Monthly Archives: February 2007

Refugees

In 1976 a group of 31 Chilean families were taken to the Wacol Hostel in Brisbane. This was to be the basis of a story written by one of the refugees, Marcial Parada, in “Vuelo Lan Chile 1131” [Flight from Chile in 1976].

 

Accommodation at Wacol was poor and expenses were charged to refugees for that accommodation by a private contractor for the Australian Government (Commonwealth Hostels Ltd) in November 1976 (note the charges were based on the then National Wage Case).
The nature of this accommodation for the Chilean refugees may provide comparison on the holding of refugees in places like Baxter and Villawood in recent years under current refugee policy by the Australian government.

Much has been made of help that was given by successive Australian governments to refugees from Vietnam and elsewhere in the 1970/80s. See the speech from Senator Mason from Qld on 26 Feb 2007 in the federal parliament:

Senator MASON (Queensland) (4.05 pm)—Any suggestion that Australia would agree to an arrangement which would see refugees returned to a country where they face persecution is wrong. Citizens of other countries who are persecuted by their governments should, in an ideal world, always find safe haven. This country has a very proud record of that, particularly since the Second World War. After revolution in places like Hungary and Czechoslovakia, when there was revolution and after the Indochina war, this country took many refugees—I might add, despite Mr Whitlam’s objection to taking Vietnamese refugees. Under Mr Fraser, this country did take them, and it was one of the best things we have ever done as a community.


The stark reality of how little was actually done to help refugees is evidenced in Marcial Parada’s story (soon-to-be-published on BushTelegraph website) about the Chilean migrants at Wacol Hostel (Vuelo Lan Chile 1131).

Documents from the time referred to by Senator Mason demonstrate how inaccurate his statement to parliament were. He does not mention the Fraser Government’s treatment of Chilean Refugees who arrived at the same time as Vietnamese Boat People. The attached minutes of a Chile Solidarity Committee meeting indicate that refugees were placed under deportation orders in 1976/77 by the immigration minister in the Fraser government.

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People were sent to Chile where there was continuing persecution under Pinochet. [See the first resolution of the Minutes taken from a Chile Solidarity Meeting in that year.]

But the historical facts are easily passed over in the 3 year cycle parliamentary system that we live under.

Nothing much has changed in aid to refugees over the past 30 years. Not by Whitlam, nor by Fraser, not by Hawke, Keating or Howard governments.

It took action by skilled workers from Chile in 1976/77 to escape from Chile, to improve their own lot, learn a new language and culture, to find suitable accommodation and work. This is the struggle of workers who take refuge from military dictatorships like Pinochet’s.

The historic truth is successive governments (Labor and Liberal) did their best to do as little as was possible for refugees in the 1970s and 1980s. This is often forgotten in the political rhetoric that we hear today from people of all political persuasions, both past and present

Here is an excerpt from the Preface to “Vuelo Lan Chile 113″1 by Dan O’Neill who acted as a translator for the refugees in 1976/77. O’Neill makes a comparison between then and now:

… it’s good to be reminded of how much Australia is the product of people who came here because they were fleeing, voluntarily or enforcedly, disorder, disaster, or some other desperate state of affairs in some other part of the world. This didn’t even begin with 1788. If you can believe the educated surmises of Anthropologists, it began with the indigenous inhabitants who weren’t always so indigenous to this particular bit of the world.

So, in a way, you can read this brief history of one tumultuous year in the life of a group of Chilean migrants in Wacol Hostel as a parable of what it is for any of the groups who have come here for the last 40.000 years to learn to get along in and with the country and its existing inhabitants, flora, fauna and human. There’s meaning in all the parts of Marcial’s story -the way the kids leave home easier and feel at home here quicker, the fight between the Chileans and the Vietnamese in the Hostel, the political differences that are swift to emerge within the group of Chileans themselves.


Ian Curr, March 2007



“He can’t work, he is useless”

The QUT HR spin doctors put out propaganda with slogans like “Real people, Real service” when this institution is about “Real Money and Real Business“.

But what about the workers, teachers and students at Universities? How many times have you heard management say that one of their staff (admin worker or teacher) are useless? Even workers and teachers take up this chant against their workmates and colleagues.

It is Universities that have power to act on these prejudices as a result of an EBA signed by five unions including the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the Australian Services Union (ASU).

The QUT Professional Staff Agreement 2005 – 2008 states:

“47.2 Notwithstanding any other provisions of this clause the University may at any time during the probation period confirm or terminate the employment of a probationary staff member.”

