Tuesday, March 17, 2009


It's not what people voted for. The Labor party's tenacious adherence to an ideology of destruction reveals them for what they really are: Elitists who hate ordinary people and whose top priority is hurting ordinary people. "By their fruit ye shall know them". What they are doing to destroy jobs is utterly obscene under Australia's present circumstances. Three current articles below

Labor party ideologues determined to discourage job creation by medium-sized businesses

Julia Gillard has rebuffed a demand by independent crossbench senators to increase the definition of a small business to 20 employees, saying the Government has a mandate to enact the unfair dismissal policy it took to the 2007 election. Family First senator Steve Fielding and independent Nick Xenophon met the Deputy Prime Minister yesterday to put their concerns to her, but she indicated she was unwilling to change the definition of a small business, which is a key sticking point in the deliberations on the bill.

Senator Xenophon told The Australian he was serious about pushing for the larger definition of small business and said he did not agree with the Government that it had an unqualified mandate on the issue. "My view is that I have an obligation to scrutinise legislation and look at its implications. The world is a very different place compared with November 24, 2007, and if circumstances change that may need a change of approach," he said. The debate on Labor's workplace legislation will begin today, giving Ms Gillard more time to negotiate with senators Xenophon and Fielding.

Ms Gillard said that before the 2007 election, Labor "did something the Liberal Party would never have dreamt of doing". "We published a comprehensive workplace relations policy and sought a mandate for it," she said. "I refer most particularly to the policy implementation plan of Forward with Fairness published in August 2007, which sets out our comprehensive plan for unfair dismissal, including committing special arrangements for small businesses with fewer than 15 employees." The Government has refused to negotiate with the Coalition, which wants the definition to be increased to 25 full-time workers.

For many small businesses, Labor's unfair dismissal reforms are a cause for concern. Some, like Sydney childcare operator Lienna Mandic, were happy with the Howard government's laws. "I'd say bring back Work Choices," Ms Mandic said. "We were happy. I'd like to see a return to the removal of unfair dismissal laws for people employing under 100." Ms Mandic established Kids World Kindy in western Sydney with her husband 14 years ago and now runs four centres employing about 30 people, meaning she does not meet Labor's definition of a small business.

She said Ms Gillard's reforms would heighten risks for employers, stifle growth and deter businesses from hiring. "I'm not going to give an opportunity to anyone any more with no experience," she said. "So how are people out of college or university going to get a job?" Ms Mandic said it was essential that small businesses retain the ability to dismiss workers if they were not performing. "We have a right to employ people who are able to fulfil the job description. If they're not, we should have the right to terminate those people and find someone who's more suitable," she said.

The Coalition is likely to convene a special partyroom meeting later this week to discuss whether it will support any amendments the Government offers to the independents.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson said the Government had failed to deal with key concerns about the legislation in its own amendments. "Most of the government amendments are technically useful so far as they go, but none of them goes to the important policy changes that need to be made to restore balance to the legislation," he said.

Bosses, the Coalition and the independents have expressed concern over wider union right-of-entry provisions and, in particular, the ability of union officials to inspect employees' records. But Senator Xenophon told The Australian he was now comfortable that the bill adequately protected the private records of workers. "I'm just concerned about thresholds for small business. I'm expressing business concerns right now," he said. Senator Xenophon is pushing for increased rights of entry for unions that protect home-based clothing workers, known as outworkers. He said 24 hours was too long a warning for bosses of outworkers to be given before unions could enter workplaces.

ACTU president Sharan Burrow said Senator Xenophon and the Greens were negotiating on the proposed new industrial laws in good faith, but she singled out Family First senator Steve Fielding as trying to make the new laws worse than Work Choices. Senator Fielding is proposing that workers employed in small businesses with fewer than 20 employees be exempted from bargaining provisions aimed at protecting the low-paid and that small businesses be exempt from union rights of entry. Ms Burrow said the amendments would effectively exclude between a third and half of all workers from union representation in the workplace and nearly two million low-paid workers from bargaining support.

