Monday, October 24, 2005

It's alive!

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Morality and the IR Reforms

I always think it's interesting when institutions who claim a market share of morality and 'family values' get involved in public debate, as has happened recently with the Christian Churches (and the Diggers' Lobby and the self-appointed saviour of the nuclear family) over the pending Industrial Relations reforms. Institutions like these, while working pretty constantly in the justice arena (in the case of the major churches, anyway) generally only get a reasonable media run on the most personal issues, like abortion, or charity, or, like, God and stuff.

The immense media response to the Churches proclamations that the reforms are immoral (see here for the Uniting Church's particularly strong anti-Government reform statement), not intuitively a huge moral issue, is a little puzzling. Why does the media want a moral opinion on what would normally be treated as an economic reform?

It occurs to me that this level of media attention is a direct and proportionate response to the Government's rhetoric. Deliberately, intuitively, Howard has positioned the reforms as an issue of freedom, choice and the common good - on the playing field of Western (Judeo-Christian influenced, whether we like it or not) values - in order to justify why he is promoting individual bargaining over collective, to explain why he doesn't want unions 'interfering', claiming that we are all equal before the law and according to his argument have equal power. In doing so, he has opened himself up to criticism based on morals and values.

While this was coming solely from the union movement, he could dismiss it as grandstanding, but when the Churches and members of parliament become involved, the whole thing backfires on him. Suddenly, union claims that penalty rates are necessary to ensure adequate compensation for lost leisure time, easy to dismiss as extending from sectional interests cos he's already cast unions as irrelevant, become recast as big-picture moral claims - that people need to connect with society, that the Sabbath should be respected as a day of rest and relaxation for the whole community, that common holidays are there to enable public and community interconnection and foster national pride, and that religious traditions should be respected. All things attached to White traditions that Howard has used time and time again to invoke electoral fear against people of other traditions and faiths, to glorify frugal budgetary spending and corollary cutting of basic services, to create electorally-exploitable barriers and divisions, to justify fostering our relationship with America instead of expanding into the non-White region, the list goes on and on and...

The people have shown that they respond to moral guidance that accords with their own interests. But with these reforms, it's just not clear why they won't kill the hip pocket and the family time, and make it less fair, for non-professional, non-managerial workers. So, I reckon, if the Government claims that its reforms are 'for society', the people want to know what moral bodies think. It's backfired gloriously.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Poor, silly Billy runs out of puff

Some things to think about from the Government’s new workplace relations package:

EXAMPLE

Billy is an unemployed job seeker who is offered a full-time job as a shop assistant by Costas who owns a clothing retail store in Canberra. The clothing store is covered by a federal award. The job offered to Billy is contingent on him accepting an AWA. The AWA Billy is offered provides him with the relevant minimum award classification wage and explicitly removes other award conditions.
As Billy is making an agreement under WorkChoices the AWA being offered to him must at least meet the Fair Pay and Conditions Standard.The AWA Billy is offered explicitly removes award conditions for public holidays, rest breaks, bonuses, annual leave loadings, allowances, penalty rates and shift/overtime loadings. Billy has a bargaining agent assisting him in considering the AWA. He understands the details of what is in the AWA and the protections that the Fair
Pay and Conditions Standard will give him including annual leave,
personal/carer's leave, parental leave and maximum ordinary hours of work. Because Billy wants to get a foothold in the job market, he agrees to the AWA and accepts the job offer.


Poor Billy. As Liam has noted, he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. It becomes disgusting when you investigate half-truths circulated by the Government about the reforms – in this case, the myth that you are protected by law from being forced into signing an AWA, that it is a choice.

As can be deduced from poor Billy’s fate, the High court has ruled that making an AWA a condition of employment does not constitute ‘duress’ under the Act Never mind that in a depressed regional jobmarket where Billy’s skills as a wigmaker are redundant or non-existent, Billy may be forced by economic necessity to sign over his rights for a song. This apparently isn’t duress, which in the spirit of the Act is instead understood mainly in commercial terms as though the labour contract were a commercial contract, as though the employment relationship were the same as any other contractual relationship, as though the labour market were like any other market, as though selling your labour were the same as selling paperclips, as though, like a commercial entity, Billy didn’t need to eat or maintain non-commercially-essential personal relationships, and if his product, his labour, was substandard he should be allowed to fold, ensuring a healthy competitive market and a sloughing off of the dead weight of society.

So much for a society that refuses to separate labour from people, and that fights to protect the vulnerable. The Government’s promises that nobody can be forced to sign an AWA under law ring very hollow. Billy can’t even access the only remedy available to him, litigation through the court system, unless he has already signed the AWA. If he is merely in the process of being forced to sign it, there are no protections and no penalties, no friends to help him other than the union which frankly can’t do anything. The erroneously-named Employment Advocate does not have the power to investigate or bring the case until Billy himself realises he’s been hard done by. Even if Billy could prove that he had signed the damned thing under the weird and strict definition of ‘duress’, he would have to fork out his money to get penalties applied to the organisation, and he wouldn’t get ordered costs either. It would be a Pyrrhic principle fight, which he would probably lose anyway.

