Saturday, December 31, 2005

Innovation at the Workplace: Unemployment in Australia

The Alfred Deakin Innovation Lectures 2005:

Our real unemployment rate is not a tick over 5%, contrary to what you’ve been breathlessly told by the government and the media, because the numbers are a fraud. If you add up the total of unemployment, disability and sole-parent benefits together, there are more people now than when the official unemployment rate was much higher. This, despite a decade of boom. It works like this: We used to have about a million unemployed and about 100,000 disability pensions. Now we’ve got half a million unemployed and 600,000 disability pensions. We’ve just rearranged the deckchairs, and declared victory. That’s why we still have one in six children growing up in a jobless household. If you doubt that, let me take you for a drive forty-five minutes from here. The truth is we have about two million people who have less work than they want.

read more

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Japanese whaling hindered

Inflatable boats from the Greenpeace ships - the Arctic Sunrise and the Esperanza - hinder the transfer of a dead minke whale from the Japanese whaling fleet catcher ship Kyo Maru No.1 to the Nisshin Maru factory ship.


The International Whaling Commission imposed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986.

Despite international protests, Japan has this year more than doubled its planned catch of minke whales to 935.

It has also added 10 endangered fin whales and plans to eventually lift the number to 50, along with 50 rare humpback whales.

... of Middle Eastern Appearance

Friday, December 23, 2005

Melbourne Burns AWAs

Eighteen Melbourne workers have kicked a big hole in John Howard's plan to deunionise Australia.

On Monday, December 19, their employer, Colrain, wrote to the Office of the Employment Advocate, asking that their AWAs be scrubbed.

After a short but bitter stand-off the operators of the truck parts distribution centre, a division of Maxitrans, agreed to meet the AMWU about a collective agreement, and the 18 workers returned to the job.

Their two-week picket at Swan Drive, in Melbourne's west, had been marred by the use of scabs and violence.

Union organiser, Fergal Eliffe, was threatened by baseball bat wielding thugs, and, last week, a picketer was struck by a car.

"It's a matter of putting the relationship back together," Eliffe told Workers Online. "There are more civilised and efficient ways of sorting out wages and conditions and that's the road we've agreed to take.

"With goodwill, we are confident we can get a decent agreement for these people, and their families, in the next few weeks."

read more

Thursday, December 22, 2005

New York: transit strike

Dec. 21- Yesterday you used your position as Mayor of New York to call us "thuggish"and "selfish." How dare you?

Our children turn on the TV to see the Mayor denouncing their parents as "morally reprehensible." Have you no shame?

As you know better than most, this strike was forced on us by the MTA. You know this because you share much of the blame. It is your provocative rhetoric about what givebacks we transit workers must accept for the next generation of transit -- our children and new immigrants -- that has pushed our members beyond the limits of their patience.

You all but demanded this confrontation, and now you act angry and surprised. You owe all New Yorkers an apology for poisoning the atmosphere around difficult labor negotiations.

You call us “irresponsible.” New York City and New York State have slashed their subsidies for mass transit. Mayors and Governors have created a seemingly permanent Structural Deficit for transit which much be filled by costly borrowing. Wall Street has profited, but Main Street has suffered. But you knew that already from your previous career. Now that the debt-servicing bill has come due, the MTA demands that we pay the price: worse health care and worse pensions.


Dec. 22-The first NYC system-wide transit strike in 25 years ended today. Local 100 had to walk out to stop the TA’s 11th hour pension ambush. We walked out strong, and we walk back stronger.

Thousands of transit workers have been on freezing cold picket lines around the clock for three days. The vote of the TWU Local 100 Executive Board to overwhelmingly accept the recommendation of theNew York State Mediators means we will now start reporting to work.

In the face of an unprecedented media assault, the average New Yorker supported the TWU and blamed the MTA for the strike. Our riders knew we did not abandon them, and they did not abandon us. Public support from unions, communities, clergy and elected officials helped create the atmosphere for an end to the strike.

The details will be coming to all transit workers very soon.

Every TWU member should be proud that our Union stood up for justice.

Stay United! Stay Strong!

read more

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NSW launches High Court challenge to IR laws

The News South Wales Government is lodging a High Court challenge against the Federal Government's industrial relations changes - becoming the first state to do so.

The Western Australian Government says it is in the final stages of preparing its challenge and the Queensland Government says it is likely to launch its own early in the new year.

Victoria will also file a claim early next year supporting the New South Wales challenge.

New South Wales Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca says there is a strong case against the reforms recently passed in the Senate, and he expects similar action from other states.

"Today we're lodging our papers for our challenge in the High Court.

"We anticipate that Queensland and South Australia and other states will shortly follow and may even be taking similar action today.

"But we want to make sure our case is lodged and ready to go because we want to make sure the WorkChoices legislation is tested in the High Court as soon as practicable so the offensive provisions can be struck out."

read more

Paul Robeson stamp

Where to From Here?

Fred Argy discusses his new book.

My new book focuses on three of the traditional pillars of economic egalitarianism in Australia:

  • 1. a strong, unconditional, need-based welfare safety net (to minimise the risk of poverty),
  • 2. a broad sharing of national productivity gains (through a "just" wage, progressive taxes and nation development); and
  • 3. equality of opportunity.

Fair Pay Commission: Harper's record

Professor Ian Harper, the new chairman of the Fair Pay Commission, was the director of a company that went into administration owing more than $700,000 to its workers.

The company went broke after allegedly trading while insolvent. The administrators found there was an arguable case that the directors had breached criminal offences under company law.

Professor Harper was hand picked by John Howard to play a major role in determining wage rises under the Federal Government's new industrial relations system.

read more

Friday, December 16, 2005

Eight Hour Day: 150 years (1856-2006)

Howard's shame

According to the prime minister, there is no underlying racism in this country.

That was John Howard's claim during the ugly violence that rocked Sydney and trashed Australia's international reputation. If Howard really believes it, he has been wasting his time blowing his dog whistle all these years.

But, of course, the man who cashed in so cleverly on the prejudices exposed by Pauline Hanson's brief period of political glory knows better.

And if proof of that was needed, the PM supplied it when he was asked on A Current Affair about the drunken hoons involved in the Cronulla violence who wrapped themselves in Australian flag. Howard — still with an eye to the lessons he learned from Hansonism- could not bring himself to criticise this behaviour.

"Look, I would never condemn people for being proud of the Australian flag," he said. It was a disgusting cop-out, and an inglorious way for Howard to end the political year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sydney riots and the shock jocks

By Thursday last week Alan Jones was screaming like a race caller whose horse was coming home. "I'm the person that's led this charge here. Nobody wanted to know about North Cronulla, now it's gathered to this."

