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Editorial Comment on current issues

Gallery

“Taking to the Streets” Exhibition

This gallery contains 21 photos.

“Taking to the Streets – two decades that changed Brisbane 1965 – 1985” – Museum of Brisbane Exhibition 2006. The exhibition was opened on 6 April 2006. After an extended season and over 80,000 visitors later the exhibition was closed … Continue reading

Aside

Editor’s Note. Les Malezer has sent this interesting article around and so I reprint it here. I hope the National Geographic Society do not mind, I notify the editor of that magazine and credit the author (Charles Bowden) and photographer … Continue reading

No union affiliation with ALP!

Union Members

I have just read the online petition about “Community and Public Sector Union Affiliation” at: http://www.PetitionOnline.com/cpsu/

The petition says,

To:  Stephen Jones, National Secretary, CPSU

As members of the CPSU, we request that the National Secretary obtain the opinion of members by plebiscite on the following question:

“Do you support the CPSU having a policy of no formal affiliations with any political party?”

There should be no union affiliation with any political party.

Ian Curr, May 2007

Change without a strong Workers Movement?

A recent petition to G8 Summit stated:

‘HURRY, only 72 hours to help fight for the end of world poverty’.g8_advert_portrt_en_lo_v2.jpg

‘The standard of health of Aborigines lags almost 100 years behind that of other Australians, according to the World Health Organisation. Some indigenous people still suffer from leprosy, rheumatic heart disease and tuberculosis. A similar survey from Oxfam and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation reported that Australia ranked last for health among rich countries with indigenous populations’. (International edition The Guardian Weekly, London, 11 May 2007).

Yet I received the following email from within Australia: “We are fortunate enough not to know the experience of extreme poverty first hand, therefore, it is our duty to use our blessed position in the world to help in whatever way we can.” — Petition titled ‘HURRY, only 72 hours to help fight the end of world poverty’.

The person who wrote this email in support of the above petition is clearly fortunate enough not to have visited places where many working class people live: Logan City in Brisbane, or ‘the Block’ in Abercrombie St, Redfern, or Marrickville in Sydney, Walgett in western NSW (the most racist town in Australia), or downtown Alice Springs, or Palm Island, or Hopevale mission in Nth Qld , or parts of Dunwich on Straddie, and so on.

The third world is at our doorstep, we know it, yet do nothing. It never features in election outcomes for local, state, or federal elections. The parties wring their hands and ignore it. Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating made the famous Redfern speech in the early 1990s and then made economic plans to ensure the survival of poverty in Australia.

On the southside, darkside
South of the freeway them Logan kids
Use to hang out in that trashed out Rooster & Ribs

Fast food, junk food, foul, food, chunder
McDonalds, Kentucky, rail line thunder
Tavern drive-in, ya buy the piss
The grog we flog, they’ll never miss
Poor behind, square one, it’s hard to start
Five fingered discount from the rich K-Mart

– Kev Carmody, aboriginal singer and activist, from Darkside

Contrast this with the case of

“Nicki Webster representing ‘Young Australia’ (in terms of settler history and in a generational sense) in the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games only a few kilometres from the Block in Redfern..

She is an image of an innocent white Australia and, as a child, it is difficult to associate her with colonial violence, frontier conflict and cultural genocide.

What she can be seen to represent, however, is a representation of a settler desire to find a blank slate, a pure, unadulterated white canvas with which to start again.” – Kev Carmody, comments on ‘One night the Moon’

Gallery

Pig City: ‘they shut it down, they pulled it down’?

This gallery contains 3 photos.

How does the song go? Watch the butcher shine his knives And this town is full of battered wives ……………………………………. They shut it down They pulled it down They shut it down They pulled it down Round and round, up … Continue reading

‘New Labor’ or solidarity?

In 1980 when Howard was Treasurer, the Fraser Government tried to tax mining workers on the benefit they received from subsidised housing in remote Central Queensland. A form of Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) on housing paid by the workers themselves.

As a recent article on the Miners Union (CFMEU-mining division) website points out:

The Fraser Government had first tried to introduce the housing tax in 1978 and again in 1979 but through strike action were successfully rebuked both times. However, Howard thought that the time was right for another attack on workers rights and in 1980 the battle was on again.

The response from the miners was to go out on strike, this is why John Howard hates unions —

When Howard moved to impose his housing tax on 30 June, miners at Gregory and Moura mines went out on strike. Others at Moranbah and Dysart followed.

Around 4,000 mining families in Central Queensland were targeted by Howard’s housing tax and they were prepared to fight for their rights.

Mass meetings and a street march in Moura (at the time illegal under Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s anti-civil rights laws) were held. Interestingly, Bjelke-Petersen supported the miners opposition to the tax, but when he attended a mass meeting in Blackwater and told the striking miners to return to work, he was booed and jeered.

In other parts of Queensland miners not involved in the dispute rallied behind their comrades. In Collinsville and Ipswich levies were struck in support…

In August, into the seventh week of the strike, Deputy Prime Minister Doug Anthony and Treasurer John Howard clashed with miners at a Blackwater meeting.

The dispute was estimated to be costing coal companies $28 million a week and $5 million a week in lost corporate tax. And yet the Government was holding out for an estimated $1.5 million in increased tax revenue.

Finally, in September, after 10-weeks on strike … the miners returned to work victorious.

The victory did not end there, as there was a flow on to other communities.

At the beginning of October, with a Federal election looming, the Fraser Government announced that families living in remote areas all over Australia would receive tax reductions on housing provided by employers.

The mining unions tamed

Contrast this to the recent dispute over housing reported in Common Cause under the heading — BHP must end housing discrimination in Central Queensland.

The article reads:

In the minds of greedy coal companies, mining towns like Moranbah only exist to support them. But to the workers who have helped build these communities, it is our home, it is where we nurture and sustain our families.

… BHP can afford to do the right thing by all its workers, their families and our community. BHP Billiton has just recorded the biggest ever profit in Australia’s history – $13.7 Billion.

Most of that staggering profit came from its mining operations and much of it from coal mines in Central Queensland.

Labor’s response:

Beattie to focus on coal town problems

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has confirmed he will send the directors-general of key government departments to coalmining towns to see infrastructure problems first hand…

A group of six mayors and Labor backbencher and former coal miner Jim Pearce have been pushing for the meeting so politicians can gain a better understanding of the housing and infrastructure problems facing the coal mining communities of Central Queensland.”
C F M E U Mining and Energy Bulletin, 6 September 2006 Volume 9, No.15.

