, Rev Dorothy McRae-McMahon
Entrance by donation. All welcome
To be followed by the inaugural general meeting of A Just Republic
International Women's Day Events
5th March: The UNIFEM Breakfast will be held from 7am in the Grand Ballroom of the Wentworth Hotel. The guest speaker is Naomi Steer National Director of Australia for UNHCR. The cost is $40 per person.
5th March: EMILYs List is celebrating IWD with a dinner at Martini Bar and Restaurant, 99 Norton Street, Leichhardt. The dinner starts at 7pm and features Joan Kirner, Sandra Nori, Ros Kelly and several women candidates in this year's federal election. Cost is $50 and you can RSVP to Melanie Stewart on 02 9230 2488 or by email to [email protected]
10th March: Women activists from a broad range of unions, political parties and community groups will be marching to celebrate womens' achievements and to bring attention to the fact that there is still lots to achieve. This year's theme is "Women Fighting for Global Justice" and the march will leave Town Hall Square at 10.30am.
Women unionists are encouraged to march together under the "Women in Unions" banner. Meet near St Andrews Cathedral just befor 10.30am. For more information contact Alison Peters at Labor Council on 02 9264 1691 or email at [email protected]
Free Aceh! Referendum Now!
Public meeting and dinner with the premiere of a new short film on Aceh
Reports that the Indonesian parliament has decided to end talks with the movements in Aceh and West Papua campaigning for self-determination means that the struggles in those two provinces is set to escalate.
A leading Acehnese activist, Kautsar, who is a part of the civil democratic movement toured Sydney in January and made it clear his people are determined to create their own destiny no matter the obstacles.
He said that like East Timor before its referendum, Aceh is occupied by over 30,000 Indonesian troops. The people of Aceh are being forced to endure state repression, kidnapping, rapes, murders and torture. Since 1991, more than 7000 Acehnese activists have been killed and many more have disappeared. Exact figures are unavailable due to the Indonesian government's refusal to allow humanitarian agencies to operate in Aceh.
The people of Aceh have made it clear what they want. In 1998 and 1999 there were strikes involving up to 90% of workers and a 2-million strong pro-referendum demonstration in November 1999. Aceh has a population of 4 million.
Aceh has its own unique culture and language and is abundantly rich in natural resources. However, all but 0.38% of its gas, cement and other natural resources go to the Indonesian government.
The Indonesian government tries to present the struggle for self-determination in Aceh as a religious or ethnic conflict, but this is not the case. The Indonesian government has repeatedly offered Aceh the right to establish Islamic but it has repeatedly been rejected.
Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET) together with the Sydney-based Aceh Australia Association (AAA) are hosting a dinner and public meeting on this topic on Saturday March 17, 7pm at Glebe Town Hall, 160 St John's Rd, Glebe.
The guest speakers are: Mohammad Dahlan (AAA); Max Lane (ASIET) and Ed Aspinall who teaches at UNSW and has just returned from Aceh. A new short film on Aceh by Jill Hickson (directer of Indonesia in Revolt: Democracy or Death) will also be premiered.
Tickets ($12/8) can be obtained by ringing Pip Hinman on (02) 9690 1230 or email [email protected] to pre-book or for more information.
I was hoping that with the advent of organising unionism the term 'scab' had died a quiet death.
We assume no understanding of collective work when we approach new workers. So why, when workers strike break, do we assume they have a full understanding of what they're doing?
I'd like to think that today's strike breakers, informed and organised, are tomorrow's union members.
Finsec, New Zealand
So Pauline wants to restore the old nurse traininmg system.
During the 1970's I shared a house with a trainee nurse under the old system, his course work was harder and more demanding than the degree course I was doing at the time and at the same time had was required to work full time rotating shift work for less than a cleaners rate of pay.
The old system had a puposely high attrition rate whose casualty's subsidised the health system with their low trainee rates of pay.
Graduates of the system had a skill level eqivalent to degree holders yet were locked into a wage structure and a hiearchial structure that did not recognise their level of skill or the responsibilities required of them.
Like most of Hansens policies/musings this one is contradictry, illogical and not based on any proper assessment of the facts.
I am becoming a wee bit angry with the banks and their ability to tax our earnings through a plethora or charges and fees. I seems not that long ago that banks were ever so keen to attract our monies,but since the advent of direct funds transfers of our wages,branches have been replaced by instant teller machines and our wages have been reduced by bank invent a charges.
I advocate a union campaign to bring back the paypack.Let our employers pay the fees and finacial institution duties,and give us control of our wages.The spin off might also mean the reopening of closed branches and creation of more jobs in the banking sector. SO LETS BRING BACK THE PAYPACK.
It is not the role of the Australian labour movement to defend Bill Clinton but his dubious pardons should be put into perspective. There is a long-standing American tradition of issuing pardons to those who have supported a President or his party either by their activism or with donations.
Take one Robert Wendell Walker Jnr. He was pardoned for bank robbery offences by Republican President Reagan when he left office in 1981 and he had earlier received a pardon from the Oregon Governor in 1977 for state offences.
He is now charged with murdering his wife, dismembering her body and burning it in his backyard.
American politics has little to commend it, yet we continue to adopt their policies, from private prisons to the selling off of essential public utilities.
What a lifesaver for our public schools system -
The recent announcement that to celebrate the "Queens Jubilee" a-" British fund to educate every Commonwealth child", will be set up.
The British government intends to create a fund to provide primary education in the Commonwealth. This fund will assist the 75million children in Commonwealth countries who lack a basic education, by endeavoring to build fair and effective education systems and creating new opportunities for girls and disadvantaged groups.
With the continued drain of education funds in New South Wales , from the public sector to the private, and statistics that indicate an increasing illiteracy in our "Knowledge Nation", perhaps the financially starved N.S.W.Public School system could apply for funding under this scheme?
The British Chancellor Gordon Browns` announcement ,was part of a twin-track approach to also supply cheap drugs for developing countries.
Fortunately for us, in New South Wales, we are not in need of this aspect of the funding, as a stroll through Cabramatta at any time of the day or night, will verify.
by Peter Lewis
When you lost power in 1996, did you think it would be this hard?
I think because of the extent of our defeat we weren't under any illusions about what lay ahead for us. Obviously it has been a difficult time, but the Party has remained focussed and united and I think it has been a very effective Opposition. So effective, of course, that we won 20 seats in the 1998 Federal Election, as Kim Beazley said on the night - the most seats ever won by a first time Opposition. And I think we have kept our discipline and now, with less than a year to go to the next Federal election are more than competitive. We, I think have an excellent chance of victory.
You are regarded as one of the masters in Opposition, what is the secret to running negative?
One of the secrets is not to be too negative. It is important that any Opposition takes seriously its role in appraising government policies and practices that it doesn't agree with, but also, always maintains its focus as an alternative government. I think that is really what the Labor Party has done well. We just haven't slipped into becoming Her Majesty's loyal and perpetual Opposition. We have always considered ourselves a serious alternative government, opposing by putting forward a platform for government, although obviously in the eyes of the electorate, we are seen as the Opposition. People see the Government; they see the Opposition; they acknowledge that Labor is in Opposition; that Kim Beazley leads the Opposition and other members of his team. But always, we have had our eye on the main game and the interests of those people we represent, which of course, is forming a Labor Government at the first possible opportunity. So, it is a question of getting that balance right between being in Opposition but being a credible and serious alternative government.
By the same token, it seems you have had lots of material to work with. Has it surprised you how many openings you have found?
I think Labor's Senate team has been pretty skilful in the Senate estimates process and in finding the weaknesses in the Government administration, and there have been plenty of weaknesses to try and exploit. It is one thing to be able to expose them; find them - and that is a task for the Senators - and then having done that the next task is to ensure that others in the community learn about them and understand the difference between what the Government's approach might have been on these issues and matters, and what Labor's alternative is.
How in nuts and bolts terms do you get an issue, like say, the Costello smirk story up into the public domain?
This is not rocket science. In relation to Mr Costello's smirk there was a very small article on page 42 of the Sydney Sunday Telegraph. Last weekend I happened to be reading it on the plane going down to Canberra before the Estimates Committee, and I thought well, these are the sorts of questions we should be asking the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet, who of course have, engaged a media consultant employed by the Prime Minister, a character called Geoffrey Cousins. We don't know what he does with his time, but apparently he is paid $45,000 a year to try and make the Liberals more media savvy and this journalist was suggesting that part of that money is going in to try and remove the smirk from Peter Costello's face. I'll tell you one thing, I reckon we did as much as the consultant for $45,000 after removing his smirk. We certainly took it off his face for a few days.
Are there occasions when you actually have to get the issue up into the media first to run off it?
Oh no. That is just a bit of spin from Costello. Most of these issues you have got to make yourself and that goes to the effectiveness of the Opposition's own operation and the Opposition Senators - the Labor Senators - ably assisted by their staff and their colleagues in the House of Representatives. Look, in Opposition the Senate Estimates Committee process is the best accountability mechanism that the Commonwealth Parliament has. And of course, a serious Opposition must treat such an accountability process seriously. I think we do, and we give it a real focus and I think we have got some very good results because of it.