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Award for "Silliest Quote About The AFL Grand Final" goes to...

Jean McGlichy, of South Sydney (as quoted by News Ltd.):

'I watched the game with a towel over my head... I've watched the game eight times since then and every time I expect the end to be different.'


Hmmm...

Monday, September 26, 2005

I really don't quite know what to say...

this is certainly one of the more bizarre things i've ever seen on the internet

Saturday, September 24, 2005

how can you be ecstatic and pissed off at the same time?

if you follow the swans and dragons is how...

at 5.30 i was jumping around singing, and just generally being crazily and possibly slightly excessively happy...

at 9.30 i was peering mournfully into the side of a beer glass wondering what might have been.

this is wrong, and my mood has lifted considerably (there's only so much you can be shitty about on a day when the swans break their sydney duck and their 72 year streak), but it's still a strange and worrying phenomenon.

i don't know what the solution is, but while i should be out partying like mad i'm quietly pleased while also quietly disappointed and most worryingly i'm at home, blogging!

WTF?

nevermind- next year: swans make it 2 in a row, dragons make it their first in 27 years...

Friday, September 23, 2005

It's a red and white year, I hope

As a fan of the Swans and Dragons, it's been a long time between drinks.

So long, in fact, that I wasn't even born when either side last won their respective competitions and the Swans were playing out of the Lakeside Oval at Albert Park in Melbourne (where the Grand Prix is these days and where South Melbourne Soccer Football Club plays) and the Dragons were 20 years off merging with their yet-to-be-admitted-to-the-competition neighbours, the Illawarra Steelers. For the record, the Swans last won one in 1933 and the Dragons in 1979 (the Steelers never won a premiership- the closest they came was in 1992 when the Dragons knocked them out in what was surely one of the dullest preliminary finals in history).*

So I reckon they're both about due. Carn the red and white!

* In my family we have a theory for why the Dragons failed to win the premiership that year (aside from Brisbane being far too good). On what must have been the Sunday of their last home and away game at Kogarah that year, my family and I were travelling to see my grandparents who lived in the area. As we were driving along the Princes Highway next to the Taj Mahal (the nickname for the Leagues Club at Kogarah) there were all thes blokes in polo shirts running across the road in heavy traffic. I recognised them as we went because even at 60km/h Scott Gourley, Ricky Walford, David Barnhill, Brad Mackay and the rest were all pretty recognisable when they were metres away from splatting on the bonnet of our car...

Silly bastards shouldn't have been running across a 6 lane highway...

Response to "The Swans - a Grand Final built on concessions "

...I'm rubbing my head at the moment. Not because I had a big night last night. Not even because I decided to give a bit of curry to a couple of Weagles supporters on my way to work. Instead, I'm rubbing my head where there's a new welt- it seems some fool has decided to peg a rock at my head and he seems to be in the glass house over there...

Ah yes, I can see him now, he appears to be wearing... a Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs jersey...

Yes, that'd be right. A rugby league fan bagging out intra-league subsidies and concessions.
The Swans do in fact get more money than the other clubs.
This much is true and never denied.

The Swans have in the past received draft concessions (though I'm not sure if they still exist).
The Swans have a higher salary cap (to cover the much higher cost of living in Sydney - especially real estate and the fact that many southern state kids need an incentive to come here to play).

These are all true, but I don't think they paint as ugly a picture as Cesare would have us believe.
For a start, there are considerable cost issues involved with running an expansion franchise, as Cesare should be more than keenly aware (as a die-hard supporter of rugby league's expansion into all corners of Australia and the globe).

Junior player development costs a fortune, but is THE essential element to creating a sustainable franchise. The Swans have been funding essentially all junior development for the last couple of decades off their own bank books (unlike other states where the AFL kicks in cash and/or there are more clubs to contribute).

The fruits of this are starting to be seen with player numbers rising and more NSW players plying their trade in the top flight (Mark and Jared McVeigh, Ray Hall, Lewis Roberts-Thompson, Nick Davis to name some off the top of my head) but there is nothing to help the Swans keep the players that they've developed like a development state draft concession giving the Swans first dibs on NSW products.

So the Swans, for their future, the league's future and their survival in a crazily tough sporting market have been chucking buckets of cash for little return while the Eddie McGuire's (who is the leading critic of the Swans' concessions and with whom Cesare has unwittingly aligned himself) of the world complain that they can't compete.

Eddie has the bonus of being in the biggest aussie rules city so most players don't have to go far to play for his club, not having to travel outside Melbourne more than about 5 times a year (as compared to 10 or so for any of the interstate clubs), and has football infrastructure pre-built with assets out the wazoo.

If Footscray were complaining I'd be more sympathetic, but Eddie can jam it. The Swans (unlike most of their fans, I'll admit) do it pretty tough, and do bloody well under the circumstances.