During the 1980s the Labor Party delivered aspirational voters to the Liberal Party. The Accord between government employers and workers produced a 15 percent decline in wages over the decade Labor was in office.

In the 2004 federal election election many members of the CFMEU forestry division in Tasmania voted Liberal. Many workers left their union.

To get the workers back in the fold Labor led unions have resorted to gimmicks like union shopper, advertising, and fear of WorkChoices legislation.

But as pointed out in a recent article Industrial Relations: Howard’s Grave Diggers by Michael Connors in Australian Independent Marxists Newsletter May 2007:may-day-2007-086.jpg

The greatest challenge facing Australian unions is not recruitment but the re-creation of the notion of solidarity. While unions will grow in the short term — based on the fear of Howard’s IR agenda — recruitment will mean nothing unless the ethic of solidarity re-emerges.

The mineworkers tax revolt in 1980 is one example of the kind of solidarity that has to be re-built, where union power is exercised by the workers themselves.

Philistines no longer at the gates…

Academics, Hookham and MacLennan, threatened with the sack!

I have just received a paper from the National Tertiary Education Union [NTEU] about closure of the Humanities and Human Services School at Queensland University of Technology.

The letter states:

The argument that Creative Industries is the ‘new’ humanities is spurious – the programmes are important to QUT but are not intended to the breadth and depth of the (humanities degrees) BA & B.Soc Sci. Indeed, much of the argument about the ‘new’ revolves around the apparent audacity of comparing Shakespeare and Big Brother … the undergraduate degrees and the postgraduate research at Humanities and Human Services … is grappling with the complex human, social and ethical issues and uncertainties faced in science and bio-medicine, business, built environment, law and education.

Are students and staff aware of the attacks being made against two academics in Creative Industries at QUT, John Hookham and Gary MacLennan, who wrote a critical article ‘Philistines of relativism at the gates‘, about a PhD thesis called ‘Laughing at the Disabled: Creating comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains‘.

Their criticism of ‘Laughing at the Disabled …’ has been covered widely in the higher education supplement of the Murdoch newspaper, The Australian.

It is clear that, for some, there is a point at which we can tolerate no more.

Sadly, in these times, it seems it is difficult to coordinate this into collective action rather than individual revolt.

What collective action is to be organised by union members for John Hookham and Gary MacLennan, now charged under QUT Code of Conduct and apparently threatened with the sack?

It seems the philistines are no longer at the gates, they run the institutions and, as always, those who oppose them are to be arrested and shut outside.

Ian Curr,
May 2007

Protests and arrests at Gardens Point Campus as students demonstrate the closing of the School of Humanities and Human Services

Since this article was written there has been some support for the two academics, MacLennan and Hookham.

Also there has been the parallel action by the QUT to get rid of Humanities.

This has met with some resistance by the students and staff at QUT.

The university response to that resistance is shown in the video below.

The video is short and worth watching right to the end.

Congratulations to the student activists and filmaker for courage and determination ‘under fire’ from police and University authorities. We need to see more students standing up for a better education and making videos like this available on You Tube.

Ian Curr
July 2007

Labor’s Industrial Relations Policy — May, 2007

Publisher’s Note: The following is a summary of the Industrial Relations (IR) Policy accepted at the National Labor Party Conference in April 2007. It is included here in the interest of clarity and completeness.

I have summarised the Labor’s IR policy directly from the ALP policy document ‘Forward with Fairness’[1].

I do not agree with this policy imposed on workers in the interests of managing capitalism. It should be noted that there is no mention in the ALP policy document of the ban placed on union secondary boycotts in the Trade Practices Act 1974.

However, to avoid confusion about the content of the IR policy passed at ALP National Conference on 28 April 2007, I have refrained from making comment here. Nevertheless, in a couple of places only, I have distinguished its content from existing IR policy under the current federal government.

__oOo__

Proposed National Industrial Relations System

  1. One National System for the Private Sector using co-operation and referral of powers by the Labor States (currently all states and territorities). Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) and other agencies (Fair Pay Commission, Office of Employment Advocate etc) to be replaced by Fair Work Australia.
  2. Fair Work Australia will include a separate division with jurisdiction to hear and determine unlawful dismissal claims, matters relating to Labor’s minimum entitlements and freedom of association.
  3. Pattern bargaining. The policy is worded as follows “Where more than one employer and their workers or unions with coverage in the workplaces voluntarily agree to collectively bargain together for a single agreement they will be free to do so”.
  4. Abolishes Australian Building & Construction Commission (ABCC). However Fair Work Australia’s inspectorate will have specialist divisions and the first two will be for building and hospitality industries.

Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining is based at the enterprise level. It includes the following aspects:

  1. No statutory individual contracts i.e. Australian Workplace Agreements AWAs
  2. Collective agreements permit:
  • parties to break off negotiations, in which case the industrial arrangements already in place would remain in force;
  • requests for Fair Work Australia to help reach agreement
  • requests for determination of particular matters; or
  • in certain circumstances, permits taking protected industrial action (see conditions below).
  • Parties must bargaining in good faith;

Industrial Action

  1. No strike without a secret ballot.
  2. Workers can take protected industrial action.
  3. The ballot process will be supervised by Fair Work Australia.
  4. Unlawful for employers to pay strike pay.
  5. Employers may lock out workers in response to industrial action by those workers.
  6. Fair Work Australia will have the power to end the industrial action and determine a settlement between the parties for their workplace

Legislated Minimum standards

The existing 5 minimum standards under WorkChoices of the 38 hour week, 4 weeks annual leave, sick leave, parental leave and carers leave, and public holidays have been increased to 10 standards outlined below:

1. Hours of work — 38 hour week for full time workers. Workers may be required to work additional hours, but cannot be required to work unreasonable additional hours.

2. Parental leave —both parents entitled to up to 12 months of unpaid leave associated with the birth of a baby. Also chief care giver to child may be entitled to additional 12 months of unpaid parental leave from their employer.

3. Flexible work for parents — right for parents to request flexible work arrangements until their child reaches school age.

4. Annual leave — 4 weeks’ paid annual leave for full time workers. Part time workers paid pro rata. Shift workers entitled to additional paid week of annual leave.

