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IR Bill: links update #4

National community day of protest

Webdiarist Tony Phillips reports: "At the march the organisers estimated over 150,000. Certainly was at least that since 6 city blocks is usually around 100,000 in Melbourne and the March stretched over at least 8 with people still leaving Fed square after people had been arriving at Exhibition gardens for over 20 minutes. Here are some photos I took." Thanks Tony!

Melb Rally

More photos from Tony, and from Webdiarist Polly Bush below. Make comment on the rallies in your area and send photos to Webdiary.

Thousands protest against IR laws
ABC Online, 15 Nov 2005
Hundreds of thousands of people have joined protests across Australia vowing to fight against new workplace laws.
Police say more than 100,000 people gathered for the main rally in Melbourne, which was broadcast across the country.
Unions expect crowds at rallies in more than 300 cities around the country to reach 500,000. - http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200511/s1506727.htm

Three workers sacked for attending IR rally: union
ABC Online, 15 Nov 2005
A union claims a shipping company has sacked three workers in north Queensland for attending today's rally against the Federal Government's industrial relations changes - http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200511/s1506775.htm

Hospitality industry welcomes IR changes at inquiry
ABC Online, 15 Nov 2005
Businesses in the hospitality industry have emerged as some of the strongest supporters of the Federal Government's industrial relations changes. - http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200511/s1506747.htm

Public servants warned off mass workers' rally
SMH, November 15, 2005
The Federal Government has warned its workforce of 120,000 not to attend today's mass rallies against its tough industrial relations legislation, circulating memos that public servants will be breaking the law even if they take a day of annual leave to protest. - http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2005/11/14/1131951098987.html

Union vows legal action against Govt's rally leave advice
ABC Online, 15 Nov 2005
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) says it will take legal action against the Federal Government over leave advice for today's rallies. - http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200511/s1506651.htm

PM plan to strip nation bare: Burrow
The Australian, November 15, 2005
AUSTRALIANS would not let the next generation of workers inherit an industrial system stripped bare by the Howard Government, the ACTU has told 50,000 workers rallying in Melbourne.
ACTU president Sharan Burrow said today's national day of action showed workers in every corner of Australia would fight the Howard government's industrial reforms.
They would fight because they knew the changes would rob Australia of its great way of life, she told the cheering crowd. - http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,17251703%255E1702,00.html

Sickies banned for IR protest
Courier Mail, November 15, 2005
THE Federal Government has tried to ban employees from protesting against its workplace reforms and is urging department managers to demand medical certificates if employees call in sick.
Several companies have also applied to have protest attendance ruled illegal, enabling them to fine workers or even sue. -http://www.thecouriermail.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936,17251131%255E421,00.html

Della Bosca likens changes to fascism
The Australian, November 15, 2005, Patricia Karvelas
BUSINESS leaders were simply not interested in the workplace reforms of the Howard Government, NSW Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca claimed yesterday.
Mr Della Bosca told the Senate inquiry into the Work Choices legislation that, contrary to claims of employer representatives, the vast majority of businesses in his state were happy with the current system, describing the Howard Government's plans as "fascistic". - http://origin.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,17248746%255E2702,00.html

Blog views

IR Protest
Mi Casio Es Su Casio
Of course, I won't be in the office tomorrow.
On Tuesday 15 November, hundreds of thousands of Australians will gather in capital cities and towns all over the country for the National Day of Community Protest against the government's draconian IR laws. A Sky Channel broadcast of the event will be beamed into hundreds of workplaces and community venues around Australia. Community Protest rallies will be held in all major capital cities and regional centres. - http://mdieter.blogspot.com/2005/11/ir-protest.html

They were there

More photos from Tony Philips

. Melb Rally Melb Rally

Webdiarist Polly Bush was also on the Melbourne streets with her camera.

Melb Rally

Syd Rally

Webdiarist Brian Todd sends these images (the one above and three below) from Sydney. Thanks Brian!

Syd Rally

Syd Rally

Syd Rally

Webdiary photographer Simon Freeman took these shots at the Sydney rally.

photo by Simon Freeman

photo by Simon Freeman

photo by Simon Freeman

photo by Simon Freeman

photo by Simon Freeman

photo by Simon Freeman

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re: IR Bill: links update #4

Ross, I can see how my comment would have seemed petty. It probably was. But sometimes our unguarded reactions can give us clues to things, and I was really just thinking aloud. How might someone -- say, a young woman -- with little knowledge of and no prior commitment to the union movement (but possibly in dire need of its function), see that scene at the pub?

re: IR Bill: links update #4

David Eastwood, I will only accept your argument if it can be proven that you in fact conducted a statistical survey that proved that only union members took part in todays protest.

If not, perhaps you would admit that many of us who are not union members felt the need to speak out against the tyranny of Howards reforms.

Guy Curtis, I think this is Howards way of saying 'piss off'.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Crispin I agree with you that both sides will spin this hard, but I don't believe that the majority of the non participants were necessarily prevented from participating or speaking out. Some were, no doubt, many were apathetic, perhaps most (as is their right - take that as a statement that the issue isn't very important to them), and some were no doubt at odds with the protestors. I'm sure all sides will spin those proportions to suit. I'm not aware of any genuinely objective polls that might give some insight here - if you are, a link would be helpful.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Tony Phillips, I agree with you that many employers and employees in general have more harmonious relationships now given the number of hours Aussies work and the low levels of industrial disputation.

Only a fool or an idealogue would want to disrupt that. Given that think tanks and industry groups are the only ones in the pocket of Howard's government, Ridout and Hendy seem to be the only people able to touch the political nerve of cabinet. Why didnt government consult with economists or those that are actually doing the work and determine how it will effect them.

Instead Andrew Robb and his advertising mates have clocked up $65 million of our money for a feast of subliminal spin. enough to make every true blue battler puke.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

As do I Jay- as an employer. I don't see too many benefits though for those I employ. In fact, I foresee them having very little say in how they are engaged.

If you've read any of what I've written on this subject before, you'll know my company in in the "on-hire/labour hire" business – an expected growth industry under this legislation. Certainly an industry which has Canberra "coming very strongly our way" and giving us "just about all we've asked for" as an industry. That according to a director of one of those industry groups represented by a talking head on the evening news this evening.

