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July 2005   
F E A T U R E S

Interview: Battle Stations
Opposition leader Kim Beazley says he's ready to fight for workers right. But come July 1, he'll have to be fighting by different rules.

Unions: The Workers, United
It was a group of rank and filers who took centre stage when workers rallied in Sydney's Town Hall, writes Jim Marr.

Politics: The Lost Weekend
The ALP had a hot date, they had arranged to meet on the Town Hall steps, and Phil Doyle was there.

Industrial: Truth or Dare
Seventeen ivory towered academics upset those who know what is best for us last week.

History: A Class Act
After reading a new book on class in Australia, Neale Towart is left wondering if it is possible to tie the term down.

Economics: The Numbers Game
Political economist Frank Stilwell offers a beginners guide to understanding budgets

International: Blonde Ambition
Sweden can be an inspiration to labour movements the world over, as it has had community unionism for over 100 years, creating a vibrant caring society, rather than a "productive" lean economy.

Training: The Trade Off
Next time you go looking for a skilled tradesman and can’t find one, blame an economist, writes John Sutton.

Review: Bore of the Worlds
An invincible enemy has people turning against one another as they fight for survival – its not just an eerie view of John Howard’s ideal workplace, writes Nathan Brown.

Poetry: The Beaters Medley
In solidarity with the workers of Australia, Sir Paul McCartney (with inspiration from his old friend John Lennon) has joined the Workers Online resident bard David Peetz to pen some hits about the government's proposed industrial relations revolution.

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
State of the Union
Unions NSW secretary John Robertson lifts the lid on ‘The Nine Myths of Modern Unionism’

The Locker Room
Wrist Action
Phil Doyle trawls the murky depths of tawdry sleaze, and discovers Rugby is behind it all.

Culture
To Hew The Coal That Lies Below
Phil Doyle reviews Australia's first coal mining novel, Black Diamonds and Dust.

Parliament
The Westie Wing
Our favourite State MP, Ian West, reports from Macquarie Street that the Premier is all the way with a State Commission.

E D I T O R I A L

After the Action
After a National Week of Action that has had everything from mass rallies in all capital cities to IR chat rooms opening on the Vogue Magazine website it’s fair to say that the first objective of this campaign – to raise public awareness – has been achieved.

N E W S

 Don't Get Angry, Get Organised

 Feds Threaten Hardie Battlers

 Beasts of Bourbon Play Dog

 Churches on Workplace Mission

 Unions Are The New Black

 Muster Has Bosses in Fluster

 Workers Flood to Protests

 Official: Libs Don’t Know Own Laws

 Schools Out For Uni Bosses

 IR Campaign Taxing Andrews

 Air Safety at Risk

 Carr Runs Over Lib Laws

 Aga Khan Workers Gaoled

 Activists Whats On!

L E T T E R S
 Workers Give In FNQ
 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
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Industrial

Truth or Dare


Seventeen ivory towered academics upset those who know what is best for us last week.

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:

"Government says:

Scrapping unfair dismissal laws will make it easier for employers to hire staff and cut unemployment.

Academics say:

Only casual jobs with limited opportunity will be created.

Government says:

Productivity will increase with a more flexible workforce.

Academics say:

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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