5. Personal, Carers and Compassionate leave— 10 days’ paid carers leave each year. Part time workers leave paid pro rata. Compassionate leave on the death or serious illness of a family member or a person the worker lives with. Additional 2 days of unpaid personal leave where required for genuine caring purposes and family emergencies.

6. Community Service Leave
Paid community service leave for jury service and unpaid leave for emergency services duties.

7. Public holidays
Labor’s industrial relations system will guarantee public holidays. Workers entitled to penalty rates on public holidays as set out in the award.

8. Information in the workplace
Employers to provide information about the worker’s rights and entitlements at work, including the right of the worker to join a union.

9. Termination of Employment & Redundancy
All workers will be entitled to fair notice of termination

10. Long Service Leave

Industry Awards

As well the ALP policy outlines minimum industry award conditions including:

1. Minimum wages. Based on skill classifications and career structures, incentive based payments and bonuses, wage rates and other arrangements for apprentices and trainees;
2. The type of work performed, conditions vary if the worker is permanent or casual, and flexible working arrangements, particularly for workers with family responsibilities, including part time employment and job sharing;
3. Arrangements for when work is performed, including hours of work, rostering, rest
breaks and meal breaks;
4. Overtime rates for workers on long hours;
5. Penalty rates for workers doing shifts or working on unsocial, irregular or unpredictable hours, on weekends or public holidays.
6. Minimum annualised wage in lieu of penalty rates where patterns of work in an occupation, industry or enterprise. Workers not to be disadvantaged;
7. Allowances including reimbursement of expenses, higher duties and disability based payments;
8. Leave, leave loadings and the arrangements for taking leave;
9. Superannuation; and
10. Dispute settling procedures.

Unfair Dismissal

Claims for unfair dismissal may be permitted on the following conditions:

  1. where there are 15 or more workers, must have worked for 6 months;
  2. where there are fewer than 15 workers, must have worked for 12 months;
  3. if the worker is not covered by an award, the worker must be earning annual remuneration of less than $98,200 (to be indexed).
  4. 7 days to lodge claim
  5. Remedy for unfair dismissal may be reinstatement or compensation. There will be a cap on compensation paid.


[1] Published at http://www.alp.org.au/media/0407/msirloo280.php . Website checked on 2 May 2007.

Unions have lost rights at work — will workers lose all?

In the lead up to the ALP national conference it is claimed that “The ALP is strongly defending workers RIGHTS at WORK”

This is not true in any sense. 310623515_683e3bc353.jpg

ALP-led unions have resisted actions to defend workers rights at work, they have presided over losses since the 1998 MUA Dispute.

ALP governments and ALP-led unions have mounted a failed legal challenge that their own lawyers said would be defeated in the HIGH Court. As a result of that legal action and the following decision workers lost rights at work.

The ACTU has raised $20 million from workers in its ‘Your Right at Work’ campaign. Not one cent of that money has been spent on fighting WorkChoices; it has all gone to advertising to assist the ALP to win government. Look at union delegates who have been sacked as a result of WorkChoices. The union delegate at Tristar was sacked after 32 years in the job for standing up for his fellow workers. No industrial action was called.

Many other workers have lost jobs in the retail, hospitality and tourism sectors. The only way to fight for rights at work in the hospitality industry is by unions applying secondary boycotts. Not one secondary boycott has been organised under the ALP parliamentary strategy.

The Electrical Trades Union in Brisbane organised pickets of the Fox hotel when management forced workers onto Australian Workplace Agreements. These boycotts were effective in getting a union collective agreement. But the ACTU has resisted the lead of the ETU-style campaign by calling for secondary boycotts.

All the ACTU has done is organise protests to help the ALP win government.

Remember an ALP win under Rudd promises little. Last time workers and their unions lost more under the Accord and Enterprise Bargaining introduced by the Hawke/Keating Labor Government than under the long years of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 introduced by the coalition government (1996- ).

Many workers are now giving up on unions because of the ALP failure to fight the coalition government on WorkChoices. If the ALP has fought as is claimed, where is a single victory for workers since WorkChoices was introduced. Not one strike has been called by ALP-led unions. Industrial Action is at its lowest since 1913. As a result union participation is down to 15% in the private sector.

Even if the ALP did want to change WorkChoices significantly, a parliamentary solution is high risk for workers rights at work because the ALP will not control the upper house regardless of who wins government in 2007.

Ian Curr
12 April 2007

The Day of the Political Street March

The Day of the Political Street March is over, don’t apply for a permit you won’t get one” — Premier of Queensland, Johannes Bjelke-Petersen on 4 September 1977.

In response to the ban on political marches, I helped paint the “Ban Bjelke Banner” (shown) with another student in the forum area of the Student Union at University of Queensland on the morning of 12 September 1977.

We (and others) carried it at the front of the first street march held on that day in defiance of Bjelke-Petersen’s ban on street marches. The film of that first march of defiance was shown on TV news and current affairs for many years afterwards (see pictured). This is because over 3,000 arrests occurred as a result of defiance of the ban by workers and students in the period 1977-1979. That struggle is why political street marches are allowed today by governments in Queensland.

People should not surrender their democratic rights to any government or institution.

ban-bjelke-the-first-street-march-banner.jpg

Soon after Bjelke-Petersen’s death in April 2005, the Beattie Labor Government granted Bjelke Petersen a state funeral.

On May Day 2005, just prior to the state funeral, I took the “Ban Bjelke” banner to the annual Labour Day march in Brisbane. I asked people who were arrested in the street marches to sign the banner. I received a lot of support from unionists and activists. Daughters and sons of street marchers proudly came up to sign the banner on behalf of their parents who had marched in defiance of the ban on street marches.

In protest of the Labor government’s granting Bjelke-Petersen a state funeral, Murri activists, SEQEB workers, and street marchers carried the banner onto Brisbane streets for the last time, almost 30 years after its first appearance in defiance of the ban on street marches (see below).

ban-bjelke-2005.JPG

We chanted “Never Forgive, Never Forget, Never Again” all the way to parliament house.

In 2006, the Brisbane City Council’s Museum of Brisbane “Taking to the Streets” exhibition displayed the banner now displaying over 230 signatures to remember those struggles.

It should be remembered that one street marcher, the former Senator George Georges, was threatened with dis-endorsement by the Labor Party-in-opposition in 1977 if he spoke at the rally on 11 November 1977 prior to the state election on the following day.

