Interview: Power and the Passion
Unions: Tackling the Heavy Hitters
Industrial: Seeing the Forest For The Wood
Housing: Home Truths
International: Boycott Busters
Economics: Ideology and Free Trade
History: Long Shadow of a Forgotten Man
Review: Chewing the Fat
Poetry: Dear John
The Locker Room
A Place To Call Home
The Westie Wing
"Our frank, open realistic, ungrudging acknowledgment 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."
I've quoted Premier Bob Carr's pledge to the 2003 Annual General Meeting of the Labor Council before. I quote these words again because they never cease to be relevant.
Many believed that the third term Carr Labor Government would focus on repairing the damage done to the relationship with the industrial wing of the Labor party in the second term. This belief is quickly fading.
The last month has seen the Treasurer, Michael Egan, deliver his first budget deficit in nine years, which spares most departments other than health and education from significant funding increases. Much of the budget was about taking the knife to the public sector. The difficult part of such operations is to keep the patient alive after surgery.
If we're trying to streamline the way the government is run, we have to be careful that the cure is not worse than the disease. Otherwise we cannot claim to be a labour government.
In a hidden corner of the Department of Commerce website, which now covers the "Office" of Industrial Relations, is a link to the "Memorandum of Understanding with the Labor Council of New South Wales".
This is an important document in the relationship between the political and industrial wings of the party. Understandably, the union movement currently views the agreement as fool's gold, because it is too easily ignored. This has been repeatedly highlighted by Workers Online.
My responsibility as a Labor member of parliament along with all my Labor colleagues is to make this partnership with the union movement a reality and not just verbal diarrhoea.
The opportunities are there to realise our Labor principles to the satisfaction of both wings of the party. At the moment we have plenty of preaching but not much practice.
With this in mind, Government members need to represent the ones we say we identify with as a Labor Party.
The women and men who clean our schools, TAFEs, police stations and electorate offices are a perfect example. The majority are women from non English-speaking backgrounds.
Many of these 6,000-odd workers used to be employed directly by the government in the Government Cleaning Service, which was sold by Greiner in 1994. Now they are employed by companies that have won commercial tenders with the government. Too often are these contracts awarded in a 'race to the bottom' in relation to costs.
The five-year contract for government cleaning is due to be renewed within the next year. It is imperative that the Labor Government negotiates the new contract in line with the spirit and intent of the Memorandum of Understanding and the best interests of the cleaners as the benchmark and not the Almighty Dollar.
The onus is now on Labor members of parliament and members of the ALP Administrative Committee to turn this situation around. It is essential to re-affirm the fact that the ALP is a political party with labour values and not just a registered trademark for sale to the highest bidder.
And for my spin on What's On in NSW Parliament, go to Ian West's Online Office.
I am interested to hear feedback and ideas--you can contact Antony Dale or myself at Parliament House on (02) 9230 2052 or email me at [email protected].
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