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Make them pay

October 29th, 2005

I’m really getting annoyed by the continued onslaught of ads in support of the Liberal Party’s proposals for IR reform. I think it’s time Labor actually stood up to them over this. I suggest nominating a cutoff date and saying that if the ads aren’t stopped after that, a future Labor government will legislate to recover the money from the Liberal Party (or from members of the Cabinet personally). Of course, the chance that they would actually do something like this, let alone follow through on it, is near zero. More likely, this outrage will be treated as a precedent, and taxpayer-funded ads supporting the government will become routine.

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  1. snuh
    October 29th, 2005 at 14:28 | #1

    i’d be hard pushed to honestly say these ads are more annoying than, say, the inexplicable “unchain my heart” GST ads. at least these ads make sense [unchain my heart?].

    unfortunately, this sort of low involvement advertising is standard for this government. when it comes to the controversial stuff, they do not believe in attempting to convince by rational argument, preferring instead the course of repetition-based attitude shifting. heck, it wouldn’t be a democracy if our government didn’t attempt to change our opinion with advertising we pay for.

  2. snuh
    October 29th, 2005 at 14:31 | #2

    link.

  3. Terje Petersen
    October 29th, 2005 at 14:53 | #3

    I think that a future libertarian government ought to force current politicians (and social democratic flag wavers) to repay taxpayers for all sorts of waste. Lets start with foreign aid, industry welfare, sports funding, arts funding and so on down the list of dumb things governments spend money on.

  4. October 29th, 2005 at 15:09 | #4

    I think future taxpayers should be forced to pay me for the epic self-restraint I exercise in choosing not to flame Terje.

  5. October 29th, 2005 at 15:18 | #5

    alpaca Says: October 29th, 2005 at 3:09 pm

    I think future taxpayers should be forced to pay me for the epic self-restraint I exercise in choosing not to flame Terje.

    Come on alpaca. The main reason to not flame people is that waging a flame war is boring and there are better things to do with life.

  6. Vee
    October 29th, 2005 at 15:30 | #6

    I’d encourage taxpayers to write to the govt asking for their money back in cash.

    total $15Million at moment divided by how many taxpayers = only a couple bucks each but its better than nothing and can be spent on better things.

    It would also not be in cheque form due to the money would be lost in processing costs.

  7. October 29th, 2005 at 17:19 | #7

    Clearly,no conflict of interest that Dewey-Horton received the contract for the advertisements. That Ted Horton was the brains behind the high interest campaign that well helped the Libs over the line in the last election should not concern the public. Tenders for government contracts ,obviously,go to the right companies in an open and transparant manner.

  8. Terje Petersen
    October 29th, 2005 at 18:18 | #8

    Alpaca, flame away if it helps make your day.

    Lets say that the ALP did as John Quiggin suggested. How might the Liberals respond. Perhaps they could make the ALP repay the debt incurred through certain leasing deals they signed the taxpayer up to when they were in office. And they might claw back my student union fees wasted on the anti-fightback campaign.

    There are any number of imaginative ways that John Quiggins intiative could lead us into a spiral of counter recriminations and paybacks.

  9. Tony Healy
    October 29th, 2005 at 19:08 | #9

    You know, the last party that went crazy advertising political ideology was India’s then ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, in early 2004. They spent a small fortune on a campaign that told everyone India was shining.

    They were so proud of privatising government operations (and thus destroying affirmative action programs), destroying rural finance, grabbing Western jobs and rewriting history books that it never occurred to them that there were villagers without clean water or farmers committing suicide in significant numbers.

    In May 2004, at the ballot box, India told them to take a hike.

  10. Harry Clarke
    October 29th, 2005 at 19:12 | #10

    I agree. Press releases outlining the policies and responses by politicians to claims regarding the policies are enough.

    Apart from being wasteful they are becoming tedious since all they present is gloss.

  11. Ian Gould
    October 29th, 2005 at 19:19 | #11

    The problem with Dr. Q’s proposal (apart from opening up the prospect for regular orgies of revenge on losing governments) is that Labor was the first Federal party to grossly abuse advertising in this fashion – and probably intend to do so again in the future.

    Some government advertising is justified (on rare occasions) but I’d like to see a cross-party Senate Committee or the Australian Electoral Commission empowered to veto grossly partisan ads liek rthe current IR campaign.

  12. October 29th, 2005 at 19:21 | #12

    Fortunately they are completely inept – right down to the characters they use who are now telling the nation they were misled.

    What is more, the ads contradict our direct experience, as millions of people wait in a state of more or less mild dread, knowing very well what their workplaces are actually like. So their chances of being credible are just about zero.

    All they do is demonstrate to us over and over and over again that the government is telling lies and doing a bad, bad thing.

  13. brian
    October 29th, 2005 at 22:36 | #13

    I must say that I can’t remember a time when government advertising was so annoying…because of it’s frequency and banality,as much as anything else. I am actually rather pleased because I think it is quite damaging to the Howard Government,and will further rebound when people start to suffer from Howard’s IR changes. I think Howard in the past 9 years was kept in check by a hostile Senate…now we see the really mean thatcherite he really is,and in the hurt that many are going to feel lies my hope of a backlash that will destroy the Costello Govt. which must be now quite close…he may play John Major’s role ,in the end of this chapter in our history . The real Howard ,authoritartian and conservatiive will no be clearly in view…and how I wonder does he view the slow death of a thousand cuts inflicted on his brainless friend in the White House ?.. I watch all this with real pleasure,and only hope fate has got some really cruel trick up it’s sleeve for the awful Tony Blair.

