Posts Tagged Labor

Why I don’t care about the Gillard-Abbott sexism war and neither should you

English: Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gil...

As readers will probably have figured out, I like to follow Australian politics. As you may have guessed (and those who know me would know), I also like to talk about Australian politics. People I associate with know this, so they tend to engage me whenever an issue in Australian politics catches their attention — I even have some friendships based around these conversations.

So when there is a huge scandal in Australian politics that the whole world is talking about, I expect that it will come up somewhere. Sure enough, a lot of people have been asking me about Julia Gillard’s now world-famous speech calling Tony Abbott a misogynist. My answer has surprised a few people, so I now feel the need to write a post and justify it. Simply put:

I don’t really care.

It just doesn’t really interest me. I watched a recording of the speech and got bored after a couple of minutes. Since it was such a big thing, I went back and watched the rest later, but now I just want that 10 minutes back.

So why this uncharacteristic apathy? Well, I don’t really see this as anything new. The issue that was much more important/interesting was the resignation of Speaker Peter Slipper because of the revelation of lewd and offensive text messages that he sent his former staffer.

The Slipper issue I care about. In fact, I might care enough to write a whole post on the right to privacy and the dilemmas that this kind of situation brings up (ie should someone be forced to resign over what were really private comments, no matter how offensive they were?)

Gillard’s speech? Well, the reaction says it all really. Below are a few responses from friends on my Facebook and Twitter feeds (for obvious reasons, I am not mentioning any names and have slightly edited some of the comments for length):

Wow go Julz! She schooled Abbott #likeaboss

Julia Gillard strikes me as the sort of university feminist who screams “chauvinist pig!” when you hold the door for her and “woman-hater!” if you just let it swing back in her face.

Look, I just had to post it. Fucking brilliant. I could watch this over and over again. … There should be a whole channel devoted to this one video.

I look forward to the rude shock that the lefties who are currently engaged in self-congratulation and saying how amazing Gillard’s performance yesterday was will receive when they realise voters havn’t fallen for her BS…

Yes, Tony Abbott, you were just destroyed.

Gillard stands by Thomson after prostitute revelations. Now stands by Slipper after texts. Yet says Abbott is misogynist. #chutzpah

Amazing speech by our PM. Showing some serious leadership.

And so on.

What was really remarkable about these comments were that there was a very clear divide, but it was not on gender lines, nor was it even on the lines of people who are generally feminist versus people who aren’t. The responses that I have seen were split exactly down party lines. Labor supporters loved it, Liberal supporters mocked it.

And there is the reason why I find the whole thing boring.

Gillard’s speech was not a scathing attack on Abbott to expose his deeply held sexism, and neither was it a blatant display of hypocrisy in defence of a real misogynist.

What was it? An uninspiring partisan response to a successful partisan power-play. It was smart PR — a very clever way to divert the public conversation away from the Slipper debacle.

Abbott was trying to embarrass the government while also taking away the vote that they had from Slipper being speaker, Gillard was trying to defend her majority by recycling old allegations at Abbott.

I have annexed a breakdown of the arguments that Gillard used at the end of this post, but more important than what was there is what was missing: there was absolutely nothing about Abbott’s record in office or any policies that he has proposed which harm women, it was a purely personal attack on Abbott’s character. There is no real policy issue at all and it contributes little to the Australian debate, it’s just boring.

That is why its effect will never be anything other than to provoke cheers from Labor supporters and jeers from Liberal supporters. It was not aimed at ‘exposing Abbott’, so much as spurring-on people who already don’t like Abbott. The Liberals had a bit of a coup when Slipper’s text messages were made public and Labor countered with a clever diversion to mitigate the damage. Yawn.

Until I started this post, I had been filtering out the discussion around this issue. It has joined the categories of things that set-off my mental killswitch — like the carbon tax, Gillard “backstabbing” Rudd, and anything that uses the phrases: “clean energy future”, “working Australians”, “great big lie”, there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead”, ”
fair go”, “getting on with the job” etc etc.

Now that I am done, I am free to go back to not caring. Trust me, that’s a relief.

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Gillard’s arguments:

Transcript of Julia Gillard’s speech.

He has said, and I quote, in a discussion about women being under-represented in institutions of power in Australia, the interviewer was a man called Stavros. The Leader of the Opposition says “If it’s true, Stavros, that men have more power generally speaking than women, is that a bad thing?”

And then a discussion ensues, and another person says “I want my daughter to have as much opportunity as my son.” To which the Leader of the Opposition says “Yeah, I completely agree, but what if men are by physiology or temperament, more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?”

Then ensues another discussion about women’s role in modern society, and the other person participating in the discussion says “I think it’s very hard to deny that there is an underrepresentation of women,” to which the Leader of the Opposition says, “But now, there’s an assumption that this is a bad thing.”

I have looked for a full transcript of this discussion and I can’t find it anywhere online. Abbott was not expressing a viewpoint in those comments, they were inquisitive and hypothetical. In context, they could well be completely innocuous. Then again, they may not be, but I will not make up my mind until I am shown a full transcript. A couple of soundbites extracted from a whole conversation is not sufficient to condemn anyone.

