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June 2005   

Interview: The Baby Drought
Social ethicist Leslie Cannold has delved into why women - and men - are having fewer children. And it all comes back to the workplace.

Industrial: Lies, AWAs and Statistics
David Peetz uncovers the truth behind the latest statistics on earnings under Australian Workplace Agreements.

Workplace: The Invisible Parents
Current government policies about work and family do not reflect the realities of either family life or the modern workplace. writes Don Edgar.

History: Bruce�s Big Blunder
The Big Fella, Jack Lang, gives an eyewitness account of the last time Conservatives tried to dismantle Australia�s industrial relations system.

Politics: All God's Children
The battle for morality is not confined to Australian polittics. Michael Walzer writes on the American perspective

Economics: Spun Out
The business groups are feeling cocky. The feds have announced their IR changes, business says they don't go far enough. What a surprise, writes Neale Towart

International: Shakey Trials
Lyndy McIntyre argues the New Zealnd IR experiment provides warnings - and hope - for the Australian union movement.

Legal: Civil Distrubance
Tom Roberts argues that there is more at stake than an attack on building workers in the looming legsilation.

Review: Crash Course In Racism
Paul Haggis flick Crash suggests that when cars collide the extent of people's prejudices are revealed sans the usual veil of political correctness, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: You're Fired
New laws will leave bosses holding the whip and workers with a Raw Hide, writes resident bard David Peetz


The Locker Room
Ashes to Dust
In which Phil Doyle travels to distant lands in search of a meat pie, and prepares for the joys of sleep deprivation

The Westie Wing
Ian West lists the Top Ten reasons why workers in NSW can gain some solace from having the Labor Party sitting on the Treasury benches�

The Soapbox
Dear John
In response to this year�s Federal Budget, Bishop Kevin Manning wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard


An Act of Faith
After a week of watching the Howard Government attempt to explain their vision of work relations we have a clearer picture of what the social safety net will be in the future � an act of faith


 Beattie Dares Job Vandals

 Broken Hill Confronts "Choice"

 BHP Faces Losses

 Howard Threatens Babies

 Working Between the Flags

 Hadgkiss Makes History

 Bob The Organiser

 Johnny Packs Toothbrush

 Security Blunders to the Max

 EDI Court Out

 Feds: Do As I Say �

 Soaring Mercury Sparks Walk Off

 Unions Offer to Play Libs

 Education Stands Up To Howard Assault

 Dodgy Bosses Get a Tick

 Weight Watchers Raise Scales

 Hyundai Showdown a Riot

 Activists' What's On!

 Patriot Doug
 Remembering Workers In Cairns
 Bad Law
 Fair Go For Injured Workers
 A Question Of Choice
 Galahs Up The Cross
 National Solution
 Bomber�s Classic
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The Westie Wing

Ian West lists the Top Ten reasons why workers in NSW can gain some solace from having the Labor Party sitting on the Treasury benches�

1. The 2005/06 NSW Budget is a Labor Budget

The Carr-Refshauge Labor Government is facing up to the challenges ahead. Treasurer Andrew Refshauge said of his first Budget, "This is a Budget that builds for the future by investing in our infrastructure.. As a Labor Treasurer in a Labor Government, I have no doubt where our priorities lie - securing a person's access to work; to the best possible education; to the highest standards of health care; to the safest streets; to reliable public transport; and a sustainable environment."

2. NSW Labor has paid off Coalition debt

The NSW Coalition left office over ten years ago, leaving NSW taxpayers with $12 billion in debt. We had to pay up to $1.6 billion a year just in interest mostly on the Liberals' debts - money Labor should have been able to spend on infrastructure, services and social justice. Having paid the vast bulk of Liberal debt and interest off, Labor next year will incur an increase of General Government Debt of $1 billion and an increase in Public Trading Enterprise (eg energy and water, rail, and housing) debt of $2.5 billion. This signals Labor's willingness to forego the economic rationalist line of balancing the Budget at all costs. It also consolidates recognition by the Carr-Refshauge Government of the need to invest even more in services and infrastructure.

3. Public servants get a better deal from Labor

This is the first Carr Labor Budget that the Union movement in NSW hasn't come out and slammed. The NSW Labor Government has reached agreement or been brought to the table on pay rises for workers in NSW through their unions. Contrast this with John Brogden's thin edge of the wedge proposal to sack 18,000 public servants. Brogden said, "The Government now spends $20.3 billion a year just on wages. There's no productivity trade offs in the so-called wage negotiations," and "This Budget is irresponsible because the Government refuses to stand up to its union benefactors."

4. Superannuation funded

Public service superannuation obligations will be fully funded by June 2030, fifteen years earlier than planned. When the Liberals left office our State liabilities were over $1 for every $5 we were worth. By 2009, our liabilities will be less than $0.08c in every dollar. Don't let the Liberals get away with saying they are the great economic managers - they're not!

5. Labor invests in the skill base and helps Apprentices

Funding for TAFE increased to $1.5 billion - an increase of $57 million on 2004/05. The total number of apprentices as at March 2005 was 20,307 - an increase of 2,678 on last year. Apprentices will get a $100 rebate on car registration. There's additional travel support for 5,000 Rural and Regional apprentices with the overnight accommodation allowance doubled from $14 to $28 per day. 450 apprentices will have their first year of TAFE training fast tracked to 16 weeks before they start work. There's also an investment in Group Training to deliver 800 apprentices for small business in rural and regional and disadvantaged communities. Promisingly, in the 12 months to the end of April 2005: Automotive apprenticeships on the NSW North Coast grew 49.4%; Manufacturing engineering apprenticeships in the Hunter increased 40%; Building and construction apprenticeships in Southern Sydney increased 26.5%; Utilities and electro-Technology apprenticeships in Sydney increased 38.4%.