Ian Curr, 25 March 2007

Aside

  The headlines on Friday, March 23, 2007 read “Four acquitted over Palm Island riot” [The Age], “Not Guilty” [The Courier Mail] and so on. What the papers do not say is that the Queensland Government had been successful in … Continue reading

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.

new-picture.jpg

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.

seqeb-worker.jpg

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



Aside

“The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box.  As you grow … Continue reading

Aside

During the period (1960s — 2000s) mining companies, Queensland State Governments, and the Queensland Police Department have turned Aurukun into a war zone for the Wik people of Far North Queensland. Labor Premier Beattie rang President Bush to ‘ask for … Continue reading

Land, Justice, Worker Control

Land, Justice, Worker Controlaboriginal-language-groups.jpg

The Queensland Labor Government is mired in secrecy and guilt over its treatment of Aboriginal people on Palm Island. Even in its own terms of reform, it has forfeited its right to govern.

The debate around the killing of Mulrunji by a Queensland Police officer and the subsequent actions taken against the people of Palm Island in the courts has centred on what form due process should take.

In the media we have witnessed a public debate between social democrats and liberals about what should be done about Snr Sgt Hurley. This debate has ensured a place for the protagonists on the front page or 6 o’clock news. It does sell newspapers, but has achieved nothing. It goes on and on, just as it has over the past 2 years, the past 40 years, the last 200 years. Whatever is done comes too late, too late for Mulrunji, too late for his son and mother. Too late for Palm. Too late for all.

On the sidelines we hear concern about the need for moderation in public demonstrations.

These concerns are based upon a false premise. The media grab is only a reflection of Queensland seen from the TV screen. It does not reflect people’s behaviour at political demonstrations.

Political demonstrations in Brisbane and elsewhere in Queensland are non-violent. From time to time, there has been provocation used against such demonstrations. But we rarely see provocation. The right wing media, police, governments or agent-provocateurs are behind the camera, hidden from view. Occasionally the politician or the public official is sent into the limelight to explain what went wrong.

In spite of non-violence, some still feel the need to state that a demonstration will be or was peaceful. Such statements are a play to the media and unecessary. Such statements are counterproductive as they distance protestors away from the victims of violence i.e. the people on Palm Island.

In one brief outbreak of grief, Palm Islanders were forced by police killing their son, Mulrunji, to retaliate against an uncaring and inhumane response by police, bureaucrats and government ministers.

The people on Palm knew justice will never be done. Events before and after demonstrate this.

National Newspapers would rather beat up Aboriginal rioters on Palm, talk of Lebanese youth in Sydney, African gangs in Melbourne.

No attempt is made to find a solution to inequality. No talk of discarding the rule of master over servant, the dominion of settler over aborigine.

When all else fails they cry: “Send in the independent umpire, Tony Fitzgerald!”

But that is how we are governed, by the unjust, the liar, the thief.

Master/Servant
Bring out the punching bag, look for scapegoats, put up a Howard-clone to win government and ignore fundamental issues of aboriginal land, justice and worker control. Never before has so much land been in the hands of so few capitalists. The workers are in debt, equity is lost. In 2006 share markets boomed, Telstra was sold again, as was QANTAS and many other companies once in public hands.

Never before has so much profit been made by the privateer by distributing land to the wealthy speculator. Many have ignored or accepted by buying in on the boom. Few have stood up against the privateer and the master holds sway over servant. Meanwhile workers are sold onto the scrap heap.

Take the National Airline, QANTAS, privatised by Labor, now in the hands of finance capitalists, Allco Equity. Who benefits?

QANTAS bosses: Dickson, Gregg and Borghetti refuse to disclose their financial interest in the deal as they storm around Australia telling workers what a great thing this deal will be. Meanwhile bosses malign the few unions and pilots who attempt resistance. No longer the strike weapon for workers and their unions, as they buy shares to block the move by capitalists.

How do bosses and their backers promote their takeover bid to the public?

“Dixon (QANTAS CEO) is donating his shares to a charitable trust he is setting up mainly to help medical research and indigenous health and education” – [Flight Global.com checked on 28 December 2006]

Just another con where the middle class are the real beneficiaries while diabetes, heart disease, and premature ageing kills off another generation of Aboriginees. “Let them eat cake” is their message.

Justice
Yet a light shines from a Brisbane Demonstration on 21 December 2006. Leadership by aboriginal women and men in their struggle for justice in Queensland. Good role models to their brothers and sisters, both black and white.

Click here, be patient (best viewed on broadband) http://mp3.news.com.au/bcm/1220protest/brisprotest.wmv

 

No Justice for Mulrunji: no rational explanation from Premier for DPP decision

palm-island-demonstration-10-oct-2006-web.jpgIn a cynical move before Christmas, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) released a media statement on 14 December 2006 to say the death of Mulrunji was an accident. Leanne Claire fails to explain why she adopted this view except to say her legal responsibilities are different to those of the coroner. Coroner Clements found that Snr Sgt Hurley was responsible for Mulrunji’s death.

In her 32 line statement to the media the DPP makes no mention of why Mulrunji was left to die unaided in his cell while police heard Mulrunji’s death throes on the video monitoring system.

In October 2006, the coroner made the following observations:

“There is clear evidence that this must have been able to be heard from the police station dayroom where the monitor was running.

Indeed the timing of Senior Sergeant Hurley’s visit to the cell suggests that the sounds were heard.

But the response was completely inadequate and offered no proper review of Mulrunji’s condition or call for medical attention.” (See page 26 of  “Finding of Inquest”).

Yet the DPP says that her investigation is based on the evidence. She implies that an aboriginal witness was unreliable. However the DPP makes no mention of the way in which Snr Sgt Hurley changed his testimony when a second autopsy suggested that his earlier version(s) were not plausible.

In fact no proper police investigations were made because of personal friendship between Hurley and the investigating police from Townsville CIB. No proper evidence was collected and aboriginal statements were ignored.

The coroner stated in her report:

“It was unwise and inappropriate for an officer serving on Palm Island, who was known to be a friend of Senior Sergeant Hurley to be involved in the investigation …
It was inappropriate for the officer most likely to be under investigation to be the person picking up the investigators from the airport.
It was a serious error of judgement for the investigating team, including officers from ethical standards, to be sharing a meal at the home of that officer that evening.”

The DPP stated in the 14th December 2006 media release that ‘Mr Doomadgee died from internal injuries caused by a crushing force to the front of his abdomen.’