I won't go over my view and experience again as others will most likely be sorely tested by the repetition (including myself). An example of the future though. I personally sat down with the manager of a large specialist office equipment storage and delivery service provider. We discussed the use of short/medium term labour. All interest – on both sides – until the terms of the "agreement" (for which read AWA) prevailing on site were discussed, then a parting of the ways.

Before we go on, know that this company has difficulty sourcing the right labour, hence the talks. This labour I have a reasonable chance of supplying, hence the initial interest. The agreement provides for (in round figures) $21 per hour. That regardless of your actual job: stores, forklift or delivery off-sider. Sounds good huh? The corollary: there is no overtime loading – none. You work anywhere from eight hours to the job being done – same rate. No overtime for Saturday Sunday work – same rate. No shift loadings. There is an agency in their home state who have offered their employees the same AWAs– oops, individual AWAs that may look extremely similar – who are looking to open here on this company's coat tails (good luck to 'em).

I haven't bothered following it up: the people I've working elsewhere for $19.80 - $21 per hour (normal) plus EBA guaranteed overtime and shift allowances wouldn't budge.

Remember, this mob could do with the labour. Don't bank on the "skills shortage" to save pay rates and conditions.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

David Eastwood, if I followed that kind of logic (ie. relying largely on personal anectode) I'd believe that most business people (ie. the people who actually rule the country) had contempt for their employees and customers and cared jack for anything in the world other than their own personal income, as that's what I've witnessed. Would I be justified in that?

Margo: I'm listening to Dylan on SBS. Wish I could watch him, but you late nighters keep coming...

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Hamish, now I'm back down the coast I have thought and personally agree that it would have been better to have 100,000 marching through Brisbane for such an important issue. However the city was pretty busy as it was; the traffic was pretty gridlocked for some time around the George Street end and South Brisbane. Brisbane is getting like Sydney city with traffic these days...

However as the ACTU say this is only the first step in a long haul to regain the ground that our ancestors fought for.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Robynne I don't know the numbers any more than you do. It's all opinion.

Mine was formed by spending half an hour or so wandering amongst the crowd in Martin Place and observing who was carrying flags, and who was hanging out with someone carying a flag, and who wasn't - no more scientific than that. Yours I guess was a result of your observations wherever you were. Equally scientific.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

David Eastwood, I don't know of any useful evidence on the issue and wasn't intending my comment on employers and government as a backhand way of claiming the alleigance of the silent. As far as I can tell, your suggested mix of apathy, indifference etc is probably about right.

But this was too important a question for employers and government (also in its capacity as employer) to try and stifle debate on. Australia Post, for example, was, as usual, a disgrace.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Crispin, it's a big call but I stand by that assertion. I've been a Union member and seen it first hand, I'm with Ross Chippendale on that point. I've been close enough to Labor party politics (though never a member) and seen the nexus between Unions and power operate, and I've seen the deliberate cloaking of this in the language of Social Democracy emitted for the consumption of the True Believers (souvent pour s'amuser ces hommes d'equippage, it's like talking to a stranger).

Look past Latham's vicious bile and there's no shortage of evidence of it in the vivid descriptions of Labor machine politics in his book.

It's largely empty rhetoric in my view, sad as that is, as many genuinely well meaning people don't see it as such and are deceived. Call it a conspiracy theory by all means.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Victoria Collins, you are right about people feeling too intimidated and threatened to go to the rally - anyone living in Canberra will know that the local ABC radio program was swamped with frightened ordinary people calling up (under psuedonyms to protect themselves from backlash) to describe their fear when emails from DEWR - and what they represent - were sent around on Monday.

Remember, the States give some protection, Federally speaking, to those who live in one, but in the ACT we are extremely vulnerable to the whim, and lash, of the Federal Government. Call me cynical but I am fully expecting payback for Jon Stanhope's legislation-posting sometime soon.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

I find it disconcerting that some people have seen fit to criticise the Day of Protest, as if that would achieve anything. Not that the ACTU should be afraid of constructive criticism, but what I've seen so far has tended to criticise the quality of the tannoy rather than the quality of the message. Though I imagine that if an observation had been made that a lot of money seemed to have been spent on the day, then that would have been wrong too to many, for various reasons, many of which I could think up myself, if I wanted to. Is that really the point though?

Firstly, a few points need to be made. The rallies were held on a Tuesday, so numbers could never have been expected to be as great as the number of people who may have wished to be there. Also, a lot of people will wait and see if what is claimed to be the outcomes actually eventuates, and they will make their protest at the ballot box.. A lot of decent people may well have wanted to come along also, but put their job and service to the populace first. Many were intimidated and threatened with the sack if they attended. some have actually already been sacked for attending the Nth Queensland Rally-this, all before the new laws have even been enacted to give employers the whip hand.

Yes, the ads were shown again, but compare that with how many times the government's ads have been forced down your throat. There was also some new footage of ordinary workers telling their stories of how they have already been affected, in companies that have aggressively adopted new work practices under the aegis of the government, similar to what will be allowed for all employers once the new laws have come into force.

There were diggers interviewed who said that these new work practices were exactly what they had fought against in the last World War [i.e.Mussolini et al]. Practices which may see the end of a way of life enshrined in the memorial to the 8 Hour Day: 8 Hours Work; 8 Hours Rest; 8 Hours Sleep. Now it appears that micro-managed productivity is king, and flexibility means bending over backwards for the boss. Which is not to say that there will no longer be bosses who put the interests of their employees uppermost in their thoughts, there always has been. It just means that the restraints are off those who do not wish to act honourably.

There are so many loopholes in the Employee Dismissal clauses of the new laws that there is virtually no safety net left to catch an employee that has been exploited by an unprincipled boss.

There are sneaky provisions that don't see the worst of the effects of this legislation for a few years yet- such as an Award coverage for an employee that disappears when their current agreement runs out-leaving them unable to ever get the award conditions back.

