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March 2003   
F E A T U R E S

Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Through a distortion in the time-space continuum, we have found a recording showing how people a few years into the future will deal with health care.

Interview: League of Nations
ICFTU general secretary Guy Ryder on the war, core labour standards and why Australia is an international pariah.

Industrial: 20/20 Hindsight
A retrospective analysis of the Accord is needed to help develop future strategies. Is it worth trying again? And if so, what would need to be different?

Organising: On The Buses
A new rank and file leadership team is standing up for the harried bus driver in the run-up to the NSW State Election

Unions: National Focus
A gaze around the country reveals some inspiring and innovative organising initiatives, a fruitful connection with young workers in South Australia and some typically robust industrial campaigns reports Noel Hester.

History: The Banner Room
On the eve of it’s refurbishment, Jim Marr ventures into one of Trades Hall’s best kept secrets; the room that houses relics of labour’s halcyon days.

International: The Slaughter Continues
Chilling new statistics from Colombia's main trade union confederation CUT: nine trade unionists assassinated in the first two months of this year.

Legal: A Legal Case For War?
Aaron Magner looks at the legal implications of the crusade of the Coalition of the Willing

Culture: Singing For The People
When there’s a struggle for social justice, when a war is brewing or rights are being eroded, the first ones to pen, paper and protest are often the folkwriters.

Review: The Hours
On the eve of International Women’s Day Tara de Boehmler follows the tale of three women who would rather choose death than a life devoid of personal choice.

Poetry: I Wanna Bomb Saddam
Scarier than Star Wars, the latest weapon to be deployed in the battle for Iraq is the Singing Dubya.

Satire: Diuretic Makes Warne's Excuses Look Thin
Australian cricketer Shane Warne today admitted that he was still feeling the after effects of the diuretic he tested positive to.

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Workers Friend
Shock jock Alan Jones snubbed his Liberal mates to bucket the Cole Royal Commission and launch Jim Marr's book

The Locker Room
Boer Bore Boring
In the face of oppression Phil Doyle falls asleep in front of the TV

Guest Report
Dead Labor
The Hawke and Keating legacy is John Howard, Leonie Bronstein argues.

Seduction
Hands Off, Tony
John Della Bosca argues the NSW Industrial Relations System gives his State a competitive advantage.

Bosswatch
Groundhog Day
Another year, another round of corporate excess. Bosswatch returns from its summer slumber to find the same old dogs up to the same tricks.

E D I T O R I A L

Re-considering The Accord
The twentieth anniversary of the Hawke Government’s election provides an opportunity to ponder the Accord’s historical conundrum: how at the moment of the union movement’s greatest influence did it suffer its greatest loss of members?

N E W S

 Sacre Bleu – It’s “La Gong” Now

 Mum Raises Labour Hire Bar

 Investigate the Buggers

 NSW Libs Madder Than The Monk

 Kits Strike Terror into Govt

 West Braces for Shelling

 Executive Pay Under Senate Spotlight

 Clean Energy’s Jobs Bonus

 Zoo Workers Buck ‘Mercy Killing’

 Canberra Firefighters Win Union Backing

 Global Equity Under Spotlight

 Aussie Workers Fight Indian Child Labour

 Water on the Brain

 Activists Notebook

L E T T E R S
 Re - Core/Non Core promises.
 Strangers in the House
 Nursing Home Concerns
 Catholic Tastes
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Seduction

Hands Off, Tony


John Della Bosca argues the NSW Industrial Relations System gives his State a competitive advantage.

*****************

Let's not be fooled about Tony Abbott's motives.

The Federal Workplace Relations Minister's proposal to amend unfair dismissal laws is merely the Howard Government's latest attempt to wipe out the state based industrial relations systems.

There's no lofty ideal or weighty thought behind it. It's not efficient, it's not simple and it won't be cheap for business.

It's about politics, a grab for power and sending a message to Liberal MPs.

When Mr Abbott's Department made a submission to the Building Industry Royal Commission last year, it inadvertently provided a great advertisement for the NSW system.

That federal submission noted that the poor industrial relations climate in Melbourne meant that a project in Sydney was 20 to 30 per cent cheaper to build than the same structure in Sydney.

Of course, the industrial relations system in Victoria is exclusively the federal system that Mr Abbott would like to impose on New South Wales.

Thanks, but we don't want it.

We have just completed a five-year review of the NSW Industrial Relations Act. In the submissions sent by a wide range of players, no-one suggested we wind it up. Not even the NSW Liberals (although, that's a poor gauge).

The Howard Government's latest tack is via changes to unfair dismissals.

The owner of an incorporated small business in NSW with, say, five employees currently enjoys a common rule award system which provides certainty for the employer and a safety net for workers. The business is covered by our discrimination, leave, occupational health and safety and workers compensation laws.

Under Mr Abbott's proposal, that business owner would continue to be covered by the NSW award system and our other employment related laws. However, the lone matter of unfair dismissal would be covered by federal law. For such a business, industrial relations will become more expensive and more complex.

The choice for this employer will be to straddle the two systems or to join the federal system completely. But joining the federal system means two cost-laden options - negotiating their own award or joining an employer association to become a party to an existing award. Further, since federal awards are restricted to 20 allowable matters, the employer would have to bargain for a certified agreement with their employees and/or union to cover the rest of their conditions.

Tony Abbott knows that the Federal Government cannot achieve a unitary industrial relations system under the current distribution of constitutional powers.

Use of the existing Commonwealth powers would only lead to federal coverage for, at Mr Abbott's suggestion, 85 percent of employees. Even if this figure was accurate, what is supposed to happen to the other 15 percent?

Mr Abbott wants the states to refer their unfair dismissal laws to the federal parliament. But his plans would create a discriminatory regime by denying employees of small business the same protection as other employees, create further confusion over coverage of unfair dismissal laws, increase costs to business, and deny parties access to the fair and efficient NSW industrial relations system.

This poorly thought out bill also creates a separate framework in which employees of small businesses have double the probation period, half the compensation and fewer unfair dismissal rights compared to other workers.

Clearly this is not in the interests of employees of small business, while employers will find it more difficult to attract high quality staff.

It's no fluke that the NSW Act has coincided with a period of industrial harmony and economic growth. Compare the conflict and aggression in other jurisdictions with the co-operation that is a feature of the NSW industrial relations climate.

We do have disputes, but unions and employers respect our system because they know it is balanced.

Everyone gets a fair go from a strong, independent umpire.

The NSW system delivered the Olympics on time and on budget with almost no industrial disputation. It creates jobs and ensures high levels of productivity while protecting vulnerable workers from exploitation.

Mr Abbott's vision of industrial relations is discriminatory, confusing and costly.

That's because at its heart, it's driven by ideology and political ambition, rather than a desire to produce a fair and productive system for workers and employers. NSW already has that, as Tony's Department has probably told him.

John Della Bosca is the NSW Industrial Relations Minister


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