  14. Jill Rush
    October 30th, 2005 at 00:53 | #14

    The ads are so annoying that they may well be reflected in less viewers for the programs they interrupt and certainly the ads in the newspaper are easy to ignore as you just turn the page.

    When there are real issues around such as in health or support required for disabled people it really does irritate to see the waste. It is working on the principle of grinding the population down.

    In addition the Coalition government has such a poor record on telling the truth that only those who feel that they are capable of negotiating with their employer believe the ads – a small minority.

    Even small employers realise that the current system has many benefits in terms of a workforce relations where both sides have accepted the umpire’s decision in terms of wage fixing and so the workplace is not aggro which is good for productivity and makes work more satisfying. Employers can also feel that they are able to do the right thing without the pressure to reduce the wages of workers to stay competitive with their opposition.

    Nobody who has been through an EB will believe that the new system will be better as even those on AWAs understand the link between what they negotiate and the conditions under EB and awards.

  15. October 30th, 2005 at 02:12 | #15

    Terje is surely wrong. Ultimately, we don’t live in a world of unlimited discretion and relativism, no matter how much right-wingers like to type. There are sound arguments for public spending or not intervening re the items he selects, no matter how much he disagrees with those arguments, and there are many positions in between or which will have this but not that, etc, etc and so on. On the other hand, there is not one good publicly reputable argument in favour of these advertisements. Not one. That is their unprecedented distinction. At the least, the Liberals should be called on to pay for such an unforgivable lapse in advertising style and taste.

  16. jquiggin
    October 30th, 2005 at 08:47 | #16

    Comment sent in by email from Willy Bach

    Much as John Quiggin’s suggested course of action for an incoming Labor government appeals to me a great deal, I agree with people who say that this is not going to happen. I am for-ever chewing Kevin Rudd’s ear, as he is my MP, saying that the ALP needs to differentiate themselves from the Liberals by demonstrating they have higher ethical standards.

    I would like them to start this new policy framework by cutting down on the allowed election advertising, perhaps to the level they have in Britain. Then both major parties would be forced to come clean on the corporate donations. I think there should be proper restraints on advertising ‘information’ (come off it) before the legislation is drafted. This IR legislation is nothing but bad news for working people.

    I had the dubious pleasure of addressing a gathering of Gold Coast business leaders at the Pacific Palms Resort during the 2004 federal election, as the Greens candidate for Fadden. When Liberal candidates promised that abolishing the Unfair Dismissal laws for small business – well, I can only say that the crowd went wild with enthusiasm. Could the excitement have been the prospect of giving a better deal for workers and more time with families? I felt a great sense of foreboding.

    The next step would be that we want all irresponsible spending to be sheeted home to whichever government had so indulged. To be fair, the boat already left port. We would not be able to make it retrospective, a pity, I know.

    I would start with catastrophic privatisations, any more like Telstra, tollways (the 21st Century’s brown envelope of cash) and the absurd $2.5 billion subsidy to the private health insurance industry. I would get them for deals like the Abrahams tanks and the missile defence system, not forgetting all the money squandered on tormenting the benighted lives of refugees. I would also scale down to a suitably modest level bloated and largely redundant organisations like ASIO.

    This has to be the most fiscally irresponsible and wasteful government we have ever had. Furthermore, just when we should be investing n the future, in social capital and sustainable new green industries, this government is g**bling our future on their own re-election, whilst telling us we have a “strong economy” – which is really a bubble economy.

  17. Darryl Rosin
    October 30th, 2005 at 08:55 | #17

    Would that be skating close to contempt of parliament? I recall Kennett’s threats in the dying months of the Kirner government, that unless an election was called a Kennet govt would legislate to remove the taxpayer-funded component of Labor members’ superannuation. All sorts of dark legal clouds gathered and Kennet had to back down.

  18. Dogz
    October 30th, 2005 at 10:16 | #18

    This has to be the most fiscally irresponsible and wasteful government we have ever had.

    That has to be one of the more partisan political statements I have ever read.

    Counter: the Whitlam government.

    One thing all the Lefties here seem to be conveniently ignoring is that the Feds would not need to spend anywhere near as much money pushing the IR reforms if the ACTU had not spent so much on their disinformation campaign in the first place.

  19. Ian Gould
    October 30th, 2005 at 13:28 | #19

    “the Feds would not need to spend anywhere near as much money pushing the IR reforms if the ACTU had not spent so much on their disinformation campaign in the first place.”

    THe ACTU is a private organisation spending its (voluntary) members’ money. THis is quite different ot the government spending taxpayer funds.

    Additionally, the government has a majority in both Houses of parliament and can pass whatever legislation it sees fit.

    If the ACTU campaign results in fewer votes for the Liberal Party at the next election that’s a problem for the Liberal Party organisation not the elected representatives of the party.

    what’s next: “if the Labor Party hadn’t spent so much on election campaigning the government wouldn’t have had to spend so much on “Vote Liberal” billboards and posters”?

  20. Terje Petersen
    October 30th, 2005 at 13:33 | #20

    QUOTE BRIAN: I think Howard in the past 9 years was kept in check by a hostile Senate…now we see the really mean thatcherite he really is,and in the hurt that many are going to feel lies my hope of a backlash that will destroy the Costello Govt.

    RESPONSE: It should be noted that when Margaret Thatcher was PM the Tories never lost an election. She was thrown out by her own party, not the people of Britian.

