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 the past is somewhat off the mark, as the things he’s announced already include measures which are a significant shift from the law as it stood before the Coalition got control of the Senate.  And of course, it ignores the fact that the make up of the Senate after the election will be influential on what sort of laws Australia ends up with in the event Mr Rudd gets elected.

More than any other area of law over the past ten years – indeed the past 25 years – it is industrial relations where the non-major party Senators have played a significant, continuing role.  It was the loss of that balance of power, placing control of the Senate – and therefore the whole Parliament – in the hands of a single major party grouping, which opened the door to the extremist laws we currently have.  If we are to shift back to a Senate which is independent of any single party or group, then the make of up of that balance power will be critical to what sort of laws will end up being passed.

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  1. Almost everything this government has done in recent years is extremist.

    Rudd has restored a great deal of balance to the equation for young people like my 16 year old grand-daughter. She is one of the lucky ones because a family friend has offered her free board and full training in preparation to becoming a flight attendant when she is old enough.

    But most of our kids don’t manage to have such a family friend and we have seen the same sort of exploitation and conditions I worked under when I was 12 in 1965.

    I would start at 6.30 am in the local bakery, go to school, go to the bakery until after 7 pm and work all weekends.

    For 20 cents an hour.

  2. Well what Mr Rudd may be aiming for is more likely to be an industrial relations position or perhaps balance of the past. There will need to be a legislative basis but whether those laws will be as of the past, we are yet to see. Not that the Courier Mail or any other MSM is likely to get down to such an advanced level of analysis!

    The level of yelling from the talking heads of AiG and ACCI indicates that they won’t let their free kick go easily.

  3. Like all the phonies before him as Labor leaders,to be a union member requires an attitude that suggests the leader is spiritual and all that are anointed as such by them have this quality of the other as practised by the Catholic Leader of that church resident in Sydney.The other in the Labor ranks are all those chosen who defy logic for the sake of power.Rudd just simply doesnt represent lower paid and others in our society ,because he thinks he is being charitable by having policies aimed at disadvantage.Garrett remains superior as an example and the Greens have already tasted his round stuff to put on your tongue.And once again both unionised and non unionised labor will see arse as holier than thou.All you have to recognise as their manipulation is their analysis of what is working class by the Mick Young scholarship.That diabetic left following in the footsteps of the Carlton and United Brewery revolution for workers,beer money, whilst Chipp later tried to extend pub hours so workers could not be so drunk and dangerous.Well known fact Bobette Carcass rode to fame on his dads fibro house, Chifley speak and drunken ALP voters..the diseases of boozeyness are generational and add the softening of bone material by Coca Cola and we have weasels on the Animal Farm ready to supplant the ghost in the Machine Liberals.The IR laws and the ALP sense of superiority will make the end noose of the Labor peril choke the lower incomes.One must have a sense of superiority to feel charitable and the present farm animals and the hopefuls spirit.. rests in the departed.Being insulting is defensible when it easy to see these ALP people are clowns laughing at what they are getting away with ,as result of The Ghost in the Machine Liberals.Find a cross weasel pig sound and have it ready from now on.

  4. Just out of nostalgia Marilyn , i was 6 in 1965,Already a korean war veteran.My first job, as many of my relatives ,a jockey. Apprenticed to a top brisbane trainer. 15 dollars a week, 10 dollars for food and board.Bashed for not complying with drugging horses-I love them-put in stalls with mankillers for payment on complaining about it- sailmaker Was the worst.Guess what – they would’nt kick me.Used to steal sheets off motels clothlines at Hamilton-yes it was me and others-to stay warm and dodge cops in the valley for being small and having a big mouth.Was hunted for 4 days on leaving and hid out at an elderly couples shop at Hamilton and protected by aboriginals and staff of the Hamilton road brothel till i got in touch with my Dad.He turned up with Sydney relatives and top racing identities and no problem. It was quite a world was’nt it.Fine Cotton? One Of Many.To all the horse lovers- Spedito died in absolute agony, from small doses of Arsenic,just like FARLAP, which has the same effect as LSD in small doses but a real gut twisting experience for a horse, paranoia of all around you making you run like mad. He got his head caught under the yard rails three times in the 40 minutes he flipped around and fell into the rails and all around hoping he’d get his head stuck and break his neck if he did’nt get through it to race again. It’s a wonderful world.

  5. Phil – are you speakign for or against the motion?

    Your techncially right about a non-return to the laws of the past Anderew – however of coruse what Rudd is selling is not what will actually happen – but a “symbolic notion” , a feel good factor – its quite successful.

    Of course the opposite selling game is also going on and you have fallen into line with the notion of “extremism’ – what is also being sold is fear and loathing coupled with nostalgic feel good – remarkably powerful concepts.