Kevin Andrews says that "History will confirm the need for Industrial changes". That may be so but these are not the changes that need to be enacted. Prosperity could have been perpetuated without creating the sort of underclass that these new laws will see appear, even if it is only our sons and daughters on their way to a better job, or the disabled, so happy to have a job at all, or single mothers who now must work to support their families while the wives of working males get paid to stay at home and look after their children. And, it appears that this may already be the case for some, as workers on contract in some industries feel that they need to accept what is offered by an employer so as not to affect their onerous mortgage repayments, such is the amount of financial stress families find themselves under these days.

Finally, even though it would be possible to go on about further iniquities contained in this legislation, which we should be protesting about and which the people who turned out today have already realised, I'll leave the last word to Sol Trujillo - "This is all about growing revenues and lowering costs" - and that means a quarter of the workforce has to go. John Howard says that these workers can all get new jobs easily in today's workers market. Maybe so- but at what price with respect to pay and conditions in the new jobs?

Stop Press: Ken Ticehurst was on ABC Central Coast salivating copiously and frothing at the mouth about how the government's next target was the malingering Disability Pensioners with " Mediterranean Back". Need I add more?

Jay White, tax cuts are an emblematic tool used by the Party of Capital to gull the workers into thinking they are getting something for nothing, whilst not at the same time telling them that the tax cut comes at a cost to services, which used to be provided by the government, and now need to be paid for. Things that they were once able to access merely by paying their tax. Not that the citizen should have to pay such a high rate of tax to cover every eventuality, but a fair rate of tax which covers the basic necessities such as education and health. Things that a small tax cut just can't cover if they need to be paid for out of one's own pocket.

Also Jay, re your interest rate statement, have you noticed that the Australian Dollar has been going down lately, because the Interest Rate differential with the US has been decreasing? Also, that we were putting up our rates when they weren't touching theirs?

To sum up, I think people should revisit the Martin Luther King "I have a dream..." speech. No greater inspiration for the fight ahead exists.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Victoria Collins: "Also Jay, re your interest rate statement, have you noticed that the Australian Dollar has been going down lately, because the Interest Rate differential with the US has been decreasing?"

Of course I have noticed. This is a good thing for the current account deficit that so many complain about, no? Hopefully the price of oil continues its downward trend as well.

"Also, that we were putting up our rates when they weren't touching theirs?"

Yes that is my whole argument, rates in Australia are not wholly reliant on world or US rates. The rate rise you speak off was half a percent hardly break the bank now will it.

Rates will never be as high under this present Government as they were under the Keating one. Economic management has a lot to do with that.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

It was a impressive protest organised by the ACTU. I dont favor the unions, but I understand some of the people who are annoyed by the IR changes. They have a valid point, as some employers will tend to misuse the new IR changes to benefit out of the system.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Crispin Bennett, no, I'd believe you were subtly mistaken. I'd say most business people are primarily concerned, like all of us, with their own self-interest first and foremost, and other considerations next. We all have families to feed.

Pragmatically it doesn't make sense for any boss to treat workers badly if they will do a better and more productive job if they are well treated. On top of that, if it feels good to, why wouldn't any boss treat their workers well?

Unemployment is low, no matter how it's measured. We hear stories of skill shortages all around, even stories of a need to import migrant workers. In this scenario, which won't change soon, workers have the upper hand in many cases. Not all for sure, but most I believe.

The old "Boss up, worker down" logic really is out of date, and harks back a century or so originally. It made sense once, and for a while since. It spawned the Union movement, rightly so in my view. Times have changed.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

No need to show you scientific proof David Eastwood as I can't. This is a gut feeling on which I'm rarely wrong. I've been amused to watch various industry chiefs knocking today's marches which I find patronising and disingenuous as they presume to speak for the "happy little workers" who, if only they could see as their bosses do - they would appreciate how wonderful this new working world will be for them. That alone is enough to ring alarms bells for most people-never have so many employers put their worker's rights ahead of themselves.

Each time I hear a boss spluttering on radio that he will now be able to rid himself of that troublesome employee - something he could always do despite the posturing of so many of them, I guarantee each of his employees is thinking the same thing.

Politicians should take great notice of these marchers - and I guarantee many Coaltion backbenchers will. One can could easily write off Anzac Day as well as only a minority turn up. That's no indication of the support it receives. The unions have done one thing superbly in this battle - they took the lead early on and each government move has been a turkey. The Coalition has made a huge mistake in believing John Howard is unlike any other politician and invincible. We are witnessing the beginning of the end days of a Howard led governemnt.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Jay White continues to propagate the myth that high interest rates only occur under Labor Governments (as per the misleading propaganda disseminated by the liberals before the last election).

It is correct that interest rates rose under the Hawke/Keating Government to 18.18% (in November 1989). I notice however, that Jay failed to mention that under the Fraser Government interest were higher that under Labour – ie 19.93% (in August 1982).

In August 1982 the Treasurer was Mr J W Howard.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

It's great that so many people around Australia have made a significant demonstration against Mr Howard and his yes men. Now is the time to bombard them with letters via snail mail if possible; emails do not get answered. If you do not get an answer to your letters complain by letting the Prime Minister and other "leaders" of the Coalition know; if you have addressed your letter to a backbencher. Perhaps a copy of your letter of indignation about not getting a reply might be sent to your State or local Coalition administration. Let your friends know that Coalition politicians have not answered your mail.

I have sent numbers of emails to politicians and have only received replies from Petro Georgiou and Barnaby Joyce.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Jay White, interest rates rose when Howard was treasurer as well remember.

As for his taking the credit for the current low rates now, that is very debatable.

Though as for Howard's scare campaign pre-election regarding interest rates, I am sure that you know that the Reserve Bank took exception as well and referred them to the AEC.

The AEC responded that "it was unable to take action to halt a political party making policy claims or predictions even where they might be false and misleading, the officials said."

Sydney Morning Herald 08-04-05

So there you go.

The Govt. like any other 'advertisers' can lie their heads off to the Australian public legally.

And boy, aren't they doing that for all they are worth.

I however am confident that in two years time the public will be much more aware of all Howard's lies, about Iraq, the "War on Terror", and the economy.