Anyway,

This is the man from whom we’re supposed to take lectures about sexism. And then of course it goes on. I was very offended personally when the Leader of the Opposition, as Minister of Health, said, and I quote, “Abortion is the easy way out.” I was very personally offended by those comments. You said that in March 2004, I suggest you check the records.

Doesn’t convince me. Whatever Abbott’s stance may be on abortion policy, there is no reason why he has to personally support it.

I was also very offended on behalf of the women of Australia when in the course of this carbon pricing campaign, the Leader of the Opposition said “What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing…” Thank you for that painting of women’s roles in modern Australia.

Gotta hand it to the PM, this one is pretty convincing. I am very reluctant to attribute anything to a “gaffe“, but this does show that Abbott harbours a degree of subconscious discrimination. But then, there is the whole “gaffe” issue.

And on:

And then of course, I was offended too by the sexism, by the misogyny of the Leader of the Opposition catcalling across this table at me as I sit here as Prime Minister, “If the Prime Minister wants to, politically speaking, make an honest woman of herself…”, something that would never have been said to any man sitting in this chair.

That I don’t agree with. I have no doubt that an unmarried male Prime Minister would be attacked on the grounds that he was unmarried.

I was offended when the Leader of the Opposition went outside in the front of Parliament and stood next to a sign that said “Ditch the witch.” I was offended when the Leader of the Opposition stood next to a sign that described me as a man’s bitch.

Now that is just spurious. So Abbott was photographed standing next to the wrong sign at an anti-carbon tax rally, what does that have to do with anything? I have seen several prominent Labor and Green MPs standing next to the flags of terrorist organisations and nobody batted an eyelid.

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Mental asylum: on refugee processing and protections

There have been two undeniable tragedies over the past few days as two boats carrying asylum-seekers have capsized en route from Indonesia to Australia (fortunately, the latest one seems to have been rescued fairly effectively and the loss of life was far less, although there was still one dead and three still missing). As most readers would know, this has re-sparked the gigantic debate about Australia’s asylum-seeker policy – which has reached a fervour not seen since… the last time this happened.

There seems to be consensus that the government has to “do something” to “stop the boats”. Just what that means exactly is under fierce debate. There are three main options being pushed, so I figured that I would summarise these for all you lovely people and then give some quick thoughts on the right way to go.

1. The “Pacific Solution”

This is the Liberal Party’s pet policy – they want to replicate what was done under then Prime Minister John Howard and then Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock. This solution is designed to provide strong disincentives for people to attempt to reach Australia by boat.

It’s kind of a two-pronged assault. Firstly, anyone who arrives in Australia unlawfully and then claims asylum will be given a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) – meaning that they are permitted to remain in Australia until it is no longer dangerous for them to be in their country of origin, at which time they will be deported “home”. This is supplemented by opening an Australian-administered asylum-seeker detention centre on a tiny Pacific atoll called Nauru, so that no one who tries to reach Australia unlawfully by boat will actually reach Australia and there are no guarantees of ever getting there.

2. The “open arms” solution

I call it that with my tongue in my cheek. This is the line being pushed by the Greens and various “refugee advocates”. At its core, the argument is that any form of offshore processing of refugees is cruel and so we should process them all in Australia and let them into the community as soon as possible.

Typically, for the people who are advocating it at least, this is a very nice and well-meaning policy but is a little detached from reality and would create huge problems if put into practise. The biggest problem is that, contrary to this narrative, not all “boat people” are just really nice, desperate people who are fleeing horrible persecution to make a contribution to our great, multicultural nation. Some of them are that, but some aren’t. In fact, the easier it seems that it is to get into Australia, the more likely it is that people who are not genuine refugees will come over.

Once someone destroys their travel documents (as these “boat people” are want to do), it is very difficult to figure out exactly who they are. This results in a small but significant number of these asylum seekers fleeing not persecution for their race, religion or politics, but for their involvement in organised crime – or even terrorism. Ignoring that element of them is dangerous, it would take just one bomb on a major piece of infrastructure and the public reaction would mean that our borders are sealed permanently (not to mention the horrible loss of life that it would inevitably entail).

3. The “Malaysia Clusterfuck Solution

This was the brainchild of the Gillard Labor government and requires a little background. The most important thing to know is that the Pacific Solution worked – boats had essentially stopped coming in 2007 when Kevin Rudd was elected Prime Minister. The new ALP government then set-about dismantling the Howard/Ruddock policies, which they had been calling “inhumane” for years, and boats promptly began coming again and have been increasing ever since.

When running for the 2010 election, Julia Gillard – aware of the political difficulty that these boatloads of asylum seekers presented for her government – announced an “East Timor Solution”. This claimed to provide the same effect as the Pacific Solution, but was supposed to be somehow different because East Timor is a signatory to the Refugee Convention (a weak argument as the Nauru centre was Australian-administered, so it was not really material whether or not Nauru had signed the Convention). Regardless, it transpired that Gillard had not seen fit to run this little idea past, you know, the East Timorese. Suffice to say it didn’t go very far.

