Friday, September 09, 2011

Face-saving deal that would include Malaysia, PNG and Nauru may solve boatpeople impasse

A FACE-saving deal that includes Labor's Malaysian refugee swap and offshore processing on Nauru and Manus Island has emerged as the most likely solution to the nation's border protection impasse.

The Australian Online understands Labor and the opposition are considering a compromise which would put offshore processing beyond doubt, while allowing transfer arrangements in which asylum-seekers are relocated to third countries such as Malaysia.

It's understood an Immigration Department briefing to Tony Abbott this week, which echoed similar advice to the government, made a strong case for both the Malaysian transfer and offshore processing.

Julia Gillard is convening a crisis meeting of senior ministers in Canberra today to finalise the government's strategy on border protection, as well as finding a way forward for its $11 billion mining tax, which is struggling to find support in the parliament.

Officially, both the government and the opposition are refusing to cede ground following last week's High Court ruling declaring the Malaysian Solution invalid and putting offshore processing in doubt.

But without a deal to break the stalemate, both sides are left without an effective border protection policy.

Reopening Australia's detention centre on Nauru remains the opposition's preferred solution, while the government says its Malaysian Solution is now the only effective deterrent against people-smugglers.

There is bipartisan agreement on restarting processing on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

Mr Abbott said he was awaiting a formal proposal from the government.

“It's up to the government to give us its new policy and at the moment the Prime Minister appears to be paralysed; paralysed on the one hand by the prospect of more boats and on the other hand by the prospect of a revolt from the Greens and the Left,” the Opposition Leader told Nine's Today Show.

Former immigration minister Amanda Vanstone said immigration department predictions of 600 asylum-seeker arrivals a month under onshore-only processing were conservative.

She warned of a “come on down approach” unless offshore processing was restored.

“Look I haven't seen this briefing (but) you are going to get thousands of people coming,” said Ms Vanstone, who served as immigration minister for three years under the Howard government.

“I thought the 600-700 a month figure was a bit conservative myself. If you had onshore processing you would absolutely have overflowing detention centres.”

Ms Vanstone said a tougher approach was needed on boatpeople and urged for Howard-era temporary protection sisas to be revived and Nauru reopened.


Sleazy unions

CRAIG Thomson and Bill Ludwig are merely the tip of the iceberg. Beneath that tip lie far deeper issues of union governance. Simply put, the Industrial Relations Club is back in control. That is the system and culture that produced these characters. And that is the system and culture the Gillard government is doing all it can to entrench.

The paradox is that while government is making unions ever more powerful, they have become ever less relevant to ordinary Australians. At their peak in the late 1950s, 60 per cent of employees belonged to a union.

This year, despite the Fair Work Act, barely 20 per cent of full-time employees, and only 14 per cent of part-time employees, are union members. That is a lower share than in 1911, before Australian unionism entered its growth phase.

It is a myth that that collapse is due to the decline in manufacturing. In fact, less than a 10th of the fall in union membership since the early 90s reflects reductions in manufacturing's share of total employment. If anything, the changing structure of employment has favoured unionism, as growth in the public sector has swollen education and health, which now account for 40 per cent of all union members.

And it is also a myth that many non-members would like to join a union. In fact, 80 per cent of non-members say they prefer not being in a union. Rather, unionism's problem is that it faces a crisis of declining demand, as social and economic change makes its services less attractive to potential consumers.

Rising education levels and more efficient labour markets mean fewer employees are locked in to their present employer, eroding unions' role as protection against unfair treatment. And even where those protections are needed, they are increasingly provided by statutory and common law rights, for example, against unfair dismissal.

Nor are unions still needed to give employees a voice in setting working conditions. Rather, that function is met through human resource management, albeit more effectively in some workplaces than others.

Finally, unions are no longer able to secure for their members wages durably above competitive levels. Rather, with firms exposed to ever greater competition, the monopoly rents in which unions once shared are largely a thing of the past. And as they have gone, so has union membership as an entry ticket into the benefits of a price-raising cartel.

But monopolists never opt for euthanasia. Rather, faced with collapsing market demand, they invariably seek government protection. And few monopolists are as well placed to do so as the unions. Their block votes grant them a controlling ownership stake in the ALP. And as well as giving Labor's factions crucial votes, the unions provide jobs that are springboards for tomorrow's faction leaders and refuges for yesterday's men.

Nor is that on a small scale. In 1975, when the unions had nearly three million members, they employed barely 2000 officials. Now, with only 1.8 million members, they employ more than 4000. In no other activity has productivity declined so sharply, reaching a ratio of officials to members five times that in Britain. Even more importantly, the composition of that employment has changed dramatically.

In the early 70s, union officials were overwhelmingly drawn from their members' ranks. As a study found, "the typical leader of a manual union worked as a labourer from the age of 14". In contrast, today's officials are twice as likely as their members to be university educated, with an even greater gap in the unions whose members are in the private sector. And it is in those unions too that officials are least likely to have worked on the shop floor.