  21. Dogz
    October 30th, 2005 at 13:47 | #21

    If the ACTU campaign results in fewer votes for the Liberal Party at the next election that’s a problem for the Liberal Party organisation not the elected representatives of the party.

    Indeed. But if the ACTU campaign results in widespread acceptance of falsehoods as facts, then that is a problem for the elected representatives. They have a responsiblity to get the truth out. The current advertising campaign is by-and-large just correcting the misinformation spread by the ACTU.

    Now, if the current campaign was run along the same lines as the ACTU campaign – ie all scaremongering and no basis in fact – then that would be cause for concern. Fortunately for us, the governemnt is not willing to step down into the gutter with the ACTU.

  22. Terje Petersen
    October 30th, 2005 at 14:01 | #22

    Just to be clear on where I stand I would be happy to see federal legislation outlawing all advertising by the federal government. If they want to promote awarness of some issue they can put out a press release or hold a press conference. Mark Latham did a good job raising the profile of early childhood reading without spending any taxpayers money on the issue.

    Of course I would want the legislation to include all forms of advertising such as so called public service advertisements like those that tell us not to beat our wives or to consider buying Australian made goods or that smoking gives you lung cancer. Not that I think you should beat your wife or that you shouldn’t consider buying Australian made goods or that smoking doesn’t give you lung cancer, its just that these advertisements are symptomatic of the same “think what we say” mentality. And I don’t need to be taxed to tell me what I already think or don’t think.

    In any case most of these advertisements could be paid for by state or local governments.

  23. October 30th, 2005 at 14:03 | #23

    The current advertising campaign is by-and-large just correcting the misinformation spread by the ACTU.

    Nonsense. Nothing in the ACTU adverts were falshoods (name one?), which is why they have resonated; and none of the government adverts have gone anywhere near addressing the issues the ACTU campaign has raised, which is why they are being ignored or worse in all respects other than as a choice example of pure public waste.

  24. Terje Petersen
    October 30th, 2005 at 14:34 | #24

    I think it is false to claim that bosses hold all the aces. Although the inference made by the ACTU that unfair dismissal laws were unfair seems correct to me.

    The major problem is not with the facts. It is with the spin.

    Here are the ACTU “facts” about the proposed new IR laws:-

    http://www.actu.asn.au/work_rights/background_info/workchoices.html

    * Wage setting no longer has regard to fairness
    * Awards to be cut back and frozen in time
    * New minimum conditions guarantee is a crock
    * Boss holds all the aces in agreement-making
    * Unions excluded from workplaces
    * Independent umpire is a lame duck
    * Unfair dismissal laws are even less fair
    * A confused unitary system

  25. October 30th, 2005 at 14:49 | #25

    Sure Terje. Everyone knows ordinary individual workers stand in the same bargaining position as their bosses. You only have to say it to know it’s true.

  26. Tony Healy
    October 30th, 2005 at 14:50 | #26

    Dogz, whatever else you might think about the IR reforms themselves, the advertising is dishonest, and that’s deeply disturbing. If there really were benefits, the advertising would just have to explain them to us.

    Instead, we have a range of misrepresentations, such as the claim that conditions are “protected by law.” In fact, that same law allows for conditions to be be specifically excluded from contracts. Further, the administrative machinery established at the Office of the Workplace Advocate seems to encourage employers to remove working conditions. Why is this?

    Second, the alleged right to be represented by a union is rendered useless by the fact that union staffers would have to negotiate separately for every single employee, a task that unions don’t have the resources for. It’s also undermined by the $33,000 fine that will be imposed for attempting to include elements of collective bargaining in agreements. Those measures are explicitly intended to prevent representation by unions.

    David Marr provides a good run-down of the deceptions in (The Real Deal, SMH, 15 Oct 2005).

  27. Dogz
    October 30th, 2005 at 14:59 | #27

    “Nothing in the ACTU adverts were falshoods (name one?)”

    How about the ad in which the woman is threatened with dismissal over the phone for having to look after her kids? Extremely misleading, on several counts:

    A) What’s she doing in a job that requires that kind of flexibility in the first place if she has childcare responsibilities?

    B) Carers leave is protected, so she could always have just said “the kids are sick”.

    But of course this fight is not about the workers and their rights. It is about the union officials and their privileges.

    [NB: not the union _members_ rights, since they're always sacrificed on the alter of Labor/Union machine politics. Go read the Latham Diaries to get the inside story of how it works, or just look at the demise of union membership in the private sector for an indication of what the general workforce thinks of the service offered by the unions].

  28. Ian Gould
    October 30th, 2005 at 15:13 | #28

    >

    So, if they genuinely believe that John howard would make a better PM than Kim Beazley they have a duty to get that “truth” out too, I presume?

  29. Tony Healy
    October 30th, 2005 at 15:28 | #29

    The worried mum with children could be sacked on “operational” grounds. She’s protected except for operational reasons, which means she’s not protected at all.

    It’s another example of the legerdemain in the IR reforms and the attempt to sell them.

    Even operational reasons wouldn’t need to be invoked, for the employer could simply have previously sacked her, without impediment, and hired her on again as a casual. Sorry, Independent Contractor. As a casual, if she failed to jump to her master’s demands, she may find being left off shifts and thus losing income.

    Welcome to the new Australia.

  30. Dogz
    October 30th, 2005 at 15:48 | #30

    Of course the sky isn’t going to fall. But whatever I say the chicken littles will cluck back with some overblown counter-example.

    I seriously doubt this will change many people’s lives for the worse, _except_ of course the lives of the union leaders and Labor party machine men who have built their careers on unrepresentative, shadowy backroom deals.