After East Timor collapsed, the government was desperate for a solution and began floundering. They then had the genius idea of announcing that they would negotiate a solution with Malaysia after they approached Malaysia, but before they had actually negotiated a solution. Malaysia was calling all the shots and they knew it, so they eventually agreed on a kind of asylum-seeker trade: they send 4,000 Burmese Christians in exchange for 800 (presumably) Iranian and Afghani Muslims from Australia. They hate Christians, we hate Muslims, everybody wins.

After the huge outcry in Australia regarding the way refugees are treated in Malaysia (let’s just say that it involved caning of bare buttocks), the government did get Malaysia – not a signatory to the Refugee Convention – to agree to respect the refugees’ rights. In an explicitly non-binding agreement.

Problem for the government was that the Convention is annexed to the Migration Act and explicitly referred to in the provisions allowing asylum-seekers to be processed offshore, so the High Court ruled that the decision to implement the Malaysia Solution was not made according to the power conferred on Chris Bowen, the Immigration Minister, which requires that the rights and protections of refugees under the Convention are respected. The government then tried to remove these protections, but this was (thankfully) blocked by pretty much everyone else in Parliament.

Offshore in general

So here comes the real analysis (woohoo!). The most common argument against offshore processing (chiefly the Pacific Solution) is that it made no real difference and the number of unlawful arrivals in Australia is just a reflection of global trends (see, eg, this). This claim has absolutely no basis in any fact or evidence. The numbers speak for themselves really. Consider this table first from the Australian Parliament:

Year No arrivals
1999 3721
2000 2939
2001 5516
2002 1
2003 53
2004 15
2005 11
2006 60
2007 148
2008 161
2009 2726
2010 6555
2011 4565

Now, look at this table from the UNHCR:

Share of main receiving countries of asylumseekers in total number of applications

Countries 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
United States 15% 13% 13% 15% 17%
France 9% 9% 11% 13% 12%
Germany 6% 6% 7% 11% 10%
Italy 4% 8% 5% 3% 8%
Sweden 11% 6% 6% 9% 7%
Belgium 3% 3% 5% 6% 6%
United Kingdom 8% 8% 8% 6% 6%
Canada 8% 10% 9% 6% 6%
Switzerland 3% 4% 4% 4% 4%
Turkey 2% 3% 2% 3% 4%
Austria 4% 3% 4% 3% 3%
Netherlands 2% 4% 4% 4% 3%
Australia 1% 1% 2% 3% 3%
Greece 8% 5% 4% 3% 2%
Norway 2% 4% 5% 3% 2%

That is very clear evidence that Australia’s number of asylum seekers has not been keeping up with global trends. To the contrary, the number of asylum claims in Australia relative to the rest of the world has tripled since 2007. I don’t need to bother with more sophisticated statistics (although many have), anyone who looks at that data without blind bias can see that something made Australia far more attractive to asylum seekers in 2007 than it had been before.

On the other hand

I now have to write what is possibly the most difficult thing that I have ever written on this site.

Here goes…

Greens leader Christine Milne has a point.

Australia takes a negligible number of asylum seekers from Indonesia and Malaysia (somewhere in the neighbourhood of 60p/a) – the two sources of these boats. Both of these countries are not good places for refugees and in Malaysia they are actually persecuted, meaning that they still have refugee status and (as mentioned before) it is illegal to deport any refugee back there.

Disincentivising the journey is all very well, however it will not work so long as the incentive to come is still stronger. The refugees in Indonesia and Malaysia know that they have almost no hope of ever being resettled, they cannot go home and they cannot stay where they are. Getting on a boat is their only hope and while that remains true, they will continue to come.

The solution requires that incentive to be changed as well. Australia needs to substantially increase the number of refugees that we take from Malasia and Indonesia, it’s as simple as that. Once we are taking several thousand a year, they will know that they would probably make it here eventually if need be and the UNHCR camps would look more appealing than our detention centres.

To summarise

Given all of the above, here is the ideal solution in my opinion:

Combine the Pacific Solution and the surprisingly lucid Milne solution. Have a processing centre on Nauru (which, by the way, does great things for the impoverished island nation as well) but also commit to taking a few thousand asylum seekers from Indonesia and Malaysia each year. It will make the boat journeys seem unappealing while providing another option for the truly desperate people in Indonesia and Malaysia.

And no deportation to Malaysia. I was almost throwing my iPad against the wall this morning while Gillard was on it trying to sell that solution as though it is really the humanitarian thing to do. She was advocating for the removal of all the refugee rights under the Convention as ratified in Australian legislation, simple as that. It is disgraceful and inhumane – no amount of spin will change that. The principle of non-refoulement lies at the very core of the refugee framework, which means that you cannot deport someone fleeing persecution to a place where they will still be persecuted. According to Gillard and Bowen, refoulement is the humane choice. Go figure…

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Union progression towards White Australia

I recently had a long conversation with a Union representative who was trying to convince me that I was wrong about the Australian Union movement. As I explained, my thoughts are generally that I am theoretically in favour of an organised workforce and I have no qualms with workers coming together to demand certain rights – but this is no longer what the Union movement is (which is the reason I capitalise the “u”).