Liberal Party maverick Wilson Tuckey put further pressure on Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull yesterday to oppose the laws altogether, arguing that Liberal MPs were not consulted before Work Choices was declared dead.


Job creation in the restaurant industry to be discouraged too

Just as licensing regulations restrict competition in the hotel industry, working conditions in pubs have long been standardised by the award system and the liquor trades union. By contrast, the restaurant business is lightly regulated, dynamic and highly competitive. Restaurants used John Howard's Work Choices and its individual work contracts to more flexibly deploy and reward their waiters and cooks.

Now it's payback time as the Rudd Government foists the straitjacket of the protected hotel industry on to its restaurant competitors. Penalty rates, overtime, loadings, allowances and rosters built into the hotel industry over generations will be loaded on to restaurants. Don't tip your waiters for good service; they already may be on a 275 per cent penalty rate. At these penalty rates, don't count on a fine dining-led recovery; it's bistro self-service.

Yet this industrial relations assault on one of Australia's great small business sectors hardly registers in the national political debate. That's because Julia Gillard's IR counter-revolution has been been turned into the political issue of the Liberal leadership, and because the policy issue is too complicated for the glibness of today's sound-bite politics.

Among the serious media, it seems that only The Australian is capable of recognising the threat to small business entrepreneurs as well as the business model that sustains the international reputation of Australian fine dining. It has hardly registered at the Australian Financial Review, which once heroically led the charge against the industrial relations club, or The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, which remain blissfully unaware of the attack on the celebrity chefdom they so celebrate.

The particular threat comes from the combination of Gillard's new Fair Work legislation in Canberra and, more insidiously, her order to the Industrial Relations Commission in Melbourne to quickly "modernise" hundreds of industrial awards into a few dozen industry-based awards to regulate Australia's workplaces from the start of 2010.

Australia's award structure has mutated, rather than competitively evolved, over the past century into a large and incoherent body of business regulation. Gillard spits disdain for Work Choices rip-off merchants who stripped away basic human rights from a defenceless proletariat. But the mish-mash of a system is more about micro-regulating business.

Under Gillard's counter-revolution, the restaurant trade is being "modernised" into the hotel-industry award structure and business model reflexively favoured by the IRC. Traditional workplace regulation for pubs, which now might cover only 80,000 or so workers, will drive the work rules for the 250,000 or so restaurant and cafe workers. Just one example is set out in sections 32.1 to 32.4 of the "modernised" Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010. These impose 25 per cent penalty loadings for working on Saturday, 175 per cent for Sunday work, and 250 per cent for public holidays. Casuals get a hefty 25 per cent loading on top of that, lifting them up to 275 per cent for public holidays. A 10 per cent weekday penalty applies after 7pm along with detailed rules for overtime, rest breaks, loadings for driving a forklift or holding a first aid certificate, and whether Fridays can be pay days (they can't). Higher-cost, pub-based rules apply for junior staff, even 19-year-olds.

Beer stains from Australia's drinking history can still be seen in this hotel-based award structure. The penalty for evening weekday work signposts the end of the six o'clock swill in the 1950s and '60s. Yet this old hotel sweetheart deal should have little to do with how restaurants operate in 2010.

Businesses based on selling and consuming liquor are controlled by licences that, being limited in number, change hands for large sums of money, particularly when they come with licensed poker machines. Just as the liquor trades union polices the award, the Australian Hotels Association spends millions lobbying governments to regulate in favour of pubs. By contrast, there is no regulation on the number of outlets preparing and serving meals. This business is much higher risk and lower margin: while many pubs have been around for a century or more, new restaurants open and close all the time. Opening a restaurant is a classic low-barrier business opportunity for migrants. Working part-time in a restaurant is a classic source of income for university students.

Restaurants tend to be much smaller businesses than pubs and naturally trade for fewer hours, based around two meals a day rather than all day and night drinking. And this calls for a more flexible workforce that, in practice, is younger, more casual and partly paid directly by customers. Waiters get tipped, barmaids don't. So it's bizarre for a "modernised" award to increase penalty rates for what, in practice, are the restaurant industry's standard operating hours. An estimated 75 per cent or so of restaurant business is done at night and weekends. If you want to be a chef, that's when you'll work.