(My emphasis)

1. Did the union EBA negotiators understand this clause when they recommended the EBA to members?

Answer: If it can be blamed on another union it will be, if it can be blamed on WorkChoices it will be, if it can be blamed on the prior Workplace Relations Act… if it can be blamed on an individual… just so long as the nature of the master/servant relationship is not challenged openly in struggle. The deals have to be done, the only way forward is through the parliament, Labor must be elected

2. If they did, how could they recommend giving management the power to sack workers summarily?

Answer: This clause is not in the QUT Academics EBA. The NTEU did not negotiate the EBA for professional staff (sic) … the collective has gone, academic and professional staff are divided, professional staff are too concerned with their own individual pursuits. People voted for Howard.

3. Why is this clause in the QUT Professional staff agreement and not in the QUT Academic Staff agreement?

4. Has the union signed up to similar clauses in EBA agreements in other tertiary institutions?

Nowhere is there a collective strategy to challenge management where the power resides — in the workplace.

Those academics interested in industrial relations join the industrial club with human resources staff, union reps, and IR lawyers rather than organise for workers rights.
The career path for union organisers has gone down the path of professionalism like the teachers and general staff they represent, so that in the end many represent management.

Unions have known for over ten years how bad the unfair dismissal laws are. The Workplace Relations Act 1996 made them more unfair.
So much so that in 2003/2004 only 42 workers were reinstated out of over 8,000 unfair dismissal claims in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC). Good luck to the 42 but these were the ones that where the cases were heard by an IR Comissioner, what about all the others that never got that far, were bullied and harrassed out of claiming unfair dismissal.

Yes, it takes years to be build a collective, a union of workers, this task should have begun ten years ago yet it has been put off in the interest of legality, to have labor-in-power—a collective postponed for ten years as union decline worsened.

Conclusion
No union should have agreed to this clause or accepted it after it was agreed to by another union; not for the promise of university funding, not for increased staffing, not for more casual jobs, nor for anything.
This clause and its agreement by the unions involved gives the employer unfettered right to summarily dismiss a person on probation.
The union should be about preventing unfair dismissal before they occur. The NTEU website says:

“The NTEU is currently carrying out a widespread national and local campaign in support of the workplace rights and conditions of university staff. “

If this be true, how could the NTEU (and other unions) have let this clause slip under the radar? The union may choose to throw resources to help people who have already been sacked but the horse has already bolted.

Unfair Dismissal
I was one of the admin workers affected by this EBA, I was first sacked by my supervisor on 7 Feb 2007 at QUT under this EBA and then sacked again by the University HR department a few weeks later. Here is my story of unfair dismissal not to be hidden by the defeatist or the compromised under challenge from a HR department clearing the way for business and profit in the higher education sector.

Union Negotiation
The Director of HR Services at QUT, Graham MACAULEY called a compulsory meeting for 2 March 2007 ostensibly to hear my response to the allegations made against me by management. The real reason was that my probation was to expire on 4 March 2007 and he believed it would be easier to sack me during probation. Hence the pretext at giving me a response to what he had heard from my supervisor.

The NTEU’s industrial officer in Brisbane had been speaking to QUT HR management about my case during February 2007.

After the meeting on Friday 2 March 2007 with QUT management I wrote to the National Tertiary Education Union’s industrial officer, Leah Cenciq, asking the following questions:

  1. What reason was given to you today by the QUT HR Director, Graham MACAULEY, for my termination?
  2. Could you provide me with his written reasons?
  3. You did not tell me that the management rep at today’s meeting, Ms Jane Banney, Deputy Director of HR at QUT was a former organiser with the Qld Public Sector Union [QPSU]?
  4. Was it Jane Banney who told you about the BushTelegraph article “He Can’t Work, He’s Useless”?
  5. Did Jane Banney tell you that Graham MACAULEY would challenge that article at the meeting?
  6. After the meeting you told me how smart Jane Banney [HR Deputy Director] is. When I asked why you answered with a question ‘couldn’t you tell?’
  7. Do you regard Jane Banney’s transformation to management rep. as a valid career path for a union organiser? (emphasis not included in email to Ms Cenciq) What discussions did you have with the Deputy Director HR about my case?As yet I have received no reply from the NTEU. The industrial officer fired back a scanned image of the letter from the HR Director dated 2 March 2007 confirming my sacking (see attached). The HR Director has provided no reasons for my termination either at the 90 minute meeting or in his letter below. Logically it follows that a person can be sacked with no reason given under the QUT EBA.

It was only after I received this response with no reply to my questions from the industrial officer have I published this story.

Labor Response
The former Labor leader, Beazley, said at the WorkChoices Rally at SouthBank in June 2006 that he would rip up the IR laws on the condition that workers in each workplace voted against Australian Workplace Agreements [AWAs].

The new labor leader, Rudd, is supporting small business over unfair dismissal. He is supporting laws favourable to contractors and unfavourable to workers.

Unions should rip up this enterprise agreement and others like it. The QUT EBA is anti-worker, it is anti-union.