From my perspective, Australian Unions are mostly opaque, bloated, entrenched organisations that represent a very small portion of the workforce. Their institutionalisation and the extend to which they are favoured by successive Labor governments have given them hubris, to the point where they seem to care more about perpetuating their own existence than actually doing anything in the interest of Australia’s workforce and spend a lot of time playing political games instead of concentrating on their nominal mission.

What bothers me the most is the dogmatic adherence to certain anachronistic principles because these used to be good for “workers”. I see absolutely no self-reflection and no desire to reevaluate the policies of the movement in light of the world that we live in. As I have noted before, this has resulted in Australia having ridiculous penalty rates and bad teachers.

Well here’s yet another example, which follows this post:

Prime Minister Julia Gillard told: migrants or the mine | The Australian.

In an increasingly bitter dispute over the management of the mining boom, ministerial splits are emerging within the Gillard government and unions have started a racist campaign to hound West Australian-based minister Gary Gray from his seat. …

Yesterday, five unions ran a full-page newspaper advertisement in Mr Gray’s seat of Brand, south of Perth, alluding to high levels of indigenous unemployment and accusing the Special Minister of State and former ALP national secretary of not standing up for “Aussie jobs”.

Joe McDonald, the assistant secretary of the West Australian branch of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, accused Mr Gray last night of betraying Australians and vowed to run a union campaign to get rid of him.

“He’s betrayed the people of his constituency,” Mr McDonald told The Weekend Australian. “He’s betrayed them. He should pack up and piss off. If the union movement puts a politician in, they shouldn’t forget where they came from and if they do then we should piss them off and put someone else in.”

Last night Mr Gray, who won his seat with a margin of just 3 per cent in 2010, said EMAs, for which projects with more than $2bn in investment and 1500 jobs are eligible, would create “many, many mining jobs for Australians”.

Note that the story calls the campaign against Gray “racist”. I don’t like when a news story editorialises like this, but in this case I don’t see a lot of other ways to describe it.

The CFMEU is notionally a “progressive” Union, yet its officials are spouting rhetoric that would not have been out of place during the days of the White Australia Policy. I am also disgusted by the way that McDonald is threatening to remove Gray from Parliament if he doesn’t “play ball”.

This is the tragedy of Australia’s major social democrat party being beholden to these groups; it is also a problem that the Union rep in the conversation that I mentioned above did not seem to understand. The current system of preselection means that we get exactly the wrong people into Parliament. A few conversations between key people within the Union movement or the ALP can be enough to get someone a safe seat for life – the process is completely opaque and prone to corruption and abuse. Once there, do/say the wrong thing and upset the wrong people and goodbye – no matter what the public may want. (Incidentally, this is not a partisan issue. Union movement aside, the same principle holds for the Liberal party.)

So now we have a situation where the Government is being pressured from inside to bow to xenophobic demands and prevent people who want to come to Australia and contribute to the country’s economy from doing so. They are also using arguments like this gem from Senator Doug Cameron:

Good jobs for Aussies is not a miner matter | thetelegraph.com.au.

Since when was it unreasonable to expect that highly profitable mining companies should provide Australian workers with the skill upgrading, training, travel support and accommodation to ensure they have genuine access to employment opportunities?

I am constantly amazed by the Union mentality that the way to achieve these demands is for the Government to force mining companies to provide them. What is preventing the Unions from doing something useful like developing their own training programs and apprenticeships, investing in the development of mining towns to allow workers’ families to move there, or forming recruitment initiatives to connect their members with the mining companies to fill employment vacancies? (Note: I’m aware that some do this already, but obviously not very well, or else there wouldn’t be an issue.)

Why do they think that playing the political system to force the mining companies to do it would be a better idea?

I am shocked by the silence from people I know who are generally pro-immigration and usually speak-out against xenophobic rhetoric like this. Even the Greens are behind the migrant workers idea – and they think that Australia is overpopulated and the world is ending.

Clearly, there is something wrong here. I could go on, but plummeting membership figures speak for themselves. It is paramount that we introduce stronger requirements for Union transparency and accountability and remove the disgraceful Rudd/Gillard industrial relations reforms that force workers to be represented by organisations that they have no intention of joining. Otherwise, backwards thinking may just win the day yet again.

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This may (or may not) be how the recent ACTU conference went down

I’m seeing a lot of comments like this one from Labor Senator Doug Cameron:

Good jobs for Aussies is not a miner matter | thetelegraph.com.au.

We must have a clear and unequivocal position on this: If Australian workers are being denied employment on mine construction sites then companies should not have a licence to engage overseas workers. …

Since when was it unreasonable to expect that highly profitable mining companies should provide Australian workers with the skill upgrading, training, travel support and accommodation to ensure they have genuine access to employment opportunities?

And this one:

Robust’ Labor caucus meeting expected.

Victorian Labor backbencher Kelvin Thomson has also issued a sharp critique of the government’s Rinehart deal, telling reporters in Canberra that does not support the enterprise migration agreement policy, which allows “mega” resource projects to negotiate temporary migration needs up-front.