  6. I’m actually trying to cut through the spin and drill down to the substance, Ken. I don’t think it is just a ‘selling game’ to say that Howard’s IR laws are extreme – compared to 100 years of Australian practice, they certainly are extreme.

    That doesn’t mean that they are what some of his boosters or detractors say they are though – the current IR laws are not a deregulated, flexible open slather, they are a highly bureaucractic restrictive set of laws which actually seeks to channel workplace agreements down an ideologically preferred path, which just happens to be tilted against unions and towards the government’s idea of what business should want.

  7. Andrew, I’m glad to hear that you will be examining the substance. You are right on one thing; they are 1400 pages of complicated & quite prescriptive law. Whether they are worse than any time in the preceding 100 years is a massive call. So M working as a 12yr old for 20c an hr in 1965 (probably not bad pay back then for an unskilled 12 yr old) is all hunky dory?

    With collective agreement what is not well understood is that the legislation does not preclude many of the conditions that are being sold to the punters as being stripped away, all it does say is there are minimums, there is nothing to stop conditions above the minimums being included in a collective agreement. What is does do is outline prohibited content – which is the anti-union stuff, but none of that really relates to employment conditions – more union rights.

    Any half decent organisation will continue on a collective path (as I am in the middle of right now with our 1500 staff), with changes including pay & conditions negotiated & agreed as it has been. So we have to consult with all staff, not just the Union – how terrible, so we have to remove prohibited content, well we’ll deal with that in another forum.

    The issue of AWA’s is more problematic, particularly with the young & unskilled, & I think that’s what you are more referring to. We had 20 allowable matters in Federal Awards pre WC and now there are 13 – what is not understood is that all preserved conditions apply in any new AWA unless “specifically excluded”. This is where the take it or leave it rhetoric comes from, the unequal bargaining position, however union involvement with most of these people is a bit of a furphy, awards underpinned these groups of people, most haven’t been unionised for years. Restoring some of the 20 allowable matters is probably not a bad thing.

    Make no mistake the issue for the Unions is not having the guaranteed seat at the table they were used to – but you’ll never hear anyone admit to it

  8. What I can’t figure is how 1000+ pages of legislation is supposed to deregulate an industry.

    And let’s not get started on the number of pages in Hansard the simplifying GST used.

  9. What hope for change, anyway?
    As usual, just when federal Labor starts to get its act together on behalf of millions of Australians disadvantaged by the forced labour laws of Howard, the scabs come out of the woodwork tom jeopardise progress.
    Like Lennon in 2004, a state premier nakedly representing vested interests opposed to and operating at the expense of millions of Australians, crawled forth from his funk-hole to do the dirty deed.
    This time slithered forth “Col’n” Carpenter of WA (Burke-shire to the cogniscinti), shamelessly sucking up to the mining multinationals, behaves with the same treacherousness Lennondid for Gunns in 2004.
    It’s not Howard that the ALP needs to fear- at least Howard is visibly unrepentant as to his deceitful forced-labour agenda- but the lowest forms of parasitic life; soul-less, mindless and gutless- within the ALP itself.
    As we retreat to the rememberance of Keating’s famous aphorism concerning “never standing in the way of a state premier and a bucket full of money” (this time big mining!), we reflect on the final betrayal, not only of this generation but those following, by the Judasas who take their thirty pieces, but lack even Judas’ guts, to at least take the principled path of hanging themselves afterwards to make amends to those they betray.
    In the meantine all the press and media scabs are out trying to crucify Gillard for reminding Australians of the fundamentally selfish and amoral bases of boss opposition to fairness in the workplace.
    Talk about “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest”!
    Will the people of this Orwell-ised society EVER wake up?

  10. Andrew:

    I agree completely with everything you mentioned, including post #6.

    There may be some employers who will treat their staff fairly, but for every one of them, there will be a long list of employers who are only motivated by greed.

    A case in point – the aged care “investigators” have been back at the state-of-the-art private nursing home again – for the fourth time in less than a year.

    However, I don’t feel as though Rudd and Gillard are going to win the election. Rudd may be a bit of a Howard look-alike, but I cannot imagine him running the country or keeping his promises.

    My father belonged to one of the most powerful unions in the country. What is happening today would make him turn in his grave.

    People need to get back to the unions and become more community-minded if they hope to have successful futures.

    I think I will be doing the same thing I always do at Federal elections. All of the Coalition candidates will be relegated to the bottom of the pile, with the ALP candidates second to last.

    (If the ALP are in power, I reverse the “order of dëmerit” accordingly, because they don’t do the right thing either.)

    I will then put all of the Independent candidates and members of minor parties at the top – even those I don’t like.

    A bus driver told me we must all vote Labour to ensure the removal of Howard; but I think if we do that we might be replacing one destructive cult with another.

    Labour hasn’t been interested in the worker for decades – so the only solution may be for the workers to be more interested in themselves as a collective power without them – and try to get a diverse group of thinkers into the Senate.

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