How can a man sustain injuries of four broken ribs, a ruptured portal vein and a ‘liver cleaved in two’ from an innocent fall ? How can a man die from tripping over steps? The DPP has made no explanation except to say:

“It is clear both Mulrunji and Sergeant Hurley fell together through the open door at the police station and this fall is the only explanation for his death.”

What about the other explanations given by witnesses that Hurley punched Mulrunji?

Beattie cannot be believed.
Here are just a few comments from more than 80 people who endorsed the Mulrunji letter to the Premier:

I fully support the above letter – it’s time to see the human rights of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander …

I endorse this letter. Are we going to have a state government that embodies truth, justice and honesty or hypocrisy, …

The lack of transparency, accountability and honesty about Mulrunji’s death reveal a shocking revelation that equality, democracy and justice are …

I fully support this letter too

palm-island-march-10-october-2006-512-kbytes.jpg I fully support this message

another government lie we will follow due process? why is it such a fight to get the govenment to do the right thing…

In 1956 Michael Jorgensen was taken into police custody in Mt Isa. ‘Jorgie’, as he was known, was put in …(another death in custody)

I am an Australian Muslim and I would like to say that when we invited the Police Minister for “Iftar” … (told police minister that the muslim community would be looking at what the government does about Mulrunji)

I endorse this letter

beattie-takes-away-petitions.JPG I really feel that your government’s failure to deal with this matter smacks of racism as aboriginal people are gaoled …

Dear Premier, Justice delayed is justice denied. Please ensure that the DPP is considering the decision about laying charges over the …

palm-island-demonstration-burragubbah-spk-as-sam-negotiates-with-policeman.jpgThis letter raises matters of justice which should not be delayed nor denied. The rule of law is only upheld …

Despite these accusations of bias against his government, Premier Beattie  still claims the contrary.

More Murris in Jail — killer cop runs free

Mulrunji’s killing by Queensland police officer Chris Hurley rates only a footnote in the annals of justice.

Footnote number seven (7) in the twenty (20) page judgement of the Court of Appeal reads:

Inquest into the death of Mulrunji, Coroner’s Court, Cor 2857/04(9), 27 September 2006, Clements M (Acting State Coroner).

On 8th December 2006 the Court of Appeal increased the jail terms already served by three Palm Islanders and issued warrants for their arrest.

In his judgement, the Chief Justice De Jersey of Supreme Court said the following:

I first provide a summary of what occurred.

An Aboriginal man died on 19 November 2004 while in police custody on Palm Island. Over the following week, with increasing tension within the Palm Island community, the police presence there was increased. The riot on 26 November followed a community meeting, attended by up to 300 persons, at which some details from an autopsy report were publicly disclosed by Ms Kyle, the Council chairperson.

They included the assertion the death was caused by an accidental fall.

Dissatisfied with the disclosure, the crowd became very angry. Some suspected a police officer was responsible for the death.

Nowhere in the judgement did the Chief Justice mention the ‘suspicion’ by Palm Islanders was true.

Two years later the ‘suspicion‘ was backed up by the coroner’s finding that Snr Sgt Hurley killed Mulrunji Doomadgee in the police watch house on Palm Island on 19 November 2004.

Nor did the appeal court judge who supported the Chief Justice’s finding make any comment about the coroner’s finding.

It was left to the dissenting judge to place the small footnote in his judgment alluding to but not actually stating that the coroner had found that Mulrunji was killed by Hurley.

How did this come about?

Ted Reithmuller Collection

While Premier Peater Beattie stood at the gates of parliament accepting a petition of 1160 people from Alec Domadgee for Snr Sgt Hurley to be charged his Attorney General was insisting Palm Island residents should be jailed for longer terms than had already been served.

At the gates of parliament the Premier made no mention of the systematic whitewash being performed by the Queensland Chief Justice.

Instead what Peter Beattie said was:

“Many people said at the beginning (when Mulrunji died) that there would not be due process…I said at the time that the coroner would go through due process and the matter would be followed appropriately and that’s what has happened.”

But the coroner has made her findings.

The Chief Justice has duly refused to take those findings into account in the sentencing of Palm Islanders.

More Murris in jail while Hurley runs free on full pay.

Labor’s reform of the Justice System
So, post-Fitzgerald, Labor governments have opened up the magistrate courts so that people like Coroner Clements is prepared to criticise the police.

But how does that change anything?

Particularly when the Supreme Court of Queensland is stacked with cold hearted conservatives who will not recognise a finding of fact when it is staring them in the face. Nothing has changed from the Joh years, the conservatives still retain power in key positions.

How many years do we have to wait for justice, Mr Beattie, while you are cutting trade deals over aboriginal land with multinational mining companies?

Please sign Mulrunji Letter Click here

Ian Curr
9 December 2006

WorkChoices: an analysis of union legal and parliamentary strategies

Union Membership 1911 – 2005.

union-membership-1911-2005_1000_image001.png


The graph above shows the rise and fall of union membership in Australia over the past 100 years. Historic milestones have been added. To view the graph in detail click on the image and then click again to enlarge to see the detail.

The recent decline in the union movement is of great concern to unionists.

Soon (in 2007) the LeftPress collective will publish a book that analyses this decline and discusses strategies for renewal.

*****

The QCU website states:

“Take action on November 30 – all around Queensland! Attend a venue from 8:30am onwards to watch the ACTU broadcast from the MCG”

So no march is planned and no speakers apart from the broadcast from the MCG.

In Brisbane, the Rank and File platform may be the only live platform on the day! [This platform was blasted off by the sound system put up by the QCU] I heard from a couple of rank and file people on the weekend that the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (LHMU) are marching from Musgrave to South Bank for the broadcast and then marching back after.etu-marches-to-workchoices-rally.jpg

The Qld Council of Unions (QCU) do not appear to be even pretending that they are doing anything anymore.

If the Left were properly organised it could (in alliance with the Communications Electrical & Plumbers Unions (including the ETU), Construction Forestry Mining & Engineering Union & Builders Labourers Federation (Qld), the Qld Teachers Union, the LHMU (Misos) and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union) probably take over the entire day.

It is clear that these unions will be the mainstay of the protest.

Come to the open platform organised by the Rank and File Group.

Legal Strategy: High Court WorkChoices Decision

ALP-led Unions were briefed on the likely outcome of the High Court challenge as early as March, 2005:

The WorkChoices legislation will be passed because after 1 July 2005 the Coalition controls the Senate and challenges to the legislation in the High Court will almost certainly fail.”