The riot was still three days away and Sydney's highest-rating breakfast radio host had a heap of anonymous emails to whip his 2GB listeners along.

Sunday's trouble did not come out of the blue. It was brewing all week on talkback radio — particularly on 2GB.

Radio doesn't get much grimmer than Alan Jones' efforts in the days before the Cronulla riot. He was dead keen for a demo at the beach — "a rally, a street march, call it what you will. A community show of force."

read more

Keep Australia Ugly!

see also...

The NSW Teachers Federation condemns the racially-incited violence in Sydney this weekend.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Send your MP a Christmas Message

It's that time of year again. Christmas is finally upon us - a time for family and friends, presents and cards, and (hopefully!) some rest and relaxation.

Unfortunately this year the Howard Government's Christmas present to Australians is the worst piece of industrial law the country has ever seen. And, like socks, jocks and those other unwanted gifts, we need to send "WorkChoices" back and get something better.

So, as you write your Christmas cards, don't forget your local politician. Did your Member of Parliament help John Howard give us "WorkChoices", or are they going to help send it back?

We know how you voted! Send your MP a Christmas message now.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Harold Pinter: Nobel Lecture Art, Truth & Politics

Harold PnterHarold Pinter's Nobel Lecture was pre-recorded, and shown on video December 7, 2005, in Börssalen at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm.

See a Video of the Nobel Lecture 46 min
High bandwidth
Low bandwidth
© Copyright to the recorded and filmed version of the Nobel Lecture: Illuminations 2005.
© Copyright to the text version of the Nobel Lecture: The Nobel Foundation 2005.

In order to see the video you need RealPlayer.

The Lecture in Text Format


Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2005

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

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.

The PM's ideological obsession is old news. Barnaby's buffoonery and ultimate back down was to be predicted and the Opposition parties' outrage, while well-executed, was never going to change anything.

What has been more striking are flaws in our system of government that have been exposed, the failure of our democratic structures to fulfil the basic roles they were created for.

When a 700 page Act has a six day Senate Inquiry and then when the Senate has just two days to deal with more than 300 government-sponsored amendments, any pretence to being a House of Review should be dispensed with.

read more

Unions: long-term campaign to overturn IR laws

Unions plan a long-term campaign to overturn the destructive new WorkChoices IR laws and unseat the Howard Government at the next federal election.

Key elements of the co-ordinated union campaign include:

1. A campaign fund set up by unions to pay for a national series of television advertisements during 2006 and 2007 on the impact of the new IR laws on working families.

2. A new plan endorsed by the ACTU Executive to strategically direct local press, radio and TV advertisements in key marginal Liberal and National Party seats.

3. An 'online mobilisation' strategy using an email list that already has more than 50,000 subscribers -- the majority of whom are supporters from outside the union movement.

4. Thousands of people around the country who have committed to co-ordinate local information and lobbying campaign activities in their electorate for at least the next two years. This aspect of the campaign will target all Coalition MPs and Senators that have voted for the new IR laws with a special focus on key electorates.

read more

Saturday, December 03, 2005

South Africa: Happy birthday COSATU

Cosatu’s first 20 years have been an extraordinary time. And from its founding in the bleak and violent 1980s, to its current, sometimes conflicted position in our immature democracy, it has remained a crucial humanising force.

In contrast with many labour movements elsewhere in the world, it remains fiercely independent of both capital and the state. Movements for worker rights and economic justice like the Congress of Non-European Trade Unions, the South Africa Congress of Trade Unions and the Federation of South African Trade Unions have been crucial in getting us to where we are today.

And Cosatu has continued, when it would be all too easy to settle into complacency, to force privileged South Africans to confront the sea of socio-economic distress that surrounds them. One may not always agree with its economic prescriptions, but it has consistently spoken up for those who have yet to reap a “liberation dividend” -- the shack-dwellers, the rural poor, the low-waged, the redundant and those outside or on the fringes of the formal economy.

read more

also see COSATU

Friday, December 02, 2005

John Tomlinson: Dreams

A poem by John Tomlinson

Well Telstra reached three dollars,
John Howard lay down and died.
I was tempted, I was tempted
but, I never cried.

The workers got fair wages,
bosses cheered with them.
I was tempted, I was tempted
to celebrate the win.

Refugees were welcomed,
Ruddock let them in,
I was tempted, I was tempted
to celebrate with them.

Aborigines got land justice,
jobs and hope at last
I was tempted, I was tempted
to put racism in the past.

The unemployed got good jobs
throughout this mighty land
I was tempted, I was tempted
to join the merry band.

Single parents and disabled
were given a helping hand.
I was tempted, I was tempted
at last to take a stand.

The homeless all found houses
landlords let them in,
I was tempted, I was tempted
to also welcome them.

When decency and justice
prevailed throughout the land.
I was tempted, I was tempted
to try and understand
why we’d put it off so long
ignoring weak, pampering strong,
why didn’t we right the wrong
including all as we march along.

Rights at Work Pledge

I believe in co-operation, community, and compassion. I believe in justice and fairness. I want prosperity for the many, not just the few.

I will not forget the Howard Government’s attack on fairness and equality when I vote at the next election.

I will not be complacent if at first the workplace laws affect others and not me. I will not sit idly by while others suffer injustice and indignities. I will act with integrity in my own place of work.

I will help build a wall of opposition to these laws. I vow to do everything I can to help my family, friends and colleagues to become active alongside me.

Sign here

Monday, November 28, 2005

Signing the contract

Union Songs: 200,000 visits

Union Songs at had its two hundred thousandth visitor sometime yesterday

The collection is now approaching 400 songs and poems nearly half of them Australian and most of them written in recent times

Anyone wanting songs about AWAs or Individual Contracts (as proposed by our neocons) might find this selection of interest:

The Contract - Eric Bogle at
The Eight Hour Day - John Warner at
Rapping with Johnny Howard - John Tomlinson at
You're Fired! - David Peetz at
Solidarity Forever (2005) at
Mark Allen - John Warner at
Morris McMahon Picket Shanty - John Warner at
Bye Bye Awards - Bernard Carney at
Part of the Union - Bernard Carney at
Come to the Meeting - Don Henderson at
Bring Out The Banners - John Warner at
Stand Together - Bernard Carney at
Hold That Line - Geoff Francis and Peter Hicks at
United - Ginger Tom at
Black Armband - John Hospodaryk at
Call To Arms - Richard Mills at
Do the slowly-chokie - David Peetz at
Right That Time - Maurie Mulheron at
Stand and Defend - Jim Lesses at
Cowper Wharf - Phyl Lobl at
Dear John - Phyl Lobl at
The Telephone Tree - Wendy Lowenstein at
With These Arms - Tim O'Brien at
I Can't Abide - John Dengate at

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Cardinal Pell: IR changes threaten fair go ethos

The Federal Government's Workplace Relations Bill is likely to be passed by the Senate.

