||Year End 2006|
Interview: The Terminator
Industrial: Vive La Resistance
Unions: Breaking News
History: Seven Deadly Sins
Economics: Back to the Future
Politics: Organising and Organisations
International: Web Retrospective
Review: Shock Therapy
All the Best
The Westie Wing
As two teams prepare for the last day of play, Ian West reckons home ground advantage could be decisive.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
The old chestnut might be tired and hackneyed, but for 2006 a more appropriate moniker cannot be found.
In the worst of times column, there is none as obvious as the introduction of industrial relations laws.
Laws designed to pit worker against worker in a race to the bottom; laws which deny workers a say.
Despite the free market rhetoric, these are laws designed for the use and abuse by unethical marketeers.
Leaving pay and conditions to the free market is bad enough, but a market with one side holding all the cards could hardly be described as free.
But in the face of this fundamentalism the main positive of this year, without doubt, has been the overwhelming community support for the Your Rights at Work campaign.
Unions NSW and the ACTU have done a magnificent job of not only getting industrial relations back on the agenda, but also wresting control of the debate away from the free market double-speak that has infected public debate for more than 20 years.
This important campaign by organisers and members has created the space for our political leaders to reinject humanity back into the abstract notion of the economy.
The new leader of the Federal Labor Party, assisted by the clear air afforded to new leaders, spoke of this last week.
Kevin Rudd painted a stark picture.
Kevin said the Liberal party stands for "a view of the world which says it is about me, myself and I," in contrast with the Labor Party which "cannot turn a blind eye to the interests of our fellow human beings who are not doing well".
The contrast between the two major parties is stark; between one that believes in a soulless economy that is about profits for profits sake, and one that believes in both prosperity and social outcomes.
Of course, there is nothing particularly new in this, and many in the labour movement have been banging on about it since about 1891.
But the crucial difference is the Rights at Work campaign has shown people are still interested in family and social outcomes, and politicians and the public are listening.
Ideas of compassion and a just society have a lot more currency now, because of the hard work of union members and community groups on the ground.
Kim Beazley, said it well, as you often does when the pressure to perform is off, in his concession speech.
He said there had been a change in the public mood away from the winner-take-all policies of the Howard Government.
It's true. Australian people want to be able to spend time with their families and they want to know they can provide with a stable, secure job.
In broader terms, they do not want to see Australia go down the American path of a society of have and have-nots - cities where a class of working poor serve gated communities.
This is not in our character as a nation.
The Iemma Government has introduced policies which are to be commended for their rejection of the Howard Government's industrial relations laws.
We had a hard-fought, if ultimately unsuccessful challenge to the High Court.
The Iemma Government introduced procurement policies that require minimum standards for workers be met.
Similarly, young workers in NSW have been protected by legislation, which demands their work conditions meet NSW awards.
But it would be naïve to leave it at that.
The good work shown by union members must continue, to show politicians of all persuasions, that we want an economy which serves society, not a society which serves the economy.
The myth of market fundamentalism and the need to sacrifice our family time to the economy has been busted.
Milton Friedman, who sold the idea that the economy is somehow distinct from society, may have timed his exit well.
As this is the last edition Workers Online, I would like to thank all the readers of my humble contribution.
I invite you to visit my website www.ianwestmlc.com.au and subscribe to my new email bulletin due to start in the New Year (email [email protected] to subscribe), to keep informed and raise your concerns about NSW politics and other issues.
Finally, thank you to the team at Workers Online, for allowing me the privilege to contribute to this worthy publication.
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