Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

Industrial relations & productivity

The Australian newspaper has been running one of their not-very-subtle campaigns for 'reform' of industrial relations laws, blaming the current laws (which partially rolled back Workchoices) for declining productivity. Today's they've made it the main front page story, with a headline saying - Lucky to lazy country: review industrial relations laws to stop decline, says Glenn Stevens - drawing from commentary to a Parliamentary Committee yesterday by the ...

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WorkChoices – what happens when a government stops paying attention?

Parliament resumes this week, although only the House of Representatives is sitting.  The Senate is not sitting, but a range of Senate Committees are engaging in additional Estimates hearings.  I expect the focus on economic management and the current pressures on the economy will continue. No doubt Brian Burke's extraordinary capacity to keep making life difficult for politicians will also come into focus as well. Also catching attention is the ...

Labor’s adopts yet another Howard position – they want to treat the Senate like a rubber stamp too!

The federal Labor Party’s emulation of every stance John Howard takes now extends to them also demanding the Senate rubber stamps major legislative changes with no time for proper inquiry or public input. The Federal Opposition is warning the Senate to support Labor's industrial relations policy should it win the election. Deputy Opposition Leader Julia Gillard has told ABC TV's Lateline if Labor wins the election, it wants the legislation ...

No Entry

The Australian newspaper has reported more detail on Labor’s workplace relations policies, including another major piece of backsliding with the adoption of John Howard’s Workchoices constraints on workplace entry by union officials: “A Rudd government would keep all of John Howard's tough limits on unions entering worksites.” The new strict controls on workplace entry have been a key target in the rhetoric from Labor and the unions since Workchoices became ...

Evil fascist law now OK

I recently mentioned an experience I had of being criticised in the Senate by a Labor Senator back in 2004 for supporting "fascist" and "evil legislation". This incident came to my mind again when Labor announced that they will maintain the Building and Construction Commission if they win the election, as this was the subject of the "fascist legislation" I supported. Indeed, the measures which I supported in ...

Therese Rein: accepting responsibilty, common law contracts and political precedents

It seems pretty clear that Therese Rein isn't cut out for the federal political arena if these words of hers are accurately quoted: "I fully accept personal responsibility for any errors made by my company in handling the details of the employment arrangements for staff," she said "I have also accepted full responsibility for rectifying any errors." Apologising and taking responsibility for your mistakes! No wonder people like Howard, Downer, ...

Workplace Relations – policy versus politics

Given that workplace relations is such a significant issue at the moment, both politically and - far more importantly - in terms of its impact on people's lives, it's amazing how little of the media commentary is on the actual substance and content of the workplace laws and the various policy proposals being put around to modify them. Most of the media coverage has been dominated by the politics ...

Advertising a law that doesn’t exist

Senate Estimates have provided many opportunities for Senators to try to establish the cost and nature of taxpayer funded advertising across a range of departments, finding that "the total media spend on current Government ads is $111 million." However, the big focus is still on the (not)Workchoices advertising campaign. This is partly because it is very expensive, and partly because it is clearly aimed as much ...

Senate Committee to inquire into workplace legislation changes – without the legislation

A week or so ago the government announced changes to our workplace laws. It did so with great fanfare and at great cost to the taxpayer through widespread advertising of their new policy. Today in the Senate we discovered that the government is so enamoured with their new changes that they are trying to ensure there is minimal opportunity for the rest of the community to check out the ...

The deceit, hysteria and corrupt actions continue to accelerate.

After giving no indication of its intentions during the 2004 election campaign, the Coalition makes some extremist changes to the industrial relations laws, a key one of which is to totally remove the crucial ‘no disadvantage test’ attached to AWA and almost completely remove other aspects of the safety net protecting lower income Australians. Now, six months before the next election, the Coalition says it will introduce a ‘fairness ...