We probably won't see too much change immediately. But these are the most significant legislative changes for Australian workers in 100 years.

Major concerns are that the "no disadvantage" test has been removed so that minimum wage rates can be progressively reduced in real terms, conciliation and arbitration will be limited, entitlements such as overtime rates, penalty rates and rest breaks can be reduced and there will be much less protection against unfair dismissal.

This Bill will increase the "Americanisation" of the Australian workplace in some unfortunate ways through its hostility to unions and by further increasing the wage differentials between the very rich and prosperous and those battlers at the other end of the spectrum.

read more

Pittwater: historic Liberal defeat

PollThe NSW Liberal Party was in total disarray last night after its third safest seat, Pittwater, previously held by Coalition leader John Brogden, was captured by an independent.

Local mayor Alex McTaggart surfed to victory in the northern beaches seat on the back of a record-breaking swing of 25 per cent.

He obliterated the 20.1 per cent majority which Mr Brogden received at the 2003 state election and finished with a final preferential vote of 56 per cent, compared with 44 per cent for the Liberal candidate Paul Nicolaou.

read more

The Sunday Telegraph 27-11-2005 reported: "Howard and the NSW Liberals are on the nose. Last night, federal Cabinet ministers pointed to the PMs failure to sell industrial relations reform as one cause of the Pittwater revolt" and "Federally, this result is being watched closely by Howard's enemies. There is a sense that the PM may have lost his magic touch. NSW is his domain, but he is no longer master of it ".

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Singers of Renown: Paul Pobeson sings Joe Hill - December 5

John Cargher will broadcast his 2000th Singers of Renown program on ABC Radio National, 4pm on December 10.

On December 5 he will play a Paul Robeson recording of Joe Hill, which he sang on site to workers building the Sydney Opera House in 1960.

read more

David Williamson: Howard not battler's friend

Playwright David Williamson has accused John Howard of pretending to be the Aussie battler's friend.

"Howard used to win elections by posing as the battler's friend, defending them against the intellectual elites and their un-Australian agendas of multiculturalism, environmental concern, gay and ethnic rights, enlightened indigenous policies and their concerns about health and eduction," said Williamson.

"Now his new industrial relations laws have revealed he's anything but the battler's friend, and that he's all for the elites himself - the economic elites."

read more

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

BMUC: Politics in the Pub, Nov 26th

Hotel Gearin, 273 Great Western Highway, Katoomba
Saturday November 26th 2005 at 2.00pm (download Flyer)

"Be informed, alerted and alarmed"


Tim Ayres: Assistant Secretary AMWU
Peter Primrose: MLC Government Whip

The changes to the Industrial Relations Act
What is before the Federal Parliament: will debate be allowed?
The High Court challenge
How who and when?
How will this effect your employment
Part time, full time, casual, pensioners and young workers
These matters touch all of us

Monday, November 21, 2005

ILO: Building IR laws breach Freedom standards

The Federal Government’s new industrial relations laws will breach internationally recognised freedom of association standards the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found.

The ILO directive relates to punitive new workplace laws the Federal Government wants to introduce in the building and construction industry.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the ILO decision confirmed union concerns that new IR laws would remove from Australian workers some of their most basic and internationally recognised workplace rights.

"It is outrageous that the Australian Government should seek to treat workers in this way. What the ILO has confirmed is that under the Government's new workplace laws Australian workers in the building and construction industry will not have access to basic employee rights like freedom of association, the right to participate freely in union activities and the right to bargain collectively with employers."

read more

Gittins: WorkChoices' class war

Whenever anyone says the rich don't pay enough tax or wants to cut back his generous grants to top private schools, John Howard always accuses them of trying to take us back to the bad old, long-gone days of class conflict.

But, though it's had remarkably little acknowledgment from commentators, his own industrial relations changes are an undisguised assault on the Liberal Party's traditional class enemies: the unions, unionised workers and workers generally.

By hitting so hard at the long-hated union movement, Mr Howard is also striking a blow against his political opponents of the past 30 years, the Labor Party. This consequence has escaped many people; you can be sure it hasn't escaped the most successful - and thus most carefully calculating - politician of his generation.

read more

Thursday, November 17, 2005

November 15 Rally: Online video

Tue Nov 15, 2005

Real workers recall past struggles at Nov 15 broadcast. Watch Quicktime Video or Windows Media Video

Tue Nov 15, 2005

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet's Nov 15 speech & workers' stories. Watch Quicktime Video or Windows Media Video

Tue Nov 15, 2005

'Prime Minister John Howard' said a few words at the Nov 15 rally. Watch Quicktime Video or Windows Media Video

Nov 15, 2005

ACTU President Sharan Burrow's Nov 15 speech & messages from religious leaders. Watch Quicktime Video or Windows Media Video

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Repressive IR laws: union defiance

Greg CombetThat defiance began yesterday when, according to the ACTU secretary, Greg Combet, 600,000 people nationwide took to the streets to protest against the changes. And more is to come. Mr Combet said union members and their leaders would refuse to pay fines for illegal industrial activity and a spokesman for Unions NSW said some officials had already begun divesting themselves of assets to avoid penalties.

"As a union leader let me make this clear, I will not pay a $33,000 fine for asking for people to be treated fairly," Mr Combet told protesters from a satellite uplink. "I will be asking other union leaders to do the same."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Australia: half a million rally against Howard

Unions estimate that a record 600,000 people attended rallies and protests across the country today as part of Australia's largest ever national workers' protest ... workers rallied for the massive day of protest at 300 venues around Australia.

In the Blue Mountains town of Katoomba both venues were at capacity more that 300 at the RSL and over 100 at the Hotel Gearin. The rallies were linked by satellite to the largest rally in Melbourne.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

House passes IR bill after debate gagged

The House of Representatives has passed the Federal Government's industrial relations (IR) bill after debate on the legislation was gagged.

The Government moved to guillotine the debate, arguing it had been the longest one in the history of the Parliament.

That angered the Opposition; there were more than 20 Labor MPs yet to speak.

The Government's Leader in the House, Tony Abbott, told the Parliament 77 MPs had taken part in the debate over a total period of 24 hours.

"We have had very, very extensive debate," he said.