I am doing my bit by talking to family, friends, and occasionally business contacts about these things whenever I get the opportunity, as I am sure many other Webdiarists are.

It's all about information. Howard's days are numbered, count on it.

Let's see policies, not scare tactics

re: IR Bill: links update #4

"Show me some evidence as to the existence of this 'silent minority' - which is actually an overwhelming majority if you do the numbers. Last I heard Unions represented about 20% of the workforce."

Don't forget David, this is only the beginning. I imagine one benefit of this for the unions will be that their membership will increase.

People will now wake up to the realisation that the benefits they have/had were not rights bestowed on them by benevolent governments, but rights hard fought by unions and working people throughout the decades.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Jay White: "The Keating Government was a poor economic manager and the interest rates reflected this. This present Government is a good economic manager and interest rates under it will never rise to the Keating levels."

Oh, for Pete's sake, why is it when there is significant pressure tabled against the government, this old chestnut comes out? And it's not even right!

This is a real bug-bear of mine; the fallacious claims that Labor=high interest rates, purported by Howard failed to give the overall picture. Now, here I go repeating it again: When Howard was Treasurer, he presided over the highest interest rates experienced in this country, and the successive Labor government saw the rates decline, allowing Howard to claim he was the best economic manager by seeing the rates further fall.

Now, what is the peculiar thing is that the rates experienced in Australia in the 80's were significantly lower that world wide rates (especially in the US and UK), and these had a strong influence on our rates. When the rates in the US went up, so did ours, and when they fell, so did ours. Now the bleeding obvious thing to have happened in the last few years is that the rates in Australia are the highest of the developed nations. Jay, we have the highest interest rates of any developed nation. Economic managers? Howard's government gets an F.

Howard has bitten off more than he can chew on this one. These IR changes are the catalyst for a change in the political landscape, and the momentum is turning against Howard like never before. He is gone next election, that is a certainty.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Dee Bayliss, great link.

How wonderful to see support coming in from internationally.

Other protests in support of Australian workers will also occur tomorrow at Australian Embassies and High Commissions in London, Seoul, and Brussels.

Statements of support for the ACTU campaign have also been received from unions in Ireland; Sweden; Switzerland; Portugal; India; Malaysia; Singapore; France; Norway; Romania; France; India; Russia; Romania.

People power is a indeed a great thing, as witnessed in the international protests against the war.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

"My view on the 'boss' dynamic you mentioned is here. I see no good reason why any sensible boss would want to behave in the way you suggest. Why would they - out of spite? That's nuts!"

How about higher shareholder profits, David?

If employers were all as benevolent as you would have us believe there would never have been a need for a workers movement in the first place would there?

Why can't we concentrate on value adding to our current exports ie. changing to organic methods for farming. Organic products are gaining in popularity worldwide as people reject Genetically Modified products.

Why not put money into research and development, and encourage Australian talents and build our economy that way, rather than devaluing our workforce and our way of life.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Scott Brown, the reason we had the highest interest rates in the OECD is because we were basically the only one of those economies showing good economic growth during that time, whilst most of the other OECD economies were stagnant (if not in recession). When an economy is growing well, it is a good idea to have higher interest rates, as it stops run away growth, and the inevitable slump that follows.

Under the Labor government, we had high interest rates AND a recession at the same time. The reason for the high interest rates however, was mainly because of the Government foreign debt (96 billion I believe), which meant that lending money to Australia was not an attractive option for the worlds capital. In comparison, during the same period, the OECD had sluggish growth (average less than 2%), so interest rates are lower.

By getting rid of the Government debt, which we were paying $5 billion a year in interest alone, the government has kept the interest rates down and steered the economy through successive years of economic growth whilst the rest of the world struggled. I suppose you could look at it another way and say that due to ineptitude by the previous government, the only way for the economy to go was up.

I also find it strange that so many Labor supporters insist that Keating is a good economic manager, when he caused a lot of pain for Australians in order to pursue his own aspirations. If you watch the documentary Labor in Power you will see that Keating deliberately said we were heading towards a “banana republic” to put pressure on Hawke to move aside. This comment caused a lot of panic on the markets, and a lot of people lost money because of this. And why? Because he wanted to be leader.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

The picture of the CFMEU BANNER "SAFETY BEFORE PROFIT" just shows the lack of reality the Unions live in. If profit does not come first then the funds to ensure safety, employment and stability are not available. If employees want security, then profit must be the priority.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Michael de Angelos, I'm sorry, but there is a need to show some proof. My gut feel is very different to yours - and I'd say it's wrong about as often. You're making an assertion, it's an opinion and that's all. People believe things they want to believe, and people who agree with them first and foremost. That risks progress in my view. I'm a fan of critical analysis, if I'm proven wrong I change my view. It's logical and proper to do so.

My view on the "boss" dynamic you mentioned is here. I see no good reason why any sensible boss would want to behave in the way you suggest. Why would they - out of spite? That's nuts!

re: IR Bill: links update #4

"CFMEU BANNER 'SAFETY BEFORE PROFIT' just shows the lack of reality the Unions live in. If profit does not come first then the funds to ensure safety, employment and stability are not available. If employees want security, then profit must be the priority."

What a load of rubbish, Kim. It should be a priority of all workplaces to be safe. How can you possibly advocate that employees should be happy to sacrifice safety on the job to have a job.

All construction workers the building industry for one, would disagree with you. Lack of safety in this industry results in death of employees.

As well as the pain of losing a partner and parent the dependents would then be at the mercy of the Government's new rules for single parent families.

Even Howard isn't that disingenuous.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

David, much more I'd like to say on your last couple of posts, but I don't have time today. So two quick points, maybe I'll have time to elaborate later.

(1) Your notion of people being essentially motivated by 'self-interest' is questionable on both philosophical and empirical grounds. In short, there's no way of defining it, and people when studied carefully are found to be more complex and unpredictable by huge orders of magnitude than such a thesis would imply (my excessive emphasis there in lieu of so much I'd like to say)

(2) I've worked at both ends of the spectrum (well paid IT and poorly-paid underclass roles), for roughly equal stretches of time (my 30's and my 20's respectively), and I'm telling you that bosses do behave badly. Not all, perhaps not even a majority, but enough to make life a misery for millions. It's happened to me, and the only protections available when you're low on personal power are law and collectivity. Btw, my earlier comment on 'business people' was intended as a piece of faulty logic (think you realised, but just want to make clear).

