Second wave legislation slammed
By Mark Cronin
BRISBANE — About 60 people gathered at the Sailing Club in West End on November 11 to discuss workplace relations minister Peter Reith's second wave of industrial legislation. David Peetz, head of the industrial relations school at Griffith University, and left-wing barrister Bob Reid addressed the "Politics in the Club".
Peetz argued that the legislation would make employers free to reduce wages, particularly for youth and women. This had been the experience in WA, which had the most radical state industrial legislation, he said.
Peetz argued that the "closed shop" provisions of the legislation contravene freedom of association. "Secret ballots would be required time and time again for the same period of industrial action", he explained.
"Even those who believe in secret ballots should see that, as proposed in the legislation, they are only about hurting unions."
Peetz said, "Historically, the conservatives have ratcheted back conditions and then the screws come off only a few notches under Labor". He said that the Australian Democrats and Labor will probably reject large slabs of the legislation in the Senate.
According to Reid, there is "a large degree of ambit in the legislation, and once the Liberals have done over the Democrats, a lot of negative elements of the legislation will still get through".
Reid also criticised the bill's secret ballot provisions. A vote for industrial action would not be binding on union members, but a vote against industrial action would be, he said.
In related events, on November 17, 250 angry unionists protested outside a $175 a head lawyers' lunch addressed by Reith. One hundred and twenty Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Miscellaneous Workers Union and National Tertiary Education Industry Union members were joined by 130 Transport Workers Union and Maritime Union of Australia members who had marched from the nearby MUA office.
The rally was addressed by Hughie Williams from the TWU, ALP member for Capricornia Kirsten Livermore, and a spokesperson for the CFMEU.
Hughie Williams, an organiser of the rally, told Green Left Weekly that the TWU workers "really hate Reith". Williams pointed out that the office of the Employment Advocate, established by Reith, has been constantly harassing the TWU, including raiding its offices and using staff disguised as truckies to gain information against the union.