"I put it to you Mr Speaker how much debate, how much more debate could this bill possibly require?

read more

Bishop attacks IR laws 'from the 19th century'

"The Government should withdraw the legislation and consult more widely," Philip Huggins, the Anglican bishop of Melbourne's northern region, told the Senate's workplace relations committee. The bishop, who has a background in economics, said the onus of proof was on the Government, which had had months to prove its case.

He said the present system was stable and had evolved over time on sound ethical principles.

"Our many honourable employers don't need a return to 19th-century class warfare — the kind that led to trade unions. Nor do our very many good employers need to be unfairly stigmatised by divisive legislation," he said. He also criticised the Government's haste, asking: "Is this the way a healthy democracy should function?"

Bishop Huggins said the theological starting point was the dignity of humankind and of work, and people should not be reduced to servants of an economic philosophy. He said issues of work stress "appear only to be worsened by … this bill".

read more

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Barnaby Joyce: vow to scrutinise IR laws

Coalition Senator Barnaby Joyce vowed last night to be an active participant in the Senate inquiry into the Government's contentious industrial relations legislation.

He said he would not give his casting vote until he was satisfied with every element of the Bill.

Senator Joyce was also scathing of some of his Coalition colleagues who did not read legislation before voting.

The Senate committee conducting the inquiry into the legislation has set tomorrow as the closing date for submissions.

The inquiry will hold up to five days of public hearings at Parliament House the following week and report by November 22.

Senator Joyce said he would return to Canberra for the hearings and take an active part in the proceedings.

He said he would not be pressured into declaring his attitude to the Bill until he had heard the evidence. Some of his Coalition colleagues had told him they would vote for the Bill without knowing the details.

They had an "unfathomable belief" that all government legislation was right, he said.

read more

Leunig: The stretch limo of Doom

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sydney Trade Union Choir: 20 November

Singing for our Rights
Rights at Work & Human Rights

A tribute to our former member Norm Clark

Sunday 20th November
3pm – 5pm

Annandale Neighbourhood Centre
79 Johnston St Annandale

$15 ($10 concession) – refreshments provided
Enquiries or bookings -

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Billy Negotiates An AWA

A song by David Peetz

'Who wants to have a little work?' "I do!"
'Who wants to toil hard, not to shirk?' "I do!"
'Who wants a job that has all the mod cons?'
"With all the mod cons!
Hey man! Right on!"
'Who has their loyalty to pledge?' "I do!"
'To a firm on the cutting edge?' "I do!"
'Who wants to have incredible pay?'
"I do!" 'Then you should - sign this AWA!'

"Who wants to pay penalty rates?" ' I don't!'
"Who wants to give their staff meal breaks?" 'I don't!'
"Who wants to pay annual leave loading each year?"
'Leave loading each year?
Not while I'm here!'
"Who wants to pay for overtime?" 'I don't!'
"Who wants to give me what is mine?" 'I don't!'
"Who offers more than minimum wage?"
'I don't!' "Why should I - sign this AWA?"

'Who wants to get cut off the dole?' "I don't!"
'Who wants to spend their life in a hole?' "I don't!"
'Who is the Employment Advocate's mate?'
"The Advocate's mate?
That'll be the day!"
'Who has his lawyers at his call?' "I don't!"
'Consultants, advisers and all?' "I don't!"
'Who has the upper hand all the way?'
"I don't!" '" Then let's both - sign this AWA"'

....from Workers Online

Leunig: The Little Howard Dictionary

Your Employer Does Not Need You!

Terror Laws

It was poetic really, the WorkChoices legislation, all 1,000 plus pages of it, introduced into Federal Parliament this week under the cloak of terror.

No sooner had the legislation lobbed than the PM was diverting the media with talk of an imminent terror attack; and all eyes went straight to the birdie.
At least we have the political dynamic of the next 18 months in stark relief. The Howard Government will use everything in its power to shift the focus to national security to divert attention from these nasty, extremist, ideologically driven laws.

How else can we describe a set of laws drafting by corporate laws that, in the name of deregulation, set out to criminalise industrial activity, give the government unprecedented power to impose its will on individual workplaces and strip the long-held rights of Australian workers.

read more

Libs Chicken Out

Nervous Liberal Party powerbrokers have blocked MPs discussing radical new workplace laws at meetings in their electorates.

Government's determination to limit the workplace debate was confirmed when AMWU Queensland state secretary, Andrew Dettmer, was a late scratching from a scheduled IR round table in Brisbane.

Dettmer had accepted an invitation to discuss John Howard's "Workchoices" at a Wynnum Chamber of Commerce meeting on November 14. He was to have shared the platform with Liberal Member for Bonner, Ross Vasta, and IR consultant, Laurie Maloney.

"I thought it was a good opportunity to get the issues into the open but, bugger me, last Friday I got a call from a conference organiser asking if she could un-invite me," Dettmer said.

"She said Vasta's office had told her Government MPs have been barred from addressing any meetings on industrial relations until the legislation is through Parliament, so the debate was off."

read more

Howard Barges Into Workplace

The Howard Government has given itself the right to veto negotiated conditions under legislation it says will get third parties out of Australian workplaces.

Legal experts say the new Act will empower the Minister to disallow sick leave, notice provisions, redundancy pay and a host of other conditions in AWAs, collective agreements and State awards, without reference to Parliament.

The powers lie in obscure 'Henry VIII' clauses that give the Minister the power to change the legislation by regulation.

The Henry VIII clauses are scattered through the Bill, but the most alarming example gives the Minister for Workplace Relations power to over-ride the will of contracting parties with the stroke of a pen.

"He can just decide he doesn't like them," says barrister Adam Searle.

Legal experts fear the Government is keen to use the new power to scratch provisions he thinks are too generous

"The Government has been waiting for years to be able to cut back employees' work conditions in such a way," says barrister David Chin.

'The first attempt to use regulations in such a way was in July 1997, " he says, adding the only reason Government failed on that occasion was that, unlike now, it did not control the Senate.

read more

Friday, November 04, 2005

Michael Fitzjames: Howard's law

Moir: New Simplified IR Legislation

Jail if you disclose information about AWAs

Unions NSW secretary John Robertson said he had received legal advice that Section 83B of the legislation would provide for the jailing of people who disclose the parties to an AWA. It appears that under these laws such disclose would be illegal, opening the way for those to be disclosed to be jailed.

"This is an outrageous attack on free speech and on the right of workers to raise genuine issues about their rights at work.

"This clause shows the contempt the federal government has for the Australian public," Mr Robertson said.

"It knows that these AWAs will lead to exploitation - and that this exploitation will lead to widespread public anger.