It has been suggested by some that you are so good in Opposition because of your experience being in a minority of one of Level 9 in Sussex Street for several years. Who is the tougher opponent? The Howard Government or the NSW Right?
Well, that was a long time ago. I think the Labor Party has understood, right through the period of the Hawke and Keating Governments, in the Senate for example, that you are not working with the numbers. We've never worked with the numbers in the Senate. You have got to go back a very, very long time in Australian political history to find a situation where the Australian Labor Party has the numbers in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. So, it is second nature to us. I don't think it's so much about my background in machine politics.
But look, I'll tell you one thing. Many of our Senators have a background in either the Trade Union Movement or in machine politics, as you would expect, because of the system that operates within the Labor Party, and even though we are roundly criticised by the Conservatives because of this, it is a damn good training ground.
The Labor Senators don't come in as a naïve group of political lightweights. I am just typical of that with a very long period in machine politics, nearly 10 years working for the NSW Branch of the Labor Party. The fact that you come from a minority section or a majority faction or anywhere else, or some other part of the Labor movement, I don't think is relevant. I think more significant is the fact that most of us have had a lot of experience in terms of hard politics before we come into the Parliament, and sure, it's different. There are new skills to learn. We can't always translate experiences in the Labor Party or the Trade Union Movement to the Parliament, but they are always valuable, and it is a tremendous background and I think the Conservatives sling off at us because of this sort of background are really disadvantaged because they don't have it.
Day after day in the Parliament - you get characters like Alston and Minchin and others in the Senate, and of course Reith and Abbott in the House of Representatives, slinging off at Labor because of our Labor machine, or trade union background. And as I always say - so what? We are proud of it. We are proud of our trade union background. We are proud to say that for some part of our lives we worked in the interests of Australian workers and their families, and when you look at that mob of sleazy, spivvy lawyers on the other side of the Parliament, I reckon man-for-man and woman-for-woman we match them every inch of the way.
What would you say was your biggest hit over the last five years in the Estimates forum? Which was the issue that you got the most personal satisfaction out of raising?
I think we have had a lot of hits over the years. The most recent one which had real significance was over the tax advertising - particularly the Prime Minister's direct mail letter which we were able to use the Senate Estimates Committee process effectively to stop a direct mail letter using the Commonwealth electoral rolls.
We have had a lot of hits. Some of them have been quite significant like that one. Others have been a little bit amusing. Every now and again there's an issue which reminds you that you can't get too serious about the process. Take for this week's example, the massages offered in the Department of Finance and Administration. People very quickly pointed out that the Department of Finance are normally massaging the magic bottom line and were now massaging bottoms. But then again there have been other serious issues this week. An example of course, was the involvement of the Australian Federal Police in the ABC. So it is a balance, we just try and keep focussed on those sorts of issues where there is interest in the community and interest of course amongst the media - and the mix seems to work.
Can you think of one of the embarrassing moments you've raised that has actually transferred into a good public policy outcome?
The issue I just raised with you in relation to the misuse of the Commonwealth electoral roll for the Prime Minister. I think that in the longer term this will translate into more appropriate use by Commonwealth departments of the electoral roll as a data base and will probably do a great deal to ensure that privacy concerns of citizens.
One of the emerging issues is the lowering in esteem of all politicians in the rise of One Nation; the politics of discontent. When you are running negative, are you mindful of this?
When you say, running negative, that's a fair point to make. But don't forget that a little bit of transparency in government - appropriate use of the Parliament's accountability mechanisms - is what this business is all about. I mean, the Conservatives wax lyrical about the importance of the Senate as a House of Review - well, if that is mechanism for accountability that's what we are doing. Estimates Committee, I think, is an enhancement for the Parliamentary process, not the opposite, and I would be willing to defend it anyway. And I think this is while it is an important mechanism as far as Oppositions are concerned, it is something that ought to be defended by Governments as well, and certainly will be defended by any prospective Labor Government.
After the 1992 British elections someone asked Labour's Neil Kinnock: "Did you, in your heart, believe you were going to win?" Kinnock replied, "You believe you're going to win, and you believe you're going to lose. And you hold both views with equal conviction".
Even after Labor's stunning victories in Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland, I can imagine Kim Beazley saying exactly the same thing; he is one of the ALP's great pessimists. But the fact remains: Beazley looks more like an alternative Prime Minister than at any other time in the past five years. So what would be a Beazley Labor Government's greatest challenge be?
In his controversial Bulletin interview, John Della Bosca said: "I have seen flashes of Kim as potentially a really good leader and capable of carrying the imagination of the public". One of those rare glimpses occurred a fortnight before Christmas in December 1999 when Beazley gave an address to the Ashfield Uniting Church in Sydney.
For a notorious waffler, Beazley's speech was brief and to the point. After listing the problems he believes that Australia faces - poverty traps, falling educational standards and opportunities, homelessness, suicide, growing inequality, unemployment for some and longer hours for those with jobs - he got to the nub of the matter.
"And all this is happening", he told the congregation, "because it is a hard, competitive world out there, and we are more a part of it than we have ever been. And that hardness is creeping into our soul, because we haven't been ready - or we don't know how - to defend the fairness that makes us Australians".
And then with an element of honesty we don't usually expect from our political leaders Beazley said: "Now I could also tell you that this is all easy. That it is all the fault of the other side, and if you got rid of them, and elect us, it's all sunlit uplands from here. But its not easy. This is a national journey, and not just a journey for the national government at that. It demands that we all step out of the comfort zone".
Unfortunately, the ALP - an institution vital to Australia's democracy - has not stepped out of its own comfort zone. Labor has reformed many aspects of Australia's economy and society in the past two decades, but it has barely attempted to reform itself.
After thirteen years in government spent overhauling Australia's moribund economy and embracing globalization, Labor lost some of its raison d'etre. Was it running the economy for the Big End of Town or the Australian people? And was the party running itself purely as a platform for the personal ambitions of its senior members?
If Labor aspires to more than simply achieving power; if it aspires to govern Australia, to define, then pursue, our national interests in an era of globalization, then it must get its own house in order. It is a hard competitive world out there, and every time Labor contributes to the voters' disenchantment - through its thuggish culture of branchstacking, for example - it makes Australia a harder place for it to govern, and a harder place to change for the better.
The lesson of Peter Beattie's victory in Queensland, for example, was not that the party's internal workings are irrelevant to electoral success. On the contrary, the Sheperdson Inquiry could have been a mighty disaster for Labor. Luckily for Labor, the canny Beattie was able to turn the 'rorts affair' to his advantage by distancing himself from his own party and denouncing the rorters. To the electorate it looked suspiciously like leadership. But imagine the carnage if, like former Premier Wayne Goss, Beattie had been a member of the AWU faction.
By flicking the switch to vaudeville Queensland-style Beattie kept Labor in the contest. and when the National Party defied its leader, the lacklustre Rob Borbidge, and pursued preference deals with One Nation, it was all over bar the shouting.
According to the social researcher Hugh Mackay, "Australians seem to be lacking a guiding story that connects leaders and people". Defending fairness in the age of rapid and unpredictable change by making Australia into a 'Knowledge Nation' might be the story Labor wants to tell, but it's a hard message to sell if the people aren't listening because to so many of them Labor looks like part of the establishment, and part of the problem. If One Nation - or its equivalent - is still with us in 2004, and still putting incumbents last, then it could be a Labor government which suffers at their hands.
In his speech to the Uniting Church Beazley said: "Lately it's been hard to tell the difference between what is inevitable change, and what is plain unfair. A lot of things are being called inevitable, when they are really negotiable. So should we in politics really be surprised when people say 'well, if it's all inevitable, what do I elect you for?'".
Certainly the Labor Party shouldn't be surprised. For the longest time it was Labor who said things were inevitable, that change was the only constant, that ceaseless reform was its own reward. And a lot of people in the Old Australia, the Hansonite tendency for example, got heartily sick of it.
"All of us are elected with a duty of care to the society we live in", Beazley went on, "We are elected to understand the social fault-lines that traverse our nation like a jigsaw puzzle: dividing regions from regions; the bush from the suburbs; the west and east of our cities; skilled workers from unskilled; and indigenous from non-indigenous. And the question we all face is how much stress these faultlines can bear before they fracture".
It's a cogent summation of the state of the nation; but what Beazley didn't mention, however, was the faultline dividing the governing class from the governed; the politicians from the punters. Building a bridge across this particular 'faultline' could be Beazley's greatest challenge .
Brett Evans' book 'The Life of the Party: A Portrait of Modern Labor ' will be published in April by UNSW Press.
One in three stevedoring workers on the wharves is a supp or casual worker. At Patrick it's nearly one in two. Now a landmark Commission hearing requires employers in the metal industry to give regular casual workers permanent jobs after 6 months. And the union has again made permanency a priority ...
Lashing. Someone once compared it to going 13 rounds with Mike Tyson. Dodging boxes. The hook. Lifting iron bars. Dragging heavy gear from one end of a ship to the other. It can be heavy duty work. And hazardous. A hit on the head by a lashing bar and you're down.
