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February 2005   

Economics: Super Seduction
Sharks are circling your super. From July 1, banks and financial planners will have access to the nesteggs of an extra four million workers.

Interview: Bono and Me
ACTU Sharan Burrow lifts the lid on the rock star lifestyle of an international union leader.

Unions: The Eight Hour Day and the Holy Spirit
Rowan Cahill bucks conventional wisdom to argue the eight-hour day began in Sydney.

Economics: OEC-Who?
The OECD calls for more reform. But, Asks Neale Towart, who is really doing the calling?

Technology: From Widgets to Digits
How can unions grow and continue to successfully represent workers when their traditional structures are rooted in an industry, craft or fixed location?

Education: Dumb and Dumber
Unions are leading the fight against a political agenda that does away with smart jobs.

Health: No Place for the Young
The support of union members is required to help get young people out of nursing homes, writes Mark Robinson

History: The Work-In That Changed a Nation
February 17 marks 30-years to the day that sacked coal miners at the NSW Northern District Nymboida Colliery began their historic work-in at the mine.

Review: Dare to Win
The history of the militant and often controversial BLF is as surprising as it is fascinating writes Tim Brunero.

Poetry: Labor's Dreaming
With another change at the helm of the Labor Party, our resident bard, David Peetz, can't help but dreamily drawing on some political history.


Titanic Forces
There are book reviewers who have not read the book they have just reviewed and there are critics who have criticised films they have not yet seen. I want to review a novel that has not yet been written.

The Soapbox
Labour and Labor
Grant Bellchamber looks at the relationship between both sides organised labour

Aussie Unions Help Tsunami Victims
The union movement�s aid agency reports back on its relief effort in Asia.

The Locker Room
Game, Set and Yawn
Phil Doyle asks if tennis is evil or just boring

The Westie Wing
As a reshuffle of the State Ministry settles in and the Federal Government throws down the gauntlet, 2005 promises to be a new and vital chapter in the struggle for workers and their families, writes Ian West in Macquarie Street.


Polar Shifts
And so Workers Online makes our belated return to 2005 - and while we may have the same old familiar faces in Federal Parliament, politically, it�s a whole new ball game.


 Plastic Man Crosses the Line

 Taskforce Loses "Payback" Evidence

 Court Out � Again

 Blue Chips Fried in CBD

 Bosses Duck Decapitation

 Computer Driven Posties

 Stalking Horses in Safety Stampede

 Low Blow in Ferry Blue

 Howard "Unbalanced"

 Picketers Chase Millions

 Whistleblower Beats Bullies

 Mateship Shines Through

 Queensland Marks Power Grab

 Vale Laurie Aarons 1917-2005

 Nelson's Double Standard
 Morals Beat Hasty Retreat
 Uncounted Cost Of Asbestos
 Voting Farce Expands
 I Beg To Differ
 Politics Smolitics
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The Westie Wing

As a reshuffle of the State Ministry settles in and the Federal Government throws down the gauntlet, 2005 promises to be a new and vital chapter in the struggle for workers and their families, writes Ian West in Macquarie Street.

"If, instead of individual bargaining, one can conceive of a collective agreement... it seems to me that the framers of the agreements would have to take, as the first and dominant factor, the cost of living as a civilised being.

"If A lets B have the use of his horses, on the terms that he give them fair and reasonable treatment, I have no doubt that it is B's duty to give them proper food and water, and such shelter and rest as they need." - Justice H.B. Higgins in his Harvester Judgement.

It's 98 years since Justice H. B. Higgins handed down his Harvester Judgement to the Arbitration Commission, guaranteeing a liveable minimum wage. The Howard Government in its 4th term is bent on the complete corruption of this essential part of Australian history through a jurisdictional horse-trading exercise before the centenary is out.

When Howard was Leader of the Opposition almost 20 years ago, he told the H.R. Nicholls Society:

"Mr Justice Higgins' Harvester Judgement of 1907 effectively determined that Australian industrial relations would be inflexible and centralised. According to Higgins, it would be better for an employer to go out of business than pay his employees less than the fixed rate..."

This spin is as ideologically twisted as it is inaccurate. If Howard has his way, workers in all areas of Australia and especially NSW, will be forced to work under a system of watered-down Awards and minimal entitlements.

Howard's hypocrisy is highlighted by his backing of bosses' unions, championing collective bargaining among small business unions and associations and his belief in centralised wage fixing and industrial relations.

Howard's right hand man, Peter Costello, is just as hypocritical in wanting gaol terms for CEOs guilty of collusion in tendering (but not industrial manslaughter).

