Interview: Agenda 2003
Peace: The Colour Purple
Industrial: Long, Hot Summer
Solidarity: Workers Against War
Security: Howard And The Hoodlums
International: Industrial Warfare
History: Unions and the Vietnam War
Review: Eight Miles to Mowtown
Poetry: Return To Sender
Satire: CIA Recruits New Intake of Future Enemies
The Locker Room
A Call To Arms
A Tale of Two Malls
Talk Back Tom
On The Beach
Getting On with The Job
On the eve of a tough campaign for our third term, I thank you for this opportunity to re-affirm the solidarity of Labor in New South Wales.
I am proud to be leading a Labor Government which has made our political-industrial partnership in this State robust, vital and open.
I use "vital" in its real meaning - basic to our life and strength and sense of identity as the party of the working men and women of New South Wales.
I use "open" in a great community sense:
- open dealings, open negotiations, open legislation, opening benefits for the whole community.
It's something that goes far beyond matters like access to Ministers or the tough negotiations we have to have over difficult but necessary legislation.
It's something even more than the kind of community co-operation between unions, employers and government which was so fundamental to the success of the Olympic Games.
Delegates, the new "openness" reflects the very nature of our changing, diverse society and the role of the union movement in it.
And, delegates, our frank, open, realistic, ungrudging acknowledgement of the role of the unions, as genuine partners in building the strength, security and fairness of our society in NSW and Australia will continue to be the hallmark of the Carr Labor Government in our third term.
And the continuing task of building this creative partnership remains one of the great dividing lines in the contest now underway.
It's suggested in some quarters that our opponents in this election have the advantage of being unknown quantities.
And, sure, in terms of leadership, experience or direction or real plans and policies, it's a case of the unknown offering the unintelligible!
But that's exactly why, with this chasm of credibility, we have to judge our opponents by the last time they came from opposition.
And if Greiner in New South Wales is not enough of a guide, the last time the Liberals came from opposition in any State in Australia - Kennett in Victoria in 1992 - surely is.
The one thing we know about those two governments is that from Day One - against all their pre-election pledges - they did all they could to get rid of workers in the public sector and get rid of protection for workers under the industrial system.
I know it's hard to find anything coherent or cohesive or constructive in the conduct of this opposition.
But if we can pin them down on anything, it is on these twin obsessions:
- to degrade the public sector and denigrate the unions.
These are the ruling passions that still express the heart and soul of the Sydney Liberal Party.
And always remember, delegates, just what a regionally restricted and ideologically constricted outfit they really are.
But the point I want to stress tonight is central to the coming campaign.
And it is this:
- these old obsessions and pre-occupations are the fixations of the past, the fixations of yesterday's team.
And the truly remarkable thing about the present opposition in this State is that they are already yesterday's mob.
The old crew around Greiner still drive the Opposition today:
- the ideologues who cut 2,500 teaching positions and one thousand DOCS positions - against all their election promises - in the first Greiner Government
- the geniuses who saddled the taxpayers with $700 million for the Airport Rail Link,
- the $54 million for the Luna Park deal,
- the untold millions lost in the State Bank privatisation,
- the Port Macquarie Hospital privatisation, paid for twice over and effectively given away,
- the Eastern Creek fiasco.
And if names like Souris and O'Farrell and Hartcher ring the faintest of bells, it's because they were all involved and they're still here, hanging around on the off-chance of another go.
But the real distinguishing mark of the whole crowd is sheer irrelevance.
Take, for example, their obsessive urge to attack the public sector:
- 5,000 jobs to go is the word around what Jack Ferguson used to call the "Big End of Town".
It mistakes utterly the nature of the public sector in today's economy and society.
The Public Service itself has never been so efficient, so creative, so qualified, so responsive.
Our main task in the past eight years has been to strengthen the front-line workers in the service of the public:
- the police, the teachers, the nurses, the DOCS workers,
- the professional core of our incomparable emergency services.
That's the Labor way.
And I believe, delegates, there is a remarkable feature - a paradox if you like - already emerging in this campaign.
True, we are defending a record of eight great years.
But the forward-looking approach, the new plans, the fresh and relevant ideas will come from us, not from the challengers.
The zest, the enthusiasm, the determination to make things better for the people of this State will come from us, not from the challengers.
That's the difference between just running on the record and building on the record.
And as always, it's Labor that makes the difference.
Over the whole range of policy, the difference in approach is nowhere better expressed than in the Industrial Relations Policy document I have the honour to launch here tonight.
I say without hesitation that as a comprehensive statement on industrial relations - both of eight-years achievement and plans for the next four years - it has never been excelled since this Council sent the first Labor members to Parliament 112 years ago.
I don't need to go through with you the details of our achievements together, because today I want to focus on our plans for the next term.
Our new plans build on the record of protecting the working men and women of NSW:
- protecting their jobs by keeping the NSW economy strong
(and that includes a $26 billion public works program);
- protecting health and safety in the workplace;
- protecting the most vulnerable workers from exploitation and injustice; and, delegates,
- emphatically, protecting the NSW industrial system from the new onslaught from Canberra.
· First, delegates, we will tackle exploitation and unfairness in the labour hire industry by creating an Industry Council, along the lines of the successful Ethical Clothing Trades Council.
The Labour Hire Industry Council will bring together Government, employers and the unions, to oversee industrial relations and occupational health and safety compliance.
It will report to Government in just over 12 months on the effectiveness of self-regulatory and accreditation arrangements within the industry.
· Next, I announce today the location of the $2.4 million Asbestos Diseases Research Institute.