Rather, with amalgamations making their membership more diverse and fragmented, and hence poorly placed to monitor union decisions, union leadership has become a co-option game, marred only by turf wars between rival factions.

It is those sinecures that unionism's decline threatens. But Julia Gillard's agenda goes far beyond protecting factional fiefdoms. Rather, she has sought to give Labor a renewed union power base, with unique access to coercive and financial resources.

The coercive powers centre on Fair Work Australia: of the 11 full-time appointments Gillard made to FWA as workplace relations minister, nine have a union background. And those nine have performed to script, not merely in re-regulating the labour market but in failing in their statutory duty to hold unions such as Thomson's to account.

As for the financial resources, they centre on the industry super funds. Under the Fair Work Act, the funds have become default recipients of two-thirds of the compulsory savings collected by the super guarantee.

And they will be the largest beneficiaries of that guarantee's increase. With those moneys flowing in, by 2025 the industry funds will control some $1.5 trillion dollars in assets, exceeding Australia's present national income.

That wealth brings patronage opportunities on an unprecedented scale. True, they may have to be shared with those other relics, the employers' associations, who split the directorships with the unions.

But whatever their disagreements, unions and employers have united in opposing moves to fully align the funds' governance and disclosure standards, and those for unions and employers' associations more broadly, with those for public companies.

The predictable result is scandals such as that enveloping Bernie Riordan, Labor power-broker and national secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, over claims (that Riordan will vigorously defend) that he received $1.8 million in fees for serving on four boards connected with members' super funds, despite those funds' shockingly poor performance. And while government and unions could barely contain their outrage about executive remuneration, they have had nothing to say about making these directors, who manage their members' forced savings, as accountable as directors regulated under the corporations law.

This then is the Gillard vision: ever more powerful unions controlling ever larger shares of national savings, but subject to fewer disclosure and governance requirements than the smallest listed entity.

What a resource for Labor to draw on in the future. And what a magnet for the sleaze buckets it could drag in its wake.


Tax exemption for Aussie ship owners

This is an understandable move but to have any effect, some way would have to be found to nobble the very Bolshie MUA. Their union is the main reason why nobody wants to crew ships with Australian seamen. They have very effectively done themnselves out of a lot of jobs

AUSTRALIAN companies that register a vessel in Australia will be exempted from company tax from July 2012.

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has described the reforms as "the most far-reaching overhaul of our shipping industry ever undertaken".

Mr Albanese said the vessels would have to be Australian flagged and remain registered in Australia for 10 years.

"What many people do not know is that 99 per cent of Australia's international trade is carried by ships, yet only half of one per cent of that trade is carried by Australian-flagged vessels," he told a forum at Sydney's Australian National Maritime Museum on Friday.

"Our ports manage 10 per cent of the world's entire sea trade."

Mr Albanese said the reforms would have safety and environmental benefits. The reforms include an Australian international shipping register and a new licensing regime applying to Australian resident companies.

The commonwealth defines them as firms that are incorporated in Australia or have business with central management and control in Australia with shareholders who are residents of Australia.


Rescue me

Meegan Cornforth

Where once it was a mark of pride to take care of oneself in difficult situations, there is now an expectation that the government should save us, salve us, and secure us in all areas of our lives.

For example, travelers and expats are increasingly expecting the government to rescue them from volatile foreign hotspots.

A further example of our coddled citizenry comes from a couple who, according to Richardson, queried whether they could claim frequent flyer points from a government-arranged emergency flight out of Egypt during the recent upheavals – where the taxpayer was footing the bill.

Government is a mechanism to ensure a degree of order, national security, and representation in our lives. It is not a substitute parent whose role is to fund, soothe and cater to the demands of overindulged and heedless children, although with pandering to the polls and policy-on-the-run, you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

A recent commercial on television showed a fit, young man offering his dole cheque to win tickets to a rugby competition. What was most striking about this ad – its tongue-in-cheek nature notwithstanding – was the assumption that it’s normal for a healthy and able-bodied man to be on welfare.

Such attitudes are becoming commonplace in today’s dysfunctional welfare society, but this is certainly not desirable. Welfare statism effectively reduces elements of its citizenry to an enfeebled and dependent state, unable or unwilling to take responsibility for their own lives, actions and decisions. And it infuses the culture with a widespread belief that it’s up to the government to fix and manage just about everything, including help in claiming air miles.

The final word goes to acting Foreign Minister, Craig Emerson, who said recently: ‘There are limits to what the Australian government can do in a consular crisis.’ There are indeed limits to what the Australian government, or any government for that matter, can do – and should do – in our lives. Period.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 02 September 2011. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

1 comment:

Paul said...

I do not belong to any Nurses Union, as they are basically an arm of the Bligh Government, as you would have noticed by their conspicuous absence and silence during, and since, the pay debacle.