—Griffith University industrial lawyer and union advisor, Margaret Lee, at Brisbane Labour History Conference “Unions and Industrial Relations Legislation: the Past and the Future” held at the Terminus Hotel, South Brisbane, on Saturday March 12, 2005.

Continue reading

Yet another crisis in Lebanon?

As Australia and US prepare to increase troopReuters photo of car of Lebanese Industry Minister numbers in Iraq…the Lebanese Industry Minister, Pierre Gemayel, was assassinated this morning (22nd November 2006).

It was the assassination of his uncle (Bashir Gemeyal) in the early 1980’s after the Israeli invasion was used  as a pretext to take over Beirut after the Palestinian  resistance forces had left.

Both Gemayel’s were leaders of the Maronite Christian Phalange whose militia massacred the undefended refugees at Sabra and Chatilla (in Beirut) under Israeli military supervision.

Who is behind today’s assassination is unclear and perhaps will never be revealed.

Security services of many countries (US, Israel, France, Syria, Iran, etc) have extensive networks in Lebanon. It is Lebanese destiny that many of the power plays of the region are played out there.

There are certainly some big powerplays going on in the Middle East:

  • Syria recognising the Iraq government; and,
  • Talks between the goverments of Syria, Iran, and Iraq

This occurs as it becomes clear to all that the US is on the retreat politically (for the time being, at least).

Bush has replied to the assassination with a verbal attack on “Syria, Iran, and allies”. Predictable.

Gemayel’s father has called for calm. Less predictable. Who killed his son must be unclear.

Hezbollah have condemned the assassination.

Please place comments on this analysis below.

Looking out on Jaggera and Yugambeh Land

This is the view from Mistake Mountains of Aboriginal land

Antonioni’s films “The Night” and “The Eclipse”

If you are worried about a new US government starting to bomb Iran or Korea perhaps you may wish to see Antonioni’s “The Eclipse” which is the final film of the trilogy, “The Adventure” and “The Night” set in Italy in the 1960s when industrialisation, alienation and the threat of nuclear war were on many people’s minds.

The films are long and not much really happens in the “The Night (La Notte)” or the “The Eclipse (L’Eclisse)”.

You will have no trouble sleeping after all the excitement.

The scenes of stockbrokers greedily fighting to make money on the floor of “la borsa” (stockexchange) in Rome is great cinema and a revelation to those who have never been.

Antonioni becomes poetic toward the end of both “La Notte” and “L’Eclisse” and his camera no longer sticks to any narrative but shows haunting, isolated, characters stuck in industrial wastelands.

Some may read the theme of the eclipse differently seeing a break-up, love, seduction and isolation instead.

But look out for the ending, the water flowing from a small pool, the wind on the leaves, the workers getting off the bus on their way home, the newspaper headlines declaring that a bomb has been dropped.

‘Happy’ viewing,
Ian Cur

Where to, the anti-war movement?

US election poll on Iraq war
The day before the recent mid-term elections in the US, I asked two American graduate students studying at the University of Queensland in Brisbane what their view of that election was, would they vote, and if so, how?

I asked what their view of the Iraq war was.

One, who normally votes Republican, was from ‘up state New York’ near Syracuse on the Canadian border. The other, who votes Democrat, was from a small town in Maryland. They were both in their early 20s and were friends.

They both said that they were not going to vote in the mid-term elections – one (the democrat) because he was fed up; and the republican because he had failed to get an absentee vote registration.

Both said that they disliked George Bush.

The republican said that he preferred the more moderate John McCain who was the reason he votes republican. This was despite the fact that, coming from New York State, he would not be able to vote for McCain, who is a senator from Arizona.

I said: “McCain, he is against the war in Iraq, right?” He confirmed this. But curiously, like McCain had done during the invasion and early stages of the Iraq war, the republican student now still supports the war. His republican idol had shifted ground but he had not.

The Democrat from Maryland said that he was from a small town, he still lived at home, and his father was a policeman there. He showed me a picture of his family home, which was a replica English Victorian mansion containing 6 bedrooms on a fairly large block of land surrounded by trees. Apparently the house had been acquired through ‘a very good deal’.
I am not sure what that meant, the father being a copper and all.

The Democrat had four friends from high school who had done tours of duty in Iraq. They all voted democrat and opposed the Iraq war before they left and now all voted republican. He said that his fellow students had been ‘brainwashed’ and now supported the war. When he said this, the republican student made a face showing disapproval of the democrat student referring to them as being ‘brainwashed’.

The mind boggles at how students who were anti-war could go to Iraq, see what happens there, be involved in the fighting, and return pro-war.

So neither student voted in the election that our Australian papers have termed a watershed with statements like this:

A Democratic majority in even one chamber could block Mr Bush’s legislative agenda and turn up the pressure on the White House for a dramatic shift in strategy on Iraq.” – Article in the AUSTRALIAN (from The Times) “Rumsfeld first casualty of US elections” by Tom Baldwin and Tim Reid – November 09, 2006.

One Brisbane peace activist put it this way:

The Democrats have won Virginia; which means they take the senate. Bush is now what is called a lame duck president. This is a historic shift, reflecting the strength of the on the ground (peace) movements in the US.

Former Premier of NSW and now Macquarie Bank lobbyist, Bob Carr commented:

It was a foreign policy election, it was about Iraq … by every test, it was a referendum on Iraq … a repudiation of a high risk war… this is extraordinary, it is remarkable, this is a defeat of of adventurism …”

Bob Carr (who is pro-nuclear) then went on to say:uranium-metal-of-menace-leave-it-in-the-ground.jpg
I fear, he is likely to embark on war with Iran, his vice-president has been studying events in southern Lebanon with a view to a war-plan with Iran … giving effect with theatre nuclear weapons.

I am thrilled by the Democrats winning not only the house (of representatives) but also the senate. It will be a retreat like that of Vietnam, with helicopters on the roof of the US embassy in Baghdad.”

What of the opinions of the American students, the peace activist, and Bob Carr?

They all presuppose that the shift to the centre means a repudiation of the war by the US government. There does appear to be a shift but where is it going?

Will the US government commit more troops or bomb Iraq and Afghanistan even more? Does a Democrat win in congress mean that there are even more Zionists in government in the US?
Will the coalition of the willing accept leaving Iraq as losers or will they just declare victory after Saddam is hung and exit?

