Interview: Battle Stations
Unions: The Workers, United
Politics: The Lost Weekend
Industrial: Truth or Dare
History: A Class Act
Economics: The Numbers Game
International: Blonde Ambition
Training: The Trade Off
Review: Bore of the Worlds
Poetry: The Beaters Medley
The Locker Room
After the Action
Power and the Passion
Mao and Then
The Third Way Hits A Dead End
Unfair For All
What Is To Be Done?
Black Hawk Up
Truth or Dare
They had the temerity to say that they have been studying workplace laws, systems, pay and conditions for quite some time and all things considered the proposals the government still has not fully released, but which they have sketched out, would, on the evidence of past practices, results elsewhere and results in Australia, have a bad influence on the wages and conditions of workers, AND on the productivity and efficiency of businesses and the economy.
Surprise ,surprise, the barrage aimed their way when they actually demonstrated that they did do the work they are being employed for ie research and teaching in law, social welfare and work and organisational studies did not dent the empirical armour.
The barrackers for the government, and the government itself, derided them as the last hurrah of the "IR Club", but did not actually produce one shred of evidence to refute the careful work they had done.
Regular government barracker, Mark Wooden from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, led the charge:
MARK WOODEN: Well when they talk about the four critical labour market challenges facing Australia today, joblessness doesn't get a guernsey. Now, maybe that's because it's all about shortages now, and we don't have any people unemployed, but I think that's clearly wrong. We've got at least half a million people measured as officially unemployed and we have a whole bunch more who aren't in jobs, and one suspects that if there are a lot more jobs around, some of them at least would be employed (ABC radio PM 21 June 2005)
All responses from members of the 17 have stuck with their theme: show us the evidence if you say we are wrong. Iain Campbell summed it up nicely on the same program:
"Well, what evidence is there that businesses are saying that these changes will have a major effect, major positive effect? Let's see the evidence, and let's discuss it. I mean, the frustration that we've felt in participating in this debate is that the Government's changes aren't justified by research. They're justified by what we've called the spin, speculation, and anecdote."
Elsewhere (SMH 22 June) Wooden seemed a bit miffed that the papers were a "pot pouri of opinion" and were based on some solid research. Not something the powers that be want at all when they are on a crusade.
The government is given permission though, to tell lies: "I expect the Government to engage in spin, it's their job, I don't know that it is the job of academics," he said. Now he has already stated that the work was based on solid research. A sentence later this is reduced to spin.
Nick O'Malley in the article summed up:
Scrapping unfair dismissal laws will make it easier for employers to hire staff and cut unemployment.
Only casual jobs with limited opportunity will be created.
Productivity will increase with a more flexible workforce.
Productivity dropped, unemployment and inflation increased when New Zealand deregulated its workforce."
The government asserts. The 17 look at the evidence and provide the results of the evidence.
WHO YA GUNNA CALL. Its about trust but mainly about truth.
The same process has been seen in the responses to the St Vincent de Paul report on income inequality. The government and its supporters immediately began bagging the church for being involved in politics. Not a dent was made in the facts and evidence of their empirical research.
As Bradon Ellem and Russell Lansbury said in the SMH after the sound and fury had died a little, "In response to the Federal Government's "plan for a modern workplace", we have pooled almost a decade of research on the impact of industrial relations policy changes thus far.
The record shows there is no reason to believe the proposals to go before Parliament later this year will address the complex problems Australians face as we grapple with global competition and social change." (my emphasis)
Where the academics did not have solid research, they said so. They commented that results of certain changes "could" lead to certain outcomes. The government and its mafia keep telling us that the changes they are proposing will lead to certain outcomes. Based on nothing. We can see the results of similar changes elsewhere, in New Zealand form example. Productivity, from level pegging with Australia, shrank rapidly when the workplace regulations were changed in the way the Howard government is proposing.
Chris Harman, (http://pubs.socialistreviewindex.org.uk/sr210/harman.htm) in Socialist Review no 210, 1997 provides a few more uncomfortable facts:
If 'deregulation' and 'flexibility' by themselves create jobs, then through the Reagan and Thatcher years unemployment in the US and Britain should have been considerably less than in France, and the growth in the number of jobs much greater.
In reality between 1979 and 1992 French employment grew by 3 percent while UK employment grew by only 0.4 percent.
In the USA, under Democrat and Republican administrations, unemployment has been officially decreasing, as the so-called "de-regulationists keep telling us. What they don't mention is that this has been accompanied by a fall in real wages. Average real wages fell by a sixth between 1973 and 1993, while the average working year grew by the equivalent of a month. Real wages in the US have continued to fall since then.
Thr word choice is the one bandied around by Howard, Andrews and co. Chris Briggs, Bradon Ellem and Rae Cooper I their contribution to the evidence point out that the evidence is that choice is being further limited. The right to collectively bargain is protected, even in the USA. As the employees of Minster the Rev. Kev's own department know, choice is held up as a fig leaf as the real action limits any such right. The Rev Kev spouts outrage I Federal Parliament about untrue ACTU advertising on the same day that his own actions illustrate the truth of the ads. The safety net has been minimal since 1993 for many award based employees. The last threads are about to be unravelled as the AIRC has its role of reviewing carefully the evidence presented by economists and labour market experts and industry advocates replaced by a hand picked Fair Pay Commission who do not have to take any account of the needs of workers and does not even need to meet for another eighteen months. Andrews points to the success of the British equivalent.
The British version was set up by Blair after the horrors of Thatcher saw real wages drop by 30%. (see Ken Livingstone news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/ 1999/04/99/thatcher_anniversary/331134.stm The Low Pay Commission (appropriately named) was thus starting fro a low base. The greatest increase in wage inequality occurred in the UK. The gap in the male wage between the top 10% and bottom 10% of earners increased 36per cent between 1983 and 1996, according to another sober, empirical academic, Bob Gregory from ANU http://econrsss.anu.edu.au/pdf/DP401.pdf
.The Australian version steps in to do away with a system, already undermined by the 1996 legislation, with one that explicitly does not have to be fair, despite the name.
Whose spin now Mr Wooden.
Read the full report card - http://www.econ.usyd.edu.au/wos/IRchangesreportcard/
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