It's even more bizarre when this customer demand is matched by the changing pattern of labour supply. In this diverse and multicultural society, working at nights or on weekends actually suits many workers, such as students. Under Work Choices, the Restaurant & Catering Industry Association reckons it signed up 10 per cent of restaurant staff on template Australian Workplace Agreements, which rolled penalties and loadings into a simpler and higher hourly pay rate. Gillard's new system won't permit such individual work contracts. The new system will include "flexibility" clauses, but these can be guaranteed to operate inflexibly.

And the IRC flatly dismissed restaurateurs' pleas to retain their own modernised award, which really only needs to run to a handful of pages. Instead, it roped restaurants into a complex pub-based hospitality award. "We accept that there are some differences in trading and staffing arrangements between various sectors within the hospitality industry," an IRC full bench explained. "Equally, however, there is some commonality between the sectors. It is also significant that there is a level of diversity in the operations of various businesses within sectors of the industry."

Such dribble is now back in charge of regulating how Australian businesses employ their staff


Labor heartland turns on proposed Warmist laws as modelling shows big regional job losses

The mayors of three of the nation's biggest mining cities have demanded Kevin Rudd delay introducing carbon emissions trading, warning it will smash jobs and seriously damage key regional areas. The mayors of the traditional Labor strongholds of Newcastle, Gladstone and Mount Isa have called for the emissions trading scheme to be put off.

And the managing director of Frontier Economics, Danny Price, who conducted still-secret modelling for the NSW Treasury on the Rudd Government's plan, said the impact of the scheme across industrial regions, including central Queensland, the Hunter and Illawarra in NSW and Victoria's Gippsland, would be "very high" and "very severe". "In those regions, the effect on regional GDP would be many, many times more than the national effect forecast by the Treasury, which predicted an ETS would cut 0.1 per cent of average annual growth," Mr Price said.

The growing opposition to the Rudd Government's ETS came as the Opposition intensified its attack on the scheme as a job destroyer, with Malcolm Turnbull declaring the Coalition would not vote for the ETS in its current form. After the Opposition Leader's weekend declaration that the Coalition would not support a 2010 start-up date or the current design of the Rudd plan, the Government has become increasingly isolated on its support for the scheme.

Newcastle Lord Mayor John Tate said any sensible person had to be concerned about climate change, but he saw no harm in delaying the introduction of the ETS while also pursuing alternative energy sources and developing technologies to reduce emissions from coal. "I just can't understand why you would put that sort of impost on Australian industry and agriculture at a time when we are trying to compete with the world," Mr Tate said. "I would urge the Government to consider the economic future and the job future of our citizens. Don't bring an impost on business large or small that's going to affect the viability of those businesses. It's just like another tax."

Mr Tate said Newcastle was faring reasonably well in the current economic climate because the federal and state governments were funding massive infrastructure spending, including a new coal loader at the city's port, works to deepen the south arm of the Hunter River and more than $580million on rail improvements. The spending was designed to boost the city's capacity to export coal.

Mount Isa Mayor John Molony said mines in his community employed 4000 people, including 300 apprentices. "I believe the ETS should be held in abeyance until the economic downturn is over," Mr Molony said. Mr Molony said copper and lead smelting and copper refining in Mt Isa and Townsville added major value to the nation's exports and would be severely hindered by emissions trading. Stressing that the problem of climate change required global action, he said it made sense to delay Australia's contribution to reducing emissions until it was clear what action other nations would take.

Gladstone Mayor George Creed, whose city's port is the exit point for massive coal exports from central Queensland, said the ETS would damage his community's industrial viability at a time it could least be afforded. Mr Creed said mines and heavy industry in Gladstone were already shedding jobs, and Australia's total carbon emissions accounted for a fraction of the world's output. "We are not going to hurt anything in the world if we wait for another year or two," Mr Creed said.