"Instead of making the laws fair, the government will make it an offence to make the details public."

read more

Howard's 'Oliver Twist' clause: don't ask for more!

Under the Government's proposed laws, union officials and employees will be fined up to $33,000 simply for asking an employer to include in an enterprise agreement provision for:
  • Protection from unfair dismissal
  • Union involvement in dispute resolution
  • Allowing employees to attend trade union training
  • Committing the employer to future collective bargaining
  • Protecting job security in the event that people are replaced by labour hire or contractors
  • Any other claim the Minister decides should be illegal.

That's $33,000 for each and any of these 'offences'.

read more

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Class War — It’s on

The sweeping attacks on workers' rights, including the very existence of trade unions in Australia, represents a reversion to old fashioned class warfare, says John Sutton Construction & General CFMEU.

'This Federal Government is acting as the out and out agents of big business and their clear aim is to shift the economic share going to capital and away from labour.

'There is little doubt that Australia will become a much more unequal, non-egalitarian society once these laws filter through Australian workplaces.

'In our view, history is merely repeating itself. These short-sighted actions by employers and their Government will re-invigorate the trade union movement and ultimately be healthy for Australian democracy.

'Strong trade unions are a cornerstone of any democratic country. The Howard Government and big business assault will remind Australian workers why trade unions grew in the first place. None of the industrial rights and protections we have in the workplace today fell out of the sky. Workers had to endure great suffering, lengthy strikes, assaults by police, gaol terms and many other hardships to establish the conditions Howard is going to take away with the stroke of a pen,' Mr Sutton says.

'The employers have declared the class war on. The period ahead won't be a time for the faint hearted.'

read more

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Extreme & Radical IR Legislation

Hookup VenuesNew workplace legislation introduced into Federal Parliament today will strip away one hundred years of respect for workers’ rights, remove legal protection for many employment conditions and will set a new low for the future workplace conditions of Australian workers, the ACTU said today.

ACTU Secretary, Mr Greg Combet said that the legislation confirmed everything that unions had been warning the community about, and worse.

Mr Combet said:

"Now that we know the detail, this legislation confirms all of our criticisms of the Governments plans.

"Unfair dismissal rights are gone for nearly 4 million workers, individual contracts will be able to cut take home pay and basic conditions, the award safety net is to be removed as the 'no-disadvantage test' which underpins workplace bargaining, the real value of minimum wages will be allowed to fall, and workers will have no enforceable legal right to collectively bargain.

"This legislation tears up 100 years of the social contract in Australia. Since Federation our industrial relations system has been built on the idea that ordinary hard-working Australians got to participate in the benefits of economic growth, and that there were protections there for people when times got tough. This is the system that the Federal Government's laws will attack.

"Under these laws, unions can be fined $33,000 and individual workers $6,600 for even asking for workers to be protected from unfair dismissal or individual contracts, or for clauses that protect job security."

read more

Biggest Ever Workers' Meeting: 15 November

Australia's Biggest Ever Workers' Meeting: 15 November

The National Day of Community Protest against the Howard Government's radical industrial relations changes will include Australia's biggest ever meeting of workers.

Hundreds of thousands of workers across Australia are expected to participate in the event.

The Australia-wide hook-up will feature a briefing on the details of the Government's industrial relations reforms that Workplace Minister, Kevin Andrews tabled in Parliament on 2nd November.

The hook-up follows the success of the NSW July hook-up when an estimated 250,000 attended the meetings

Selected Blue Mountains Venues 9.00 am sharp

Venue Address
Katoomba RSL All Services Club 86 Lurline Street, Katoomba
Gearin Hotel 273 Great Western Hwy, Katoomba
New Lapstone Hotel 15 Great Western Hwy, Blaxland
The Royal Hotel 220 Macquarie Road, Springwood

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Maori Workers Take Haka to Canberra

More than a hundred Maori workers will perform a mass 'Haka' in front of Parliament House in Canberra tomorrow (November 2) to protest Howard's planned workplace laws, which mirror laws that caused hardship for New Zealand workers in the early nineties.

Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union organiser Steve Keenan said he organised the protest along with other Maori workers who had fled New Zealand for Australia after individual agreements resulted in wages dropping by up to a third and workplace conditions deteriorating.

"In New Zealand many workers saw their take home pay slashed almost overnight," he said. "We lost overtime pay, paid public holidays, annual leave and other basic entitlements, which resulted in a mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders across the Tasman to Australia where we could receive decent pay and conditions.

"We have seen first hand the terrible consequence of these laws, not only on our work, but on our families as hours increased, pay dropped, and workplace deaths and injuries occurred more often."

read more

Peter Garrett: dangers of sedition laws

The Opposition arts spokesman, Peter Garrett, said the proposals would presumably include civil disobedience of the kind practised by Gandhi, by many Australians during the Vietnam War, or in protests against the Jabiluka uranium mine.

Mr Garrett sought legal advice from senior counsel Peter Gray which said "Australians involved in the artistic and creative fields are particularly vulnerable to the risk of prosecution".

Mr Garrett said promises that art would "almost certainly not" be prosecuted were not good enough. "There should not even be a possibility of prosecution," he said. "If these clauses will never be used, why have them?

"It is in the hands of the attorney-general to decide if an artist should be prosecuted, which will be cold comfort to those who've witnessed the failure of Mr Ruddock to protect core principles of our legal system."

read more

IR ads bill hits $55m

Taxpayers have been hit with a $55 million bill to advertise the Howard Government's unpopular industrial relations revolution, with $1.4 million a day spent on advertising in the past three weeks.

Many of the lucrative contracts for the publicity blitz went to companies that run the Liberal Party's election campaigns, sparking Labor accusations the Government is channelling public money to its mates.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet yesterday revealed the budget for advertising the WorkChoices package was now $55 million. That included $44.3 million for ads, $8.1 million for call centres and $2.6 million on 16-page brochures. Labor senator John Faulkner branded the spending a "disgrace" and Democrats senator Andrew Murray said it was "immoral".

read more

Sunday, October 30, 2005

God to decide minimum wage

The minimum wage will be set by "God's will", the head of the Howard Government's new Fair Pay Commission said yesterday.

Prof Ian Harper said his Christian faith would provide him with a moral compass in the task of setting wages.

"My wife and I -- and a very narrow circle of Christian brothers and sisters -- spent a lot of time praying about this."

read more

Peter Neilson: Garrison Church

The Garrison Church: sketch by Peter Neilson on the 150th anniversary of the eight hour day in Sydney

see also

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Howard's Fatal Laws

Drawing on ground breaking research from social epidemiologist Sir Michael Marmot, ACIRRT argues that there is a direct link between income inequality, sickness and lower life expectancy.