Jay, mere repeated assertion of a 'fact' is rhetoric. There's nothing wrong with that (it certainly has its place in politics), but if it's all you have you'll be called on it, and you'd better have something solid to back it up. You show no signs of it in what you've said so far on interest rates (I did say I'd leave that subject alone, but would be interested to see if you have anything substantive to say).

re: IR Bill: links update #4

There are a couple of things about the regime that the government and its supporters have just achieved with the IR laws and the welfare to Work changes, that need to be understood as part of a wider strategy for 'reengineering' this country.

The first issue is the issue of downloading 'risk' as far as possible away from either the firm or government (collective or social), onto individuals and households as much as possible. This is what underpins the strategy of turning every worker into an independent contractor. Read the account in the Australian of the Kemalux dispute in Victoria. It is an old employers dream, which has returned now with a vengeance, to ensure that each individual is their own little 'firm' which/who can be persuaded to compete with others, in a sick mimicry of competition between 'capitals', in order to obtain employment. This has the obvious effect of not only driving down wage costs, but equally importantly from the viewpoint of capital has the happy effect of ensuring that every risk accruing from economic activity falls squarely onto the employee and his/her household. It is designed to maximise economic stress partly in order to improve 'performance'.

This is why the legislation is designed to assist in the process of 'wrapping' the entire award provision into a single hourly rate, and then persuading/ensuring, that people are engaged as contractors, rather than as employees. The government's legislation has ensured in additon to much else, that an 'independent' contractor may be represented by anyone except a registered trade union in any negotiations over a contract!

The second point about the changes is that they are a wages/incomes policy by another name. They are designed to ensure downwards pressure on wages across the board, as an insurance against future inflationary pressures, as a way of squeezing more surplus from a given amount of labour, and as an important lesson in muting and dampening any sense of ecxpectation or entitlement, particularly on the part of skilled workers.

Howard is right about one thing. For most middle class employees, there will be little or no effect for some time, other than the sure and certain knowledge that they are now alone, comletely and utterly, at the mercy of every chill economic wind that cares to blow itself across the global landscape.

This is not true of those at the bottom of the scale, where the effects will be immediate. But because award only employees are now only around 20% of the workforce, they can be safely ignored (he hopes) as their numbers have declined. The squeeze on incomes at the bottom will also be immediately effected as the welfare to work changes cut in next year, and those at the bottom of the pile find that there are a bunch of people who will be fined $1800 of their benfit income, if they don't take the first job offered at the five minimum standards.

Understand that this is deliberatley designed to ensure that downwards pressure is focussed on those jobs where employers might be initially reluctant to hire, because of low skills etc, This will have the effect of 'encourager les autres' in the event that people already employed may feel like a bit of collective bargaining over an increase above the minimum wage. They can now forget it, particularly in the event that they are employed in a firm of 100 employees or less.

The question about all of this is whether this the best way to run an economy, let alone a decent society, particularly one with the cultural traditions of this one, as oppposed to the US whose political economy was shaped partly by the plantation economy rejected by the founders of Australian federation.

What happens when there is a downturn? Why should people in this country, one of the most prosperous in the world, feel obliged to work ever longer hours in an increasingly insecure environment when there are alternative ways of managing both prosperity and risk for both the middle class as well as those earning at or below average weekly earnings?

These are the real questions which will come to the fore over the next couple of years. Howard thinks no one has noticed what lies at the real heart of his policies, and thinks that he can slide away under the 'trust me' mantra which has served him tolerably well so far. But the real import and underpinning philosophy of this witches brew of social sadism and voodoo economics is clear now not only to those who take an interest in such matters, but is ncreasingly to people who normally take little interest such esoterica.

That is his problem. He has to keep whistling up the wedge all the time, because one slip, one suggestion that what he trying to do is designed as much to bring about social change as it is about 'securing prosperity', and he is in deep trouble.

Unlike his more dopey supporters he and the BCA and ACCI understands very well what is at stake. It is nothing less than alternative visions about the nature of this country and the compact between the people who live in it. That is what the issues are.The achievement of these aims may be complex in its details and the laws designed to bring them about weigh tens of kilos, but the aims in themselves, are simple and quite straight forward, once you have listened to both him and his franker supporters in the IPA and the Centre for Independent Studies and study the Bills before the Parliament.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Kim Gritten, I think you have misinterpreted the CFMEU's call for safety before proft. You've gone from talking about "safety" to talking about "security" (presumably job security) without acknowledging that these are not the same thing.

The new IR laws, like the building industry reforms passed earlier this year, make stopping work over OH&S concerns difficult, if not impossible.

Under the new laws workers can be massively fined for an illegal strike if they refuse to work on a site that seems to be unsafe. The new laws place the burden of proving that a workplace is unsafe on the worker. However, anyone reasonably familiar with science or philosophy will tell you that it is impossible to empirically prove a negative proposition such as "this equipment/scaffold/ladder is not safe".

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Anne Brooks, you'll get no argument from me there at all! Of course bosses want higher shareholder profits - they are required to by law. They work towards that by maximising the productivity of both labour and capital. My point is that maximising labour productivity is absolutely not about treating workers badly, it's quite the opposite! Well treated, committed and motivated workers are vastly more productive! Modern management philosophy is steeped in that notion, has been for decades. I wrote my undergrad thesis on this in 1984!

The old "Bosses up, workers down" notion is a relic of the late industrial revolution a century or more ago, as is the Union movement which was, rightly in my view, formed in response at the time. These days it suits the Union Movement to perpetuate that myth as it justifies their existence - isn't that obvious? The non-stop decline in union membership over the last few decades is testment to its declining relevance.

