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October 2005   

Interview: Under Fire
Michael Crosby outlines his agenda to save the movement � and explains why Australians have nothing to fear from the SEIU.

Politics: And the Winners Are ...
Wal King, Allan Moss, Roger Corbett, Chip Goodyear, Michael Chaney and David Murray have lots in common, writes Jim Marr.

Industrial: Un-Australian
Labour lawyer Clive Thompson argues the changes to IR are fundamentally at odds with the national tradition of consesensus.

Economics: The Common Wealth
As the policy wonks debate the future of our cities, Neale Towart mounts a simple argument: It�s the real people in a society, stupid

History: Walking for Justice
The Eight Hour Day, a very Australian celebration, had its origins in New Zealand it seems, writes Neale Towart.

International: Deja Vu
A group of trade unions have walked away from America's peak council, again. Labourstart's Eric Lee was there.

Legal: The Rights Stuff
Terror laws have sparked a fresh debate on a Bill of Rights - and workers have a bigger stake than ever before, writes Rachael Osman-Chin.

Review: That Cinderella Fella
Russell trades the phone for mitts in an inspiring cinematic slug-fest. Nathan Brown is ringside

Poetry: Is Howard Kidding?
Mel Cheal asks who Howard thinks he is kidding to the tune of the �Dad�s Army� theme song.


The Soapbox
No Place For A Woman!
Doreen Borrow spoke to the Public Service Association�s women�s conference in September about her experiences of working life that span seven decades.

North By Northwest
Phil Doyle returns from up north, where he survived on nothing but goodwill, good people and a great big orange bus.

The Locker Room
In which Whatsisname slams the recent poor form of Thingummyjig.

The Westie Wing
Our favourite MP, Ian West MLC, gets all casual in his latest missive from the Bear Pit.


Age of Consent
After more than five years of debating, cajoling and at times pleading, NSW workers have secured a set of cyber work rights worth celebrating.


 Secret Policemen's Balls-Up

 Centrelink Breaches Cyber Law

 Examiner Pulps Cadet

 Food Truck Flattens Woman

 Will They Know It's Christmas?

 Death By Nestle

 Taskforce On Safety Charges

 Archbishop Preaches End Of Civilisation

 Union Drives Tassie Train

 PM Cold on Lunch Date

 Seafarers Scupper Sell Off

 Fraser Terror-fied

 Tribute to HT Lee

 Activist's What's On!

 Rat�s Army
 Kev's Confusion
 Make Ads Not Law
 Nice One, Workers!
 Dog Eat Dog
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And the Winners Are ...

Wal King, Allan Moss, Roger Corbett, Chip Goodyear, Michael Chaney and David Murray have lots in common, writes Jim Marr.

They are multi-millionaires united in their demand for fundamental change to the way our society has operated for more than 100 years.

The six are key players in the Business Council of Australia, the organisation driving John Howard's agenda to suppress living standards and shred job security.

The BCA champions individual contracts which have slashed family incomes everywhere they have operated. New Zealand's workplaces have been dominated by individual agreements since 1991 and the evidence is stark.

By 1997, real wages in the Shaky Isles were lower than they had been in 1974. In 1999, New Zealand's Labour Market Bulletin published a detailed study of wage movements for supermarket checkout operators over the decade to 1997. They showed real wages had fallen between 11 and 44 percent, depending on hours and experience.

The reason?

Individual contracts held down base rates and allowed employers to do away with overtime, weekend and other penalty payments.

Australian academics have reported similar falls for the lowest paid in WA and Victoria, since individual contracts were introduced to those states.

It's the sort of information that caused churches, trade unions and, even sports clubs, to urge Howard to pause and reconsider.

But not the BCA whose bottom line is business costs. It argues that core labour rights, enshrined in law for 100 years, are a brake on business profitability.

In fact, for the BCA, the only earnings that don't appear to threaten business are those of its own members.

The organisation brings together Australia's bosses of bosses, the chief executives of 100 "leading" corporations.

While the Council urges wage restraint in public forums, its members are stacking up private fortunes.

Messrs King, Moss, Goodyear, Corbett, Chaney and Murray illustrate the BCA story.

King, CEO of Leightons, snaffled $35 million for the 2004-05 financial year which, for those who understand their wages in weekly chunks, comes in at $675,000 every seven days.

Macquarie Bank's Moss made $18.5 million, around $350,000 a week.

Corbett bargained $8.5 million out of Woolworths; Goodyear extracted $6.5 million from BHP Billiton; and Chaney milked Wesfarmers for $6.12 million.

Murray seems an also-ran at $5.5 million until you realise Commonwealth Bank shareholders lightened his load with a $17 million severance payment, two months after the reporting season ended.

The sheer greed of BCA members has helped distort Australian earnings statistics, allowing the Prime Minister to claim "real wages" have risen 14 percent since he took office in 1996.

When that claim was unpacked by academics from Sydney University, using ABS statistics, they found the average fulltime wage and salary earner had benefited by 3.6 percent, falling to just 1.2 percent for the lowest 10 percent of income earners.

Using gross wages, rather than real wages adjusted to discount inflation, John Shields from Sydney University's School of Business, produced even more graphic data.

He showed that between 1998 and 2004, the average total earnings of fulltime adult Australian employees had risen 26 percent, while Australia's 50 highest paid chief executives had been on a 129 percent binge.