Marmot argues that there is a 'social gradient' that operates along the entire occupational and social hierarchy, meaning the more egalitarian a society the higher the life expectancy.

Where an individual lies on this hierarchy carries a direct link to life expectancy and fatal illnesses from conditions as diverse as stroke, heart disease, cancer, mental illness and gastro-intestinal disease.

The social gradient even operates in white-collar workplaces where employees are not poor or exposed to dangerous or hazardous work environments.

The report 'The Shape of Things To Come' finds that the industrial relations changes will inevitably widen inequality by pushing down the minimum wage and promoting individual work contracts. This creates a steeper social gradient.

read more

Leunig: Today's Spam

Emperor Howard

"I want to assure the Australian people that the Government will use its majority in the new Senate very carefully, very wisely and not provocatively."

This was John Howard, one year ago yesterday, responding to the unexpected news that an extraordinary result in Queensland had handed him control of the Senate and, with it, the opportunity to implement his program in full. To make his message crystal clear, the Prime Minister added another caveat: "We intend to do the things we've promised the Australian people we would do, but we don't intend to allow this unexpected but welcome majority in the Senate to go to our heads."

Yet, in the coming week, the Howard Government intends to introduce two of the most substantial pieces of legislation in its near decade in power — and rush them through Parliament at almost breakneck speed.

Neither was canvassed during last year's election campaign, for understandable reasons, but both raise questions about whether the Government's Senate majority is being used carefully, wisely and in an unprovocative manner.

read more

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Hawke attacks IR laws

Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke has delivered a stinging rebuke of the Federal Government's industrial relations changes.

In the annual Lionel Murphy lecture in Sydney, Mr Hawke described the changes as an attempt to destroy the trade union movement and the arbitration system.

Mr Hawke says the workplace changes were an attempt to destroy the arbitration system and the trade union movement.

"It is wrong. It is unfair. It is un-Australian. It is immoral," he said.

He says the laws will allow employers to use individual workplace agreements to cut workers' pay and conditions, such as public holidays, penalties and meal breaks.

And he took issue with the proposed Fair Pay Commission.

"This is simply a monstrous trick on the least privileged workers in our society," he said.

read more

Rosa Parks dies aged 92

Rosa Parks, a black seamstress whose refusal to relinquish her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Ala., almost 50 years ago grew into a mythic event that helped touch off the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's, died yesterday at her home in Detroit. She was 92 years old.

For her act of defiance, Mrs. Parks was arrested, convicted of violating the segregation laws and fined $10, plus $4 in court fees. In response, blacks in Montgomery boycotted the buses for nearly 13 months while mounting a successful Supreme Court challenge to the Jim Crow law that enforced their second-class status on the public bus system.

The events that began on that bus in the winter of 1955 captivated the nation and transformed a 26-year-old preacher named Martin Luther King Jr. into a major civil rights leader.

read more

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Terror laws: former leaders call for public debate

Two former chief justices of the High Court have joined two former prime ministers, Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser, and a former chief justice of the Family Court, Elizabeth Evatt, in expressing concerns about the new counter-terrorism laws and calling for greater public debate on their far-reaching implications.

"Laws impairing rights and freedoms cannot be justified unless they are shown to be needed to target an identifiable, present danger to the community," the former chief justice Sir Gerard Brennan said.

"A legislature should not attempt to bring in such laws until the community has had an opportunity to examine their terms and decide on their purpose and effect."

The new laws will allow for terrorist suspects to be held for 14 days without charge and be subject to control orders, including house arrest for a year or more.

The former chief justice Sir Anthony Mason said recently that it was essential that adequate time be allowed for public and parliamentary debate of new counter-terrorism laws.

"It would be disappointing, to say the least of it, if full and frank debate were not to take place for fear that those who stand up for civil rights will be labelled as 'soft' on security," he said in a speech this month.

read more

Gough Whitlam opposes terror laws

Gough Whitlam, the former prime minister, has attacked the proposed anti-terrorism laws which would allow Australians to be "interned", and then face criminal charges if they spoke to their families or employers about it.

Calling for more debate on the proposals, Mr Whitlam yesterday accused the Howard Government of using fear as an election winner. He lamented the fact that the Labor Party had not joined in opposing the proposed laws.

Urging more time for debate, Mr Whitlam said: "Like anything, it should be open to debate in the Parliament. Sure, Parliament is a talking shop - that's what the word means - but Parliament makes the laws."

He said: "My main worry is the fact that, under the proposed laws, Australians can be interned and it's a crime for people to speak to their families and employers about it."

read more

Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Howard?

Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Howard
A song by Mel Cheal (tune: 'Dad’s Army' theme song)

Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Howard
If You Think We're On The Run?
We Are Australians Who Will Stop Your Little Game
We Are Australians Who Will Make You Think Again
So Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Howard
If You Think The Unions' Done?

Our Awards Are Not For Grabs
We've Fought Too Hard For That
And If You Think You'll Bust Them
Then You're Talking Through Your Hat!

So Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Howard
If You Think The Unions' Done?

Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Howard
If You Think We're Laying Down?
We Are Australians And We Have Got The Might
We Are Australians Who Will Fight To Keep Their Right
So Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Howard
If You Think The Battle's Won?

Shove Your Work Agreements
They're Not Worth A Worker's Damn
And Shove Your Work Relations Act
It Really Is A Sham!

So Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Howard
If You Think The Battle's Won?

Yes. Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Howard
If You Think The Union's Done?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Salvation Army: IR laws exploit vulnerable

The proposed IR legislation gives the unemployed an opportunity to make themselves more attractive to an employer by committing themselves to an AWA that allows them to work 38 hours a week with no public holidays or week end loading. This allows the employer to reduce costs. However it exploits the vulnerable at the expense of the family minded employee who is not willing to trade these valuable days away without a significant financial benefit to the family.

As there are only 100,000 jobs on offer in Australia at the moment and officially 500,000 people looking for work (plus 800,000 on disability or child care pensions) there will be many people who will find these conditions attractive, even in these buoyant economic times; imagine what will happen when the unemployment situation gets worse.

For this reason the end result of these changes could be the moving of employment from those unwilling to sacrifice important time with their families to the desperate or those without family responsibilities. This is not a good move.

read more

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Mona Brand: Playwright turns 90

She may not be a household name here, but Brand is a significant figure in Australian arts history, a pioneer of theatre who was unafraid to lace her stories with radical ideas.