If it were even Footscray complaining I'd be more receptive...

But what of the NRL? [braces himself, puts on flame-proof armour] Their 'expansion franchises' over the years are by and large in places where the code already has a solid following-
1982- Canberra, Illawarra
1988- Newcastle, Brisbane
1991 (?)- Gold Coast
1995- Western Reds (RIP, the ARL were unwilling to carry the can to support them), South Queensland Crushers (ditto, in spite of being in a rugby league heartland), Auckland Warriors (from the antipodean home of rugby league, I'm sure I'll be corrected if I'm wrong but it was NZ leaguies that converted a number of then-Wallabies to the professional code and still gone broke twice) and the North Queensland Cowboys.
1997*- Hunter Mariners (RIP), Adelaide Rams (RIP)
1999- Melbourne Storm (in receipt of constant News Ltd subsidies, fully owned by News Ltd, in a not too dissimilar position to the Sydney Swans at a similar stage of their history).
*Super League makes this area of history a bit fuzzier...

So Melbourne, the Rams (RIP) and the Reds (RIP) are really the only "new ground" expansions. Only Melbourne has the code stuck it out with. Melbourne receives massive help, so I guess from the code's point of view they can rationalise only doing one at a time- too bloody expensive otherwise.

Melbourne are a mystery too because they perform on the park, have some top players, have had on-field success (I can't watch that bloody grand final- f**king Jamie Ainscough...), have a decent ground, have plenty of financial support... Perhaps the NRL need to stick it out for a while. Perhaps keep the subsidies going, get a decent foothold, convince the Melbourne public that the Storm are there for good.

Who does that sound like? I think the bloke in the glass house over there might know...

The Swans - a Grand Final built on concessions

The Sydney Swans are allowed to pay more for their players than their opponents in Saturdays Grand Final. They will enter the field with an unfair advantage, a total contradiction to the intention and spirit of a salary cap and sport itself.

Like the Brisbane Lions merged entity before them, the forcibly relocated South Melbourne Swans are granted a salary cap allowance to cover for the lack of local players and to develop interest in their home states. This is a very good strategy for short term expansion and an eye for the dollar, but it is a poor way to ensure a quality competition that is fair.

The Brisbane Lions won three Finals in a row on the back of generous salary cap concessions. With a team of stars paid over the odds they were eventually too good and other clubs revolted and took the concessions away.

Now it is Sydney's turn to dominate on an uneven playing field while the AFL sits back, content to see the integrity of the game compromised.

Long-term fans of the game may be scratching their heads wondering why the AFL has turned its back on the heartland in favour of a desperate attempt at expansion. After all, why the sudden rush? In 100 years the game barely expanded up the Hume Highway, yet they did ok (in their own provincial way).

Well that was until pay TV and the promise of the almighty lucre...

But how far do the Swans and the AFL actually bend fairness?
Does an extra $600,000 a year sound about right?!

Again, it must be disappointing for true AFL fans that they cannot watch a balanced and fair game on Saturday. With the Swans artificially boosted, the integrity of the AFL Final is lost and the tribal and fair VFL final is starting to look a lot more attractive.

Anyway, there is an interesting read here on Swans fever in Sydney.

ICAC clears Government Minister

Aren't we all sick of reading the lines "ICAC Clears Government Minister"

Obeid
Allan (Rat!)
(Dick) Face
Tripod(i)
Beamer
Carr
(have I missed someone?)
and now Knowles, son of Stan the thief.

This must look like the most investigated Government on record but most commentators would know that this has more to do with the development of ICAC than any actual increase in corruption levels - I am sure corruption is roughly the same under both major Parties.

Recently David Oldfield, the not so Honourable Member of the Legislative Council, moved the Crimes Amendment (Protection of Innocent Accused) Bill. In the second read speech he explained that its purpose,
...is to protect the identity of innocent persons who are accused wrongfully, unfairly or, indeed, with malicious intent. It is not the intention of the bill to provide protection of any kind for persons for whom the weight of evidence is such that criminal charges are laid against them.
He also makes a telling point (gasp) that,
there is an unfortunate widespread public acceptance that where there is smoke there is fire. I imagine that most honourable members in this House have at some time been the subject of totally unfounded gossip, accusations and, in some cases, matters so serious that the media has speculated on corrupt conduct or the possibility of criminal charges.
While Oldfield's changes are misdirected (people before ICAC are not technically facing a criminal charge) and ultimately self-serving, they are food for thought.

The McClintock Report handed down an independent review which was partially enacted in the ICAC Amendment Act 2005. The most important reform was arguably the appointment of an Independent Inspector of the ICAC, filling an important void in accountability. The Inspector has the power to review decisions of the ICAC and make the body more accountable.

Is this enough? Is the ICAC in need of more or less regulation? And keeping in mind the recent investigations of Oldfield and Breen, does the ICAC spend far to much time trolling through the gossip of Macquarie St?