    However, if it does change a lot of lives for the worse, guess what? The Liberals will be out of there at the next election. So worst-case you’ll have about 12 months of upheaval before we can all go back to the comfort of knowing that some pissant Shoppies official in Adelaide is determining who sits on the Labor front bench.

    Geez, if I was left-leaning and really believed that this is going to be as bad as all that, I’d be urging the government on. With all those pregnant mothers and footy coach dads fired by their evil bosses, this’d have to be the best chance Labor have had for a decade to gain office.

  31. Terje Petersen
    October 30th, 2005 at 15:48 | #31

    I heard a rumor that the worried mum is actually an actor. Fancy using actors to make an advertisement.

  32. Tony Healy
    October 30th, 2005 at 16:46 | #32

    Yeah. Next thing they will be saying that a re-configuring of a successful society is being done to benefit the victims of that re-configuring.

    Dogz, it’s a real shame that union staff are demonized the way you’re doing. They work for much less pay than in other jobs, in situations where they routinely have to go up against powerful people and law firms on big budgets. From what I’ve seen, they do this because they believe in fair play for the underdog.

    The relationship with Labour has been a bit shaky, I believe.

    As to shady deals, I think you would those on both sides, particularly with these IR reforms.

    What we’ve got here is a management class that resents having its power challenged, and an extremely dodgy, multi-billion dollar recruiting industry scared of having its rorts exposed. John Howard should be hanging his head in shame.

  33. October 30th, 2005 at 20:31 | #33

    Dogz, OK that alleged falsehood fell over. Workers will be able to be sacked for no reason, which is the safe path for all bosses. Got another falsehood buddy?

    As for the ‘chicken little’ nonsense, this is a comforting line invented by conservatives for conservatives. No-one opposed to the Howardian scheme has said the sky will fall in when the new laws arer pased. On the contrary, the argument is that the inequities the laew is designed to encourage are already out there where non-managerial AWAs are operating, and these horror stories will simply increase in scale and incidence, probably (hopefully) in a slow process. Some of you folks need to actually concentrate on both the proposals and the case against to get up to speed.

  34. October 30th, 2005 at 20:59 | #34

    Will the ALP roll them back? Did Helen Clarke roll them back?

    Myself. I go in hope.

  35. October 30th, 2005 at 21:36 | #35

    David, I think we need get the sequence right here. There was the 19th century, then the twentieth century, and now Howard is trying to roll back to the 19th. We need the ALP to rock & roll forward again to the 21st.

  36. Terje Petersen
    October 30th, 2005 at 22:42 | #36

    Can we have the tax system of 1900 also please.

  37. October 30th, 2005 at 22:56 | #37

    So, what are you looking for Terje? The right to be a Atilla the Boss and pay no tax? I guess you want a harem on tap too? I assume you’re OK for sox and undies? How about someone to tie your shoes? All your dreams at once.

  38. Dave Ricardo
    October 30th, 2005 at 23:06 | #38

    “we can all go back to the comfort of knowing that some pissant Shoppies official in Adelaide is determining who sits on the Labor front bench.”

    That was the most telling part of the Latham diaries. Summarises beautifully what has become of the Labor party.

  39. Terje Petersen
    October 30th, 2005 at 23:13 | #39

    I did have some trouble getting the socks to match today when I folded them. So if you have any of my odd socks please return them.

    They did not pay “no tax” in 1900. I am a minimalist not an absolutist (ie a libertarian not an anarchist).

    In essence I would like less interference by the state in consenting adult relationships. If you can organise to abolish the Bank Notes act of 1910 for me also that would be appreciated.

  40. Tony Healy
    October 30th, 2005 at 23:40 | #40

    Life has never been the same since the plebs starting thinking they could go to varsity with their betters. One must know one’s station in life.

    In the modern global business world, of course, we don’t use language like that. Instead we say that flexible work practices will create a stronger economy.

  41. October 31st, 2005 at 02:40 | #41

    If running a business is just a licence to print money and treat your underlings like shit as cs suggests, then why don’t the poor little oppressed guys all start one? Then they wouldn’t have to worry about the IR laws, because they’d be employing themselves.

    Employees do actually have a fair bit of power, to the contrary of what the class-warriors who hang around here might suggest. The much-hated contract and subcontract based system that has evolved in the last 15-20 years means that it’s easier than ever to replace your boss.

    If he isn’t paying you enough, then you can quit and bid against him on the same sort of work you were doing previously. This happens a lot more than most lefties would care to admit, especially in blue-collar trades.

  42. October 31st, 2005 at 03:43 | #42

    If running a business is just a licence to print money and treat your underlings like shit as cs suggests

    Heh. cs suggested no such thing. All cs did was point out the self evident fact that an ordinary individual worker does not stand in the same bargaining position as his/her bosses. Have a lie down yobbo.

  43. Tony Healy
    October 31st, 2005 at 06:16 | #43

    Yobbo, that’s a good suggestion, that workers should simply start their own little business.

    However it’s not that simple. The recruiting and labour hire industry is actually in competition against individual workers, especially in IT and business services sectors.

    It mounts marketing and legislative campaigns to lock up jobs and work so that they are filled only through recruiting firms, thus forcing workers to contract through those firms, and accept the onerous conditions and huge margins exacted.

    Many large organisations now fill their casual positions only through such firms. Even worse, our federal and state governments also now work this way. That is, if you’re an individual contractor, for many contract jobs, the government won’t even consider your application or tender unless you go through a recruitment or labour hire firm.