Senate a key to Industrial Relations future

The main front page article today in my local paper, The Sunday Mail, started with the following sentence: “Prime Minister John Howard launched Australia towards a nuclear future, while his opponent Kevin Rudd staked his claim on leadership with a promise of a return to the industrial relations laws of the past.” Even allowing for poetic licence, the suggestion that Mr Rudd’s position involves a return to the laws of ...

Labor & Workplace Relations – and how might a new Senate feel about them?

Kevin Rudd made some substantial shifts in Labor’s industrial relations policy in his Press Club address this week, releasing four new elements of Labor’s IR policy – a new national uniform system for the private economy; mandatory secret ballots; the abolition of strike pay; and new unfair dismissal laws that create flexibility for small business operators – other elements of our policy will be progressively released between now and ...

‘Workchoices’ – a constituent’s story

I have received a range of correspondence over recent months about the so-called ‘workchoices’ issue. This issue is shaping up as a crucial electoral issue – not just in regards to who ends up in government, but what the consequences of the various possible Senate outcomes might be. There’s plenty of different aspects to it I could go into – and probably will a bit later – but I ...

Cowra meatworks sackings show inadequacy of the law

The shambles over the sacking and apparent ‘unsacking’ of 29 meat workers at an abattoir in Cowra shows the risks of rushing through ideologically driven laws without bothering to give adequate attention to how those laws will work in practice.

The last stages of the Senate Workplace Relations debate

This is a description of the final stages of the Senate debate on the government's radical workplace relations change as I witnessed it from my seat in the Senate chamber. At 4.30pm today, the guillotine came down on the Senate, and votes were forced on all the amendments which had been circulated but not yet moved or debated.

Updates on the workplace debate in the Senate

The Second Reading vote on the Workplace Relations (Work Choices) Bill was brought on at 12 noon. The vote passed by 36-34, with all Government Senators in favour, and all Labor, Democrat, Green and Family First Senators voting against. The debate now moves on to what is known as the Committee Stage, where amendments can be moved and debated. As mentioned here, there is a total of 471 ...

Guillotine starts chopping in the Senate

At the very start of Senate business at 9.30am this morning, without notice or warning, the Government moved to introduce a guillotine on the workplace relations legislation to force it to a vote by tomorrow. By no coincidence, at the very same time the Government was guillotining the welfare legislation through the House of Representatives. The Government was probably hoping to avoid any further speeches such as ...

Senate Committee reports – the good, the bad and the minority

The Senate Committee report into the terror law that was tabled today provides a very good example of how valuable it can be when a few government Senators show sufficient courage to actually admit to and point out significant flaws in a piece of legislation. On this occasion, the Government (and non-government) Senators recommended over 50 changes that should be made. Margot Kingston's site provides some good ...

Workplace 2

The welfare changes will be debated the week after next, with the workplace and terror laws coming this week. The welfare changes are dishonestly labelled as a 'welfare to work' package, even though what it will mean for over one hundred thousand people (according to the government's own figures) is 'welfare to (more poorly paid) welfare'. This is reminiscent of the dishonest title of the 'work ...

Workplace Laws debate to start in Senate on Monday

The Government has released its program for the sitting of the Senate next week. As expected, it has listed debate on the radical changes to the Workplace Relations Act to start first up on Monday, followed by the Terror laws later in the week. The Committee examining the misleadingly named ‘Work Choices’ legislation was forced to complete their report by today, with the Government refusing to allow even ...

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Mini Posts

  • Rhetoric vs reality

    I’ve had a break from writing for a variety of reasons, but the reckless approach the new Queensland government is taking to their spending decisions – and the straightout nonsensicality of some of their claims – roused me enough to pen a piece for New Matilda. Time will tell whether the Newman government will start trying to ensure their statements have some connection with reality – I suggest the way they respond next year to the findings of the inquiry into child safety which they’ve established will be a significant test.