This is the job of the Patrick supp - the casual wharfie. It's tough, dangerous work reserved for the predominately young, mostly male, casual workers who now make up around half the waterfront workforce.
It's hard and dirty work.
Sometimes you also get a go on the straddles or at general duties. But most of the time you crawl about on the container tops and the ship's deck fastening the boxes in place. Or undoing them. Six or seven people squeezed into a few squares trying to put the bars in. Tightening them. Sometimes, refrigerated units blowing hot air on you while the ships crew yell instructions in languages you don't understand.
The next day you're stiff and sore: "They told us we'd end up like Popeye, all biceps," said one supp. "But more of us end up with crook backs."
If the gear is rusted it's so much physically harder to use. And much more dangerous. There's grease on the metal deck and container tops. Add a bit of rain or early morning dew and it's hard work just staying on your feet. Some jobs takes you five stories high, 15 metres up.
Working at night there's hardly any light. You've got to look straight up when putting the bar on. Stuff gets in your eyes. Rust. Grit.
Blokes fall down the holes where the leads are run up to the reefers. A man gets hit on the head by a falling bar. Concussion.
The bonus system encourages some workers to cut corners. There've even been instances of lashing teams being ordered to follow the hook, containers swinging above their heads, twistlocks falling.
This is the life of a Patrick supp. Working unpredictable hours, at the beck and call of the boss. No guaranteed work. Head picking. Favourites.
You're on call 24 hours a day - no retainer. The call might come at 2am.You're sound asleep when the phone rings. "Come in, Jim. Now."
Day shift one day, night the next, then no work for a week. They chop and change you around so much. Trouble sleeping. After you do midnighters you could be awake the next three nights. It's like being permanently jet lagged. Makes you moody. Irritable. No social life. Over the years your mates get tired of asking you out. Even your partner gets jack of it.
Crook backs, insomnia, broken homes, no friends. Such are the pitfalls of being a supp.
But it's also a job that breeds mateship. You've got to keep your eyes open and your wits about you. Look after each other. You watch out for danger, warn each other. Stick by your workmates. Get organised.
And that is exactly what Patrick supps are now doing.
"Management thought the casuals they brought in after the dispute wouldn't want to join the union," said Deputy National Secretary Mick O'Leary. "But they have. And we are going to make sure they are well represented in the coming round of enterprise negotiations."
The new recruits are no fools.
"Patrick are making profits hand over fist," said one supp. "Corrigan boasts he's cut labour. There's actually no difference in the number of jobs. They've cut permanent jobs but increased casuals. That's why Lang Corp shares are up. It's blood money from us. Management cut back on safety and conditions. We're working like mad bastards. Look how dangerous the job is. The number of accidents. You don't have to go too far back to find the last fatality on the wharves."
Casual workers now make up 27 per cent of the Australian workforce. On the wharves it's 30 per cent - and that's not counting irregular supps. The union has 2,100 regular casuals on its books compared to 3,000 permanents and a total of 6,844 members. But at Patrick the rate is even higher - almost half the labour force with 605 supps out of a total MUA workforce of 1343.
Peaks and troughs in the maritime industry aside, the union thinks this is going too far. So do the supps. At a Sydney branch meeting in January they put permanent jobs down as their number one demand. And they are going to be able to put it to management face to face.
The Maritime Union is holding a conference for Patrick members on April 4 to prepare for the next round of EBA talks and elect rank and file representatives to the negotiating committee.
Supp delegates will be among them. And the issue of casualisation will be high on the agenda - especially in light of the recent landmark decision of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
On December 29, 2000, the full bench - Justice Paul Munro, Senior Deputy President Colin Polites and Commissioner Peter Lawson - ruled in favour of a submission by the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union to improve the lot of casual workers.
The decision gives casuals in the metal industry a 25 per cent loading (up from 20 per cent), a minimum 4 hour shift (3 hours for part time workers) and the right to be made permanent after six months "regular and systematic" employment.
Deputy National Secretary Mick O'Leary calculates that a 5 per cent increase in the casual loading alone would translate as a pay rise of between $6 and $17 per shift for MUA supplementary workers.
"This would take away some of the economic incentive which drives employers to replace full time workers with casuals working full time," he said.
And the union has already introduced permanent part time work and guaranteed wage jobs to provide the industry with flexibility.
"We are absolutely determined to see the Commission decision flow on to our industry," said National Secretary Paddy Crumlin. "Permanency is a priority. We will be using the decision and everything else available to us to get more members permanent jobs."
The union's primary objective is to return the Patrick workforce to some sort of permanence, to stabilise business and to stabilise the lives of workers he told Lloyds List Daily Commercial News.
The National Secretary is on the ACTU executive, which this March will be discussing how unions can extend the Commission decision by mounting a series of test cases or through enterprise agreements.
The AMWU didn't run a test case, but a special case - one that doesn't automatically flow on to other awards. It may now have to be fought out industry by industry.
Unions must also grapple with escape routes already being touted by some employers.
NSW Employers' Federation CEO Garry Brack, told The Sydney Morning Herald the commission ruling would force companies towards more contract workers or encourage them to put people off before they work the six months.
Others, like Australian Industry Group CEO Bob Herbert recognise the ruling was long overdue: "There has been no adjustment to casual employment for 26 years. Certainly, there will be some murmurs among employers over the increased loading rates but, in reality, the AIRC ruling simply brings casuals to roughly the same pay and condition levels as their full-time colleagues." (SMH, January 1, 2001)
Despite strong opposition from employers and the federal government throughout the hearings, ("casual employment is an important tool for dealing with global competitive pressures") the Commission recognised that casual workers are disadvantaged by their lack of entitlements.
The bench also recognised that growing casualisation is undermining the role of awards as a safety net: "The notion of permanent casual employment, if not a contradiction in terms, detracts from the integrity of an award safety net in which standards for annual leave, paid public holidays, sick leave and personal leave are fundamentals," it said.
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures 60 per cent of all casual workers have worked in the same job for more than a year and more than 20 per cent have worked in the same job for more than five years.
"Common sense says these workers are doing the work of permanent employees," said ACTU Secretary Greg Combet. "But because they are employed as casuals they enjoy none of the job certainty of permanent employees and are all too often denied access to the most basic entitlements like sick leave, annual leave, public holidays and redundancy payments."
And despite reassurances from the boss that their employment will be ongoing they find it almost impossible to get a loan from a bank.
The AMWU application to the Commission was on behalf of the Metal Trades Federation of Unions - an unregistered confederation of the AMWU and six other unions with membership covered by the Award (The Australian Workers Union, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia, the Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Energy, Information, Postal, LASHING
Plumbing and Allied Services Union of Australia, the Australian Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union and the National Union of Workers).
The decision requires employers to notify regular casuals of their right to become permanent within four weeks of doing six months regular work.
Workers then have the option of becoming permanent or remaining casual. They also have the right to request permanency at any later time. Employers can not unreasonably refuse those wanting permanent positions.
The Commission also made a provisional decision that employers must notify all workers on hire whether they are casual and the likely number of hours they can expect each week, along with their pay rate and other details.
Meanwhile the AMWU was back in the Commission on February 1 after the parties went into conference. Workplace Express reports that the AI Group and AMWU were at odds over when the clock should start ticking on the six-month period before employees elect whether to convert to permanent employment.
The union argues that when the provision comes into force it should take into account prior service by casuals. But the AI Group says the six-month period for existing casuals should start from June 1.
The union and employer body also have different positions on how the facilitative provisions should apply. The AMWU is concerned about what it says will be a de-facto employer veto over conversion to permanent employment. It says that if, on engagement, an employer indicates there is no expectation of ongoing employment, they will then be able to avoid workers electing to go permanent after six months.
Labor Council's Mark Morey
With the discovery of Indian workers being paid a pittance for their work in Australia, what are the conditions under which they entered the country and what level of supervision exists for these workers?
Australia's temporary residence program is designed to allow overseas people to come to Australia for specific purposes which result in some benefit to Australia. The program consists of three streams, economic; social/cultural; and international relations.
During 1998-99, more than 135 000 people were issued temporary resident visas. These included:
· 37 032 visas in the skilled visa classes (economic);
· 20 049 in the social and cultural classes (social/cultural); and
· 79 159 in the international relations classes (international relations).
The Temporary Residence category includes temporary entry for stays of up to four years in a wide range of categories including students, skilled employees, people establishing businesses and working holiday makers, with smaller numbers in categories such as sportspeople, media and film staff, entertainers, religious workers, retirees and occupational trainees. Temporary residents are required to pay taxes but do not have access to social welfare benefits or national public health cover.
Briefly, this is how it works:
1. The employer tries to find a suitable highly skilled employee locally. The attempt is unsuccessful and this fact is able to be proved.
2. The employer finds a suitable highly skilled overseas employee either in Australia or overseas.
3. The employer lodges, with a Business Centre of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA), an Employer Nomination for the position to be filled.