  44. Dogz
    October 31st, 2005 at 07:03 | #44

    cs,

    Dogz, OK that alleged falsehood fell over. Workers will be able to be sacked for no reason, which is the safe path for all bosses. Got another falsehood buddy?

    Sure – your comment above. While it is true that workers will be able to be sacked for no reason under the new legislation, that’s no different from now. Of course, the circumstances under which workers may be _lawfully_ sacked is a different question, and the frightened mother in the ads cannot be lawfully sacked if she takes a carers day for her kids, neither under the new legislation nor the old.

    However, painful and irritating employees who do the minimum amount of work, watch the clock, skive off their coworkers, and lower morale for everyone else, will be able to be fired without the employer fearing a wrongful dismissal suit. Sounds like a good move to me. BTW, I know of several small-business-owner friends who are waiting for the new legislation to get rid of some people they’ve been wanting to get rid of for a while. Watch for an upward blip in the unemployment figures when the legislation is passed into law.

    Second, albeit offtopic falsehood in your quote: I am not your buddy.

    Tony Healy: start a labour hire firm with smaller margins then. You’ll clean up because you’ll get all the best contractors and all the best customers. In an area such as this with little barrier to entry, large margins represent an opportunity.

  45. Tony Healy
    October 31st, 2005 at 08:04 | #45

    Dogz, your suggestion is one response to the emerging climate in Australian business.

    The issue is, though, that control of working placements by labour hire firms is not good for workers or even employers, in some ways.

  46. October 31st, 2005 at 08:17 | #46

    I propose a measure that restricts government advertising to that which is provided for by legislation. That would subject it to debate and prevent this kind of preemptive feel-good guff we’re getting at the moment.

  47. Terje Petersen
    October 31st, 2005 at 08:41 | #47

    QUOTE CS:All cs did was point out the self evident fact that an ordinary individual worker does not stand in the same bargaining position as his/her bosses.

    RESPONSE: It does not follow that the bosses are in a better negotiating position. Most bosses have little choice but to pay the market rate. If the rate is two high for them then they close up shop and join the job queue themselves.

    One of the essential strengths in any negotiation is having time on your side. A worker who is cashed up or who has beneficiaries (eg government, spouse etc) can afford to string out negotiations. A boss with capital expenses accruing may not always have that luxury.

    It is self evident that bosses and workers are in different negotiating positions. It is not self evident that the boss always has the better position.

  48. Tony Healy
    October 31st, 2005 at 09:14 | #48

    Terje, you’re introducing distortions by representing the boss as being simply another individual. In general the “boss” is a company or organisation of some size.

    In terms of accessing a market or filling a role, the employer has the advantage over the individual worker of access to equipment, location or capital. The question of how that access came about is a different matter, but it confers upon the employer the benefit of having something to offer.

    In administrative terms, the employer has experience of negotiating more employment agreements than the worker. He also has the benefit that workers must compete against each other for the job, and thus he has the ability to choose between workers.

    Henry George posed the question in his writings of why, if workers helped employers make more profit, workers must compete against each other for jobs. Surely employers should be competing to obtain the services of workers.

    In administrative terms, too, the employer usually has access to specialist human resources personnel, to law firms and to recruiters. They all convey a huge benefit to the employer.

    Your claim that workers with access to finance have a negotiating advantage is silly. Most purchasing arrangements in society are based on continuous payments, and thus ongoing employment. For this reason, workers don’t actually have the option to delay negotiation.

  49. Ian Gould
    October 31st, 2005 at 09:44 | #49

    Terje: Can we have the tax system of 1900 also please.

    What attracts you about seven different income tax systems, extremely high tariffs and the system of wholesale sales taxes the GST replaced?

  50. Stephen L
    October 31st, 2005 at 09:52 | #50

    No Terje, it is not self-evident that the boss always has the better position, nor is it even true. It’s just that the boss *mostly* has the better position.

    I’m in an unusually good position to speak about this. I run a small business that employs up to 20 people, but the work is seasonal, and so nine months a year I go back to being an employee for someone else (in a very different line of business). I know in which situation I have more power.

  51. Terje Petersen
    October 31st, 2005 at 09:53 | #51

    A much, much, much, much lower tax burden. A few tariffs on cross border trade are nothing compared to todays tariffs on inter-household trade.

  52. Tony Healy
    October 31st, 2005 at 10:03 | #52

    Terje, in general the “boss” is a company or organisation of some size, rather than an individual. It has the benefit of conducting employment negotiations much more often than do individual workers, and of having access to special human resources managers, law firms and recruiters, all of whom work to benefit the employer over the employee.

    Workers generally don’t have flexibility to delay negotiations, because financial commitments are always based on continuous payments and thus ongoing employment.

    (This is a re-post of an earlier one that didn’t show up.)

  53. October 31st, 2005 at 10:39 | #53

    A small reminder, while we talk about workplace power. Our office is down behind the St Kilda Road barracks, in a large anonymous dormitory area of highish density, badly planned for services.

    The local shop is a sort of supermarket, staying open long hours, run by Ma and Pa from India with a couple of startlingly Teutonic extra staff. Now that the market has developed, IGA has moved in two doors down the road.

    Maybe our migrant entrepeneurs recognised they were vulnerable and needed to charge premium prices to cover quick profits from a captive market. I hope so. But they certainly own a worthless business now.

    The staff may end up at IGA, certainly with as few rights as management can arrange. Ma and Pa may have the capital to expand elsewhere – even buy into IGA.