Failed Individuals
As if to shove my failure down my throat I received the following (almost festive) email on 13 March 207 from the NTEU declaring the birthday of WorkChoices:

As we approach the first anniversary of John Howard’s workplace laws it’s time for an assessment of their impact on the community. Hear some views from all sides from our expert panel:
it’s been one year!
Professor David Peetz (IR academic from Griffith University)
Hon John Mickel (Queensland Industrial Relations Minister)
Grace Grace (General Secretary, Queensland Council of Unions)
Stephen Nance (Manager, Workplace Relations, Commerce
Queensland)
Andrew Johnson (Justice and International Mission Advocate,
Uniting Church)

The experts do not get it. They talk about the effect of WorkChoices on the community. They mean the electorate. What about the workers? When the Queensland Council of Unions began this campaign they held meetings of delegates and ran through statistics about marginal seats without first addressing whether Labor would have the capacity to deliver on WorkChoices. Delegates tried to put up motions for industrial action but were prevented.

Management have assigned workers to ‘failed individual’ status. Even if workers chose the collective, they could not have it, they are seen as individuals, failed ones at that. This is how Labor sees workers as well, not to be trusted with power, only as voters every three years.

And they want workers to vote for the Rudd elite over the Howard elite.

Management consign many workers to the status of failed individuals in society.

The unemployed person is the classic.

It is he/she that society blames.

Have solidarity and collective action disappeared from the workplace at higher education instiutions like QUT? Is the NTEU a union of workers, or is it a professional association, interested in legalistic, liberal professional elites and not in workers democratic rights?

Change will only come from the workers, teachers and students themselves, this story above demonstrates that it will come from nowhere else. Under capitalism, if you can’t work, you are useless — you are no longer a real person. Only in a socialist society will workers have democratic rights.

Ian Curr
15 March 2007

Aside

A number of proposals were put to a large community meeting at Jagara Hall in West End on Tuesday, 6 Feb 2007. These proposals were passed unanimously. They included the following: If the police march on Qld parliament a peaceful … Continue reading

Vale Phil Perrier

Phil Perrier’s send off was held on Friday, the 2nd of February, 2007.

Phil was a worker, political activist, artist, brother, partner, father and friend.

As a political activist Phil gave all his energy and talent to support the SEQEB workers who were sacked by Bjelke-Petsersen in 1985. He made drawings, cartoons, banners and placards in support of the workers. One of his drawings of a SEQEB worker is pictured here. Bernie Neville, himself a sacked SEQEB worker, read out a memorial to his friend and comrade Phil at AHIMSA house described later in this epitaph.

Early in the morning, at Kurilpa, there was a Murri ceremony held for Phil in the Sorry Place. This is near Orleigh Park at Hill End, Brisbane.

That ceremony included this eulogy by Sam Watson.

“Welcome to this ceremony, we are gathered on the sacred lands of the Jagara tribal nation and across the other side of this river, are the lands of the Turrbal people.

I am a member of the Munnenjarl tribal nation and I have blood and dreaming ties to the Jagara people.

This place is a very important place for our community.

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One of Phil Perrier's posters

This is the Sorry Park where we honour the pain and tragedy of the Stolen Generations. Every year we hold a dawn service here, on National Sorry Day.

This place is also the ending place for the very special Kurilpa Dreaming story, that belongs to the Jagara people and is shared with many other tribal nations and communities. The Kurilpa are the little water rats that used to be abundant on the bend of the river that is now called Kurilpa Point. One day we hope to be able to share that story with the general community. Since the cement barges have stopped the dredging this part of the river, we have seen some evidence that the Kurilpa are coming back into this area and that is good. We have also seen some Pelicans in the river and there are fish also coming back.

This place is also the starting point for the dreaming story of Kabul, the great Carpet snake. That story is one of the most important stories in south east Queensland. Kabul was one of the most powerful guardians of the pathways that ran through this country and carried people up to the Bunya mountains. Every second year our people from many tribal nations would gather in the Bunya mountains to celebrate the harvest of the Bunya nut. That would be a very important time of feasting, dance, singing and story telling.

This entire peninsula was a place where important ceremonies and rituals were conducted at different times of the cultural year. There are places here that only belong to men, there are also places here that only belong to women. Up the hill where that great battle was fought for the last piece of rainforest that we had here in South Brisbane, there was also an ancient birthing tree – it was kept secret for many years; but sadly, it has now been destroyed by the developers.

I have told you these things, so you would understand that this ceremony this morning is very important to us as Aboriginal people. We want to do this thing, on our sacred land – to show the respect and to show the love that we hold for our brother Phillip and his family.

Phillip has been called on to the Dreaming and we have come together to honour his life and to wish him farewell. By conducting this ceremony here, we can show that in our way – Brother Phil is a senior man and he is respected in our community.