Latrobe Mayor Lisa Price, who represents an area that includes three open-cut brown coal mines, said her community was sitting on 500 years' worth of coal supplies and would not accept emissions trading without clear undertakings on structural adjustments to replace the jobs lost in mining.

The mayors spoke out as independent senator Nick Xenophon said the Government's legislation was doomed in the Senate, given that all parties on the cross benches believed it to be fundamentally flawed. During a sustained question-time attack on the claimed job-destroying consequences of the ETS, Mr Turnbull suggested the scheme should be shelved until the outcome of the UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen later this year were known. The Opposition Leader said the Government should not commit itself before the administration of US President Barack Obama clarified the details of its proposed emissions scheme. Mr Turnbull cited a confidential briefing from coalmining giant Xstrata predicting that the scheme would force the closure of up to four mines and cost 1000 jobs, most of them in Queensland.

But Mr Rudd said the Government was determined to act on climate change, saying the economic costs of inaction would be far greater than the costs of action, particularly for a hot and dry nation such as Australia.


Heavy government internet censorship at work -- not in China -- in Australia

I doubt that this would survive a High Court challenge, however

The Australian communications regulator says it will fine people who hyperlink to sites on its blacklist, which has been further expanded to include several pages on the anonymous whistleblower site Wikileaks. Wikileaks was added to the blacklist for publishing a leaked document containing Denmark's list of banned websites.

The move by the Australian Communications and Media Authority comes after it threatened the host of online broadband discussion forum Whirlpool last week with a $11,000-a-day fine over a link published in its forum to another page blacklisted by ACMA - an anti-abortion website. ACMA's blacklist does not have a significant impact on web browsing by Australians today but sites contained on it will be blocked for everyone if the Federal Government implements its mandatory internet filtering censorship scheme. But even without the mandatory censorship scheme, as is evident in the Whirlpool case, ACMA can force sites hosted in Australia to remove "prohibited" pages and even links to prohibited pages.

Online civil liberties campaigners have seized on the move by ACMA as evidence of how casually the regulator adds to its list of blacklisted sites. It also confirmed fears that the scope of the Government's censorship plan could easily be expanded to encompass sites that are not illegal.

"The first rule of censorship is that you cannot talk about censorship," Wikileaks said on its website in response to the ACMA ban. The site has also published Thailand's internet censorship list and noted that, in both the Thai and Danish cases, the scope of the blacklist had been rapidly expanded from child porn to other material including political discussions.

Already, a significant portion of the 1370-site Australian blacklist - 506 sites - would be classified R18+ and X18+, which are legal to view but would be blocked for everyone under the proposal. The Government has said it was considering expanding the blacklist to 10,000 sites and beyond.

Electronic Frontiers Australia said the leak of the Danish blacklist and ACMA's subsequent attempts to block people from viewing it showed how easy it would be for ACMA's own blacklist - which is secret - to be leaked onto the web once it is handed to ISPs for filtering. "We note that, not only do these incidents show that the ACMA censors are more than willing to interpret their broad guidelines to include a discussion forum and document repository, it is demonstrably inevitable that the Government's own list is bound to be exposed itself at some point in the future," EFA said. "The Government would serve the country well by sparing themselves, and us, this embarrassment."

Last week, Reporters Without Borders, in its regular report on enemies of internet freedom, placed Australia on its "watch list" of countries imposing anti-democratic internet restrictions that could open the way for abuses of power and control of information. The main issue raised was the Government's proposed internet censorship regime. "This report demolished the Communications Minister's contention that Australia is just following other comparable democracies," Greens communications spokesman Senator Scott Ludlam said. "We are not. The Government is embarking on a deeply unpopular and troubling experiment to fine-tune its ability to censor the internet. "I agree with Reporters Without Borders. If you consider this kind of net censorship in the context of Australia's anti-terror laws, it paints a disturbing picture indeed."