    I am absolutely in favour of workplace justice, and I can point to the ways in which injustice attacks the fabric of domestic life etc etc etc. But this sort of story reminds me that the other side of the equation has absolutely no justice whatsoever, and operates by much wilder rules.

    Rules that attract many good people, and a goodly share of monsters.

  54. October 31st, 2005 at 11:14 | #54

    jquiggin Says: October 30th, 2005 at 8:47 am

    Comment sent in by email from Willy Bach
    This has to be the most fiscally irresponsible and wasteful government we have ever had.

    THere is some truth in Willi Bach’s communication, although it is a little harsh in some areas.

    Howard makes good policy and popular politics when he is a “small ‘c’ conservative” – getting governement to attend to the basics of law and order and defence and helping small businesses and families make a go of it. He is bad when he becomes a “big ‘C’ conservative” on the side of the Big End of Town.

    Willi Bach fails to acknowledge that the Howard government has introduced the GST which has put the taxation system onto a sounder footing – broadening the base.

    It has also used the proceeds of privatisation to amortise some public debt, which is better than blowing it on tax cuts or occupying Mesopotamia.

    The PPP’s have mostly been state ALP boondoggles.

    But several of Howard’s fiscal innovations have been extremely irresponsible.

    The slashing of CGT to half the top marginal PAYG income tax rate has encouraged a ruinous bubble in speculative real estate investment.

    Howard’s “Backing Australia’s Ability” technology policy has been more like “Backing Out of Australia’s Ability” and has done little to stem the exodus of Australia’s top sci-tech brains.

    absurd $2.5 billion subsidy to the private health insurance industry. I would get them for deals like the Abrahams tanks and the missile defence system, not forgetting all the money squandered on tormenting the benighted lives of refugees. I would also scale down to a suitably modest level bloated and largely redundant organisations like ASIO.

    Agreed on the wastefulness of the private health subsidy. Public health is more efficient.

    And agreed on the governments giveaways to the US’s M-I complex. The military needs more men rather than bigger machines.

    Agreed that spending on ASIO is a waste of money. That money should be spent on extra police and conservative social workers to keep an eye on hot-headed sectarians. More money to the immigration department to properly vet suitable immigrants would also be useful.

    The Howard government’s treatment of assylum seekers has been pretty miserable. But the policy affected only a small group of people for a short time and the trend is now progressive. The problem was a real one and had to be fixed one way or another.

    It has been fixed and Howard deserves much of the credit for both increasing the (mostly NESB) immigration rate the more relaxed and comfortable most Australians now have towards ethnic migrants.

    The whole “John Howard promotes racism and prejudice” meme is a load of Howard-hating bollocks. Howard aimed to put the alien intake program back on a sound footing, with aliens being law-abiding and natives accommodating. Just three percent of ethnic migrants say Australia is racist:

    Despite Australia’s migration program being filled mainly by Asian, North African and Middle Eastern people, few complained that the country was racist.

    Howard is to the liberal-Left of most Australians on immigration policy:

    On the number of migrants allowed into Australia, 49 per cent said it was “about right”, 31 per cent said it had “gone much too far, or gone too far” and 20 per cent said it had “not gone far enough or not gone nearly far enough”.

    The Cultural Left (Wets) are mainly to blame for our recent ethnic selection and settllement woes, by starting up the ethnic lobby to rort the immigration program and by rorting the humanitarian program. Instead of blaming Howard for fixing up their mess they should put their own house in order so they dont stuff things up again.

  55. October 31st, 2005 at 13:42 | #55

    Dogz asserts:

    While it is true that workers will be able to be sacked for no reason under the new legislation, that’s no different from now.

    Obviously, except in that there is a ready accessible appeal mechanism if the sacking is unjust.

    Dogz further asserts:

    Of course, the circumstances under which workers may be lawfully sacked is a different question, and the frightened mother in the ads cannot be lawfully sacked if she takes a carers day for her kids, neither under the new legislation nor the old.

    Obviously, in the new circumstances she is just sacked, no reason given, no law preventing it, no accessible appeal mechanism.

    Dogz also notes:

    Second, albeit offtopic falsehood in your quote: I am not your buddy.

    So obviously you must have had a sarcasm bypass. I mean, who the hell is Dogz?

    Re bargaining positions etc, on reflection, it is also obvious to me now that the journo sacked by Murdoch can just start his own global media empire, the sacked lecturer can just start his own university, the sacked Holden worker can start his own car factory, the sacked wharfie set up his own stevedoring company, the farm labourer start his own farm, etc, etc. Damn, it’s so obviously equal when you really think about it. Thanks fellas. Anyone want to buy a good harbour bridge?

  56. Terje Petersen
    October 31st, 2005 at 14:23 | #56

    More workers should start their own enterprises. Australia is the land of small business. You have got no business complaining about employers if your unwilling to have a go yourself.

  57. Dogz
    October 31st, 2005 at 15:03 | #57

    cs, if the woman (actor) in question suspects she has been sacked for unlawful reasons (whether a reason is given or not), she can can take her employer to court and the federal govt will foot part of the bill.

    And Murdoch didn’t start with a media empire – he started with a little newspaper called The News in a hick town called Adelaide, inherited from his father.

    Holden was also founded in Adelaide, in 1857, by James Alexander Holden (originally a leather goods business).

    If the sacked lecturer is any good, they’ll get another teaching job. If they’re no good, then good on whoever sacked them.

    Etc, etc.

    Big businesses typically start as small businesses; started by people who see an opportunity and are willing to take a risk and have a go. But it’s true that they’re never started by over-educated middle-class whiners too scared or lazy to get off their backsides and actually do something of benefit to society.

