Friday, September 11, 2009

NSW Labor government moves to lift ban on publication of school information

Conservative support for the ban was brainless and unprincipled opportunism. They are a disgrace

THE NSW government is seeking legal advice as to whether the law banning the publication of league tables is unconstitutional. The move came as Premier Nathan Rees yesterday condemned the opposition and the Greens for supporting the ban, saying they were "undermining democracy".

The government failed in its attempt to overturn the Coalition-backed law, which makes it a criminal offence for newspapers to republish information already publicly available, in particular the results of national literacy and numeracy tests, after the Coalition, Greens and Shooters Party voted against its repeal.

The Australian understands that the NSW government is requesting legal advice about the law and whether it breaches the Constitution, which would enable a legal challenge in the High Court to have the law repealed.

At the opening of the Pan Pacific newspaper conference in Sydney yesterday, Mr Rees described the actions by the Coalition and Greens in supporting the amendment as the "greatest assault on press freedom in Australia in 50 years". Mr Rees likened the amendment banning league tables to moves by former NSW attorney-general Bill Sheahan to compel newspapers to disclose their sources when reporting allegations of corruption. "It was an attempt by an Australian government to gag the press," he said. "Today, no government in Australia would dare bring in a measure like the Disclosure of Allegations Bill. Governments, no; the NSW Coalition and Greens, yes."

Mr Rees said the amendment passed by the Greens and Coalition, which they voted against repealing on Wednesday night in the NSW upper house, "undermines the capacity of our democracy to engage in healthy public debate". "It strikes at the very right of journalists and newspapers to report public issues without fear or favour," he added.

Liberal MP Peter Debnam yesterday urged the government to broker a voluntary code of conduct against compiling simplistic league tables, for which he has the in-principle support of newspaper editors.

The Australian's editor-in-chief, Chris Mitchell, questioned the effectiveness of the ban, saying the newspaper had published two tables of school results, in the electorates of Mr Rees and Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell, and had heard nothing from the opposition or the Greens about legal action. Mr Mitchell said he was willing to discuss a voluntary code of conduct, as is the editor of The Daily Telegraph, Garry Linnell. "The Daily Telegraph opposes the archaic legislation currently in place in NSW and strongly supports the right of parents to know how their school performs, as long as this is done fairly and in full context," he said.


Rudd gives a very skewed account of history

Truth and accuracy has always been a low priority for Leftists. Kevin Rudd said recently that Labor was largely responsible for economic reform in Australia and described the Howard government as "indolent". John Howard gives the facts below

LET'S start with some facts. As the 1980s began Australia needed five major economic reforms to ensure success in a rapidly globalising world economy. They were financial deregulation, fundamental taxation reform, dismantling of high tariff protection, privatisation of government-owned commercial bodies and a freer labour market.

The blueprint for financial reform came from the Campbell inquiry, set up by me, as treasurer. The reform process here started with the Fraser government, through the introduction of a tender system for the sale of Treasury notes and Treasury bonds, described by the former Reserve Bank Governor Ian Macfarlane, in his 2006 Boyer lectures, as "second only in importance to the float of the Australian dollar in 1983". The Fraser government also began the politically difficult task of deregulating interest rates, by removing all interest-rate ceilings on bank deposits.

Reversing Labor's pre-1983 opposition to financial deregulation, the Hawke government floated the dollar, admitted foreign banks and otherwise broadly implemented Campbell's recommendations. The float of the dollar was driven by Bob Hawke as prime minister and the then governor of the Reserve Bank, Bob Johnston. Treasury, at that time, opposed the float.

After a number of false starts fundamental taxation reform, involving as it had to the introduction of a broad based goods and services tax, was finally achieved by the Howard government in 2000.

The Hawke government, with Paul Keating as treasurer, was responsible for largely dismantling Australia's system of protective tariffs. The Keating government privatised Qantas and commenced the privatisation of the Commonwealth Bank. The Howard government privatised Telstra.

In the early 1990s the Keating government introduced a limited form of enterprise bargaining. I say limited because under these changes an enterprise agreement concluded between an employer and its non-union workforce still had to run the gauntlet of the Industrial Relations Commission, where any union having coverage in the relevant workforce area could oppose the agreement, even if none of its members were parties to the agreement. The legislation giving effect to this change also introduced the unfair dismissal law, constantly criticised by small businesses in Australia.

The Howard government greatly expanded deregulation of the labour market; first through the introduction of Australian Workplace Agreements in 1996, and in 2005 with the removal of unfair dismissal entitlements affecting firms employing fewer than 100 people and the streamlining of the agreement making process. Importantly, in 1996 it restored Sections 45D and E to the Trade Practices Act. These provided protection to businesses against predatory secondary-boycott union behaviour.

The Rudd government has not only overturned the Howard government's industrial relations changes (excepting the restoration of Sections 45D and E), but has also imposed a further level of regulation, taking our workplace relations system back to the late 1980s.