  • We should remember that the leading Democrat for the 2009 Presidential elections, Hilary Clinton, supports the war in Iraq, so did her (Democratic) party.
  • There is no analysis by commentators quoted above of the US leaving Afghanistan or its support of Israel’s wars against Palestine and Lebanon.
  • There is little or no talk of reading the US election result as a repudiation of the “War of Terror” by the US.

While America waits for a Democrat government to curtail the extremism of the Bush presidency, all we can hope for in Australia is an ALP government to replace the extremism of Howard.

Gore Vidal may be right about America: ‘a one party state with two right wings, one Republican, the other Democrat’. The same could be said of the political parties in Australia.

Would even one of the pundits above suppport the other view of America, that of a Palestinian poet-refugee in Lebanon:

Burnt my trees
Jailed my sun
Killed my children
And drank their blood
Then ground their bones at McDonnell-Douglas
Only to offer them back to me
As a present
In a flour sack
To torture me all the rest of my life
This is America!

Where to?
I think that the election result in the US means that the majority want a way out of the war without losing their national pride.

They are tired of losing the war in Iraq. Now that the cost is mounting they are looking for alternatives. However they do not want a repeat of Vietnam which in the end was a cut and run, a defeat on the ground.

Many in the US (and Australia) are still in denial of the defeat in Vietnam.

Others (like the two students mentioned in the article above) are too young to have experienced what the Vietnam war meant.

Many do not even admit that the US were defeated on the ground by a strong and resilient people, preferring to think that it was a weakness of their own resolve. They blame their defeat in Vietnam on the media and liberals, and wish to forget the Vietcong tanks storming the gates of the US embassy in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). They long for a colonial past.

In the end, the New Left revolt of the 1960s and 70s came to little. And this may be part of the reason why many look to the centre for a way out of Iraq.

The anti-war part of the vote in the US is still a minority (about 30%). The remainder are not anti-war, they are tired of the human and material cost of the war that they are waging and want a better result.

The Left, who stand for improvement in human society, have been unable to limit the damage to the people in Iraq through the traditional method of organisation, protest.

In Vietnam, there was a strong Communist Party that could limit the damage done by the Americans.

No coordinated group such as this has emerged in Iraq.

Without this, all that the people suffering on the ground can hope for is that the Americans will tire as the road becomes more and more difficult.

We can only hope that the US congress will not seek the ultimate punishment for the failure of Bush and his right-wing cronies.

However history is not so kind to this point of view.

The Roman senate demanded the destruction of Carthage and all its people in return for the failure of Ceasar to defeat Hannibal.

Ian Curr
14 November 2006

Gallery

Not Guilty

This gallery contains 6 photos.

People often criticise me for living in the 1970s. Perhaps I do dwell on the past, but that is where I was and where I come from, the 1970s. I learnt my politics in that time and in this place, … Continue reading

Vale Wendy Lowenstein

wendy-lowenstein-and-tom-hills-webpage.jpgI met Wendy Lowenstein a few times and corresponded with her occasionally about publishing workers literature.

Wendy displayed the qualities of old communists in Australia whose roots lay in the depression in the 1930s— committment to workers struggle and organisation.

In person Wendy was warm and intelligent; her words were not marred by rhetoric.

I first met Wendy at Emma’s bookshop in West End in Brisbane in August 1997. She was launching her book Weevils at Work which took its name from her earlier oral history of the 1930s depression, Weevils in the Flour. Wendy signed the book with the words: “For Ian Curr – Struggle keeps you fit“.

Her introduction, ‘Here I Stand‘, to Weevils at Work quoted a Public First activist writing in the Pen, a Melbourne community newspaper: “We have an obligation to hand on a better society to those who come after us … Civil disobedience, combined with industrial action, is the only option left to us unless we’re prepared to live as an underclass.’

Later in 1998 Wendy sent me (on behalf of LeftPress) an autographed copy of her book: Under the Hook: Melbourne Waterside Workers remember working lives and class war: 1900-1998. Wendy had just launched the new edition of the book with a new chapter called after the popular slogan “MUA—here to stay!

My partner and I later visited Wendy at her home in St Kilda where we met her husband Werner and her daughter. Wendy’s house was full of books; her lounge was a reading room with wooden chairs — a warm place for political discussion where everyone could contribute on an equal footing.

On the front page of Under the Hook Wendy describes how difficult it is to publish working class literature in Australia.

An unsympathetic publisher asked her “Who’s going to read it?

Wendy’s reply: “Wharfies, of course”.

The publisher then said “Waterside workers don’t read books!

Wendy replied: “Workers will read books relevant to their lives. You don’t publish the right sort.

Wendy Lowenstein was right.

Proof of her claim was when SHAPE published “Towards Peace – a Workers Journey” by Phil O’Brien with Bernie Dowling in the early 1990s.

Phil sold over 1,200 books to fellow workers, union members, ex-soldiers, schools, and libraries.

The printers, LeftPress, helped distribute another 300 or so around the Left and union circles.

Over 1,500 books in all were distributed.

Today LeftPress still gets requests for copies of the book which is now out-of-print.

Wendy’s books include The Immigrants (with Morag Loh), Cinderella Dressed in Yella (with June Factor and Professor Ian Turner), Shocking, Shocking, Shocking, Under the Hook (with Tom Hills) and Weevils at Work. Her screenplays include Weevils in the Flour and Strikebound.

Her vast collection of oral history is in the National Library in Canberra.

Farewell, comrade.

Ian Curr
27 October 2006

Palm Petition

A Meeting was held on Friday 6 October 2006 AT THE JAGARA HALL MUSGRAVE PARK to organise the ongoing campaign for Justice for Aboriginees in Brisbane and Queensland

Murrinyi Doomadgee, 36, died in the Palm Island watchhouse on November 19, 2004, just hours after his arrest after he had said words critical of police (see sidebar for article: Black Deaths in custody — what has the Beattie Government ever done?).


An initial post-mortem examination revealed Murrinyi suffered four broken ribs and a ruptured liver and spleen during a scuffle with his arresting police officer, Snr Sgt Chris Hurley .


On Wednesday, 4 October 2006, Acting coroner, Christine Clements, found Snr Sgt Chris Hurley caused 36-year-old Murrinyi’s death by punching him during a scuffle at the police station on Palm Island, leaving him in the cell to bleed to death.


Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson acknowledged the coroner’s findings that Snr Sgt Hurley was untruthful and would have committed perjury on two occasions.


