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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. Terje Petersen
    October 31st, 2005 at 09:53 | #1

    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.

  2. Tony Healy
    October 31st, 2005 at 10:03 | #2

    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.)

  3. October 31st, 2005 at 10:39 | #3

    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.

  4. October 31st, 2005 at 11:14 | #4

    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.

  5. October 31st, 2005 at 13:42 | #5

    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?

  6. Terje Petersen
    October 31st, 2005 at 14:23 | #6

    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.

  7. Dogz
    October 31st, 2005 at 15:03 | #7

    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.

  8. Ian Gould
    October 31st, 2005 at 15:40 | #8

    >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.

  9. October 31st, 2005 at 15:48 | #9

    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!

  10. Terje Petersen
    October 31st, 2005 at 15:50 | #10

    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.

  11. October 31st, 2005 at 16:00 | #11

    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.

  12. Dogz
    October 31st, 2005 at 16:08 | #12

    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.

  13. Tony Healy
    October 31st, 2005 at 16:15 | #13

    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.

  14. Terje Petersen
    October 31st, 2005 at 17:02 | #14

    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.

  15. Dogz
    October 31st, 2005 at 17:12 | #15

    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?

  16. Tony Healy
    October 31st, 2005 at 20:27 | #16

    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.

  17. Dogz
    October 31st, 2005 at 20:44 | #17

    $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).

  18. October 31st, 2005 at 22:27 | #18

    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.

  19. Andrew Reynolds
    October 31st, 2005 at 23:40 | #19

    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.

  20. Tony Healy
    November 1st, 2005 at 00:09 | #20

    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.”

  21. Ian Gould
    November 1st, 2005 at 08:57 | #21

    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?

  22. Andrew Reynolds
    November 1st, 2005 at 10:34 | #22

    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.

  23. Atticus_the_Lawyer
    November 2nd, 2005 at 08:51 | #23

    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.

  24. Ian Gould
    November 2nd, 2005 at 09:05 | #24

    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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