“We will end up with a situation where we have foreign companies using foreign workforces to send our resources in foreign ships to foreign countries for the use and enjoyment of foreign customers,” he said this morning.  

God forbid.

Sinclair Davidson from Catallaxy Files pointed to economist Brian Caplan explaining that it’s easy to play on peoples’ fears like this and make them scared of “foreigners”.

The real irony is that the ALP has been trying to paint itself as the party that’s more “compassionate” to asylum seekers. Apparently that only applies to people who are not actually going to contribute to the workforce — otherwise tehy are just “stealing our jobs”.

Meanwhile, you’re probably wondering what that headline was about. Well, does the whole situation make anyone else think of this?

Or this?

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Fair Work story breaks and I’m taking the credit

On Saturday, I published this story rebutting two pieces by Labor MP Matt Thistlethwaite trying to convince us that the Fair Work Act is working (it isn’t). In the post, I pointed out that Thistlethwaite was using ABS data on work hours lost to industrial disputes and trying to pretend that the number of hours had gone down when it had in fact gone up. Shortly thereafter — and for completely unrelated reasons — I decided to start using the Major Karnage Twitter account properly and started following a whole load of Australian journalists.

Lo and behold, a few days later the story breaks in the Australian and in the Australian Financial Review that the FWA has caused a rise in labour hours lost due to industrial disputes. I see no possible reason for that other than my blog.

Yes, of course this could in theory be because the figures for the December 2011 quarter were released yesterday, but I’m going to conveniently ignore that, seeing as conveniently ignoring facts seems to be the in thing these days.

Surge in disputes under Fair Work.

The number of working days lost to industrial disputes almost doubled in 2011, the most since 2004. There were fewer strikes, but they became more prolonged over issues beyond simply pay and conditions.

Former BHP ­Billiton chairman Don Argus told The Australian Financial Review that he saw no sign of the trend abating.

“That sort of data does not help with the productivity that is required to keep Australia competitive, it is as simple as that,” Mr Argus said.

The data fuelled the employer push for changes to Labor’s Fair Work Act, including narrowing the range of matters that can be bargained over.

Business says the data also fails to capture accurately the fallout from industrial action as it only includes actual stoppages, not overtime bans or threatened action cancelled at the last moment.

Fair Work laws blamed for lost days | The Australian.

THE number of working days lost to industrial disputes has almost doubled in the past 12 months, with business and industry sheeting home the blame to the bargaining provisions in Labor’s Fair Work laws.

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Labor MP’s doublethink on Fair Work Act

The term “Orwellian” seems to be attached to anything vaguely misleading these days, but I genuinely believe that it can be applied to Labor MP Matt Thistlethwaite’s defence of the Fair Work Act (FWA) – Labor’s industrial relations legislation that was introduced to replace the Howard government’s Work Choices policy and came into full effect in mid-2010.

When extolling the virtues of the FWA, Thistlethwaite uses what I can only call “doublethink“, Orwell’s idea of telling “deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them”. Just look at the “facts” that he was using:

Just the facts on Labor’s workplace reforms | Article | The Punch.

A simple measure of unsuccessful bargaining in workplaces is the number of days lost due to industrial disputes. Since 1991 the number of days lost to industrial disputes has been falling. In 1991 the average days lost during the year was 239.4 days per 1000 employees.

To compare, last year the figure was 15.9 days lost per 1000 employees. This is a significant drop. There has been an average reduction in days lost to industrial disputes almost every year for the past two decades.

For a few reasons I am no fan of the FWA, but I am also able to change my mind in the face of solid evidence. I was curious about what he was saying and decided to investigate a little further. I did not need to go very far; Thistlethwaite’s own figures came from the ABS Industrial Disputes, Australia report on industrial disputes up to September 2011. Looking at the report, there was a dramatic spike in disputes that began in the quarter ending September 2010 – exactly when the FWA came into full effect.

Also note: the major industries where most working days were lost were construction, mining and education/healthcare and NOT in transport – nothing to do with Qantas.

Another point I noticed: remember how he was lauding the fact that the number of days lost per 1000 employees had dropped from 239.4 to 15.9 since 1991? Well a couple of paragraphs later:

… The Howard Government had more than 105 days lost to industrial action per 1000 employees in 1999-2000. This figure represents the first four years of the Howard Government’s initial industrial regime, a policy that turned the screws on working people.

There seems to be more to it than he is telling, but the ABS did not have a graph showing the trend in the data going back decades. Luckily, I could do this myself:

The red line is a moving average over the previous four quarters.

Strange, to me that looks like the 1999-2000 period happens to have been an anomalous spike in what was otherwise a consistent decline in industrial disputes during Howard’s term. Meanwhile, he conveniently did not mention the 1985-1991 period under the Hawke Labor government where industrial disputes were actually increasing (albeit not significantly).

After Keating took over, there was a drop, but then disputes started rising again until Howard started “turning the screws on working people” in 1996, when they began to drop again and did so more or less consistently, aside from the spikes in 1999-2000 and 2003-2004. Note in particular that the number of hours lost dropped under Work Choices (2005-07) and then have been slowly rising since Labor took over in 2007 and have risen sharply since the FWA came into full effect.