The call from the community meeting at Jagara Hall on Friday 6 October 2006 is to sack Snr Sgt Hurley!

At the public meeting today Sam Watson from Murri watch said:

“A RALLY AND MARCH will be held on Tuesday 10th October 2006 to present the following petition to parliament… Sam Watson went on to say that we need 5,000 people to come with us to present this petition to parliament?

Please get workmates and friends to fill out the attached petition and give to Natalie (Assistant Director, Musgrave Park Cultural Centre) in Jagera Hall at 121 Cordelia Street South Brisbane in the south-east end of Musgrave Park.

To: The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland

The petition of the undersigned citizens of Queensland draws to the attention of the House the need to act urgently on the findings of the State Coroner in the matter of the death of an Aboriginal man, Murrinyi in the Palm Island watch-house on November 19th, 2004.

Your petitioners therefore request the House to instruct the Police Commissioner to terminate the employment of Senior Sergeant Hurley forthwith and to provide every support and assistance to the Director of Public Prosecutions to finalize her assessment of the Coroner’s findings so that criminal charges may be brought against certain parties who were responsible for the unlawful killing of Murrinyi.

Name

Address

Signature

Aside

RIVER OF TEARS There’s a cold rain on the Autumn wind A brother murdered in Sydney Town Marrickville brother under supposed legal cover In his home they gunned him down We say oh oh oh oh oh ooooooh Gunned him … Continue reading

Rally for Peace in the Middle East

Atroops-out-s23-13-sep-version-2.jpgbout 100 people attended this rally to hear speakers like Les Thomas, Ian Rintoul (Solidarity), Halim Rane (Fair Go for Palestine) and the Greens candidate in Mount Cootha, Juanita Wheeler, who polled well in the recent state elections.

Les Thomas spoke in support of his brother Jack and condemned the government for using his brother as a smokescreen for its ‘war on terror’. His brother has been found innocent of all charges of terrorism.

“This has nothing to do with national security – it’s about appearing tough on the war on terror and they are quite happy to ruin my brother’s life in pursuit of their political objectives.

“I think he’s somebody the authorities have been desperate to make an example of for a long time and having failed in their attempts to present Jack as a terrorist threat in the courts they are willing to take any measure at their disposal no matter how extreme or draconian they may be.”

On the evidence presented by authorities themselves (usually full of bias against the defendant and misinformation), Jack Thomas’s trip to Pakistan was an act of naivete by a working class melbourne man interested in Islam. The move by ASIO and the Australian Federal police is clearly a move to justify their large budget and increased staffing levels since the “war on terror” was commenced.

Les Thomas was one of about 90 in an anti-war rally of people in Brisbane’s CBD marching under the slogans shown in the poster above.

Les said the demonstration, which was addressed by speakers from Solidarity, Socialist Alliance, the Greens and Fair Go for Palestine began at Post Office Square before the protesters marched to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade office in Ann Street, highlighted the Government’s threat to civil liberties in its deception, the war on terror.

“Today we made connections between the broader war on terror and how laws are being fundamentally changed in Australia so we are seeing things like control orders, closed courts and secret hearings that we would normally hear in authoritarian regimes,” Les Thomas said.

Juanita Wheeler for the Greens argued that the size of the rally should not deter people and that the media was cyncial not to report it — she said that the people at the rally should take heart that they represented the majority of people in Australia who oppose the war in Iraq.

However a greater dynamic has to be set up by the organising groups sufficient to bring larger numbers to such rallies.

The Anti-war Coordinating Committee (a coalition of Socialist and Peace groups, some of which are mentioned above) raised $435 which covered the cost of the rally.

Discussion: Will the US/Israel force a change of government in Lebanon?

This may be high on the list of priorities for the neo-liberals in Lebanon.

On Saturday, Hizballah had a rally in Beirut of hundreds of thousands of people.

The Hizballah rally (23 September 2006) looked very big on the ABC news — however the 2005 Hizballah rallies in Beirut looked bigger. Hassan Nasrallah gave a victory speech; Hizbalah may have been forced to move up the Bekkah valley toward Syria and at the same time Israel may have a buffer zone — one of its objectives in its war on Lebanon.

Meanwhile BushTelegraph has received news of large payments being made and received by members of the Lebanese cabinet. The neo liberals under the leadership of the son of Saad Hariri (a lebanese neo liberal assasinated last year) may well be behind these payments in an attempt to manipulate a change of government. Either the payments may also be evidence of corruption in government (or both). See article below:

Like FATHER LIKE SON
NTV news 07/07/2006:

The Minster of Industry Pierre Amine Gemayel signed contract for 80,000$ with Mr. Abou Malhab (ex – childhood friend to Pierrot who lived 20 years in Sweden and having a business administration degree) in order to make a Study.

The National Accounting committee refused to pay the contract of Mr Pierrot 120,000,000 L.L Pierrot tried to convince them by reducing the price to 100,000,000 L.L. , but the committee still refuse because of many factors:
1. The “etude” should be done by the ministry employees and not by a private side; the price contracted is not logic and very high; employees of the ministry are getting salaries for doing this job and it is unnecessary to make a private contract.
2. The Contract is incomplete and doesn’t contain any details of the “Study”.
3. The National Accounting Committee called the General Director of the ministry for a meeting but he refused to come backed by a call from Pierrot asking him for not going there.Pierrot was upset because he could not do it in a legal way. So he asked Mr. Seniora to provide the money separately from “Reserve of Treasury ” 120,000,000 L.L. to pay Mr. Abou Malhab (a Lebanese living 20 years in Sweden).

Uncle Senioura accepted and signed it during the last meeting of government, NTV showed copies of documents for the public including the contract signed between Pierrot and Mr. Abou Malhab.

This is a small sample of what is happening in Lebanon’s Saad Hariri and his 14th of February [2006] band.

Is the conflict between the US and Iran just a deception by Neo Liberals?
A palestinian refused to speak at the rally on the basis of his belief that Iran and the US are in cahoots in laying waste to Iraq and that the public squabble between them is a deception.

He says that he has documents proving that Iran is refining stolen Iraqi oil for the Americans.

He argued that the slogan: “No to war on Syria and Iran” did not convey a true picture in the middle east (or the correct emphasis) and should have been taken from the rally poster.

This speaker should be invited to speak at the next Anti-War Coordinating Committee to outline his perspective.

Ian Curr
25 September 2006