Interview: Still Flying
International: President Gas
Politics: Australia: A Rogue State?
Unions: Welfare Max
Bad Boss: Welcome to Telstra!
Health: Fat Albert: The Grim Reaper
Satire: Iraq Pre-empts Pre-emptive Strike
Poetry: A Man From the East And A Man From The West
Review: The Sum Of All Fears
The Locker Room
Week in review
The Legacy of 11/9
The CFMEU Race Debate #2
Keeping it Clean
Sue the Leaders?
When I was elected PM in December 1972 arbitration systems were operating throughout Australia under Federal and State laws. They were in accord with ILO's most important human rights conventions, No.87 - Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948, and No.98 - Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949. The Coalition Governments between 1949 and 1972 had not ratified them. In February 1973 my Government ratified both of them.
The ILO's triple base of governments, employers and workers, monitored by its expert committees, is now the greatest guarantor of the rights of Australia's unionists. My Government ratified nine ILO conventions; the Howard Government has ratified none. In particular, there are now eight unratified ILO occupational and health conventions. They cannot be ratified unless every State and both Territories comply. John Della Bosca and the NSW Crown Solicitor's Office are ahead of all other jurisdictions in complying.
Last month Tony Abbott told Robert McClelland: "The Federal Government is not presently considering ratifying any ILO OHS Conventions. This is because the ILO will be considering a process to review all ILO OHS Conventions at its Annual Conference in June 2003, and it would be premature for Australia to ratify an OHS Convention when its status is under review.
It is immensely difficult for the ACTU and the Federal, State and Territory ministers for industrial relations to coordinate their representations and their representatives at the ILO's annual conference in Geneva every June. John Della Bosca and the Labor Council of NSW are well positioned to promote this continuing and crucial issue.
NSW led on quadrennial elections
NSW leads not only in union reform; it also leads in parliamentary reform. When I left the Federal Parliament the Legislative Council of NSW consisted of 60 members elected by the members of both Houses for 12 year terms; 15 of them had to be elected every three years.
At State elections in 1978, 1981, 1991 and 1995 the Wran, Greiner and Fahey Governments sponsored referendums to democratise the Legislative Council. It now consists of 42 members, each representing the whole State. Half the members are elected on the same election date as the members of the Legislative Assembly, the fourth Saturday in March in every fourth year. The next election is to be held on 22 March 2003.
NSW should lead on simultaneous quadrennial elections
At the last three Federal elections the NSW branch of the ALP has shown that it cannot win Federal elections. Of the 50 Federal divisions in NSW only 20 are held by the ALP. The NSW branch should now give the same leadership in political reform as it has given in union reform. It should advocate the US practice of having all Federal and State elections on the same day.
In the United States Federal and State elections are held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even numbered years. Presidents and Governors are elected for four years, members of the House of Representatives for two years and Senators for six years. Some members of the State legislatures are elected for four years and some for two years. The conduct of Federal elections sometimes differs between the American States but the date of the elections is universally accepted.
In Australia all sides of politics attack Federal policies at State elections and attack State policies at Federal elections. The US system has the advantage over the Australian system of ensuring that the parties have to present co-ordinated, coherent and consistent Federal and State policies at elections.
The Federal and Queensland Parliaments are now the only Australian Parliaments which are limited to three-year terms. In Western Australia the Legislative Councillors are limited to fixed four-year terms. In South Australia there will now be elections on the third Saturday in March in 2006 and every four years thereafter.
NSW should again lead on Upper House reform
The NSW branch of the ALP should also advocate the adoption of another advantage of the State's political system. The Legislative Council of NSW was denied the power to delay or reject appropriation bills by the State Constitution Amendment (Legislative Council) Act 1932, approved by referendum in 1933. The Senate in South Africa had been denied this power by the British Union of South Africa Act 1909. The House of Lords had been denied it by the British Parliament Act 1911.
The ALP's policy should aim to have fixed four-year terms for every House of Parliament in Australia. The performance of independents in the NSW Legislative Council shows the folly of their eight-year terms. The Senate Democrats, of whom four will expire on 30 June 1995 and four on 30 June 2008, show the folly of six-year terms.
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