6. Infrastructure spending increases mean more jobs

Investment in public infrastructure over the next 4 years will total $34.7 billion, a 30% increase on the $26.6 billion spent in the four years to 2004/05. That's $1 million an hour every day of every month of every year for the next four years - and it will support 113,000 jobs across NSW. Capital expenditure in 2005/06 will be at its highest ever level - and so it should be. For every $1.00 that was spent throughout the 1990s on infrastructure, we will now spend the equivalent of $1.52 through to 2010.

7. Only NSW Labor will get a better tax deal from the Howard Government

NSW gets short changed $3 billion every year by the Howard Government - money we could be spending on frontline services. NSW gets 40% of its income from the Federal Government. They give it to us through GST Revenue Grants $10.4b (25.4%), Compensation for GST $37m (0.9%), and Specific Purpose Payments $6.1b (14%). But they put us over a barrel. Specific Purpose Payments include Auslink, Supported Accommodation Assistance, Government Schools and Vocational Education and Training. Over the last year, the Federal Government has been trying to get NSW to incorporate the National Code of Practice for the Construction Industry and Australian Workplace Agreements into NSW's arrangements. Apparently negotiations are continuing. Further negotiations are due to take place on public housing (expires 30 June 2008) and health care (expires 30 June 2009). Only a Labor Government will fight the unfair conditions the Federal Government is trying to impose. John Brogden wants NSW to sign off on the unfair deal!

8. John Brogden is a Liberal "moderate" - but the Lunatic Fringe has just taken over the NSW Liberal Party

The Liberal New Right has sat on the sidelines watching John Brogden whingeing away for over two years now, shamelessly parading innocent victims for political capital. But he doesn't have a plan, and he doesn't have a vision. The New Right has a vision and is waiting for its time, and they just won 75% of positions in the NSW Liberal Party division. One moderate Liberal recently said of the NSW Liberal Party's New Right Agenda, "You see it manifested in a very narrow agenda. They have real hang-ups about abortion and homosexuality and they have a mistaken view that Howard won the election because of their views." Just imagine how the New Right would go about running NSW?

9. NSW Labor will spend $11 billion this year on Health and over $10 billion on Education

Spending on Health is double now what it was under the Coalition. From next year Education spending includes the funding to keep our promise to reduce Year One kids classes to an average of 22 across NSW. We are also looking towards a statewide average of 20 students in kindergarten classes, and 24 students in year two classes by 2007. That will mean better education outcomes for our children in the years ahead, and hopefully better opportunities in their lives.

10. Land Tax down

The Carr-Refshauge Government has responded to community concerns that changes to land tax were hurting small landholders. Changes mean about 350,000 people in NSW won't have to pay land tax from 2006. And a further 50,000 people will pay less land tax. Vendor Duty stays, but those funds are going towards the First Home Buyers Plan. Over the last 14 months to May 2005, the Carr-Refshauge Government assisted 41,000 first homebuyers to begin to realise their dreams of owning a home.

There are Threats and Challenges ahead - This year's NSW Budget definitely signals a change of tack.

Tax mix - the Federal Coalition and their State Counterparts have an agenda of flat and regressive taxes. The GST is a flat tax of 10% and hurts poorer people more than it hurts the rich. The Liberals want to flatten income tax to 30% across the board, probably more if they think they can get away with it. That will hurt working people even more, while reducing our ability to fund the services and infrastructure we need.

Drought - the current drought is one of the worst on record and El Nino says it won't end any time soon. Farmers know the importance of the collective approach and getting help when they need it - Labor is the Party that provides support for our vulnerable and is best placed to manage the economy and help our farmers. Labor has progressive taxes that redistribute wealth from those who can afford to pay to those in need. Country Labor is building a bridge to farming communities that bypasses the squattocracy and their political cronies - the increasingly irrelevant National Party. Farmers need an organisation that can acknowledge when they do receive assistance from Labor, as well as working constructively with the NSW Government to address the problems they face now and in the future.

Workers - frontline workers need to be treated with dignity and respect and be properly remunerated for the work they do. The process to determine proper remuneration involves rights to freedom of association and to collective bargaining, and as required, the right to an independent umpire. It's the Labor way to protect decent processes and ensure we have the ability to pay workers properly for the work they do.

Accelerate Infrastructure Investment - In 2005/06 Labor will spend $40.6 billion on general expenses. $40.9 billion will be received. Total State sector net debt will rise by $8.7 billion over the next 4 years. But as we saw last year, and again this year, some debt is OK. The most difficult problems we face as a Government relate to infrastructure and complex social issues requiring many more years of hard work. We've shown we can manage debt, even when it's debt made by the Liberals.

These challenges and more will make themselves known in the coming years. As Andrew Refshauge said, "With our investment in infrastructure and frontline services, we will be securing the State's hospitals and health services; strengthening our public transport networks and roads; building new schools; upgrading freight handling facilities at our ports; and improving electricity generation and water supply."

In the end, the success of the Budget and ultimately the Labor Government will be judged by our ability to adequately invest in people's wellbeing, worth and belonging.

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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