Brand turns 90 today and to celebrate, NIDA and Newtown's New Theatre are hosting a birthday celebration tomorrow night, where her colleagues and friends will offer tributes, and excerpts of her work will be performed.

"I must admit that I do most of my thinking sitting down and either knitting or darning socks. Although darning socks has gone out of style, hasn't it?"

She never set out to change people's minds, but doesn't hide her pride at the thought that she may have done so anyway.

"I think I was just dealing with people and their situations and their problems. I was reading one of my plays for the first time the other day, all about the situation in Malaya," she says, pulling out a copy of her 1950 play Strangers in the Land. It follows a young white woman who travels to British-controlled Malaya and is shocked by her host family's treatment of the locals.

"I haven't heard about Malaya in recent times but I do know they don't have British there any more, owning everything. So when I read it again, I thought, well, I'm glad I did that."

But her main objective, says Brand, was to entertain. "I didn't want to push ideas down people's throats but of course I suppose it worked that way. But the most pleasant feeling was to be sitting in the audience hearing laughter from time to time," she says.

read more

see also Happy Birthday Mona Brand!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bob Hogg: Democracy muted by fear

Australian Financial Review 20/10/05

Expanding the old sedition offence will also stretch the translation skills, interpretation and objectivity of ASIO and its cohorts.

Tragically, the sedition provisions were last used in 1960 in the prosecution of Brian Cooper, who was a patrol officer in Papua New Guinea. He was charged and convicted because - in pidgin English - "he advisedly spoke and published seditious words" when urging "the natives" to demand national independence. He lost his appeal to the High Court of Australia and committed suicide.

Malcolm Fraser: Laws for a secret state

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was agreed in 1948. In the years since, protocols and conventions established under it were designed to build a law-based world. The International Criminal Court finally came into force on 1 July 2002. This was a further major step in that direction.

It is more than unfortunate that our response to terrorism has reversed much of that progress and leaders in too many countries do not seem to understand that that is happening.The Government knows in relation to terrorism that the public is concerned, even fearful and can be made more fearful. These laws again play to conservative elements in Australian society.

It may be brilliant politics but will such laws make Australia secure? By its actions, the Government has long abandoned and lost the middle ground. The Rule of Law and "due process" has been set aside. Has the Government already created an environment in which people will accept too much if the Government says it will help in the fight against terrorism?

These new proposals should be opposed. No strong case has been made that these breaches in the Rule of Law will be effective in the fight against terrorism. The London bombings are probably used as a rationale, but apply these laws to London bombings, they could not succeed. The laws should be opposed on the basis of substance. The powers are arbitrary altering the quality of ASIO and of the police in significant ways. There are no real safe guards, there is no adequate judicial review.

The laws should be opposed because the process itself is seriously flawed. Instead of wide ranging discussion the Government has sought to nobble the field in secret and to prevent debate. The laws should be opposed because they provide arbitrary power which would be dependent on trust, a trust that has not been earnt.

read more

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Terror Bill: Doing it in the dark

SMH editorial 18/10/05:
Australians ought to know better than to exaggerate ASIO's powers under the Anti-Terrorism Bill 2005, the Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, believes. Why ought they? It is because of the Government's unnecessarily underhand method of bringing the bill forward that they have every right to fear what it will do to civil liberties. ... Mr Ruddock would do better to explain why the bill's draconian and oppressive powers are suddenly so necessary.

He will have to do better than the combination of scaremongering and vague reassurance that he and the Prime Minister have offered hitherto. "The laws that we are seeking to enact do not deal with curtailing vigorous free speech in Australia," Mr Ruddock says. Oh yes they do. The bill published by Mr Stanhope provides that outsiders may not even speak about whether, or why or how detainees suspected of terrorist offences are being held, or what they think of it. The penalty: five years' jail. That is a savage curb on free speech.

In this attack on basic rights, the Government appears to have only the premiers on its side. Commentators have put their attitude down to a scary briefing they received before they entered talks with the Commonwealth on the bill late last month. The cause may be rather less exciting: the state Labor governments have been terrified of looking soft on terrorism. They may regret the loss of liberties, but they fear being blamed for a terrorist incident far more.

read more

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Howard met by IR protests in Wollongong

Prime Minister John Howard has been given an angry reception in Wollongong by workers upset with his planned workplace changes.

About 100 workers holding placards denouncing the overhaul booed and shouted "shame" at Mr Howard as he left the new south coast electorate office of Senator Connie Fierravanti-Wells.

Another 100 protesters, including firefighters, nurses, teachers and police, were expected to attend a mass rally organised by the South Coast Labour Council in central Wollongong on Tuesday afternoon.

South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris said frontline workers wanted the prime minister to know what they thought about his proposed changes to the industrial relations system.

"It's good to see the prime minister in Wollongong," Mr Rorris said.

"But we would like him to listen to the voices of the many working people and their concerns. What we'd like to say to the prime minister is that working people do not approve of what he's doing, it's done without a mandate."

read more

Did you really pay for this?

Howard's high stakes IR gamble

There's another job that could be put at risk by these needless workplace changes - John Howard's. What Howard is proposing is the kind of change that costs governments elections, and flings parties into the wilderness, writes Tim Colebatch.

Some minor exceptions aside, these reforms change the rules in one direction. They remove rights, protections and bargaining power from 7 or 8 million Australians who work for companies. They give rights and bargaining power to employers.

For most workers, the key changes are that:

The no disadvantage test that was central to Howard's 1996 reforms is abolished.

Employers and workers will be able to sign agreements that remove workers' entitlements other than the four basic standards, for little or no compensation.

Workers will lose their protection against unfair dismissal.

Workers in workplaces of up to 100 workers will lose it completely. And an almost-unnoticed detail in the reform blueprint reveals that workers in larger workplaces too will lose their protection if the employer declares that "operational considerations" were a factor in their dismissal.

The removal of all the powers of the Industrial Relations Commission, except its power to punish unions for unauthorised industrial action. In the new rules, there is no umpire.

Outside the minimum wage and the four basic conditions, none of the rights the Government's ads declare "protected by law" are in fact protected. The employer just has to make sure that the worker's agreement spells out that they are being given up.

read more

Monday, October 17, 2005

Tunnel visions

States 'lured' into tollways fail on rail, water

Ports, railways and water systems have been starved of funds because State Governments have been lured into dubious private sector toll-road deals that often swallow hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.

Leading economists and transport consultants said pressure from private investors for toll-road projects, which proved enormously profitable, had skewed national investment in infrastructure.

read more

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Howard's war on us all

Terror laws, anti-union laws, laws to outlaw basic rights, conditions and entitlements, welfare laws, mandatory detention, laws that deprive people of access to the law! Draco (of draconian fame) had nothing on what Howard and his cabinet of failed lawyers plan. And it'll all come stamped like this: the latest logo of Australian corporate fascism.