I was a little disturbed by this, but I did give Thistlethwaite the benefit of the doubt at first. After all, no one looking at this data with any remote mathematical competence would arrive at the conclusions that he did without very carefully and deliberately choosing only the parts that prove their argument and ignoring everything else.

Well, lo and behold, this Thursday was another Thistlethwaite piece in The Punch on the FWA:

In Australia work is fair and it’s getting better | Article | The Punch.

The recently negotiated Holden Enterprise Agreement shows that the Fair Work Act equips employers and employees with the tools to produce high quality, mutually satisfactory agreements.

The link that he points to says this:

Today’s stories about Holden signing a new EBA are premature.

The EBAs covering engineering and manufacturing employees have not been signed and the coverage today is misleading and takes a very one-sided view of negotiations.

Now I kind of feel like he’s doing this on purpose. This must be an Easter Egg. There is no possible way that someone would actually try to argue that their industrial relations scheme is working because of a protracted negotiation over salaries by a company that’s about to get a $300mln bailout and then back that up by linking to a press statement from that company saying that no agreement has actually been reached. I mean, that just seems silly.

Since 1991, wages have increased from $929 to $1287 per week in real terms. That means even once cost of living increases over the past two decades are taken into account, Australians are now $358 better off per week. Over this 20-year period, combined real wage growth was 33 per cent, an average increase real in wages of 1.7 per cent per year.

Since the introduction of the Fair Work Act, real wages have increased by 2.8 per cent, an average of 1.4 per cent per year. This is consistent with real wage growth trends seen over the last 20 years and shows that real claims about wages breakouts are grossly exaggerated.

Hold on a second, did he just  argue that the FWA has maintained real wage growth using figures showing that, under the FWA, growth has been 18% lower than average? I had to make sure, because it definitely looks like he did that.

It does make sense that the FWA would lower wage growth and cause more industrial disputes, seeing as it effectively takes Australian IR policy back to the pre-Keating era, when this was the norm:

Abbott’s fault line.

The labour market regression started with the FWA’s repudiation of Keating’s concept of enterprise bargaining. But it went a lot further; it abolished individual contracts and non-union collective agreements, made bargaining more difficult, bolstered the centralised system, returned to and reinforced the concept of arbitration, put agreement-making back into the tribunal thereby undercutting the involvement of employers and employees, brought the unions back into virtually every agreement, expanded the right to strike and reinvigorated the awards system. It widened union access to business through right of entry provisions; it broadened unfair dismissal provisions, changed anti-discrimination rights and gave the tribunal more jurisdiction.

… Under the FWA, all agreements are, in practice, union agreements because if, in any business, regardless of its size, there is even only one union member then the union with coverage becomes the default bargaining representative. The employer is not allowed to know the identity of that member. And the union member is not consulted.

That last point is particularly sore for me. Less than 20% of Australian workers are members of Unions. Note that I capitalise the “U” – this is because the Union movement in Australia today is not the trade union movement of the past. These are no longer grassroots organisations formed by uniting workers to demand better conditions; they are now large, opaque and corrupt institutions, which, as their membership numbers show, are becoming increasingly irrelevant with every passing year.

It is an absolute disgrace that there would be legislation forcing Unions into negotiations between employers and employees who are not Union members. Who is the Government to tell Australian workers who should be representing them? Especially when they have made a clear choice that they do not want to be a part of the Union!

But then I guess this is apparently a Government who can only defend the policy with proof that it isn’t working. That, right there, is straight out of Orwell.

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Major Photoshop Karnage: Kevin Rudd Winning

I made a comment in a Facebook conversation that this Rudd saga is the political equivalent of Charlie Sheen being fired from Two and a Half Men. That inspired this picture.

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Reasons for Rudd’s resignation

As everyone living in the 21st Century should know by now, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has just resigned. This comes after months of speculation on his coming back to power, fuelled by and a massive media beat-up. The whole thing started when poll results started to show that more people favoured Rudd as Prime Minister than Julia Gillard. This is a meaningless exercise, asking someone that question when Gillard is the leader and Rudd is not is entirely different from asking when Rudd is the leader and is under the scrutiny that the position brings.

Nevertheless, the press seized the idea and constantly spoke about it, to the point where it seemed like Q and A panelists could discuss nothing else. Then, ABC’s Four Corners began 2012 with an episode on Rudd’s ousting by Gillard, revealing that *shock horror* Gillard had not just woken up that morning and challenged Rudd, but had planned the takeover. I suspect that they are currently investigating whether or not the Pope is indeed Catholic.

This piece of non-news was beaten-up to the point where all the media could talk about was a Rudd challenge. Columnists around Australia, from Fairfax to News Ltd to the ABC, all threw in their two cents on the matter. Some were more subtle than others; Andrew Bolt, not known for his subtlety, even seemed to be actively campaigning for Rudd.

This was all satirised brilliantly by Imre Saluszinsky this morning in The Australian.

Column to end all Rudd v Gillard columns | The Australian.

IT appears a showdown between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd is inevitable.