4. The DIMA office in Australia assesses the employer and the position.
· To be approved as a sponsor, the employer must demonstrate that the business:
1. is a lawfully and actively operating
2. is the direct employer of the temporary business entrant
3. is able to meet sponsorship undertakings
4. will benefit Australia through the employment of a temporary resident
5. will advance skills through technology training
6. agrees to abide by the sponsorship undertakings
Under the sponsorship undertakings the employer agrees to:
· meet financial obligations to the Commonwealth (eligible termination payments, Fringe Benefits Tax, superannuation contributions and deduction of tax instalments);
· comply with Australian industrial relations laws, Australian levels of remuneration and conditions of employment;
· accept financial responsibility, directly or through acceptable medical insurance arrangements, for all medical and hospital costs that sponsored persons and their dependants may incur in Australia
Sponsorship and/or the visas of any sponsored temporary business entrants may be cancelled if a sponsor:
· fails to provide information requested as part of a monitoring exercise
· does not fulfil sponsorship obligations
· provides incorrect information in the application or at a later stage
5. During this assessment the nomination may be referred to the Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business for comment on:
· the training record of the employer;
· the skilled nature of the position;
· the salary level of the position; and
· the attempts the employer has made to fill the position locally.
6. On approval of the nomination, the applicant is assessed either overseas or in Australia, depending on their location. The applicant must:
· have skills suitable to the position which the employer has nominated;
· meet a legal definition of a highly skilled person and be less than 45 years of age;
· have vocational English;
· meet or be able to meet and registration, licensing or membership requirements that may apply for that position in Australia.
7. If the appointment is exceptional, it requires a person over 45 years of age, or a person with less than vocational level of English, these requirements can be waived.
8. The applicant and the applicant's spouse and children must meet migration requirements regarding health and character.
9. If all legislative criteria are met, a migration visa will be granted if the applicant is overseas or a permanent residence visa will be granted if the applicant is in Australia
A Labour Agreement is a formal arrangement negotiated between the Commonwealth Government (represented by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and the Department of Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business), employers (eg industries, employer organisations and specific employers), and optionally other interested parties (eg unions and professional associations). Labour Agreements are designed to ensure that overseas recruitment is not contrary to the improvement of employment and training opportunities for Australians. To this end, Labour Agreements normally require employers or industry bodies to make commitments to the employment, education, training and career path progression of Australians prior to entering into an agreement.
All parties must agree that the overseas recruitment of a specified number of workers for defined vacancies is in response to identified or likely labour market (or skill) shortages.
Labour Agreements play a useful role in meeting identifiable skill shortages, which in turn has considerable economic benefit for both individual businesses and the Australian economy overall.
In general, Labour Agreements ensure that:
· all relevant stakeholders are included in negotiations and, where possible, are signatories to any agreements;
· all labour market sensitivities are resolved between the interested parties;
· provision is made for the ongoing recruitment, training and career path of Australians; and
· monitoring of the Agreement takes place.
It was interesting while researching this issue that one accompanying documents "Employing Overseas Workers - Doing The Right Thing" was part of a Federal Government campaign that provided employers with "an easy guide to help employers check that prospective employees are entitled to work in Australia". The irony of this campaign is that it does not have an accompanying document entitled "What Do I Do When I'm Being Mercilessly Exploited?"
The Federal Government's helpful business guide states:
"This kit has been designed to help you make sure that you only employ people who are entitled to work in Australia. Illegal workers take jobs away from people who are legally entitled to work. Not employing illegal workers saves your time and money". [Page 2]
Of course this is true unless you are able to use legal processes to bring workers into the country and pay them nothing as in this case. It appears that once workers enter Australia legally through the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) the Department has little or no regard for what happens to those people once they are the responsibility of their sponsor.
What It All Means
The plight of the Indian workers has exposed DIMA and the Federal Government's failure to ensure that the rights of Temporary Business Visa workers are protected by systems that monitor and identify unscrupulous employers. And the Minister's response to questions of ensuring employers adhere to their side of the bargain - its up to the state industrial authorities.
As with all issues to do with immigration Minister Ruddock's standard response is that of a four year old - if I put my hands over my eyes and can see it then it isn't happening. This is a weak government with a poor track record on human and industrial rights why should we really expect anything better from them?
Mark Morey is the Labor Council's Productive Diversity Officer
The People's Coalition welcomes today's decision by the Fiji Court of Appeal which upholds the validity of the 1997 Constitution and therefore is an important step in the process of returning Fiji to constitutional government and the rule of law.
I would like to commend the action of Mr Chandrika Prasad in taking this case, a brave step by him which will I hope, safeguard the constitutional rights of all Fiji citizens regardless of race or creed.
The Court has restored the status quo in Fiji to where it was on the morning of May 19 last year prior to the storming of Parliament by armed thugs.
Some of the primary points made by the Appeal judges are important in understanding the processes that we must now go through to restore democractic government:
The judges wrote in their summary:
- This leads us to conclude that even with the "first past the post" system, government would still have been the same; and claims that indigenous Fijians in particular did not understand the electoral system were largely unsubstantiated. We regard the Constitution as a reliable expression of the hopes and aspirations of the whole population, and see this as relevant in determining whether there has been popular acquiescence in the Interim Civilian Government.
- We conclude that the interim civilian government has not proved it has the acquiescence generally of the people of Fiji. Accordingly it cannot be recognised as the legal government.
- The 1997 Constitution remains the supreme law of the Republic of The Fiji Islands and has not been abrogated.
- Parliament has not been dissolved. It was prorogued on 27 May 2000 for six months.
It is now up to the Acting President to use his powers under Section 68 of the Constitution to recall Parliament. I urge him to do so at the earliest possible convenience so that a government can be tested on the floor of the House of Representatives.
I welcome tonight's comments by Ratu Josefa Iloilo in which he has told the nation that he respects the court's decision and that he will make every effort to restore full, constitutional rule following consultations with the BLV and political leaders.
We do not accept that there is any validity in the proposition appearing in media reports that the Acting President should dissolve the Parliament and call fresh elections - we had elections in 1999 and it is now up to those parties that lost that election to accept the verdict of the people and work towards the next scheduled election as envisaged in the Constitution. Governments in Fiji are meant to enjoy 5 year terms of office.
There is no evidence that Parliament is unworkable. The People's Coalition has 54 MPs - a clear majority - and we understand that there are many Opposition MPs who are keen to return to Parliament. Parliament will have no trouble electing a Prime Minister. All five Party leaders in the People's Coalition will meet with the Acting President early next week, when we will detail our support and seek a recall of Parliament prior to the end of Ratu Josefa's acting term on March 15.
Mahendra Chaudhry, New Delhi
by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman
But an even more fundamental source of business power is corporations' control over investment decisions, and the tax, trade and investment rules which enhance capital mobility. The ability to shift production to different locations, or threaten to shift production, gives corporations enormous leverage over the political process and over workers.
Want to adopt serious environmental standards to stem the corporate poisoning of the air, water and land? Get ready to face the threat of plant closures and job shifting. Want to force companies to bear a reasonable share of the tax burden? Be prepared to face company moves to lower tax havens. Want to mandate payment of a living wage to all workers? Plan to hear how business will be forced to move to Mexico or China.
Nowhere is the raw power connected to corporate mobility more apparent than in labor management relations, as Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, makes clear in a new paper, "Uneasy Terrain" (see http://www.ustdrc.gov/research/bronfenbrenner.pdf).
When faced with union organizing campaigns, employers routinely threaten to close their plant and move elsewhere. Understandably, these threats intimidate workers -- a union won't do you any good if you don't have a job -- and they are tremendously successful at defeating union organizing drives.
In the most comprehensive survey ever of U.S. union organizing campaigns, Bronfenbrenner found that "the majority of employers consistently, pervasively and extremely effectively tell workers either directly or indirectly that if they ask for too much, or don't give concessions, or try to organize, strike or fight for good jobs with good benefits, the company will close, move out of state or move across the border, just as so many other plants have done before."
In union organizing drives in the United States in 1998 and 1998, she found, more than half of all employers threatened to close all or part of the facility if workers voted to join a union.
But the situation is even worse than that figure suggests, because for some types employers it is difficult to make credible threats to move - hotels and hospitals, for example, are to a considerable extent tied to place.
In mobile industries -- manufacturing and other companies that can credibly threaten to shift production -- the plant closing threat rate was 68 percent. In all manufacturing, it was 71 percent. In food processing, it was 71 percent.
These numbers mark a worrisome upturn from a previous Bronfenbrenner survey, undertaken for the Labor Secretariat of the Commission for Labor Cooperation and published in 1997. Bronfenbrenner's data from 1993-1995 showed a threat rate of 64 percent among manufacturers, 21 percent among food processors.
(That earlier study, prepared for a commission created by one of the NAFTA side agreements, was suppressed by the Clinton administration. Eventually liberated, it provided some of the key evidence leading to the defeat of fast track.)
Employers deliver the threats directly (after posting pictures of shut down facilities, supervisors asked workers at a Mitsubishi plant in Tennessee, "Is your family ready to move to Mexico?") or more indirectly. For multinationals, Bronfenbrenner told us, there is a pervasive "silent threat.
The map on the wall" showing the locations of a company around the world is an ongoing reminder that the company can easily do business elsewhere.
Employers know the threats work, Bronfenbrenner says. Anti-union training materials emphasize that "fear is the most effective tool," she explains.