Huge US rally highlights racial inequalities

Hundreds of thousands of black Americans have rallied in Washington to demand greater social and economic equality.

Speakers demanded greater action to improve education standards for black children, and to reduce the number of young black men behind bars.

The racial inequalities exposed by hurricane Katrina were a dominant theme of the rally, with speakers like Patricia Ford of the Washington Labor Council demanding action.

"I am sick and tired of the racism in this country and what I'm not sick and tired of is fighting for justice," she said.

read more

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Terrorist laws to lock up objectors

Supporting the insurgency in Iraq, Afghanistan or any country where Australian troops are deployed could carry a penalty of seven years' jail under the Prime Minister's new terrorism laws.

The changes also allow for control orders of unlimited duration, secret preventive detention, the monitoring of lawyers, and life imprisonment for funding terrorist organisations.

The draft legislation, disclosed by by Greens yesterday, details the far-reaching security regime proposed by John Howard for "very dangerous and difficult and threatening circumstances" in the wake of the London bombings.

New sedition offences will put big constraints on anti-war protests, familiar since the Vietnam era, and come down hard on those advocating violence against any religious, national or political group.

read more
draft Terror bill

Friday, October 14, 2005

Pinter: Torture and misery in name of freedom

By Harold Pinter who yesterday won the Nobel Prize for Literature
Published: 14 October 2005

The great poet Wilfred Owen articulated the tragedy, the horror - and indeed the pity - of war in a way no other poet has. Yet we have learnt nothing. Nearly 100 years after his death the world has become more savage, more brutal, more pitiless.

But the "free world" we are told, as embodied in the United States and Great Britain, is different to the rest of the world since our actions are dictated and sanctioned by a moral authority and a moral passion condoned by someone called God. Some people may find this difficult to comprehend but Osama Bin Laden finds it easy.

What would Wilfred Owen make of the invasion of Iraq? A bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of International Law. An arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public. An act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading - as a last resort (all other justifications having failed to justify themselves) - as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands upon thousands of innocent people.

An independent and totally objective account of the Iraqi civilian dead in the medical magazine The Lancet estimates that the figure approaches 100,000. But neither the US or the UK bother to count the Iraqi dead. As General Tommy Franks of US Central Command memorably said: "We don't do body counts".

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery and degradation to the Iraqi people and call it "bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East". But, as we all know, we have not been welcomed with the predicted flowers. What we have unleashed is a ferocious and unremitting resistance, mayhem and chaos.

The great poet Wilfred Owen articulated the tragedy, the horror - and indeed the pity - of war in a way no other poet has. Yet we have learnt nothing. Nearly 100 years after his death the world has become more savage, more brutal, more pitiless.

But the "free world" we are told, as embodied in the United States and Great Britain, is different to the rest of the world since our actions are dictated and sanctioned by a moral authority and a moral passion condoned by someone called God. Some people may find this difficult to comprehend but Osama Bin Laden finds it easy.

What would Wilfred Owen make of the invasion of Iraq? A bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of International Law. An arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public. An act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading - as a last resort (all other justifications having failed to justify themselves) - as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands upon thousands of innocent people.

An independent and totally objective account of the Iraqi civilian dead in the medical magazine The Lancet estimates that the figure approaches 100,000. But neither the US or the UK bother to count the Iraqi dead. As General Tommy Franks of US Central Command memorably said: "We don't do body counts".

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery and degradation to the Iraqi people and call it " bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East". But, as we all know, we have not been welcomed with the predicted flowers. What we have unleashed is a ferocious and unremitting resistance, mayhem and chaos. You may say at this point: what about the Iraqi elections? Well, President Bush himself answered this question when he said: "We cannot accept that there can be free democratic elections in a country under foreign military occupation". I had to read that statement twice before I realised that he was talking about Lebanon and Syria. What do Bush and Blair actually see when they look at themselves in the mirror? I believe Wilfred Owen would share our contempt, our revulsion, our nausea and our shame at both the language and the actions of the American and British governments.

You may say at this point: what about the Iraqi elections? Well, President Bush himself answered this question when he said: "We cannot accept that there can be free democratic elections in a country under foreign military occupation". I had to read that statement twice before I realised that he was talking about Lebanon and Syria.

What do Bush and Blair actually see when they look at themselves in the mirror?

I believe Wilfred Owen would share our contempt, our revulsion, our nausea and our shame at both the language and the actions of the American and British governments.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Kevin Andrews: "Unhappy workers can go elsewhere"

Workers who were unable to renegotiate employment contracts with their bosses could look for another job, Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said yesterday.

Asked what would happen if the employer wanted to scrap an agreement, Mr Andrews said: "Well, the worker in that situation has got the choice of renegotiating a new agreement or choosing to go elsewhere."

He also said new employees who were offered agreements that slashed previously accepted award conditions had the choice to "refuse to take the job".

And Mr Andrews claimed that many new employees would prefer to have a job that lacked conditions such as public holidays, rest breaks, penalty rates and shift loadings than remain unemployed.

"There is nothing wrong with that," he said. "It's better to have a job than to be on welfare."

read more

Reducing unemployment

"I have worked one hour so far this week. According to government statistics I am no longer unemployed. No wonder the unemployment rate is so low. "

Sydney Morning Herald letters 13-10-2005

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Global union negotiates pay deal

Maritime Union of Australia National Secretary Paddy Crumlin returned from Tokyo on the weekend after chairing negotiations with international shipowners that have won better pay and conditions for world seafarers on more than 3,000 ships. The outcome also provides job prospects and security for Australian maritime workers in a new international collective agreement, unique in global industrial relations.

A joint negotiation group of 100 international shipowners reached an understanding with the ITF on October 6 to include seafarers from developed countries among their crew. A special IBF committee will be established by the end of the year to progress these issues. Understanding was also reached that unionised waterside workers should stevedore ships.

"This is a landmark agreement," said Mr Crumlin. "It means we've not only narrowed the pay gap between low paid international seafarers from developing countries and our own, we are building ways to provide Australian, Japanese and European seafarers a future in the industry. At the same time we are protecting the work of waterside workers in these countries to join unions and be protected by collective agreements."

"The Australian Government is conintuing to discriminate against the national interest here," said Mr Crumlin. "They like talking up the history of the trade but ignore the role Australian shipping and Australian seafarers have played in achieving this. Pretty typical!"

read more