That's all fine for the bosses but when it comes to protecting workers' entitlements against corporate collapse, such as Walter Construction Group's, they won't lift a finger to formulate a national scheme to prevent collapses in the first place.

As NSW and other State Governments grapple with the challenge of providing more public services with less revenue (mainly due to GST allocations), we have to protect against the temptation to cede the difficult policy areas to the Federal Government.

There may be merit in the theory of horse-trading in matters of jurisdiction but the fact is that NSW as the most populous state will get a raw deal almost every time. And it is absolutely essential that Industrial Relations not be traded-off like some commodity in a so-called "free trade" negotiation.

Recent newspaper articles revealed that in Victoria, where the Federal system enjoys a monopoly, the number of working days lost is up to 70 per cent greater than under the NSW system.

This system allows a fair go for employers as well as workers and that in a recent review of the Act, not one business group suggested abolition of the State industrial relations system.

Howard continues to blackmail the states in many areas, not just industrial relations. Recently, threats to withhold funding on Austlink roads unless AWAs are implemented were made to the states under the guise of National Competition Policy.

This is the context in which the Carr-Refshauge Government confronts the challenges of delivering for NSW with annual funding for new infrastructure reaching $7.5 Billion, for example.

The recent resignation of Michael Egan as Treasurer resulted in a reshuffle of Ministerial roles. Andrew Refshauge has been Deputy Premier since Labor came to power in 1995 and it is fitting that he is the new Treasurer. He was replaced as Minister for Education by Carmel Tebbutt and John Watkins is the new Transport Minister.

Carl Scully is the new Police Minister and Michael Costa takes over Roads, Economic Reform and Ports. Reba Meagher is the new Minister for Community Services while Joseph Tripodi is the new face in the Ministry, with responsibility for Housing.

These Ministers and the full Labor Caucus will have to come to terms with many existing and arising issues in the coming year.

Insurance and negligence laws in various industries continue to present a challenge to the Government. The recent case High Court decision in favour of Mr Swain highlights major flaws in the patchwork of legislation covering various forms of no-fault and common law negligence compensation in this state.

The specific plight of the seriously injured, especially after the implementation of the Civil Liability Act 2002, has been further highlighted by this decision in the Swain case to reinstate the jury verdict of $3.75 million damages to the quadriplegic Mr Swain.

Other insurance such as home warranty insurance and workers compensation are still problematic areas and it is up to a Labor government to fix them. As I've said before, a government player in the insurance market would force down prices and improve coverage.

I'm currently on a Parliamentary Committee with a new inquiry into personal injury compensation legislation. The inquiry covers all forms of personal injury and the outcome of compensation claims, their impacts on the community and on premiums and coverage.

This inquiry is bound to turn up some interesting ideas and evidence, which I will continue to publicise. See the link to the Inquiry website below.

Mental health services continue to be a concern. The Mental Health Workers Alliance was launched in Parliament House in November and will promote a saner approach to mental health issues by government services. This problem is much bigger and broader than acknowledged and requires serious attention to ensure future services are appropriate.

Carers are also in need of attention--I was pleased to take delivery of a petition to Government from workers employed in the Homecare Service of NSW who are members of the LHMU. The workers want an equal allowance for using their car to that received by Homecare Administrative staff.

In the regions, long-term problems with no easy solutions continue to bite. Water usage, salinity, locust plagues, regional infrastructure and unemployment are all important and require more attention from Federal and State Governments.

The struggle to protect and improve the lives workers and their families hasn't changed. The new and vital chapter in this struggle has high stakes and plenty to fight for. I know the labour movement is up to the challenge.

- The first Unions NSW forum with NSW Labor MPs on Wednesday 24th February will address the Federal Industrial Relations attack and plan ways to defend essential workers' rights such as right of entry for workers' representatives.

- The NSW Government submission to the Senate Committee Inquiry into the Workplace Relations (Right of Entry) Bill 2004 sets reasons to reject the bill very clearly:

o There has been no consultation with state governments

o There is no policy case for change

o There is no legal case for change

o The bill seeks to impose a centralised, 'one size fits all' approach on employers and unions

o The bill aims to replace simple, effective and non-controversial NSW legislation

o The bill would create contradictions with existing federal and state legislation

o The bill breaches Australia's international obligations

Read the full NSW Government submission on the Senate Inquiry website:

- The Inquiry into Personal Injury Compensation Legislation by General Purpose Committee 1 is open to submissions until 11 March. For more information, go to and use the Inquiries box.

For my spin on What's On in NSW Parliament, go to Ian West's Online Office at

I am interested to hear feedback and ideas--you can contact my office at Parliament House on (02) 9230 2052 or email me at [email protected].


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