And the evidence backs up the commonsense insight that threats to closeeffectively intimidate workers.
"Union election win rates were significantly lower in units where plant closing threats occurred (38 percent) than in units without plant closing threats (51 percent)," Bronfenbrenner found. "Win rates were especially low (24 percent) in those campaigns where employers made specific threats to move to another country. Win rates were also significantly lower in mobile industries where the threat of closure was more credible."
Unions can overcome plant-closing threats, Bronfenbrenner says, by running aggressive campaigns that involve rank-and-file union members as organizers and actively involve and energize the workers who are being organized. But the challenge is immense, especially given the array of other anti-union tactics, including firing of union supporters, that corporations regularlyemploy.
Dealing with the problem of plant-closing threats, at least in the union organizing context, will require two major reforms, Bronfenbrenner concludes. First, labor law must more clearly delineate such threats as illegal, and impose big enough penalties to deter employers from making them. Second, trade, investment and tax policy must be changed to limit corporate mobility, and to block employers from shifting operations to avoid unionization.
That's not just a pro-union agenda. It is a basic pro-democracy one.
Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999).
by Neale Towart
by For the People - Reclaiming Government (Pluto Press)
Former adviser to US President Bill Clinton, Dick Morris, has recently argued persuasively that policy development, not "spin" or the cultivation of image, is today the most important task of any political candidate or party. Morris' claim is based on the proposition that voters today are more politicly sophisticated than in the past; they now understand the way advertisers they to manipulate them with images and have grown resistant. Instead, voters want to hear what policies each partly had to offer and they want to be convinced by argument, not by the endorsement of celebrities or by glib slogans. As Morris puts it: elections are not won by verbs - "I will do this" - rather than by adjectives - "I am a better leader".
If correct, this mean that policies and message are now crucial to the electoral success of political parties. The unexpected victory of Victorian Labor in the 1999 state election was in party the result of the effort that the then Opposition Leader Steve Bracks put into transforming Labor's policy and message to meet the new circumstances the party faced. It seems that one of the best investments a party can make is the development of a positive message and a set of policies to take to the electorate. As in British Prime Ministers Room Minister Tony Blair's New Labour Party, Bill Clinton's New Democrats in the United States and Lionel Jospin's French Socialist Party, Australian centre-left policy experts need to reassert the dominance they once had. Policy is now the new "hard politics".
But obtaining government is only the first step for centre-left policy-makers. Policy development in opposition and in government are different. If we are to make government work for people again and use it to help social democrats remain in government once elected, we will need to wind back the damage done to policy formulation through the neo-liberal economic and management theory excess of recent years.
As other contributor to this book argue, meeting our traditional social democratic goals in the 21st century will require a thorough overhaul of the way government operates. Decision-making, administration and program delivery will need to be transformed to cope with a society that is becoming more diverse and with social problems that are becoming correspondingly more complex and difficult to solve. This chapter argues that a key first step in transforming government in Australia will be revolutionising the way policy is created. It also argues that one of the urgent tasks of social democracy at the party, societal and governmental levels is to pt the notion of the public interest back into public policy-making. The first issue to be discussed is the decline of public policy-making capacity among political parties and governments. The second section will focus on the requirements for good policy-making, and the third will suggest some practical reforms and innovations for implementing these suggestions.
THE DECLINE OF PUBLIC POLICY CAPACITY
Over the past decade, centre-left policy-making around the globe has changed considerably. New ideas created by high-profile research organisations have had a profound influence on government policy-making, especially in the United States and the United Kingdom. Unfortunately in Australia the situation is less healthy. Despite the best efforts of isolated individuals and organisations, the centre-left's policy culture had declined.
One of the most serious symptoms of this decline is the long-term demise of political parties as policy-making machines. Few political parties today are geared towards producing sophisticated new policy ideas, particularly when that party is in government. This has many causes. The rise of factionalism and machine politics has les to a corresponding decline in the number of idealists willing to join all parties and has led ambitious young joiners to concentrate on "getting the numbers" to the detriment of policy activism. Another cause is that long periods in government have produced resiance upon well-resourced bureaucracies and professional advisers to produce policy. As well, factors such as declining membership and the increasing ability of voters to influence policy-making more directly make political parties seem less representative of the general community, and make their attempts to impose policies on elected public representatives seem less legitimate. Finally, policy-making has become an increasingly complex and professional task, requiring much specialist knowledge not usually possessed by even the most well-informed party member.
As a result of the relative decline of parties as hands-on policy-makers, the way successful political organisations obtain policy advice had changed. In all parties, policy committees and party conferences are tending increasingly to produce statements of their party's broad philosophical direction. This is particularly the case with the ALP's National Platform, which is devised in platform committees and voted on at the party's biennial or triennial National Conference. However, parliamentary representatives generally devise the detailed policies that form the election manifestoes, and in office, governments are influence heavily by the work of their internal advisers, the bureaucracy and think tanks. Given the different levels of skill and interest of these groups - party members, advisers, public servants and policy experts - and the fact that their membership overlaps significantly, this is probably the reasonable democratic balance of responsibilities.
Governments as well as political paries have had their policy-making capacity severely reduced over the 1990s as a result of neo-liberal economic and management theory excesses. This reduction has happened through a number ways: cutbacks in the overall number of public servants; the outsourcing of policy advise to private sector consulting firms; the replacement of policy coordinating departments such as the Department of Regional Development; and the ideologically motivated closure, downsizing or consolidation of specialised bureaus, such as the Bureau of Industry Economics and the Secretariat of the Economic Planning Advisory Council. As a result McAuley has claimed, our Federal bureaucracy has been "dumbed down", with the capacity to do little more than implement narrowly conceived policy derived from bloated and expensive private sector bureaucracies.
One of the urgent tasks of social democracy at the party, societal and governmental levels is therefore to put the notion of the public interest back into public policy-making. How to do this is the subject of the remainder of tis article, including a number of practical solutions listed at the end.
WHAT CONSTITUTES GOOD POLICY TODAY?
One of the first facts we have to confront is that out understanding of the causes of and potential solutions to social problems has become far more complex over the past decade. Experts have provided a more nuanced understanding of these matters:
· Sociologists like Anthony Giddens and others have improved our understanding of the multiple identities and concerns of people of all classes.
· Labour market economists are now more aware of the importance of boosting opportunities for individuals and communities through education and training.
· Social scientists now have a greater appreciation of the spatial concentration of inequality and the complex interrelationships between factors such as education, health, crime and unemployment.
One of the results of this increasing complexity is that good policy-making today must possess a number of new qualities.
First, it must be practical and evidence-based rather than theoretical, prepared to draw on big ideas in its analysis as well as create small practical solutions to concrete problems. Second, it must be based on wider "intelligence networks" than in the past. Learning form the recent experience of other centre-left parties, we need to create new connections between governments and policy-makers in our think tanks, universities and the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, including the new social and policy "entrepreneurs". These networks need to be international, as well as national, interstate and local. Ironically perhaps, this increasing complexity and interrelatedness of social problems and the multiplicity of available solutions and sources of policy advice available requires us to create new central organs of policy overview and coordination. Policy-making must be able to work across departments and government boundaries to deliver what is being referred to as "joined-up government". We need as a matter of urgency to recreate a vital policy-making culture by tapping into sources of ideas and political support outside traditional sources.
EVIDENCE-BASED POLICY THINK TANKS
One of the problems to be overcome in establishing new policy organisations and networks in Australia is the enormous and unnecessary gulf in understanding between hard-headed practitioners of politics and intellectuals. The blame for this lack of connection lies on both sides. Lloyd has analysed the recent cooling of relations between academics, public intellectuals and the Blair Government. After initially expressing enthusiasm of the Blair project, a number of high-profile intellectuals have become its critics. The major cause, Lloyd concludes, is not just ideological disagreement, but a misunderstanding about the type of policy work that government policy-makers now find useful. While public intellectuals often want to engage politicians in fundamental discussions about the type of society they are trying to create, government policy-makers need policy that contains fewer ideological assumptions about how to solve problems of inequality and more hard-headed analysis and practical ideas based on what will work. In short, policy-makers usually need "evidence-based research" from academics with the ability to frame practical policy - "policy entrepreneurs" - rather than philosophical debate from more generalist political theorists. A better understanding between government and the academe as to what each other requires could help avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict.
This type of evidence-based research does not, however, come cheaply. good policy advice requires well-qualified staff and involves high overheads. In the past, the Australian centre-left's resources have been insufficient to meet such needs apart form a brief periods when the Evatt Foundation was well-funded and was able to produce high-class social and economic analysis. Lacking sufficient resources to undertake evidence-based research, Australian left-to-centre think tanks have too often only been able to engage policy-makers at a rather abstract level, insufficient to assist in the design of hard policy. For this reason, most of these think tanks have gone into relative decline over the past decade.
There are many overseas organisations providing this type of evidence-based research. Two in particular provide excellent models for us to consider in Australia - Demos, and the Progressive Policy Institute.