  58. Ian Gould
    October 31st, 2005 at 15:40 | #58

    >Murdoch didn’t start with a media empire – he started with a little newspaper called The News in a hick town called Adelaide, inherited from his father.>

    You neglect the minor matter of the cash inheritance he (jointly with his mother ans siblings) also received (I believe it was on the order of several hundred million pound although I would be quite happy to be corrected).

    At the time of his father’s death, the family companies owned newspapers and /or radio stations in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in addition to the Advertiser. Murdoch oere’s executors decided it was wiser to sell off the assets rather than put them in the hands of a man who was then in his twenties.

  59. October 31st, 2005 at 15:48 | #59

    More workers should start their own enterprises. Australia is the land of small business. You have got no business complaining about employers if your unwilling to have a go yourself.

    Who died and elected you pope?

    cs, if the woman (actor) in question suspects she has been sacked for unlawful reasons (whether a reason is given or not), she can can take her employer to court and the federal govt will foot part of the bill.

    Naive nonsense. The government’s contribution is pathetic, the process in onerous, and all the employer has to do is not supply any positive evidence. I speak as a former boss who didn’t even have much trouble getting rid of people under the old rules (all you had to do was follow and document proper processes). This is a doddle. Get real – like the ACTU!

  60. Terje Petersen
    October 31st, 2005 at 15:50 | #60

    QUOTE: the journo sacked by Murdoch can just start his own global media empire, the sacked lecturer can just start his own university, the sacked Holden worker can start his own car factory, the sacked wharfie set up his own stevedoring company, the farm labourer start his own farm, etc, etc.

    RESPONSE: I find it odd that somebody can in one breath defend the degree of regulation faced by small business, and start up businesses and then in the next breath lament the barriers to entry that exist.

    The biggest beneficiaries of regulation are the incumbants. The biggest beneficiaries of high income taxes are the already wealthy. To defend rules that ensure that the little guy has one hand tied behind his back works to entrench static social and economic positions.

    The best wages for workers occurers when capital is plentiful and when rules ensure that it is easy to start and grow a new enterprise.

  61. October 31st, 2005 at 16:00 | #61

    I have no idea what you’re talking about Terje. I’m talking about the obvious advantages that come with owning large piles of capital. But as you’re talking about regulation, this is the most incredibly regulatory package seen since the gst. It’s not de-regulation, but a massive sweeping re-regulation to favour capital. The trade union movement and its members has never been so swamped with regulation as Howard now proposes. Do you hate those regs? Or do you only hate regs that it suits you to hate?

    And I find all references to the “little guy” pathetic vomit-inducing straw clutching. How about picking on some of the big guys for once? You know, the decile that earns 13 times the income as that other decile.

  62. Dogz
    October 31st, 2005 at 16:08 | #62

    Terje: “The biggest beneficiaries of high income taxes are the already wealthy”

    Hear hear.

    cs: “I speak as a former boss who didn’t even have much trouble getting rid of people under the old rules…”

    Now that I don’t doubt for a second.

  63. Tony Healy
    October 31st, 2005 at 16:15 | #63

    Terje and Dogz, it’s silly to claim that only employers have a right to complain about the IR reforms. That’s like saying robbery victims have no right to complain about robbery.

    Dogz, the claim that a worker can take legal action for wrongful dismissal is another example of the duplicity in these reforms. Legal action under the new regime would cost a lot more than the $4,000 the government is proposing, and would also expose the worker to having to pay the employer’s costs if he lost. The risk is so high as to render such action impracticable for typical workers.

    And to both of you, fair protection for workers is actually beneficial to small business because it imposes barriers to large players. When workers become cheap and plentiful, large retailers find it easier to establish stores that compete against small retailers, large accounting firms find it easier to build IT consulting businesses that displace professional firms, and corporate agribusiness outfits take over farming from family farms.

    If you’re a fan of enterprise, small business and innovation, you should be scared of the IR reforms.

  64. Terje Petersen
    October 31st, 2005 at 17:02 | #64

    QUOTE: The trade union movement and its members has never been so swamped with regulation as Howard now proposes. Do you hate those regs? Or do you only hate regs that it suits you to hate?

    RESPONSE: A point on which I agree. Cartels such as unions should not be prejudiciously regulated.

  65. Dogz
    October 31st, 2005 at 17:12 | #65

    Tony Healy,

    why shouldn’t the employee pay the employer’s costs if they lose? Suing in any avenue of life is a serious matter and should not be undertaken lightly. Currently with wrongful dismissal, employees are given a free ride to launch frivolous cases or just marginal cases. No one should have that right.

    Should I be allowed to summararily sue you if you cut me off in your car? Should I be able to summarily sue a restaurant for bad service? Sue a retailer for selling me a dodgy product? Of course not. I should only sue if there is something serious at stake. And the same should apply to dismissal from your job. Yeah, if you tell your boss you’re pregnant and then you get fired the next day – that’s serious and you should sue. But if you’re fired simply because you and your boss or co-workers don’t get along, then get another job and get over it. Or sue if it really matters that much, but to most people it does not.

    “Fair protection for workers is actually beneficial to small business because it imposes barriers to large players.”

    Like the barriers ColesWorth face with the Shoppies continually lobbying on their behalf to keep independents out?

  66. Tony Healy
    October 31st, 2005 at 20:27 | #66

    My point is that government representations about endorsing and even financing legal action by wronged employees is duplicitous, because the new regime imposes substantial new costs on the worker litigant.

