Interview: The Binds That Tie
Unions: Worth Cycling For
Industrial: The Elephant in the Corner
Legal: A Law Unto Themselves
Politics: Ethically Lonely
History: Women, Unions, Banners and Parades
Women: Relaxed and Comfortable?
International: The Last Social Democrat
Review: The Corpse Bride
Culture: Tony Moore Holds His Own
The Locker Room
A Free Vote
John Bares All
Tom A World Away
The Westie Wing
It's 2.17am. I'm fairly certain the bells have stopped ringing. Everyone has declared they are anti-Terrorist. Some Members look sideways, some look up and some down. The State's Terrorism laws have just been passed.
Earlier in the day, the NSW Industrial Relations Commission had its name changed - to the Industrial Court of NSW.
The new State laws mean the NSW Commission's ability to deal with employment and service contracts has been strengthened. Some employers would have preferred employment contracts to remain in the Supreme Court as commercial contracts.
They know working families would have to find an absolute fortune to carry any case on unfair, unconscionable or unjust employment contracts through the common law courts. Most families simply couldn't afford the price they'd need to pay to get justice.
Of course the Conservatives opposed NSW Labor's added protections for workers and their families. In clambering atop his high-horse, the Liberals The Hon. Gregory Pearce let petulance get the better of him - as he declared Australia was a classless society.
Greg became attuned to our classless society whilst in the legal system where he tells us he could have been anything, and could even have become a champion of the Traffic Courts, defending Eastern suburbs millionaires on parking fine and drink driving matters.
And while the Coalition talks about the classless society of 2005, a whole new generation of Australians are experiencing firsthand what the Conservatives really stand for.
One of the myriad of practical examples is the new Federal laws that threaten current arrangements in NSW which outlaw prospective employees being put on a trial basis for one week without pay.
The new Federal IR laws mean young people in particular - especially in rural and regional areas of NSW working in the agricultural, hospitality and retail service industries - will have to work their first week for nothing.
It has been an interesting month - I got two adjournment slots in which to raise matters.
One was an issue in one of my Duty State electorates, Cronulla, where kindergarten worker Colleen Hughes was fired for 'abandoning' her job.
John Howard can make radical changes to industrial relations but he won't act to make directors of failed companies who act improperly responsible for their losses, nor prevent them from operating other businesses.
After all, if workers are supposed to negotiate with their bosses one on one, they should be able to trust that their bosses have not been involved in previous company failures and were not culpable in their actions.
The other issue involved Hillsong and the Federal Government. I raised the matter as part of my responsibilities shadowing The Hills. The issue continues to attract attention.
I've now met with representatives of Hillsong and we have agreed to ongoing dialogue, as well as to pursue matters through Parliamentary processes. There are 25 Questions on Notice in the Federal Parliament (number 1370 for all those committed Hansard readers).
The point of raising the Hillsong matter was to bring local concerns about the use of taxpayer funding and Government approval processes to the public domain.
If you have particular concerns relating to taxpayer funded benevolent activities in the social and community services sector, please contact me.
My ongoing learning and appreciation of the enormity of the task, the challenges faced and the dedication of the people involved in social and community services has intensified my interest in the area.
I'm pleased also the end of this NSW Parliamentary session has brought some justice for workers and the community.
The passage of the James Hardie legislation to help compensate asbestos victims represents an important incremental step along the way in the fight for justice, and the NSW Labor Government should be congratulated.
In 2000, the submissions made to the Jackson Inquiry by Reg Stephenson (now passed away), Ella Sweeney, Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia (ADFA) President Barry Robson and (now) Secretary Elaine Day, Paul Bastian and Bernie Banton - were a pivotal point in the NSW Government's consideration of this vital matter.
As the public face of ADFA, Bernie Banton has never been backwards in acknowledging the essential role played by the ACTU, Unions NSW and affiliated Unions like the AMWU, CFMEU and MUA.
Yet some of the actions taken by unions and others over the past 4 years and more to highlight vital matters like the asbestos issue may not be possible in future with the passing of John Howard's IR, Terrorism and Sedation laws.
The GPSC 1 recommendations on Personal Injury Compensation will be tabled out of session in the second week of December. For me, the inquiry highlighted: the ongoing need to fine-tune the adequacy of compensation payments and rights; and that the system of American Medical guidelines and Approved Medical Specialists is fundamentally flawed. I hope these issues continue to be aired, acknowledged and a solution found.
Macquarie Fields is making a return through the Social Issues Committee - we'll be having more hearings on this matter so stay tuned. I expect to hear more from Opposition members about the classless society, and maybe even the tooth fairy.
Which reminds me, the Dental Inquiry is nearing completion. The Social Issues committee maintains a high standard of inquiry. It provides a heavy but satisfying workload and contributes much to policy and public debate.
The Funeral Industry report is nearing completion and will attract public attention. About 45,000 die in NSW each year, and there are about 44,000 funerals. There are some interesting proposals on costs and also on land needs for the departed.
The Public Inquiry into PPP's has also kicked off with Unions NSW making an appearance before the committee on 2nd December. There'll be further hearings in 2006.
No doubt the Conservatives across the nation won't be engaging constructively in figuring out how we fund infrastructure and services. Their efforts to engage the public on a vision for Australia and NSW amount these days to throwing a few tax cuts around the lounge room at Christmas time.
They always talk about how diverse the range of views is within the Liberal Caucus rooms.
Yet when faced with the most outdated and discredited legislation on IR, Terrorism, Telstra, and Tax Cuts - and still nothing on infrastructure investment or funding for social and community services - the Conservatives show their diversity is about as great as John Howard's tracksuit collection.
If you require assistance accessing information from a NSW Government Department or a Minister, or have feedback and ideas for speeches, or if you believe you know an issue that should be looked at by one of the Parliamentary committees, contact me at Parliament House on (02) 9230 2052 or email [email protected]
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