Demos is a UK.-based think tank, founded in 1993 former Marxist intellectuals associated with the magazine Marxism Today, most prominent of whom were Martin Jacques and Geoff Mulgan. The latter is now head of the Social Exclusion Unit in Tony Blair's Number 10 Policy Unit. The current director of Demos is the education policy researcher Tom Bentlely, who toured Australia in 1999, and its researchers include high-profile new economy authors Charles Leadbeater and Perri 6. If Demos has a central idea it is the need to "think the unthinkable", to move beyond notions of left and right, to create new understandings of the causes of inequality, to utilise the potential of 'modernity' - globalisation and rapid technological change - to promote equality, and to revitalise democracy as an end in itself. Demos has had a significant influence on the Blair Government. Many of its major policy prescriptions, including the need to 'rebrand' Britain, adopt a 'holistic' approach to government and tackle new forms of social inequality, have surfaced in the rhetoric of 'cool Britannia', the 'modernising government' project and the establishment of the Social Exclusion Unit. Its latest research projects are typical of its eclectic and small-scale approach to solving social problems. These include looking at the access that the poor have to nutritious food, initiatives to encourage responsible fatherhood, and the learning problems faced by disaffected young people. Core funding from major philanthropic foundations and project funding from private corporations and public bodies provides an annual budget capable of supporting twelve full-time staff and a number of associate staff, as well as a long list of high-quality publications. Lloyd argues that the success of Demos rests partly on its creation of a new class of "policy entrepreneurs" with strong links with Tony Blair's Number 10 Policy Unit.
The Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) is, in rough terms, the US equivalent of Demos, although as the official think tank of the Democratic Leadership Council it is more directly connected to the Democratic Party than Demos is to New Labour. Founded in 1985 it is the leading source of ideas for the "New Democrats", and, as such, has had a significant impact on US politic. Like Demos, its success rests on its direct influence over senior policy-makers in Congress, the White House and state administrations, through the quality of its ideas and through the strong advocacy of its leading figures, such as its president and cofounder Al Form. In the lead-up to the presidential elections in November 2000, the PPI had its ideas on subjects such as education policy and the new economy adopted by both the Gore and Bush camps. Its ideas are published monthly in its magazines Blueprint and New Democrat as well as in numerous policy papers.
UTILISING AND STRENGTHENING POLICY NETWORKS
In earlier periods of Labor's history, individual academics and think tanks played a key role in the formulation of the great practical programs of Labor governments. In his recent memoirs, the former Chief of Staff to then Opposition Leader Gough Whitlam and later head of the Department of Prime Ministers Room Minister and Cabinet, John Menadue, details the influence a handful of academics brought together by the Fabin Society had on the ALP's 1972 platform. The resurrection of the Victorian Branch of the ALP and the election of the Cain Government in 1982 was in part due to its harnessing of new policy ideas form across the community through the work of the Labor Resource Centre.
Unfortunately, Australian universities in general lack a strong public tradition, although there are exceptions. The Australian National University was originally set up to assist government in post-war reconstruction and has a history of public policy involvement. A number of schools of government and university-linked institutes have recently emerged, including the Centre for Public Policy at the University of Melbourne, the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales and the School of Public Policy at Monash University. One very positive recent addition is the newly created Brisbane Institute at the University of Queensland, which has teamed up with Labor Premier Peter Beattie and Brisbane Mayor Jim Soorley to fulfil the wider public role of boosting Queensland's credentials as "smart state". One of the aims of the institute is to create a broader intellectual climate and help transform Brisbane into what futurist Charles Handy would call "a buzzy city" that attracts the knowledge workers and investment capital for the new economy. Despite these improvements there is still a long way to go before Australia reaches the level of interest and excellence in public policy-making that exist in the US and the UK, where Harvard, nomics, among many other institutions, have long nurtured expert policy-makers. In these countries, academics often move between the academe and government. Prominent US examples have included Robert Reich, form the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, who was appointed President Clinton's Secretary for Labor, and Donna Shalala, former Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, who was President Clintons' Secretary of State for Health and Social Services. Professor Anthony Giddens, Director of the London School of Economics, is a high-profile adviser to Tony Blair.
Another problem is the poor state of Australian left-of-centre publishing compared to that overseas. In the UK there is a wide range of political left-of-centre publications in which ideas can be expressed, including the New Statesman, the Guardian and American Prospect. In the US, there are a wide variety of publications, ranging form the intellectual New York Review of Books and Atlantic Monthly to the policy journals Prospect and the New Republic. In Australia we have the Catholic Eureka Street, the post-modern-leaning Arena, the Keynesian Dissent and AQ. Of these, none is truly a forum for the discussion of reforming policy ideas, focusing instead on journalism and criticism. One promising sign is the emergence of Pluto Press, which is attempting to conjunction with the Fabian Society to promote debate over the future direction of the ALP in its "Left Book War" series, including this book and its processor volumes.
BREAKING DOWN THE POLICY "SILOS"
Due to the increasing complexity of society, and the increased ability to identify interrelated aspects of social issues, the traditional categories used by governments to address these problems are no longer adequate. This is because many problems and opportunities cut across existing departments and levels of government. One solution is to work across portfolios and levels of government by establishing what are referred to in the UK as "crosscutting" units - policy coordination bodies situated in the Cabinet Office that are overseen by a Number 10 Policy Unit. These bodies not only work to coordinate the work of existing departments, they have the role of developing new ideas and applying gentle pressure form above for change to be implemented by the many departments involved in program delivery. The Blair Government had established two of these units - the Social Exclusion Unit, which coordinates policies across departments including education, health, housing and transport, and the Performance and innovation Unit, which aims to encourage more innovation and crosscutting policy work. Four potential Australian crosscutting units are discussed below.
Innovation has two roles to play for reforming Labor governments. The first is refreshing electoral programs.
One of the ways in which progressive governments often lose their political direction is an over-reliance on bureaucracy to formulate political policy. This over-reliance could be one of the contributing reasons why Labor governments often lose the votes of their traditional supporters over time. As Morris argues, a professional, apolitical bureaucracy, whilst a key element of good government, is, by definition, concerned with continuity and the administration of existing programs, not innovation. As change is the raison d'être of Labor governments, the centre-left needs to consider how it can complement greater policy innovation. Social practical suggestions are listed in the final section of this chapter.
The second role for innovation is in the re-designing of government itself. Much work on this has been done overseas, through US Vice-President Al Gore's Reinventing Governments projects and the recent similar project by the Blair Government the Modernising Government White Paper.,. These projects seek to re-design government to make it more flexible and efficient, more responsive to new demands being made on government by citizens and better able to utilise new technology, particularly information technology. McAuley has provided some good criticisms of the "New Management" ideology that underpins much of these reform attempts, but they do contain many ideas that can be used to strengthen the in-house and across-government policy-making capacity of governments. Some of the ideas contained in these papers also form apart of the discussion of practical suggestions below.
SOME PRACTICAL IDEAS
Since Labor was last in office, policy-making has been transformed by a number of factors, particularly the Internet. Joseph Stiglitz, a former Chief Executive of the World Bank and Chairman of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers, has called upon governments to use the Internet to improve their policy-making. As Stiglitz has commented: 'Policy-making bureaux in most governments are limited in size, and are typically overloaded. The new technologies hold out the promise of drawing upon far wider expertise'. Policy-makers in Australia at the State and Federal levels already conduct lively exchanges with their counterparts in the UK, including with Demos, Nexus and the Number 10 Policy Unit. These types of connections should continue. Labor needs to reach out further that our own political parties and existing think tanks to overseas organizations and to our own community-based organizations, to what are now being referred to as wider 'intelligence networks'. To do this, there are a number of models we can consider.
ENHANCE AUSTRALIA'S PUBLIC POLICY CAPACITY
Four initiatives to improve Australia's public policy capacity could be considered:
· Strengthening university public policy schools
· Encouraging academics to take sabbatical leave in public sector think tanks and government
· Emulating the UK's public service by establishing a Centre for Management and Policy Studies within the service to promote a balanced public service policy culture.
· Encouraging more academic to publish in the area of public policy through the establishment of more public policy journals linked to university departments, and by recognising for university purposes, contributions to public debate by academics on television, radio, the Internet and in newspapers and magazines. Currently these unreformed publications do not attract the points used to determine faculty funding levels. The discourages academics from spending their time contributing to public debates.
CREATE A CENTRAL GOVERNMENT POLICY UNIT
The key first step to putting the public interest back into public policy-making will be central coordination. The successful model we should consider emulating is the Number 10 Policy Union in the office of British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. This unit was set up after the 1997 election to ensure that policy development across departments remained consistent with Labour's election manifesto and to develop new innovative ideas from the UK and overseas. Under the direction of David Miliband, the sixteen-person unit oversees the two prominent crosscutting Cabinet Office policy bodies - the Social Exclusion Unit and the Performance and Innovations Unit - as well as the UK Foresight Programme, which aims to anticipate future social, political, cultural and economic trends through innovative research.
A similar body in Australia would have a number of tasks. It could oversee the work of potential new crosscutting agencies, such as those needed to create a 'Knowledge Nation', tackle social exclusion, create more 'family friendly' workplaces and empower and redevelop regional Australia. It could also liaise with universities, independent research institutions, other governments and the community in general to widen the Government's 'intelligence networks', ideally through a Nexus-type on-line policy forum.