Margo: David, my experience at FF was that Hilmer management, driven by short-term bottom lines, stripped its journos of the 'psychic capital' of working for Mastheads they were proud to work for. In the early 1990's, Age journos got paid much less than their SMH counterparts but didn't care a jot. In a few short years The Age went from being Melbourne people's most respected institution to being out of the top ten. Journos at Fairfax are no longer proud to work there, and gradually stopped putting in the extra effort, mostly unpaid. For the past few years, the Hilmer gang sytematically saw off senior staff, replacing them with trainees, "Hilmer youth". Those poor kids work like slaves for a year, then have little or no prospect of promotion so take their experience elsewhere. Meanwhile senior management award themselves huge bonuses, then nick off, sometimes through million dollar 'redundancies' (Greg Hywood, Nigel Dewes) for failure. Management routinely lies to staff and make promises they don't keep. The union was all that stood betweeen Fairfax journos and oblivion in terms of pay and conditions. It was a must to belong to for self preservation, and most did so. My experience of a 'contract' was that the company didn't give a jot about tearing up its contractual obligations on a whim. My lawyer warned me against suing for damages because a big company makes it its business to use the law to destroy little people professionally, emotionally and financially, regardless of the merits, if they dare to take their matter to Court.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Margo, There's a wealth to be said about that, it's a great "bad management" story that certainly supports the point about poorly treated and unmotivated workers being unproductive! But of course there's more. I'll need a while to think about that - I'm bandwith compromised right now.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Pat McCaffrey: "It is correct that interest rates rose under the Hawke/Keating Government to 18.18% (in November 1989). I notice however, that Jay failed to mention that under the Fraser Government interest were higher that under Labor – ie 19.93% (in August 1982)."

I never said interest rates do not rise to high levels under Liberal Governments. I said they do under poor economic managers. Fraser and his Government were poor economic managers. So to were the Whitlam, Hawke and Keating ones.

As to Howard being Treasurer in 1982, that is true. The buck however stops with the boss. I don't remember John Howard being Prime Minister at this time. What part of "Fraser" in Fraser Government are people missing?

A Treasurer can only deal economically with the policy direction that the Government he is in chooses to take. The Fraser Government's policy direction was nearly always the wrong direction. I put that down to weak leadership.

So equally scary is the fact that so many Labor supporters hold up Fraser as worthy Liberal tradition. Perhaps secretly Labor really does mean high interest rates and poor economic managers?

Interest rates under the present Government will never rise to the levels they did under the previous Labor Government.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

James Squires: "the reason we had the highest interest rates in the OECD is because we were basically the only one of those economies showing good economic growth during that time, whilst most of the other OECD economies were stagnant (if not in recession). When an economy is growing well, it is a good idea to have higher interest rates, as it stops runaway growth, and the inevitable slump that follows."

Could it then be a justifiable claim that the interest rates of the 80's were as a result of the economy going absolute gang-busters? Perhaps, but I look to other claims that debt servicability was more manageable in the 80's than it is currently. Anyways, I've mentioned this previously, so won't go back into it.

However, the claim of the $5b debt was a crucial figure in the early days of Howards (mis)Government, and I feel this was the first fear campaign ran by them for their own selfish ideals. The claim that a defecit budget is an absolute no-no is not exactly a well regarded axiom, especially amongst leading economists. Frankly I don't care who is right, as long as there is a sense of economic sensability. I don't get that with Howard. We have become an insular society, unwilling to step into Asia, and happy to be dragged along by the US. Our economic situation is poor, as our terrible foreign debt, out troubled CAD and plummeting $A all display an economy with the captain soundly asleep at the wheel. The government has, time and again tried to blame this so-called debt to justify is own scrooge-like money raking.

Labor, under Hawke / Keating opened us up to Asia. We bacame a vibrant, dynamic country, the envy of most OECD countries due to our individuality and our growth. Howard has sufficiently destroyed this good work, and our international standing is lame, to say the least.

Whilst Howard supporters will always trumpet the falsehood that Labor is high interest rates, I know there are a lot of people who understand the truth, and that this truth is so diametrically opposed to the supporters myths as to make them irrelevant.

Oh, and Jay? I am positive the interest rates if Labor was in government today will be at the same level or less than your beloved Howard's.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Howard as Treasurer was responsible for higher interest rates than Keating! Nothing can hide this fact. What part of ministerial responsibility does this Howard mob fail to understand? Should I say those words slower?

Whatever you may wish to say about Hawke and Keating calling them poor economic managers is simply inaccurate. The truth is that it is the economic reforms of Hawke and Keating which laid the groundwork for our present prosperity.

Don’t for a moment be fooled into swallowing the line that Howard/Costello are the architects of our current growth. Reforms take a while to work their way thru the system and the present mob have reaped the benefit of what went before. It is the deregulation of the financial system, the floating of the exchange rate, the institution of a strong and independent Reserve Bank and the introduction of sensible, moderate and equitable enterprise bargaining which is responsible for our present strong growth. All of these reforms were instituted by Hawke/Keating. (Of course the vast technological advances in the past decade, for example in communications, globalisation of trade and the rise of China, India and Brazil have played a massive part in the Australian story, but these are factors beyond the control of any Australian government, of whatever flavour)

What economic reforms is Howard responsible for? GST! His lasting legacy is a tax on just about everything. Bear in mind that this is the largest taxing government in Australia's history.

The major problem in assessing economic performance is that the facts have gotten lost in the lies and spin. Howard is a master of lies and spin so it's little wonder that he's been riding high.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

I just can't stop laughing when I hear that there might have been a time, before people had enforceable rights, when people needed unions, but now there is no need, because - well times have changed, and the profit motive and unequal power relations now longer operate as they did in the past. The reason people are treated better now at work than they were in the past, is precisely because legally enforceable rights ensure that people require that they be treated with more consideration and care.

When there is no enforceable right to consideration, what you get, is what the person at the time feels you ought to get, no more and no less. To the extent that the bargaining position is unequal, what you get, is what you will put up with. That is very different from enforceable rights. That is what has been torn up.