On average, those BCA worthies were earning 90 times more than the average fulltime employee. And that was just from their primary employment.

Over the same six-year period, the Australian Stock Exchange price of the companies they led moved by 19 percent.

The BCA's chief ideologue, Hugh Morgan, was setting trends back in 2001 when, as chief executive officer at WMC, he took a 31.3 percent increase as the resource group's earnings plunged 47 percent.

The hike took Morgan's WMC income to $2.07 million, including a useful $507,000 in perks.

Several BCA members double and triple dip, extending their influence while boosting their earnings.

The Reserve Bank of Australia, which monitors wage increases to ensure they don't fuel inflation beyond its 2-3 percent guideline, is a case in point.

Last month, five non-executive directors at the Bank pocketed increases of up to 60 percent.

Their pay, for attending one meeting a month, now ranges between $50,000 and $60,000 a year.

The Australian Financial Review quoted one of their number as saying the earn was so insignificant he wasn't even sure how much the fee was.

Amongst the Bank's part-time directors are Morgan and Frank Lowy, who pulls in $13 million from his day job with Westfield.

Morgan makes no bones about his anti-worker politics and was never above putting WMC money where his mouth was.

In 2001, his company donated $150,000 to Howard's federal Liberal Party. The year before, it boosted the coffers of Richard Court's WA Liberals by $120,000.

Nothing, if not a shrewd investor, Morgan's agenda is now federal government policy.

As soon as last year's election results revealed Howard would control the Senate, the BCA moved, with a vigorous attack on the Australian Industrial Commission.

It released a paper arguing "fairness" should not be a factor in workplace regulations.

Morgan and his mates took aim at annual minimum wage cases, heard by the IRC, that have kept Australia's lowest-paid families abreast of inflation.

They endorsed Howard Government submissions that would have seen minimum wage workers earning $60 a week less than the $484.40 they currently receive.

When the Prime Minister stepped up to a Sydney microphone in May to announce sweeping workplace changes based on individual contracts; removing unfair dismissal rights; stripping back awards; and removing the AIRC from wage fixing it mirrored the agenda set out by the BCA three months earlier.

There was no mention, however, of the BCA's golden rule - the rules don't apply to us.

"Do As I Say"

What do Australia's bosses of bosses mean by wage restraint?:

Michael Chaney (Wesfarmers) annual income 1998, $1,575,000; annual income 2005, $6,120,000. Increase 389%.

Geoff Dixon (Qantas) 2001, $1,150,663; 2004, $3,022,856. Increase over three years 263%.

Chip Goodyear (BHP Billiton) 2003, $2,896,337; 2005, $6,400,000. Increase over two years 221%.

Wal King (Leightons) 1998, $2,695,000; 2005, $35,000,000. Increase 1298%.

Allan Moss (Macquarie Bank) 1998, $3,085,000; 2005, $18,500,000. Increase 600%.

David Murray, (Commonwealth Bank) 1998, $1,715,770; 2005, $5,500,000. Increase 321%.

Ave Earnings of Australia's 50 Top Paid CEOs in 1998, $2,020,000; 2004, $4,620,000. Increase 129%.

Ave Fulltime Adult Australian Earnings: 1998, $38,090; 2004, $51,470. Increase 26%.

NOTE: Michael Chaney is chairman of the Business Council of Australia.

Geoff Dixon and David Murray are members of the BCA Board.

Chip Goodyear, Allan Moss and Wal King are BCA Council members. King's 2005 earnings include a "bonus" of $23 million.

Sources: ABS; accirt: John Shields, Sydney University School of Business; company annual reports.

Go Away, Katie

Nowhere is BCA cheerleading for the federal government's workplace agenda quite as hypocritical as in the area of unfair dismissal.

Closing avenues for workers to challenge unfair sackings has long been an article of business faith.

BCA chief executive, Katie Lahey, highlighted the issue in a pre-election whinge about elements of her wish-list that had been stymied by the old Senate.

Business was concerned, she explained, by its inability to "take advantage of the Government's proposals for more relaxed unfair dismissal laws".

Like the Prime Minister, the Business Council says, unfair dismissal laws cost growth and jobs.

Howard and business leaders ridicule unfair sacking settlements as "go away" money.

Academics put the average cost to business of successful unfair dismissal proceedings at $30,000.

But that figure pales by comparison with the expense of getting rid of a BCA member, or one of their acolytes, who never seem to have to face the stress and humiliation of arguing their cases in courts or tribunals.

When BCA company, National Australia Bank, parted company with chief executive, Frank Cicutto, two years ago, it softened his landing with a $14 million golden parachute.

Cicutto left in the wake of a foreign exchange scandal that cost shareholders millions but still picked up a performance bonus of $1.3 million..

Another BCA outfit, Commonwealth Bank, got rid of executive, Chris Cuffe, from its under-performing Colonial First State offshoot, in 2003. To make sure the company man survived it stitched together a $32.7 million package.

Then, of course, there was the parting of the ways between BCA industrial-hardliner, BHP Billiton, and its South African-born CEO, Brian Gilbertson.

Commentators said Gilbertson left under a "cloud" but it had the sort of silver lining unfair dismissal claimants could only dream about.

After six months in the top job and "irreconcilable differences" with his board, Gilbertson appeared well and truly reconciled by a $38 million settlement.

Typical of a man with an extra $38 million in his kick, he told reporters, there were more important things than money.


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