Monthly Archives: October 2007

Hard Times for economic refugees

As people are already aware, the main focus of the 2007 election campaign is interest rates on housing mortgages. This is underlined by the number of times the shadow treasurer, Wayne Swan, mentioned interest rates in the debate with Treasurer Costello on 30 October 2007.

Video: Port Hedland Refugee Detention Centre, 2001

Unfortunately it is the lower paid people with large mortgages that will pay for banks increasing the cost of borrowing.

Who can blame these people for their concern?

Especially those who have paid off mortgages and the others who hold shares in banks that are producing record profits and returns on investment.

The latter have benefited from the current boom in the economy.

This is a system that rewards the better off while lower paid, time-strapped workers pay the price.

Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs)

For example, Telstra, with its record profits, recently offered their technicians AWAs.

One was offered an extra $5000 a year for working an extra hour per day and no travel allowance.

As a result, he will be on a reduced hourly rate.

This is the impact of WorkChoices – a reduced hourly rate, loss of allowances and penalty rates and increased control by the employer.

This later point will be useful to governments (Labor or Liberal) in downturns.

The impact is devastating for the unskilled and bad for the skilled but more surreptitious.
As Gore Vidal said: “It is not enough that some will succeed, others must fail.”

For those that wish to read the analysis behind these statements you can read the LeftPress publication After the Waterfront: the workers are quiet

Arise ye workers from ye slumbers!

A New Direction for Unions.

It is interesting (but not surprising) that there have been no calls from unions for a national Your Rights at Work rally during the 2007 Federal Election Camapign. The ALP clearly believe they don’t need union mobilisation to win seats, they prefer to scare people with the prospect of higher interest rates and a reduced work conditions if the federal government is re-elected.

A “Time to GO” rally has been suggested, however it is unlikely to get much support from unions. Take, for example, the recent Australia at the Crossroads rally in Brisbane where only 100 people turned up.

Workers are just waiting for Labor to win.

Meanwhile unions are running scared in the face of well funded campaigns by groups like the National Farmers Federation.

Unions have done little more than support parliamentary reform, there has been no campaign of defiance of the laws, not even a piecemeal one. See “After the Waterfront – the workers are quiet” for analysis of possible union strategies, now and in the future.

Why should workers support rallies that support a Rudd and Gillard victory?

As for the Greens their problems are many:

Where goes a vote for Greens?

Fact: The Greens have better policies than Labor on industrial relations, indigenous affairs, the environment, war and refugees.

Under Greens policies, workers still would have the right to strike, Gunns Pulp Mill would be banned, the Northern Territory (NT) intervention in Aboriginal communities would not have been allowed and African refugees would be welcome.

Neither government nor Labor support these policies.

However, Greens policies will never get passed by any Australian parliament.

The Greens have stated that they intend giving the ALP their preferences in some seats.

The question is: “Has Labor any policies to justify Greens giving them preferences in the 2007 election?”

Since Rudd has been leader of the ALP, Labor has endorsed government policy on banning workers’ right to strike, and supported the Howard government approval of Gunns’ pulp mill in Tasmania.

Last year Rudd refused to criticise the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and has been silent on refugee rights.

Given the extreme wealth of his wife, Rudd is likely to become the richest PM in Australian history i.e. richer even than Malcolm Fraser.

On a matter of principle, why, therefore, do the Greens propose to give Labor their preferences?

The Greens intend giving Labor preferences in marginal seats like Bass, Lyons, Melbourne, Bennelong, Wentworth and Moreton.

Why not give preferences to independents and socialists that reject Labor mimicry of government policies?

Are the Greens to repeat the same mistake they made in the 2004 Federal election? In 2004 the Green’s gave their preferences to the ALP even though Labor supported Family First above the Greens.

Subsequently Family First won the Victorian Senate seat. This right-wing, fundamentalist Christian party had received one tenth of the Green vote. The Green’s Di Natale got over 250,000 votes and Family First’s Fielding go about 20,000 votes. Yet Labor put them above the Greens.

So Family First won solely on Labor preferences. Family First then voted with the government against students right to form unions, against workers’ right to strike, and against working women.

If the Greens repeat the same mistake by giving Labor their preferences in 2007, they will make it easier for the ALP’s pro-business version of WorkChoices and Gunns’ Pulp Mill in Tassie to be approved in the next federal parliament.

Labor’s bi-partisan support of the abolition of Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory has rescinded the modest reform Whitlam introduced in 1975 when he poured NT dirt into Vincent Lingiari’s hands. Whitlam’s silence on this shows how determined the ALP is to get a right-wing Christian in the Lodge.

Ian Curr
10 October 2007