I am sick and tired of hearing about how people have it so good they no longer need rights! Listen up-if we have it so good, if employers treat people well whether they have enforceable rights or not, then why the indecent haste to destroy those rights? After all, if they are not needed, what harm do they do just lying around? This is not about profits as such at all. Plenty of profits are made in countries with high living standards and egalitarian social and economic policies. The issues here are essentially social and political It is about who has power over whom, and under what terms and conditions people meet and deal with each other in the labour market. That is the issue pure and simple. Howard knows it, his supporters know it, and now people generally know it. How you view these changes depends very simply on where you are situated in this labour market, and/or what your values are about how people should be able to deal with each other in unequal situations in a democracy. That's it in a nutshell.

Oh and by the way, New Zealand's productivity was lower than Australia's all through the 1990's and has barely reached Australian levels even now, although it is nearer now because our rates are starting to fall. And their wages levels are 25-30% lower. That is an incontrovertable result of the system they have. And before people start prattling about unemployment, I would like to know why it is that in supposedly wealthy countries like New Zealand and Australia, we think that an employment policy that relies on food baskets and charity handouts to supplement poverty level wages, is an appropiate and decent employment strategy in the 21st century? I am finding that the best assistance I have in explaining what will happen with these changes, is to ask the nearest New Zealander to talk to meetings. Fortunately there plenty of them over here who know exactly what they will mean. Three hundred thousand of them at last count.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Jay White, if your comments about good economic management is about the need to change industrial relations laws then argue the case for change. So far I cannot find one economist who can say that the changes will be good for the economy. In fact most of them argue that the changes will have a negative effect or a neutral effect on employment numbers.

Moreover, this does not take into account additional negative factors such as lost production due to the disruption/unease in the workplace and the loss of money in the form of lower wages circulating in the economy.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

I think you're wearing rose tinted specs when you look at employers David Eastwood. Why not abandon all the road rules - afterall no-one wants to end up in an accident do they? If globalisation is to be thrust upon us without a choice, the one thing we need is laws to protect workers. What is to there to be afraid of in that?

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Interest rates today under Labor would certainly be lower than under Howard if the same economic conditions prevailed, simply because Labor would not have halved Capital Gains Tax and exposed Australia to the biggest profit driven housing investment boom in history.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Margo, as you say in this thread: "Management didn't give a jot about tearing up contractual obligations on a whim". If you extrapolate that out to the general workforce one can imagine the disruption/discontent that individual contracts will have on the mass workforce. Given that the 'contracts' that Kevin Andrews proposes will all its legislated exclusion clauses won't be worth a piece of U know what.

I have this nightmare scenario of workers turning up and lining up to some Industrial Advocates Office like they do now at the RTA wanting to get there cars registered. Told to take number then wait for some time them told this is a private matter you will have to go and see a lawyer only to be told oh I would write it off if I were you. You wont get a job again if your take action against your former employer.

Result - a free penalty for all employers who can blow the whistle any time they like. What a lousy game of soccer that would be.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Jay White: "Interest rates under the present Government will never rise to the levels they did under the previous Labor Government."

Did you miss my post re the Reserve Bank. They were unimpressed with the Government 'misleading' the public on their claims of interest rates going up under a Labor Government.

Many economists believe that rates would not rise that high under a Labor Govt either.

The point is the Govt lied (again) and conducted yet another scare campaign based on factors they ultimately have no major control over.

Do you not understand this? What other reason could you possibly have for the constant reiteration of such flawed assertions?

I have previously stated that I am not a particular fan of a Beazley Labor party either. My objection to the IR laws is based on all the reasons I have previously mentioned.

Party politics have nothing to do with my agenda, what about yours?

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Michael de Angelos, I've been working in Management for 25 years now, I did a thesis on the topic way back when and I'm sorry but it isn't rose tinted at all. The Fairfax case Margo made in part proves my point, and in part disputes it.

I'll respond to that shortly, but fact is that most Management is pragmatic and self interested, where self-interest is reflected in their pay packet, their reputation, their employability, their chances of climbing the ladder and their job security - all overlaid with a bit of "feelgood" if they can make someone else's life better, or do something for a good cause or improve the environment - like anyone else in other words.

You push the oft-heard lines that there's some giant bosses-v-workers conspiracy, or that it makes sense for bosses to abuse workers. Why? I can't think of any good reasons for bosses to abuse workers. If you can, please share them so I can wrap my mind around the concept.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

David, as a matter of fact, managers are in practice motivated with a massively complex mix of unacknowledged desires, motivations with varying levels of consciousness, emotions (very important), rational thought processes, malevolences, benevolences, values, ideologies and caprice. Like all other human beings.

What acts to keeps those behaviours within an acceptable range is the systems worked within (not just law, but commonly-lauded business practices, norms, expectations etc).

Here are some of the things I've seen in workplaces: a worker sacked because he objected to the bosses nephew masturbating into soup made in the work canteen; workers ordered, at pain of beating (not just sacking), to skip safety checks at a highly-visible funfair; a manager routinely refusing to pay workers for their last few weeks at work. I've just picked the worst examples I can remember off the top of my head, but these and lesser injustices happen all the time. You remove the potential to fight back (and under the current system, that fighting back is also happening all the time thanks largely to unions), and you'll increase the number and severity of injustices. Will the IR changes, and you will that increase.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Scott Brown: "This is a real bug-bear of mine; the fallacious claims that Labor=high interest rates, purported by Howard failed to give the overall picture. Now, here I go repeating it again: When Howard was Treasurer, he presided over the highest interest rates experienced in this country, and the successive Labor government saw the rates decline, allowing Howard to claim he was the best economic manager by seeing the rates further fall."

I presume when we are talking interest rates here we mean bank mortgage rates, not the 60 Minutes "interest rate" into Keating's piggeries? If we are talking mortgage rates then you really should have done some homework.

Have a look at this.

To summarise, mortgage rates were under 6% from 1959 to 1970, and never more than 7.25% until Whitlam. They peaked at 10.38% under Whitlam, and were still over 10% when Fraser was elected. They fell to a low of 9.13% between Dec 1978 & Mar 1980. The highest they ever were under Fraser was 13.5% between Apr 1982 & Jan 1983. For Keating the rates were 13.5% or higher from Oct 1985 to May 1991, peaking at 17% from Jun 1989 to Mar 1990. They were never lower than 8.75% for the entire Hawke/Keating 13 years.