SET UP AN AUSTRALIAN ON-LINE POLICY NETWORK
As well as facilitating informal contact between policy advisers, the Internet can be utilised in a more structured way to reach out to a wider number of policy experts. The model here was the Nexus on-line think tank, established by academics at the University of Cambridge in cooperation with the Number 10 Policy Unit. Nexus' aim was to "create a space within which ideas and empirical issues can be debated at one remove from the immediate electoral and media pressures that face politicians'. Nexus had a two-fold purpose: "to develop and extend centre-left thought, and to increase the profile and quality of public debate". It operated by arranging on-line debates between the UK's leading intellectuals, researches, political advisers and policy entrepreneurs. Policy area it debated included health policy, higher education reform, information and communications technologies, the changing role of the state, social exclusion and government accountability.
In 1998 Nexus conducted a prominent public debate on the philosophical direction of the Blair Government, which was largely responsible for developing in greater detail than before the concept of the "Third Way". Contributors included: Anthony Giddens; David Marquand, Principal of Mansfield Colleg, Oxford; Julian Le Grand, Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics; and the Directors of the Institute for Public Policy Research and the UK Fabian Society. This debate fleshed out the practical meaning of the Third Way and has had a profound impact on the direction of the Blair Government, which has flowed on to Australia, and elsewhere.
Nexus provides a tested model of how intellectuals, academics, social entrepreneurs and policy experts can assist the development of the public policy of centre-left governments. It is not necessarily linked to The Third Way, but can be used to draw out contributions form across the political spectrum. As stated above, building such a network in Australia can be one of the key functions of any government policy unit.
JOIN THE THIRD WAY INTERNATIONAL
Enhanced interaction is also occurring among left-of-centre government leaders themselves. Since September 1998 a number of influential social-democratic leaders, including Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, former Italian Prime Minister Alberto D'Assimo, German Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder and French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, have participated in a series of high-profile summits dubbed the "Third Way International". Exchanged of ideas also take place at the ministerial level. A similar type of international is now taking place among European Community governments to exchange policy ideas, compare outcomes and learn from each other about what works and what doesn't. The idea is to promote "soft convergence" between the economic, social and education systems of European Community countries. Given that the inspiration for many of the policies now known as the Third Way, Labor in government should look to participate in these high-level meetings in addition to the ALP's continuing involvement in the Socialist International and the International Labor Organisation.
PRACTICE "SOFT CONVERGENCE" BETWEEN THE STATES AND THE COMMONWEALTH
We can do the same at the intra-national level. The Internet provides greater opportunities for Labor governments and oppositions at State and Federal levels to exchange information, copying the "soft convergence" model of the European Community - sharing ideas that work. There is far too little interaction between policy-makers at the State and Federal levels within Australia. While good ideas tend to circulate around policy-makers circles, of then this is the result of chance or the result of reading about in the newspapers. In the recent past, State government has been hampered by the growth of competitive federalism, with Sate administrations forced into the game of bidding each other down in a never-ending spiral, depleting their taxation bases. Some structured contacts could see the development of a social-democratic alternative based on the European Community's approach of "soft convergence". In the US the Democratic Leadership Council has played a similar role by bringing together State and local Democratic Party politicians for an annual two-day conference - dubbed the DLC National Conversation. Internet networks of political advisers, backed up by occasional meetings, would also be invaluable way of building trust and common interests throughout the Labor party.
One to the key qualities that new policy bodies will need is innovation - the identification of new ways to tackle existing problems and future policy opportunities. A commitment to innovation is the hallmark of firms that make up the new economy, and the 21st century it should be feature of the centre left and of government as well. There are many components of policy innovation from other governments and the private sector which think tanks and government in Australia should examine. These include locating a public sector policy unit in one of the new economy incubators, such as the purpose-built De Bono Centre in 257 Collins St, and utilising some of the internal ideas generation techniques practised in leading technology firms, including online discussion groups utilising the latest software.
PROTECT INTELLECTUAL INDEPENDENCE
Adopting a strategy based on policy vision requires three notes of caution. First, we need to balance policy-making with commonsense and political judgement and to lean towards practical rather than ideological responses to problems. Second, we need to ensure that the independence and strategic capacity of the public service is protected. And third, that the integrity of academics an public intellectuals is respected and their cooperation is maintained.
In the mid 1990s, the Federal Coalition leader Dr John Robertson Hewson sought to win power based almost solely on policy through his Fightback! program. Dr Hewson's folly was not to offer people a vision, but rather to offer an overly detailed and ideologically inspired manifesto that was out of step with the beliefs of the Australian people. His fate alerts us to the need to balance policy-making with commonsense and political judgement and to lean towards practical rather than ideological responses to problems. Like Icarus, in their quest to implement pure policy politicians and policy-makers must be wary of flying too close to the sun.
As stated earlier, McAuley has warned that one of the pitfalls of "the New Public Management" theory has been the loss of impartiality, professionalism, continuity and a broader community perspective that was the dominant culture in the older public service and still survives in parts of the present bureaucracy. Any new policy-making structures committed to innovation and to providing new directions run the risk of making this situation worse if adequate care is not taken. New ways of policy-making by governments should not usurp the traditional role of the public policy ideas, but should be additions to existing structu4es, to feed in new ideas.
In trying to involve intellectuals in practical policy-making and create "policy entrepreneurs" we must be careful to retain the integrity of intellectuals as intellectuals. The value to be gained from tapping the ideas of academics and private-, public- and third-sector thinkers will be lost if it is seen merely as an attempt to conscript them into support for a pre-existing program. The task is not to compromise the intellectual integrity of dedicated professionals but to utilise their enthusiasm and expertise to change the work as well as interpret it.
Policy-making is becoming an increasingly complex business. Different types of organisations are suited to different tasks and we need to rethink the relationship between parties and other policy-making groups. The broad philosophical directions proposed by parties should rightfully remain in the hands of the democratic processes of parties themselves. Within this framework there is a place for other types of bodies to contribute to better policy creation. A multiplicity of think tanks, utilising networking techniques, can be a source of innovation and new ideas. Government can be used to draw ideas form the community and work across existing g departmental silos to tackle complex problems in new ways. The right in Australia has recognised that changing public policy requires changing the way public policy is created. It is time for progressive parties in Australia to do the same.
Howard had sought to take the body for a series of photo opportunities at the National War Museum where he has planned a full state funeral at which he will officiate.
The PM flew back from New Zealand on a supersonic F-111 RAAF jet to claim the honor of the first photograph with the mortal remains of Bradman - at his post mortem.
A grief-stricken Howard told reporters he had held the great man's man, said a prayer and then removed some strands of the Don's greying hair which he will place in a locket for Mrs Howard.
Standing next to her husband, Janet Howard sobbed: "This is a terrible moment for John and I. We haven't cried so much since the death of Sir Winston Churchill, or Winnie as we used to call him.
Bradman's relatives launched a dramatic legal action in the Supreme Court to stop Howard's intervention in funeral arrangements.
The restraining order prevents Howard from being a pall bearer at the state funeral and bans him from making a two-hour graveside eulogy.
If successful, the action will prohibit the Prime Minister from using the name Bradman in his speeches in the forthcoming federal election and stop him from wearing shirts, coats and hats bearing the Bradman autograph.
Lawyers for the Prime Minister said the Bradman family's legal action was regrettable. "Our client has only ever sought to become Sir Donald's most trusted confidant and friend," a statement said. "All he ever wanted was to bask in the reflected glory of a great Australian."
On Monday combined steel union delegates endorsed a campaign of coordinated rolling stoppages. Protective services and tin mill workers walked off the job on Tuesday for 24 hours.
During the past fortnight BHP's American talking heads have had interesting things to say about BHP steelworkers and their future.
The evangelical looking BHP Steel President, Kirby Adams, explained to the Illawarra Mercury (February 22) that his job is to raise BHP shareholder returns to the double digits, instead of the present "savings account" level. This will necessitate "a new approach" to how things are done at BHP.
So far as the workers are concerned, they have increased productivity, and been trying new approaches, for the best part of a decade at least. Many now believe the new approach being talked about is the old reduction of wages and conditions, and deunionisation, strategy. History demonstrates outsourcing is the tool used to achieve this.
Perhaps BHP's American bosses have in mind for their workers something along the line of the third world conditions of Indian nationals discovered on a nearby Helensburgh construction site on Monday.
Acting on a tip-off a union team, including CFMEU state secretary Andrew Ferguson, NSW Labor Council deputy assistant secretary Chris Christodoulou, and South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris, raided a Hindu temple construction site.
They found eight Indian workers, appallingly ensconced in small, possibly unhealthy, site-sheds, earning a pittance.
It is understood the men had been living and working on the site for three years, toiling for $45 per month, and $100 per week in Indian rupees, under the working visa programme.
Third world conditions indeed, but not the Australian way since the advent of trade unionism; unless of course persistent and vague demands for Australian workers to become globally competitive means this is the sort of future neoliberal enthusiasts really have in mind.