Three things must now occur: Rudd must openly declare if he is challenging; Labor MPs must decide who they want to lead them; and, above all, another column on the Labor leadership must be written immediately. The thousands of previous opinion columns written on this issue have only skimmed the surface.

They have resolved nothing.

Leadership tensions have escalated to a point where no column, however flippant, can afford to ignore them.

A completely new column is needed.

It is understood this column could now occur “as early as next week”.

So, in what has been accurately dubbed a ‘soap opera’, Rudd has now stepped down from the Foreign Minister role. What does this mean? One of three things:

1. Rudd is going for Gillard

This is the media’s favourite outcome as everyone loves a good soap opera and because it vindicates all of their columns. It does seem like he has been deliberately encouraging this idea, which may be because he knew that doing so would make it more likely to eventuate.

I am skeptical about this. From what I gather, his internal support in Labor is not very strong and he would have little chance of actually winning. This seems especially true as some very high-profile MPs have been attacking him tonight. Wayne Swan, for instance:

Prime Minister Gillard and I and the overwhelming majority of our colleagues have been applyingour Labor values to the policy challenges in front of us and we’re succeeding despite tremendous political obstacles.

For the sake of the labour movement, the Government and the Australians which it represents, we have refrained from criticism to date. However for too long, Kevin Rudd has been putting his own self-interest ahead of the interests of the broader labour movement and the country as a whole, and that needs to stop.
The Party has given Kevin Rudd all the opportunities in the world and he wasted them with his dysfunctional decision making and his deeply demeaning attitude towards other people includingour caucus colleagues. He sought to tear down the 2010 campaign, deliberately risking an AbbottPrime Ministership, and now he undermines the Government at every turn.

He was the Party’s biggest beneficiary then its biggest critic; but never a loyal or selfless example of its values and objectives. For the interests of the labour movement and of working people, there is too much at stake in our economy and in the political debate for the interests of the labour movement and working people tobe damaged by somebody who does not hold any Labor values.

That last part is a little rich coming from Swan, an extremely mediocre Treasurer who rode Rudd’s coattails into power. It’s amazing that everyone seems to forget that Rudd defeated Howard and brought Labor into power in 2007 – and that was Rudd, not Labor. That election victory was almost entirely down to his personal popularity. Swan had nothing to do with it, he just happened to be in the right place at the right time – a skill that later won him accolades as Treasurer.

2. Rudd is doing the right thing

Could be that he saw the damage that all the leadership speculation was doing to the Labor party and he genuinely felt bad about the fact that his leadership status was distracting Australia from the important issues, so he decided to just end it all and disappear into obscurity for a while. This doesn’t seem like him, however – last time he did something like that he (allegedly) started leaking information to the press to damage Gillard’s campaign.

3. He’s giving Gillard one last “fuck you”

This seems like the more likely option to me. A lot of accusations are coming out that Gillard had grown sick of the leadership talk and was planning to fire Rudd next week anyway. It could be that Rudd knew this and decided to get in ahead and pre-emptively quit in a manner that would really stick it to Gillard, so he decided to:

  • Call a press conference from Washington at 1:30am so that he would hit the peak social media time – just after work finishes – and be all over the evening news, without giving Gillard any time to respond before the newspapers go to print tonight.
  • Dramatically hand his Foreign Minister duties at high-profile conferences over to some officials, making his resignation really look like an emergency.
  • Give Gillard some time to sweat while he flies back to Australia without announcing what he intends to do.

All the while knowing that Labor can’t afford for him to resign from Parliament completely, as they would not only lose his seat but probably the current election in Queensland.

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Them’s Fightin’ Words

The so-called “Malaysia solution” is dead in the water, taking with it whatever hope Labor had of being reelected in the next decade. With poll ratings at historic lows and still dropping, it would take something drastic to change the fortunes of Gillard and Co.

So what if that’s not so crazy? Maybe something drastic is exactly what is needed. Think about it this way – the biggest tragedy of the High Court stopping us from sending asylum seekers over to Malaysia because apparently Malaysia doesn’t respect “human rights” enough for some people is that we have lost face with Malaysia. It’s not a good look for Australia, the superpower of the Asia/Pacific region, to have a crummy little country like Malaysia looking all indignant and complaining to everyone that we don’t keep our promises.

After all, we had an agreement, right? 800 Iranians and Afghanis for 4,000 Burmese. Fair trade. Now we have to take the Burmese and we still have all these damn Afghanis sitting around with nowhere to ship them off to.

We want these guys

What would not only give the Gillard government the popularity bump that it needs, but also help our great nation look like we’re the shit once more? Put that way, the answer seems glaringly obvious:

We need to invade Malaysia!

Seriously, what could possibly go wrong? Malaysia doesn’t have any money! There’s no way they could possibly compete with all of those pricey American fighter jets that we have gathering dust in the outback somewhere. And special forces? Australia has the best in the world baby, those Malaysians got nothin’. It’d be over in a day, then we can send as many of these goddamn terrorists asylum seekers there as we wanted. What would the Malaysians do about it? Cry to mama?

We don't want these guys

More to the point, everyone around would know that you don’t fuck with the Aussies. And history has shown time and time again that nothing boosts the old approval ratings of politicians than a good war, especially if they can declare victory! It makes for a great photo-op and, as we all know, photo-ops win elections.