The other highly relevant fact, in this almost 30-year reform process, was the different responses of the two sides of politics when they were in opposition. The Liberal and National parties supported the reforms initiated by the Hawke and Keating governments. When the dollar was floated, I, as opposition treasury spokesman, described that decision as "correct and courageous". The then opposition strongly supported the Hawke government's tariff reduction program. As prime minister I would, from time to time, praise what the Hawke government had done with financial deregulation and tariff reform.

Privatisation of Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank became Coalition policy in the mid 1980s, and, as both Keating and Kim Beazley will know, the legislation privatising the bank would not have passed through the Senate in 1995 without Coalition support. By contrast the Labor Party, in opposition, fought tooth and nail against the reform attempts of the Coalition. Kevin Rudd called the introduction of the GST a "day of fundamental injustice".

Having promoted the privatisation of Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank in government, Labor in opposition consistently opposed the privatisation of Telstra, which was not finally achieved until after the Coalition won control of the Senate following the 2004 election. Predictably, Labor opposed all of the Coalition's industrial relations changes.

Labor negativity in opposition was not confined to the five major reforms I have cited. It also tried to thwart the fiscal consolidation process, commenced in Peter Costello's first budget in 1996. That budget, the best and most courageous in a generation, imposed real reductions in government spending. Opportunistically, Labor opposed most of these measures. That fiscal consolidation process, which totally eliminated net Commonwealth debt and produced a string of budget surpluses, has proved critical to Australia escaping the worst effects of the global financial plunge.

Surely not even Rudd will dispute that he inherited from the former government a fiscal position and a framework for prudential regulation of the banking system second to none in the western world.

It is tempting for a political leader such as Rudd to highlight his party's virtues and ignore those of other parties. Last Monday, however, the Prime Minister carried political mendacity to new heights, when he launched Paul Kelly's book The March of Patriots. His analysis of the economic reform process in Australia since 1980 was partisan, inaccurate and lacked any semblance of objectivity.

In one fashion or another we are all political warriors, but we have a superior obligation to the national interest. That obligation obtains in opposition as well as in government. No side of Australian politics has a monopoly of either virtue or merit. Each according to its own value system has attempted to improve the lot of Australians. In failing to acknowledge this last Monday, my successor diminished himself, and not the Liberal and National Parties.


Rudd has put power back in the destructive hands of unions

KEVIN Rudd has declared himself the only true inheritor of the Hawke-Keating economic reforms and the only national leader who can carry forward what he calls the great project of economic modernisation for Australia. It is a remarkably brazen claim for a Prime Minister who is presiding over the effective kneecapping of labour market modernisation in this country through his government's Fair Work Act, which came into force on July 1.

The modern era of deregulated Australian labour markets began three decades ago. And it started not with the Hawke-Keating government in Canberra but on the iron ore fields of Western Australia. It began in July 1986, when the chief executive of Peko-Wallsend Limited, Charles Copeman, decided to sort out the union-dominated Robe River joint venture in which Peko had become the majority shareholder.

Copeman had to bear the brunt of a remarkable and at times literally violent onslaught by the unions, the ACTU, the WA state government, the state industrial tribunal, the Industrial Relations Club and prime minister Bob Hawke, who was in the unions' corner. He had little support from other Australian business "leaders" or Liberal politicians, who failed to see the importance of what he was doing.

Copeman's objective was to restore management's right to manage and to deal directly with its workers, instead of having Peko's business run and its profitability, or rather lack of it, determined by unions and their allies in industrial tribunals. Other mining companies, starting with Hamersley, followed.

Importantly, CRA, now Rio Tinto, successfully spread the battle to deal directly with its workforce to its operations across Australia, despite vigorous opposition from Bill Kelty at the ACTU and the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. This was extremely important as Australia expanded its role as a minerals and energy exporter. And through the movement of former Rio Tinto industrial relations negotiators into other areas including telecommunications, banking and manufacturing, what Melbourne industrial relations barrister Stuart Wood calls the "Rio Tinto diaspora" spread more widely.

There were, of course, other important influences at work: globalisation; the dismantling of Australia's tariff walls and the floating of the exchange rate by the Hawke-Keating government and Keating's introduction, after initially opposing it, of enterprise bargaining; the introduction of individual workplace agreements by the Court government in WA and Australian workplace agreements by the Howard government.

Unions and their tactics also had little appeal to a new generation of employees. As a result of all these influences the role of unions and their collaborators in industrial tribunals diminished substantially and was on a path to well-deserved irrelevance. This is now being reversed by the substantial reregulation of labour markets being imposed by Julia Gillard's Fair Work legislation, which restores the role of unions, industrial tribunals and awards. Her supposed contribution to a modern labour market, her so-called award modernisation exercise, was never credible and is now degenerating into a destructive farce even the unions are beginning to whinge about.

But there is another section of her Fair Work Australia legislation that is only just beginning to attract some public attention: Division 8 of the act, which covers good faith bargaining. Over the next few years it will substantially expand the role of unions and the Fair Work Tribunal that replaces the Australian Industrial Relations Commission. Along with other provisions of the Fair Work Act it gives the unions the key to the door of businesses large and small, and a rapidly growing number are finding the unions on their doorstep demanding the right to recruit members and engage in good faith bargaining.