As Kirby Adams explains, BHP workers have to ensure that Australian steel remains globally competitive no matter what happens to the Australian dollar.
The logic and implication of this sort of turbo-capitalist bullshit is that Australian workers have to compare and match themselves with steel being produced by exploited labour in countries where worker welfare hardly gets a look in.
Maybe the Americans at BHP would be happy if the Port Kembla workers took to the site-shed lifestyle, and a handful of rupees? But as the Wobblies used to argue about the trenches during World War 1, "bosses first".
Following discussions the Indian workers left the Helensburgh construction site, and enjoyed two nights free in the upmarket Novotel Northbeach, courtesy of the Hotel management, and the involvement of the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, and the NSW Labor Council. The future of the Indian workers is now the subject of discussions between politicians and unions.
Describing the industrial situation of the Indian workers as a "slave labour scam", South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris explained to the thick and ugly, that just because the wages and conditions of the workers were on a par with the situation back home, "doesn't make it okay here".
The American talking heads at BHP should take note.
Rowan Cahill is Workers Online's Picket Correspondent. He is currently editting an account of the Joy Dispute which will be published later this year.
by Peter Moss
Test ... test ... test. Broadcasting from Room 202 the Bombay Hilton.
Mary had a little lamb its fleece was white as snow when you put the gumboots on that little lamb did go.
Friends, Romanians and losers lend me a beer.
Is this thing on ... bloody hell
OK red light's on, we are recording, we have action. Gentlemen and the rest of you low lifes start your eeeengines vrrrooommm
Part one of my tour diary. By Shane Warne.
Start typing now just leave out all the crap OK
Thank you for spending lots of dosh on this my first book. Yes for the first time the inside warts and all story of life in the road with the world's greatest leg spinner. Make that one of the top five cricketers of all time. True, check out Wisden sucker.
Remind me to put in a bit about charity, five per cent of proceeds go to deaf lepers or whatever ... buggar it, make that one per cent and give it to Def Leppard.
India the final frontier. As you alight from the plane at Bombay the gateway to this exotic land of 800 million cricket fanatics the dry heat is like an oven and the smell ... the smell ... is that India or is that Glen McGrath. Pigeon you animal !!!!
After our magnificent World Cup victory, our record breaking 15 Test wins on the trot every man who wears the Baggy Green knows this is the real test. To take on India at home, where the conditions, the climate, the culture and the chow are harsh and unfamiliar.
Led by our captain Steve goody two shoes Waugh and mate could I tell you a few stories about that smug bastard we are determined to cement forever our place in cricketing history.
Shit, the mobile. Hello ...
John you two-faced runt I told you to never never call me again.
Pitch information? You're joking. It's flat 22 yards long and there's three sticks at each end now take a long walk buddy. Piss off.
Cut that last bit out. Now where was I ...
Only one man stands between this imposing Australian Eleven and the glittering prize of a series win on the sub-continent. The Little Master, so revered by his compatriots, Sachin Tendulkar.
Damn that bloody phone ... Yeah? Who is this and why are you breathing like that? Stop moaning or I'll hang up.
Darling I don't know how you got this number and I have no bloody idea why you've covered yourself in Tia Maria.
I'm a busy man. I've got a Test Series to win and I'm writing a book. What ... yeah a bloody book. Goodbye.
Crikey. Tia Maria.
Note to whoever's typing this. Take out everything I say on the phone.
Now I've lost my bloody train. Tough yakka this book bizzo.
For Shane Warne this tour presents personal challenges which I am determined to overcome. The injuries, the off-field dramas, the ...
Not again. Hello?
Junior! What's cooking bro?
Mate, I'm rooted. I need a break.
What ... no, I'm writing a book ... my own book, Shane Warne's Tour Diary.
Yeah, yeah very funny Junior, but it's going to be a best seller.
Now who's on for a cold one. Meet you downstairs in five.
Peter Moss is a Director of Lodestar Communications
Set up by disgruntled I.T. workers, NetSlaves is a site that lets I.T. workers vent their anger and share their experiences in the new media industry. NetSlaves tells the real story of working in the largely un-unionised I.T. Industry, the stereotype of 21 year old geeks earning six figure salaries is broken down as workers share their tales of long hours, crap money and high stress in the new economy.
Check it out at http://www.netslaves.com.
Several international union federations and the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) have launched a new site http://www.global-unions.org. Featuring regular union news updates and campaign information this site could be looking at knocking off Eric Lee's LabourStart http://www.labourstart.org as the number one international union site. That will be tough ask.
ASU & AMWU Revamped
The Australian Services Union (NSW & ACT Services Branch), has recently completed a major overhaul of their site. The site located at http://www.asuservices.labor.net.au was one of the first LaborNET sites online and in terms of union sites nationally one of the most utilised. The new site builds on the achievements of the original and makes it more attractive and accessible to their membership.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union has also renovated their large site in recent months. The site located at http://www.amwu.asn.au hasn't changed much of it's original content and layout but has given a facelift to the old site and improved navigation within the site.
Underground Radio Online
Sydney independent radio station 2SER, broadcasting on 107.3 FM, has an impressive website located at http://www.2ser.com. The site fits in well with 2SER's image as a progressive, youth oriented station that is proudly independent. 2SER, as a community station doesn't receive corporate backing so it's major fundraiser is Freaky Loops , Sydney's leading festival of Australian electronic music. Freaky Loops is coming up soon at Bondi Pavilion on 25 March 2001. Check out the Freaky Loops site at http://www.freakloops.com.
Palm Beach: The heart & soul of the workers
Following on from last week's Tool of the Week, Shane Withington, self-proclaimed working class hero and leader of the "Save Currawong" movement, I thought it was time for a review of their site. Located at http://www.savecurrawong.org the site is features information on their campaign to save their holidays on Pittwater, which are subsidized by the union movement. The site features several introduction pages which make it very hard to navigate, but once you get into the center of the site navigation improves.
It's even interactive with an automatic "protest email" system that will clog up union officials' email in-boxes with useless information on how upset these Northern Beaches yuppies are about losing their cheap holidays. Design 5/10, Politics 0/10.
If you have a site you want Paul to review or to add to the LaborNET Links section email him at mailto:[email protected].
The man responsible for placing illegal immigrants in privately-run concentration camps, while turning a blind eye to the systematic exploitation of foreigners on working visas, is himself a tortured soul. You see, Ruddock was once a 'Wet', the dodo bird of conservative politics, a group who thought Liberal meant tolerance, openness, libertarianism. These strange creatures thrived for a time, until the big-game hunters of Ugly Right cut a swathe through their numbers.
Ruddock was the last Wet standing as colleagues Chris Puplick, Ian McPhee and Fred Chaeny fell by the wayside as the Bishops and Abbotts and other canons of the Howard Church spread their Scriptures of Wedge Politics across the party in the late eighties. In fact, at the height of Howard's racial troubles as Opposition Leader, it was Ruddock who crossed the floor on immigration. A decade on, it has been Ruddock's fate to preside over some of the more odious elements of the Howard Doctrine with the duel jewels of immigration and reconciliation in his Ministerial Crown.
Only a Wet would know the personal turmoil that would come with a request from Amnesty International to stop wearing their badge in public. Once an idealist, Ruddock now carries the sickly palour of a man who knows his soul has been sold, with more than a passing resemblance to Montogomery Burns, the hollow man of Matt Groenig's Springfield.
Ruddock has mastered the shrug of the shoulders whenever questioned about his handling of the disgrace that is Australia's treatment of refugees. Private prison officers keeping detainees locked in sweltering dessert heat? Shrug. Young children being exposed to sexual assault through the inappropriate housing of detainess? Shrug. Detainees rooms ransacked by heavy-handed prison guards? Shrug. A modicum of sensitivity for the plight of people forced to take such outrageous risks to start a new life? Shrug. It's as if the Ruddock was a specator rather than the man with whom the buck stops.
With reconciliation he's proven to be a flag-bearer for Howard's poisoned obstinance - totally unaware of his own privileged place in the world. Only last week, he was visiting the central Australian community of Yuendemu, telling the locals they should be grateful for the damn nearby - "never had a dam like that when I was growing up', he intones, oblivious to the fact that it is a cesspit unsuitable for either swimming or drinking. Got to love that Practical Reconciliation.
And now this week Ruddock has barged into the Tool Shed as the plight of the Indian temple workers came to light with proof that Ruddock's Department has done nothing to ensure that minimum wages and conditions are paid. In fact, it has emerged that there has not been a solitary prosecution against an employer, despite evidence of serial under-payment of foreigners on working visas. During thr week, Ruddock has slipped and slithered, claiming it was not his responsibility, even when his own officers conceded it was. This is an issue that will continue to torture this tortured soul until the government puts in place a process of scrutiny for working visas.
One of the things that made the Wets bearable was their understanding that not all people had the same privileges as they did. Sure, they were generally from the upper -middle classes, but the Wets weren't your average Spivs. They actually felt a responsibility to use their positions of power and influence in a constructive way. In taking a position in Howard's Government Ruddock could not have moved further from his original values and beliefs. He is now a tool of division whose net contribution is a negative one. In fact, it's simpler than that, he's just a Tool.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005