EFA said the Government's "spin is starting to wear thin" and it could no longer be denied that the ACMA blacklist targets a huge range of material that is legal and even uncontroversial. The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has repeatedly claimed his proposed mandatory filters would target only "illegal" content - predominantly child pornography. "As time goes on, pressure will only mount on the Government to expand the list, while money and effort are poured into an enormous black box that will neither help kids nor stem the flow of illegal material," EFA said. "If the minister truly believes that children are seeking out, or being bombarded with, child pornography, then there's a dearth of both common sense and proper research in the ministerial suites."

Already, the head of the Australian Christian Lobby, Jim Wallace, has said he hopes the sex industry will go broke as a result of the censorship scheme. Independent Senator Nick Xenophon previous expressed his desire to have online gambling sites added to the blacklist but has since withdrawn his support for the scheme, saying it was dangerous and could be "counter-productive". The Greens and Opposition also oppose the scheme, meaning any legislation to implement it will be blocked. The Opposition has obtained legal advice that "legislation of some sort will almost certainly be required", but others have said it may be possible to implement the scheme without legislation.

Speaking at a telecommunications conference last week, Senator Conroy urged Australians to have faith in MPs to pass the right legislation. Despite previously saying his scheme would be expanded to block "refused classification" content that includes sites depicting drug use, sex, crime, cruelty and violence, he said opponents of his plan were spreading "conspiracy theories".

The Government's internet censorship trials are due to begin shortly but critics have said they may not provide much useful data on the real-world implications because none of the major ISPs were chosen to take part.


Child died after public hospitals sent him home three times

Calling this kid's problem "croup" is absurd. Croup has a frequent cough and there is no mention of that. And croup is very common so the doctors should have known that. The negligence is gross

Timothy Wood's parents knew something was terribly wrong with their son, but they could not get the help they were sure he needed. Desperately straining for air and with swelling around his neck, the 19-month-old was sent home from hospital on July 16, 2005, for the third time in four days. The next afternoon, he was rushed back to hospital, where he died two days later.

Anthony and Robyn Wood hope a coronial inquest will give them some answers. Their solicitor Kathryn Booth, of Maurice Blackburn, said outside the Victorian Coroners Court yesterday: "Mr and Mrs Wood have been waiting a very long time to have this inquest and it's been important to them to get answers as to why Timmy died after three presentations to two different hospitals."

Mr Wood said: "The last thing we want to have happen is the same thing happen to another child - it was bad enough to go through it. "You're not meant to outlive your children and it will be something that we will take to our grave."

In statements tendered to the court, Mr Wood said he believed the Austin Hospital should have done things differently when he took his son there on July 16, 2005. "I do not believe that Timothy should have been discharged from the hospital that evening," he said. "The medical staff was not in a position to accurately diagnose the extent of Timothy's problem or make a decision to discharge him as he had not been closely monitored and examined during his time at the hospital." Giving evidence, Mr Wood was even more direct. "We thought the observation levels (at the Austin Hospital) were pathetic. They weren't there," he said.

Timmy became sick on Thursday, July 14, 2005. By about 2am on the Friday, his breathing was badly restricted and his parents called an ambulance. He was taken to the Royal Children's Hospital, where he was diagnosed with croup, observed for four hours and given medication before being sent home. On the Saturday morning, the Woods were still concerned and took him back. When they saw the triage nurse they were told if they waited in emergency for a doctor it would be unlikely that the treatment plan would change.

They went home, but Timmy did not improve and they called a 24-hour maternal health nurse help line. The nurse could hear Timmy's laboured breathing and told Mr Wood to call an ambulance immediately and prepare for an overnight stay. But when they got to the Austin hospital - the Royal Children's was full - Timmy was not admitted. Instead, he was given more medication and sent home.

The next day, he stopped breathing. Mr Wood administered CPR until an ambulance arrived and Timmy was rushed to the Royal Children's Hospital, where he died two days later. Mr Wood wrote in a letter to the coroner in August 2005: "It was said to us by some of the (intensive care unit) team at the Royal Children's Hospital that they are amazed that a child can die from croup these days. "The Austin Hospital and medical team simply let us down."

The inquest, before coroner David Drake, continues.


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