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April 2005   

Interview: Australia@Work
Labor's Penny Wong has the job of getting more people into the workplace and keeping companies honest. In her spare time ....

Unions: State of the Union
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson unveils the annual survey of attitudes of workers to their jobs, thier lives and the union.

Industrial: Fashion Accessories
Jim Marr unpacks the unlikely claim of a suburban house to be considered the New Mecca of the New Right �

Legal: Leg Before Picket
Chris White looks at how the federal industrial changes will impact on the basic right to strike.

Politics: Business Welfare Brats
Neale Towart asks why the only form of legitmate welfare seems to be going to the top end of town.

Health: Cannabis Controversy
Zoe Reynolds looks at how drug and alcohol testing is leading to some addled outcomes.

Economics: Debt, Deficit, Downturn
As the indicators head south, Frank Stilwell wonders whether it is the way we do economics that is to blame.

History: Politics In The Pubs
Phil Doyle reports on the increasingly-popular Struggles, Scabs and Schooners day out.

Review: Three Bob's Worth
Doing their best Margaret and David, Tara de Boehmler and Tim Brunero have different takes on the new Australian flick Three Dollars.

Poetry: Do The Slowly Chokie
Workers Online bard David Peetz teaches how workers to dance to Howard's industrial laws.


The Soapbox
Notes From a Laneway
Mental Health Workers Alliance member Toby Raeburn shares a week on the frontline.

The Locker Room
War, Plus The Shooting
The Socceroos aren�t their own worst enemy after all, or so says Phil Doyle

Life Imitates Art
The jokes have been around for some time about the economic rationalist's approach to the orchestra, writes Evan Jones.

The Westie Wing
Ian West takes the secret passage out of Macquarie Street to deliver his take on NSW Parliamentary Committees and other goings on.


Icarus Rising
Right now John Howard is flying. Watch him soar in his Vodafone track-suit, further than the Hawke into unchartered skies.


 Health System to Subsidise Shonks

 Who Likes Bing Lee?

 Death Threats Shut Campsie

 Thumbs Down for Union Busters

 Advocate Pours Salt on Wound

 United Front Beats Drug Boss

 Kev Backs Double Standard

 Victorian Morality Shafts Teacher

 Doctors Prescribe More

 Multinational Banks Jobs

 Working Class Idol

 Greens Protect Entitlements

 Activist�s What�s On

 Students Bear Brunt
 Security Lacking
 Bus Lanes On Vic Rd
 Dirt Cheap Right On Money
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The Westie Wing

Ian West takes the secret passage out of Macquarie Street to deliver his take on NSW Parliamentary Committees and other goings on.


Given that Committee issues have dominated this month, I thought I'd provide information about how they work and what's on at the moment. Many current inquiries are looking at issues that affect Union members and their families. In this month's Westie Wing:

* Current Committee Inquiries - Sweatshops on Wheels, Personal Injury Compensation, Funeral Industry, Macquarie Fields, Teacher Training and Recruitment

* Did you Know? Surfing Lib websites and more

* And for those who are interested... How to access the Committees

Some Current Committee Inquiries

Staysafe Inquiry

* Review of road safety administration in New South Wales - I've been working to ensure the Staysafe Inquiry fully explores the important issue of long distance trucking, referred to by the TWU as being "Sweatshops on Wheels." The TWU have advised that in 2004, a total of 103 people were killed in truck accidents on NSW roads alone. The push for accountability right up the chain of demand for freight to be delivered and schedules met as quickly as possible at the cheapest possible price is something the Committee needs to know about. I also believe road users need to know if their safety is being compromised by demands on transport operators. Submissions close 31st May 2005.

General Purpose Standing Committees (GPSCs)

GPSCs aren't Government controlled and receive all manner of references. They can even self-reference, meaning a vote of Parliament is not required to proceed to an Inquiry.

I'm a member of GPSC 1 which has coverage of issues relevant to the portfolios of Aboriginal Affairs; Arts; Central Coast; Citizenship; Commerce; Education and Training; Industrial Relations; the Legislature; Premier; Special Minister of State; State Development and Treasury.

GPSC 1 is currently looking at Personal injury compensation legislation. Whilst public submissions have now closed, issues being considered include claims by persons injured in motor accidents, transport accidents, accidents in the workplace, at public events, in public places and in commercial premises but not injuries arising from criminal acts.

GPSC 1 will look in particular at the impact on: employment in rural and regional communities; community events and activities, and community groups; insurance premium levels and the availability of cost-effective insurance; level and availability of CTP motor accident premiums required to fund claims cost if changes had not been implemented in 1999; and the impact on the WorkCover scheme if changes had not been implemented in 2001; and any other issue the Committee considers to be of relevance to the inquiry.

I'll keep you posted on details of the GPSC 1 upcoming public hearings.

Social Issues Inquiries

The Social Issues Committee inquires into and reports to the NSW Upper House (Legislative Council) on any matter concerned with social development in NSW - including equality of access to health, education, housing, ageing, disability, children's and community services provided by State agencies and NGOs. It looks also at citizenship, social relations, cultural diversity, recreation, gaming, racing and sporting matters, and the role of government in promoting the welfare of NSW citizens.

