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December 2005   

Interview: The Binds That Tie
Dr Don Edgar has demolished the Prime Minister's credentials as a family man.

Unions: Worth Cycling For
Pedal power joined the Your Rights At Work campaign on a 350km journey to take a message to Canberra’s politicians, wrties Phil Doyle.

Industrial: The Elephant in the Corner
Jim Marr takes a look at what the government has secreted away in the WorkChoices package, revealing what is really at stake - and what can be done about it.

Legal: A Law Unto Themselves
In this extract from the Evatt Foundation's 'State of the States' Jeff Shaw & Monika Ciolek look at the constitutional issues rasied by WorkChoices.

Politics: Ethically Lonely
At a forum in the Australian Stock Exchange sponsored by big end of town solicitors, you would expect at least one person to be in favour of John Howard’s industrial relations laws, wrties Rachael Osman-Chin.

History: Women, Unions, Banners and Parades
Trade union banners reveal more about union history than their male designers and makers intended, writes Neale Towart.

Women: Relaxed and Comfortable?
Suzanne Hammond from WEL argues there are many hidden nasties in WorkChoices for working women.

International: The Last Social Democrat
A trade union leader's victory marks beginning of class politics in Israel, wrties Eric Lee

Review: The Corpse Bride
Come to a world where decay, loss and broken dreams are everywhere - and it's not the Federal Senate.

Culture: Tony Moore Holds His Own
In his new book, Tony Moore argues that today's generation of political leaders has much to learn from Bazza McKenzie.


The Soapbox
Whitefellas - You Just Can’t Trust ‘Em.
Racial stereotyping is a bad business. That said, Graham Ring has discovered a segment of society that drinks too much, behaves unreliably and can’t seem to adapt to change. Sadly, the conclusion is inescapable…

The Locker Room
Phil Doyle slices one into the car park.

The Westie Wing
Ian West makes a midnight dash to Workers Online, slides his State political report under the door, then heads back to the Macquarie Street Chamber of Horrors…


A Free Vote
This week’s charade of the Senate amending the Howard Government’s workplace laws raises fundamental questions about the sort of democracy Australia has become.


 Read His Lips: WorkChoices Too Much

 Joyce A Christmas Goose

 Workers Leave Boss in Tool Shed

 Costello Chokes On Asbestos Compo

 Telstra Hangs Up on Former Staff

 Bank Check on Bras

 Bill of Work Rights on Agenda

 Funny Film - Scary Message

 Sign Of the Times

 Unions Chip In for Lauren

 Company Raids Own Ship

 Activist's What's On!

 Million Mum March
 Pension Pinching
 John Bares All
 Radicalising Yoof
 Tom A World Away
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The Westie Wing

Ian West makes a midnight dash to Workers Online, slides his State political report under the door, then heads back to the Macquarie Street Chamber of Horrors…

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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