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  • End of LP the end of a blogging era

    Back in October, I wrote here about the decline or re-defining of blogs, at least in the Australian political arena.  The relatively few posts I’ve done on this blog since then shows how much less useful I find it to do my own blog than I used to, and as I mentioned back then, a big reason why I don’t read many of the blogs I used to is because the valuable links to many interesting stories, ideas and pieces of information can be found more easily through Twitter or Facebook, sometimes with comment threads which are also at least as good. The recent announcement by the Larvatus Prodeo blog that they are ceasing to operate is quite a significant one.

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  • A final comment on Labor's leadership laments

    Fundamentally, I don’t greatly care about the outcome of Labor’s leadership travails. As my previous post indicates, the bigger issue is that the ALP is being fundamentally damaged by the toxicity of this brawl, and the fact that the brawl is happening in this way is a sign of some much greater problems within Labor. Whatever the immediate outcome, I think those problems are likely to continue.  The outcome of the leadership contest (including the size of what will surely be a Gillard victory) will shape how those problems play out, but they will still be there. Not surprisingly, I see this as presenting an opportunity for the Greens to build some support, but more importantly it presets extra responsibility and obligation for the Greens to be a stronger counter to what is a seriously reactionary Coalition. But seeing we’re all pundits now, and despite having little inside knowledge, my prediction is that there will be no ‘third candidate’ in tomorrow’s leadership ballot.  Julia Gillard will win comfortably. The instability will not disappear. It’s quite possible there will be another leadership ballot before the election but Kevin Rudd will not become leader then either. No matter how good Kevin Rudd looks in the polls, that polling lead would disappear very quickly if he was back in the PM’s job.

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  • A long time between hits

    In amongst all the politics and policy stuff, I try to make time to do some things that are completely disconnected from that*.  One thing I’ve found myself doing recently is doing a bit of practicing with a band, which has led to me doing a live performance for the first time in a long time.  Readers of this blog with a very long memory for minor matters may recall that I played keyboards in a couple of mini-performances with a band as part of promoting the Rock Against Howard compilation CD prior to the 2004 election.  However, drumming is what I’m better at – although I’m still a long way short of being able to say I’m good at it – which is what I am doing in the band I’m currently doing stuff with.  They’re doing their first full live Brisbane show tonight – which I think will be the first time since 1988 I’ve played drums in a live show.  It’s all nice and low-key, and for peoples’ enjoyment rather with an eye to making money out of it, so will make a nice change. *Actually, I don’t think anything is completely disconnected from politics. By coincidence, today also happens to be National SLAM Day – Save Live Australian Music.  As their website shows,

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  • The Ups & Downs of Ups & Downs - interview with Greg Atkinson

    I’ve mentioned before my liking for the 80s Brisbane band Ups and Downs. I got a chance to interview their lead singer Greg Atkinson on 4ZzZ FM a few weeks ago. They’ve released a compilation CD of 20 of their best tunes and played a gig in Brisbane earlier this month to promote and celebrate it. It was a fairly long interview, but I found it very interesting to hear the views of someone who has been active in the independent sphere of the music industry for so long about what has changed and what is the same. You can listen to the interview at this link.

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  • Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

    A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition at The Studio on the ground level at the State Library of Qld this week, commemorating that anniversary. It finishes this weekend – I strongly recommend you try to get along for a look if you have a chance. The Library also has a screening of the documentary Hope on Friday October 28 – this film tell the story of Amal Basry, one of the few survivors of that tragedy.

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  • Stuff from my 4ZZZ shift this week

    Every Monday morning I do a shift on radio 4ZzZ FM102.1 – Brisbane’s longest serving community radio station (36 years old this year). And almost every week I talk with social media expert and lawyer Peter Black about some current political and other issues. You can listen to our talk this week by clicking on this link (it goes for over 30 minutes and has the occasional sweary word, so probably best just for dedicated fans). You can see the songlist I played this week – as usual featuring a sizable number of local artists – at this link, which in most cases also contains further links to other videos, information or photos of the artists.

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