Given the above, on what basis do you make your claim that "When Howard was Treasurer, he presided over the highest interest rates experienced in this country"?

Please either explain or stop repeating this fallacious claim. I'd say, based on these numbers which cover the last 45 years, there is some truth in Labor=high interest rates.

For the record I have no axe to grind with Keating; he was my local member for his entire term as an MLA.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Crispin Bennett, that's pure sensationalism-via-war stories. I've also seen all of that stuff, and more.

And, for every one of those I would lay odds there were thousands, or even tens of thousands, of perfectly appropriate situations and outcomes. Ross Gittins covered it off very well here and touched on the lack of perspective many commentators bring to big issues in another sense here yesterday.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

David, no. It's the personal experience lived through by those of us who have not always been enveloped by the fantasy-land of blinkered denial and indifference that constitutes so much of office-dwelling Australia.

That experience doesn't get a voice in the largely a priori reasonings of the elite think-tanks and institutes that cook up this kind of 'reform'. It's not reform for the common good (and only thinly pretends to be); it's a power-grab.

And of course those cases are outnumbered by the good experiences! How is that relevant to questions of justice for God's sake?

I'll try and read the pieces you linked to. Your last word anyway for now as I'm flat-out for the next few days.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

No Guy Curtis, I have not misunderstood the CFMEU banner at all. I have participated in the building industry and have seen the CFMEU at work, they are at best thugs and treat their members with the same brutality as the employers.

I have seen them stand over their members and make them take industrial action when the members did not want to do it. I have seen them break the law, and the law stood by and did nothing, and when they can't get their way, then hey presto what do you know they use OH&S as a lever against their foes.

Job security and safety do go hand in hand. An employee who has a secure job will always look after the interest and safety of others, because he is well trained in that company's safety policies and procedures. Employees who move around get frustrated or confused as to what is and isn’t the proceedure, because it is not ingrained into their work attitude. This is particularly true within the building industry.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Anne Brooks says “How can you possibly advocate that employees should be happy to sacrifice safety on the job to have a job.”

All construction workers in the building industry for one, would disagree with you. Lack of safety in this industry results in death of employees.

Anne, please show me where I advocate that employees should sacrifice safety. And I for one have worked within the building industry, and believe me, employees are not happy about the burden of responsibility which now makes them a criminal until proven innocent should they be a participant in any form where an accident happens. A company that places profit as the priority, institutes good safety initiatives to maintain productivity. A company who focuses on maintaining safety at all cost will be the victim of that cost and cease to exist. The unions know this and use it as a weapon against employers. It has nothing to do with the welfare of their members. Unions are politically motivated, and anyone who thinks otherwise is living in Wally world.

Craig R: Where's Wally world?

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Graham Rakk, I was the person who, in this thread, claimed that interests rates peaked higher under Howard then under Keating.

The lending rate is not the index you should be using as this includes some of the business costs and corporate profit margin(s) of the lending institution. The correct index that should be used is the Australian Target Cash Rate (ATCR), which is the rate, set by the RBA. As you are most likely aware the changes in the ATCR rate is announced by the RBA the morning after RBA Board meetings and because of it impact on us all it is reportedly widely in the Press.

Another reason that the lending rate is inappropriate is that at one stage all housing (mortgage) loans by banks had the interest rates capped. The removal of this cap was one of the reforms of the Hawke/Keating Government (and from memory was enthusiastically supported by the Liberal Party of the day). Again, from memory, I believe that the interest rate cap was at 12%. I was one of the beneficiaries of this policy and even though I had a housing loan during the high interest rate period the interest rate on my housing loan peaked at 12% - not the 17% (Jun 1989 to Mar 1990) you referred to.

The reason one should select the ATCR is that this is the rate that the Government of the day is held responsible for, despite the fact that they have no input into the setting of this rate – this being the sole preserve of the RBA Board. However, it reflects the economic conditions of the day, some of which the policies of the Government of the day impact on and some of which the Government can never impact. It is this rate that flows through the system and can impact on all borrowings.

This cap in interest rates led to the situation that a minority of those who had housing loans were affected by the increase in interest rates to 17% as a substantial number of borrowers obtained their housing finance form banks and the removal of the cap only applied to new borrowings.

Frazer was in Government from November 1975 till March 83. The earliest interest rates I have for this period is 7.92% during Jan 1980.

Subsequently interests rates ranged up to 19.93% (August 1982) but had fallen to 17.54% at the time of the change of Government during March 1983.

Interest rates during Hawke’s tenure fell to a low of 5.46% in December 1983 to a high of 19.34% in December 1985. (Note in an earlier post I picked up the interest rate for the previous month as being the highest. Please accept my apology for this error).

When Keating took over as PM interest rates had fallen 8.5% and ranged down to a low of 4.75% during his term as PM.

When Howard, in March 1996, came to power interest rates were 8.5%.

I would therefore contend that you argument is based on incorrect and irrelevant data and your accusation that I should have done some (implying that I had done no research) homework is ill considered and completely inappropriate.

It is also clear from the data that J W Howard presided over higher interest rates than P J Keating.

re: IR Bill: links update #4

Pat Mcafffery, some data would be helpful.

Since 1/1/1970, based on the link Graham Rakk provided and US Federal Reserve Data

Prime Minister / Months Tenure / Avg AUS Int Rates / Avg USA Int Rates / Avg Premium to USA

Gorton 14 6.96 6.34 0.62
McMahon 20 7.14 4.61 2.53
Whitlam 35 8.76 8.44 0.32
Fraser 88 10.52 10.09 0.42
Hawke 106 14.11 7.93 6.18
Keating 51 9.96 4.22 5.74
Howard 115 7.14 3.81 3.33

1) Hawke presided over the highest average interest rates in Australia, both in absolute terms and relative to the USA.
2) Fraser came second, but at a time when US interest rates were also high, so the premium to USA rates during his tenure was low.
3) Australia's interest rate premium to the USA has been highest under Hawke and Keating
4) Labor Governments have run relatively higher interest rates than conservatives during the past 35 years.

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