It is also appropriate that we talk this up here, in this place on the side of the river. The river represents the cycles of life and it is sacred to our people. The river travels westwards to the mountain ranges and to the east, the river runs into Quandamooka, which is the birthing place of many of our Dreaming stories and rituals. The tides and the currents represent the cycles of life, the times of renewal.

The passing of Phil is only one step in that eternal cycle. We believe that Phil has been called onwards to the Dreaming and this point of time, is only one step in his own individual journey of discovery and learning. When we say farewell to our fallen heroes, we mourn very deeply as we feel the pain and the loss. But we also celebrate as a community because we know that our brother is now beyond pain and suffering.

In so very many ways and at so many levels, Phil has paid his dues and he has earned this moment, he is now as one with our ancestral earthmothers and earthfathers. In this life we stood beside our brother and we watched over him and we shared his burdens, now it is the great totemic beings who created all life – who will now take our brother into their care and keeping.

We have come together as Phil’s family, in blood, in dreaming and in the great struggles that he fought. We have come together to honour our brother and acknowledge the importance of his contribution to our onward march. We have come together to stand with his loved ones and to share their Sorry Time, so we can share their pain and anguish. We have come together in his name – to say farewell.

To say thank you, for allowing us to be a small part of your life.

To say thank you for the gifts and the wisdom that you gave to us.

To say thank you for creating a space in our circles that will never, ever be filled.

To say thank you for walking with us as we struggled with life, for being there to share, for being there to laugh and to cry, as we lived our lives and tried to make this small corner of the world – a better place.

But now my brother we close our eyes and we open our spirits as we approach this moment. We drink in the air, we smell the cooking fires, we hear the laughter of the children, the talk of the people.

We know that your place in that high circle of Elders has now been prepared for you. This will be a time of feasting, a time of celebration as your totemic brothers and sisters, welcome you and sing of your mighty deeds. The Old People will now care for you and watch over you. It is left to us to bid you farewell, to say those final words –

WARRIOR GO HOME

WARRIOR GO HOME…

YOUR TIME IN THIS PLACE HAS PASSED.

BUT WE SHALL NEVER FORGET YOU

WE SHALL REMEMBER YOU AND WE SHALL CARRY ON THE GREAT STRUGGLE THAT YOU FOUGHT WITH HONOUR, COURAGE AND COMMITMENT,

WARRIOR GO HOME

WARRIOR GO HOME…”

From there we went with the coffin to Mt Gravatt Cemetery where he was buried in a downpour that his youngest son, Shaun, later described as “tears from heaven”.

At the graveside were his sons, Lionel and Shaun, together with their mother, and his brother, Robert.

Brian Laver made a farewell on behalf of us all as the rain fell. Nearly all Phil’s old comrades were there from the International Socialists, from the Trade Union Support Group and the Rank and File group and from AHIMSA house.

Afterwards, we all went back to AHIMSA House for a “Joy filled Celebration” — Phil’s words, as specified in his Will.

One of Phil’s closest friends and carers’, Maggie, said that Phil wanted people to have a good time and if they want to say anything good or bad, okay, but nothing religious.

Much was said about Phil, mostly good things. There was talk of the indispensable one, of the fighter who participated as a rank and file worker in the Castlemaine bewery dispute in 1979.

Songs were sung by Jumping Fences (Sue Monk, Lachlan Hurse, and Ross Gwyther). They played some of Phil’s favourite Jumping Fences songs. The lyrics to one they sang were:

Say it strongly
let them hear
Let your whispers overflow
Take your chances
don’t wait for years
or the moment’s lost
before you even know
(Just Go Gently)

Maggie and her helpers made sandwiches and put on the customary AHIMSA hospitality. John Duffy sang the blues about the IR laws that made him and Phil “really pissed off”. His brother Robert told us of Phil’s youth growing up in Zillmere with a violent father. Phil was mentored by Uncle Eddie Douglas, from Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Troupe

One of Phil’s favourite singers was Kev Carmody. Kev sent a CD of his songs for Phil to listen to — sent with a kind note (pictured here). Unfortunately Phil had already passed on.

But Phil knew these words by heart. Phil had stated his own epitaph by reciting the words ” You may take my life and liberty friend, but you cannot buy my soul” in hospital before he died.

The full verse goes:

“The cleverman spoke precisely, humanity he said was donecannot-buy-my-soul.jpg
It’s creed of greed could not proceed if our struggle’s to be won
For humanity’s more important here than that constant quest for gold
You may take life and liberty friend but you cannot buy our soul”

BushTelegraph is trying to celebrate the life of Phil Perrier, feel free to help below.

As the kind note from Kev Carmody said:

“As the old black fella saying goes:— our Spirit Walks with you”

Vale Phil