All this can be ours

I for one am looking forward to being able to use the newly-enslaved people of Malaysia for simple tasks that I can’t be bothered doing at the moment. I’m also looking forward to adding a few new exotic holiday destinations to Australia’s repertoire – it’d be great for our tourism industry. Plus, there are heaps of natural resources just sitting there for the taking.

Finally, Australia doesn’t really have any great victories under its belt. Our greatest achievement was getting our ass handed to us by Turkey. We need a better excuse to go out and get smashed – one that doesn’t require us to still be lucid enough at dawn to stand and watch some dudes walking past. We can turn ANZAC day into the day of mourning that it deserves to be and rather celebrate our nation’s military prowess on Malaysia Victory Day, hopefully somewhere in the July-October public holiday dry season.

So Gillard, Smith, Rudd, quit sitting there with your head in your hands (or your hospital pillow) and start drafting that declaration of war. Australians need you. The world needs you.

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How The Greens lost Australia

Before and After, NSW election. Source: The Daily Telegraph

As you should all (hopefully) Know by now, the Liberals won Saturday’s NSW election in an unprecedented, record win – stripping away seats from Labor’s heartland that no one ever expected a Liberal to represent with swings upward of 20%. More relevant to this blog is that the Greens performed very poorly relative to everyone’s predictions, not winning a single seat in the lower house and winning only 1% of the voters fleeing from Labor (by comparison, the Libs had 11.4%).

By everyone’s account, the Greens have really collapsed in the last few weeks. Some say this had a lot to do with Fiona Byrne and her BDS effort, particularly the double-game she was playing later, trying to deny her support for the movement to the media whilst simultaneously flouting it to groups that may vote for her because of it. The Sydney Morning Herald’s editorial this morning even referred to the policy as “childish and indulgent”. Matthew Franklin and Amos Aikman give a pretty good run-down of this for The Australian, particularly regarding the Greens’ admission that the issue hurt their campaign:

Anti-Israeli stance focus of Greens review | The Australian

Federal Greens leader Bob Brown admitted yesterday that voters were upset by Ms Byrne’s repeated misleading statements over her decision in December, as Marrickville Mayor, to support a motion boycotting goods and cultural exchanges from Israel.

Ms Byrne said early in the campaign that if elected to parliament she would push for a statewide ban. However, she subsequently labelled her comments a “falsehood” when they were reported by The Australian. Ms Byrne later denied she had “pushed” for the motion, but was revealed to have been planning to speak at an anti-Israeli-apartheid rally this week.

Asked yesterday whether Ms Byrne’s actions, which plagued the latter days of her campaign, had contributed to her failure, Senator Brown said: “I think it had an effect on it — that’s my feedback from the electorate and it’s no doubt something that the NSW Greens will be looking at.”

Another issue that was brought to light in this election is that the major parties, particularly Labor, are finally realising that supporting the Greens only hurts them. Labor NSW upper-house member and campaign spokesman Luke Foley has repeatedly called for Labor to turn against the Greens, and in only one seat – Coogee – did Labor and the Greens come to any sort of preference deal, presumably because Labor candidate for Coogee Paul Pierce is rumoured to be married to a Green. Coogee fell to the Liberals regardless.

Victorian Liberal senator Helen Kroger has written on how the Greens’ ostensible success was mostly as a result of the major parties preferencing them in order to take power away from each other. Without Liberal preferences, Adam Bandt would never have won Melbourne.

Victorian and NSW election results may spell end to green team dream | Herald Sun

THE Victorian and New South Wales elections may have put an end to Bob Brown’s hopes of an advancing political greenslide in Australia. In the NSW election on Saturday night, the ALP primary vote dropped 13.5 per cent but the Greens picked up only 1.4 per cent, with the Coalition’s primary vote increasing 14.1 per cent, picking up the overwhelming majority of disaffected Labor and independent voters.

The Greens were relying on the Liberals to win four seats in the Victorian state election. We [Liberals] refused to preference them and they didn’t win a seat. On Saturday night, they were expected to win the inner-city seats of Balmain and Marrickville, but they now look like winning neither.

With a huge collapse in the ALP’s primary vote, the Greens should have won these seats where the swings required were only 3.7 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively. More and more, the public is becoming deeply suspicious of the consequences of the extremist policies of selfish inner-city professionals who vote for the Greens.

These voters – usually on the government payroll and in secure jobs, living comfortably in wealthy inner-city suburbs – can afford to worry about climate change and not about jobs, mortgages and a future for their children.

These voters are largely disengaged from the general public in the suburbs.

This last point is particularly important. The Greens have really shown themselves to be a fringe group of “champagne socialists.” Moving more and more into the mainstream does not seem to be moderating them, but rather exposing them as ideologues and extremists with little real political credibility. This is particularly true in NSW, where their leader, Lee Rhiannon, is a former Stalinist who supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and of course this business with Fiona Byrne.

Readers may also be interested in watching Byrne’s concession speech, as well as the live response from the people of Marrickville.

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