* Funeral Industry - this latest inquiry was referred on 23rd March. The Inquiry will look at changes in the funeral industry over the past decade including the cost of funerals, the degree of competition, vertical integration and ownership, the availability and affordability of burial spaces and options for increasing the supply of spaces, adequacy of existing regulation of the funeral industry to protect consumers, public health and employees, the role and structure of the Funeral Industry Council, the adequacy of legislation in meeting community needs, and any other relevant matter. A report is due 17 November 2005. But don't let the timeline fool you, these things creep along and before you know it, someone is producing a Discussion Paper, a Green or White Paper, a Draft Bill, etc

* Public Disturbances at Macquarie Fields - Carl Scully fired a shot across Brogden's bow in relation to the Macquarie Fields disturbances. The inquiry will look at police strategies and operations, service provision by NGOs and government at all levels as well as any possible underlying causes and problems in the area. When we debated the reference in the Upper House, there was sensibly a final vote to delay the inquiry into the Macquarie Fields riots for up to 180 days until internal police investigations are completed. The terms of reference were also amended in debate so the committee will not investigate the actions of the Opposition Leader.

* Inquiry into the Recruitment and Training of Teachers - public submissions have now closed on this inquiry, but hearings are continuing. The Committee isn't required to report until 30 November. I'll keep you posted on the progress.

Did you Know?

NSW Nurses

NSW Nurses will address MPs at Parliament on 6 April through the UnionsNSW Forum which I co-host with Kristina Kenneally MP. Further information is available from my office on request.

Deemed Employee

Not sure if you're a worker? You'll have to wait until 30 June this year to find out. When calculating workers compensation premiums, some employers can't tell if dependent contractors, outworkers, or labour hire company employees are actually workers.

Surfing Liberal websites

Jillian Skinner MP is currently the NSW Shadow Minister for Education and Training. The banner headline of her press release of February 9th 2005 reads thus:


I've underlined the relevant sections... I suppose Libs can be excused for not knowing where Illawarra is. Skinner could be the next Education and Training Minister in NSW! And this could be the standard! Be afraid, be very afraid...

What's a Parliamentary Committee?

Parliamentary committees are comprised of MPs appointed to inquire into and report on a particular matter or subject, as the need arises. They can conduct investigations and give detailed consideration to any referred matter. Committees have a wide range of powers, including the ability to summon and question witnesses and to call for papers. Parliamentary committees are an extension of the Parliament and therefore parliamentary privilege attaches to their operations. Parliamentary committees are composed of Legislative Assembly (LA) Members; or Legislative Council (LC) Members, or both.

What does a committee do?

Parliamentary committees:

* Consider in detail issues of concern, including proposed new laws and policies;

* Scrutinise Government services and activities;

* provide opportunities for the public to have direct input into the Parliament;

* give MPs access to expert advice and the views of community, professional, business, academic, government and other organisations;

* provide a forum for public debate on current issues;

* provide a link of accountability between the Parliament and the Auditor-General, the Ombudsman, the ICAC, the Police Integrity Commission, the Health Care Complaints Commission, and the Commission for Children and Young People.

Every committee that's set up has terms of reference addressing a specific issue (e.g. consideration of a particular policy or bill), or is more generalised (e.g. Parliamentary oversight of the Ombudsman's Office). Terms of reference for a committee may be set by legislation, a resolution of one or both Houses of Parliament, or under either House's Standing Orders.

What types of Parliamentary committees are there?

Standing Committees: run for the life of the Parliament and inquire, as required, into matters within specific subject area.

Select Committees: inquire into a particular matter (including bills) and cease to exist after they've reported.

Statutory Committees: are established by an Act of the Parliament rather than by a resolution of a House. These committees are appointed at the commencement of a Parliament and exist for the life of the Parliament.

Legislation Committees: are established solely for the purpose of considering a bill in detail. LA only.

Estimates Committees: examine proposed and previous budget allocations and expenditure for the public sector. The LC has recently referred estimates to General Purpose Standing Committees.

General Purpose Standing Committees (GPSC): these types of Standing Committees of the LC examine appropriations of Consolidated Funds as well as expenditure and income of statutory bodies. GPSCs can now self reference and the Opposition and Cross Benchers control the agenda. GPSCs are invariably used by the Opposition and/or the Crossbench to grandstand on an issue, or embarrass the Government.

Joint Committees: these committees can be any version of the above except GPSCs and are comprised of LA and LC Members.

How do I make a submission to a Parliamentary committee?

A committee often starts its inquiry by calling for submissions from the public and relevant organisations. It advertises in newspapers and writes to persons and organisations with specialist knowledge or interest. Any person may make a submission to a committee seeking submissions. There is no set form for submissions to a Parliamentary committee. They may take the form of a letter, paper or report. They may contain facts, opinions, arguments and recommendations. They can be from private citizens or organisations. If in doubt, contact the relevant Committee's Secretariat.

Where do I get a copy of a Committee's report?

Normally persons/groups who make a submission to a committee inquiry are forwarded a copy of the inquiry report. Otherwise, copies of reports are available direct from the relevant committee's secretariat on request. Current committee reports can be accessed through the Parliament's website.

Can I access the transcripts (record of what occurred)?

Generally speaking they're only available to Members of the committee and aren't available for general perusal unless authorised expressly by the committee. Witnesses are given copies of their testimony so that they may check it to ensure no errors have occurred in compiling the transcript. Unauthorised disclosure and/or publication of Committee transcripts may constitute a contempt of Parliament.

How can I find out when a hearing is on?

Unless you have made a submission to a committee inquiry, or been called to appear before it, information on when a committee will be having hearings can be ascertained by examining the Committees section of the Parliament's website or by contacting the relevant committee's secretariat.

If you want to know more about the Committee process, go to my website and check out NSW Parliament committees

Email me your story. Leave me a contact. 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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