Already Gillard's tribunal commissars are telling companies they cannot deal directly with their workforce, and much worse is to come. This much is clear from the experience of the US with good faith bargaining. Wood, mentioned earlier, and Henry Skene, head of Arnold Bloch Leibler's workplace advisory practice, recently went to have a look at the US experience and it wasn't encouraging. If this is the future, it doesn't work.

Yet it is clear that Gillard's legislation has opened the way for that experience to influence decisions by Fair Work Australia on good faith bargaining matters. Wood believes the legislation heralds a fundamental change in the way industrial relations have been practised over the last 20 years.

The key section of the Australian act, Section 228(1)(e), provides among other things that parties to good faith bargaining refrain from capricious or unfair conduct that undermines freedom of association or collective bargaining. According to Wood, this opens the door for a large body of US and international law to apply here, including a US prohibition on refusing to bargain. And despite a provision in the Gillard act that it does not require parties to good faith bargaining to make concessions, US experience makes it clear that firms will be forced to bargain with unions.

US experience also suggests good faith bargaining will reverse the switch over the past 20 years to firms bargaining directly with their employees outlined earlier, and this is already happening. Good faith bargaining was introduced by president Franklin D. Roosevelt in the US in the 1930s, but in 1947 the legislation was amended to allow US states to opt out. At the last count 22 states had done so, and been rewarded with a significant shift of industries from the states with good faith bargaining to those without it.

In Australia, companies will have nowhere to go, and the discretion provided to Fair Work Australia commissioners under the good faith provisions is huge, a virtually open-ended power. The history of arbitration in this country tells us that over time this will allow Fair Work Australia and the unions to expand their power and influence in ways that take us back to an earlier era.

Steve Knott, chief executive of the Australian Mining and Metals Association, which covers the industry where the modernisation of the Australian labour market began, described the Rudd government's industrial relations legislation to The Australian as the biggest increase in union power since Federation. Even if you think this an exaggeration, Rudd's approach to the labour market hardly suggests he is the safest pair of hands in which to place the great project of the economic modernisation of Australia. If he were serious, he wouldn't have a 652-page act to reregulate the labor market.


Nasty NSW cops again

Publicity seems however to be working its usual magic, with the wallopers being told from on high to mend their ways. The problem seems mainly to be the work of the woman's immediate boss: A bitchy dickless Tracy. It takes a woman to really tear another woman down. Lesbians often rise in the ranks of police forces, with Britain's aptly named but bungling Cressida Dick being a well known example, so I suspect lesbian attitudes being at work in this matter too

A WOMAN employed by the police force was forced to work overtime for every minute she spent expressing breastmilk for her child. The police intelligence analyst, who can only be identified as Sarah for security reasons, was also banned from using morning and afternoon tea breaks because they were "discretionary" and she was denied the use of accumulated leave.

Complaint documents obtained by The Daily Telegraph claim Sarah's repeated requests for hours that suited her childcare needs were rejected and she had to record the time spent expressing milk at work on her timesheet. She was refused a private room and instead was made to use either an unlockable and "unclean" interview room - where she was interrupted by police officers - or a toilet cubicle. Eventually she had no choice but to express milk in her car in the carpark, but because of her "great embarrassment" she drove home and fed the baby. When she returned she was made to work for the time she had been gone.

The Public Service Association claimed yesterday the woman is one of thousands of new mothers in the public service who are being denied proper facilities for breastfeeding in violation of the Government's own policy. The Association will launch action in the industrial court today demanding that the Government finally uphold the policy.

More than 12 years after then-premier Bob Carr announced the new policy recommending private rooms and paid breastfeeding time, only a handful of government workplaces have applied it. Another woman working in the Government's own headquarters - Governor Macquarie Tower, the same building as the Premier - was also made to use a cubicle.

According to the PSA only Parliament House and the Department of Commerce have the appropriate facilities and procedures in place, while Health is working on some arrangements. It raised Sarah's concerns with Commissioner Andrew Scipione, who passed them on to assistant commissioner Mark Jenkins.

Mr Jenkins said NSW Police first had to check with the Department of Premier and Cabinet about the policy and then said such family friendly measures as a private room and paid lactation breaks were "suggestive". He said: "Commanders /Managers and employees need to negotiate these arrangements, taking a commonsense and flexible approach and reaching an agreement that both ensures the health and safety of employees and does not interfere with operational or service delivery needs." Mr Jenkins said that "appropriate background and industrial/policy advice was provided to the Command".

He said the force would discuss Sarah's request to reinstate the time she was docked with the local area command. He also said police were working on a new breastfeeding policy.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association's Katrina Dorrough said Sarah was one of countless women being mistreated. "These are the stories we hear commonly, would you believe," she said. "Women don't often complain about it but I've almost been in tears listening to some people working in the public service who have similar stories."

SOURCE. Story (with picture) about another bitchy dickless Tracy in NSW here.

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