    Further, the proposed $4,000 assistance would be effectively useless, and the government must know that.

  67. Dogz
    October 31st, 2005 at 20:44 | #67

    $4,000 is $4,000. Hardly useless – against a small business it would be enough to get litigation well underway. And big business is still subject to the existing wrongful dismissal laws anyway.

    If the employee has a real case the employer’s lawyers will almost certainly advise them to settle, or risk a very sh*tty judge making a _big_ order against them (judges tend to side with the underdog in these things – most are not going to take kindly to an employer blatantly flouting the law and then digging in their heels and refusing to settle – it’s the sort of thing that can see you landed with a very big bill).

  68. October 31st, 2005 at 22:27 | #68

    Dogzbody, what part of the term ‘political tokenism’ don’t you understand?

    Terj has gone so formal on me I can’t follow him anymore. Lighten up lad.

    And while I’m here, although I’ve got rid of quite a few employees, I’ve only once been in a position to be able to tell a boss to shove his job, despite the great number of shockers who’ve lorded it over my years. Bloody great feeling, I gotta admit. Much more satisfying than sacking poor bastards. Alas, a once in a lifetime experience I suspect … which is my (and Tony’s) basic (bleedingly obvious) point.

  69. Andrew Reynolds
    October 31st, 2005 at 23:40 | #69

    Just as well Hawke, Keating and the state Labor governments et al have never paid for government promoting advertising or this whole discussion would be founded on sand.
    Oops.
    The reality is that, once you accept that the government has any ability to advertise its ‘services’ those ads are going to be misused. If they need sign off by a politician, or by a person who depends on a politician for a promotion, they will be biased. The reason the Labor Party does not want to force payback is because they know that they will do it next time they are in. The voters aren’t stupid – at least most of them – and they will screen this out. Ignore it, as I am and move on.

  70. Tony Healy
    November 1st, 2005 at 00:09 | #70

    The advertising expenditure has now jumped to a staggering $55 million. (SMH 01 Nov 2005)

    The piece has some good quotes from an AGSM marketing professor:

    “After your 25th exposure [to an advertisement] in a week you start thinking, ‘Hang on, there is something else going on here,’ ” Professor Roberts said.

    There was no point in trying to change the public’s mind by spending more on advertising, he said. “It is so gross, so unsubtle, so blunt that it puzzles me.”

  71. Ian Gould
    November 1st, 2005 at 08:57 | #71

    Andrew: Just as well Hawke, Keating and the state Labor governments et al have never paid for government promoting advertising or this whole discussion would be founded on sand.

    Actually Andrew I pointed out in my very first post that Labor was at fault in this area. This only kills debate if you automatically assume that any criticism of the current government is motivated by partisan bias.

    Andrew: The reality is that, once you accept that the government has any ability to advertise its ‘services’ those ads are going to be misused. If they need sign off by a politician, or by a person who depends on a politician for a promotion, they will be biased.

    As I also pointed out, there are mechanisms to reduce that abuse (you’ll never eliminate it). Making the politician’s party liable to repay the cost of any ads found to breach guidlines would be a good start.

    Andrew: Ignore it, as I am and move on.

    Are you usually this complacent about waste in public expenditure?

  72. Andrew Reynolds
    November 1st, 2005 at 10:34 | #72

    Ian,

    No, but the only way to reduce it, short of banning government advertising, is to reduce or eliminate it effectiveness. Making it counter productive would be even better.
    Trying to get legislation through parliament that would make either major party liable for anything done by the government reminds of one of the best old Australianisms – “pushing sh!t uphill”. You may as well wish that power did not corrupt people or the Christ himself descend from Heaven to bring perfect government for all for all the good it will do.
    It is not going to happen.

  73. Atticus_the_Lawyer
    November 2nd, 2005 at 08:51 | #73

    Nice idea, Johh but, unfortunately, it would prpobably not be consitutional – it would breach the requirement that the Commonwealth only acquire property on just terms.

    It might be possible for the states to do it, but I suspect there would be a problem with that too – I jsut can’t think of it now.

  74. Ian Gould
    November 2nd, 2005 at 09:05 | #74

    Quote: “After your 25th exposure [to an advertisement] in a week you start thinking, ‘Hang on, there is something else going on here,’ � Professor Roberts said.

    And this is the really interesting question here.

    Love him or loathe him, John Howard has shown that he’s one of the most effective politicians this country has ever produced.

    He’s demonstrated an ability to pick up on changes in the public mood and to make pragmatic policy changes rapidly when policies are poorly received.

    If we believe the polls, Labor is now well ahead in the opinion polls and my own wholely unscientific research (using the “listening to people on the bus” method) suggests that not only is the advertising not shifting public opinion in favor of the IR changes (I can’t being myself to debase the word”reform”) but the level of advertising is itself starting to bite as an issue.

    It seems to me that Howard knows the IR laws are unpopular but can’t or won’t change them for reasons that are unclear to me. He’s resorted to this huge advertising campaign to combat that unpopularity but for once his political skills seem to be deserting him.

    All politicians (especially in Government) run the risk of being seen as arrogant and detached from the concerns of everyday people.

    Howard, up to this point, has generally avoided that (although I don’t think I’ve EVER seen the level of genuine affection for him that the majority of the public once held for “Hawkie”) but that may now be changing.

    The level of advertising almosrt makes me wonder if there’s an early election planned but with control of both houses securely held by the Coalition it’s difficult to see how they’d justify it – and Howard’s possible retirement would once again become an issue.

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