This state-of-the-art facility, to be located within the Central Sydney Area Health Service, will provide research into improving treatment of people with asbestos-related diseases.
· Delegates, I also announce that working with unions, the Government will create a model set of working conditions for all call centres providing services for the NSW Government.
These will provide a best practice framework for 52 Government related call centres covering more than 3,000 workers.
· Delegates, one of our great achievements has been the reduction of workplace injury and death. It would not have been done without cooperation from the unions and the employers.
Last year's Bathurst Safety Summit set a target to reduce the incidence of injuries by 40 percent over the next ten years. Specific industry targets include:
- Forestry: 40 percent reduction in five years
- Rural: 30 percent reduction in five years
- Education: 15 percent reduction in three years
- Construction: 10 percent reduction in two years, and 20 per cent reduction over five years.
· To help meet those targets, the Government will commit $13 million over three years to help business and unions implement industry specific safety strategies.
· I also announce here today an intensive intervention program for businesses with a higher risk of seriously injuring their workers.
The program will target 100 employers, giving one-on-one instruction, helping to reduce unacceptably high levels of accidents and injuries.
New South Wales has Australia's toughest penalties for breaches of occupational health and safety.
The Act provides fines of up to $550,000 for a first offence and $825,000 or up to two years imprisonment for a repeat offence.
After the Safety Summit, we set up the Workplace Fatalities Investigation Unit.
The Unit investigates deaths in workplaces on a case-by-case basis and will ensure that all avenues for the prosecution of cases are explored. It is staffed by senior solicitors experienced in criminal prosecutions.
The Workplace Fatalities Unit is already investigating recent workplace deaths. We have to give the Unit time to work.
Delegates, we will build on our efforts to help the injured back to good health and to return to employment. We will demand insurers more actively support injured workers back to good health.
We will make better use of health professionals like physiotherapists, chiropractors and GPs when developing suitable return to work duties.
We will provide special assistance to unemployed injured workers by using those employment agencies who specialise in placing people with disabilities and the long term unemployed back in the workforce.
Our aim is to achieve a 10 percent improvement in return to work rates by 2005.
· Delegates, Labor will also bring the safety message to our education system.
· We will assist the YouthSafe Project to expand into TAFE colleges and primary schools - teaching our young people basic safety principles that can be used throughout life.
Delegates will recall in 1999 we introduced the Building and Construction Industry Security of Payment Act, an Australian first to help sub-contractors with poor payment practices in the industry.
An amendment to the Act comes into effect on March 3 that will reduce costly legal battles and resolve disputes more quickly.
· I commit the Government to review the Act in March 2004 to assess its effectiveness. If it needs further strengthening, then we will strengthen it.
This document deals specifically with industrial relations in New South Wales.
But we never forget that our movement, political and industrial, has nation-wide horizons.
From Day One, eight years ago, as the Government of Australia's greatest State, we have accepted our responsibility to give a lead to the rest of Australia, on economic, social and industrial issues.
On those issues which can only be solved on a national basis,
- like the right of all employees to 100 percent of their legal entitlements;
- or paid maternity leave;
- our voice has been heard clear and strong.
We have been proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the union movement in the reasonable hours and the minimum wage cases.
But on the integrity of the industrial system we have built together in this State, we stand firm for New South Wales.
Our Policy document paints the picture of how industrial relations should be conducted in this country at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
It shows NSW Labor pioneering new approaches and new techniques, showing the way, leading Australia.
The NSW model is cooperation, not contrived confrontation.
It enshrines the rights of working men and women to collective bargaining and the rights of the unions to represent them in the workplace and in the industrial tribunals.
We are determined to protect those rights and the industrial system which guarantees them in New South Wales.
That's why industrial relations is a key issue in this election.
It's only a matter of time before Australia's industrial bovver boy, Tony Abbott, becomes by far the most powerful New South Wales Liberal.
We will not permit him to wreck industrial relations in this State to further his ambitions.
The power-grab is on already, with the Workplace Relations Amendment (Termination of Employment) Bill 2002 currently before the Parliament.
It's Tony Abbott's latest attempt to hijack our system.
He wants the Commonwealth to control unfair dismissal legislation. He wants to spread the culture of confrontation.
My Government's formal response to the Senate Inquiry into the Bill was sent today. I've circulated copies, but here's a sample of what I wrote on your behalf:
"... my Government wholeheartedly rejects the Bill and the philosophy that underlies it.
Instead, we will maintain our current State-based system with its balanced approach, independent umpire and fair awards system. ...
The Commonwealth can expect no support from my Government for this gratuitous interference in our State's cooperative, effective industrial relations system."
The fact is:
· Only a Labor Government can mount a strong defence against Tony Abbott.
· Only a Labor Government will support an $18 pay increase, in the current minimum wages case.
At the same time, Tony Abbott has introduced legislation to make it harder for the low paid to gain a decent pay increase.
Delegates, a Labor Government can and will defend our fair, productive and harmonious system.
Tony Abbott will never get his hands on it - as long as Labor governs New South Wales.
Abbott, hands off.
We know the alternative.
In Victoria, Kennett closed down the State system:
- no more State awards;
- he scrapped the State Industrial Relations Commission;
- the law of the jungle prevailed.
That's the Liberal alternative.
That's the Liberal way.
It is absolutely imperative that we continue to strengthen New South Wales as a counterweight against the Abbott agenda.
It means more hard work from all of us.
It means constantly revising and updating the system, as we are doing under the five year review plan.
It will sometimes mean tough negotiations, a willingness to listen to other points of view, based on mutual respect and the shared purpose of serving the interests of the whole community.
It means, simply, keeping our Labor Government.
Let's get on with the job.
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