Report by Bob Carnegie. On September 14, at the Irish Club in Brisbane, a hugely sucessful meeting was held by the recently formed Workers’ and Civil Rights Coalition (WCRC).
Photo: CFMEU secretary Dave Noonan speaking at the meeting. Click here for more photos.
The meeting was held under the banner of ‘Win Back Your Rights’. This has been in response to the enormous onslaught against trade union, civil and political rights by the Howard government.
In particular the meeting was focused on building trade union and community opposition to the reactionary Work Choices legislation, which leaves Australian workers with less rights than all other workers in the developed Western world.
The meeting was chaired by Melissa White, elected Secretary of the WCRC and an Industrial Officer with Queensland Public Service Union. Ms White explained the broad make-up of the WCRC and that the WCRC would be in the forefront of standing by all workers and trade unions in their opposition to Work Choices. Ms White congratulated the Electrical Trades Union on their national decision not to pay fines enacted upon the union and its officials by the Federal Government’s anti-union legislation. Ms White then introduced Professor David Peetz, the first of the meeting’s three main speakers.
Prof Peetz in his contribution tore apart the federal government’s ideological position that Work Choices improved productivity by making employment relations an individual affair. Through the use of the government’s own statistics, Prof Peetz proved that union collective agreements not only deliver far better outcomes for workers, but they actually produce more productive outcomes than the much touted Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA). Prof Peetz’s devastating critique along with an entertaining presentation and wry sense of humour was exceptionally well received by the audience.
The second speaker was the newly elected National Secretary of the Construction and General Division of the CFMEU, the dominant union in construction in Australia. Dave Noonan spoke about the human cost of Work Choices and the fact that the union is also dealing with a shadowy new tribunal, the ABCC, who compel workers and union officials to speak in their interrogations.
The third speaker was Julian Burnside QC. Julian gave a broad overview of the erosion of rights in Australia in the last dozen years, ranging from madatory detention in refugee policy, the never-ending imprisonment of David Hicks in Guatanamo Bay, the deportation of the American activist, Scott Parkin, by the Attorney-General without the advancing of any allegations against him, the erosion of industrial and legal rights with the amendments to the Workplace Relations Act, and urged everyone to get behind their unions.
The WCRC hopes to hold similar events in the future.
Contact WCRC: +61 411 727 765
Speakers and organisers at the 14 September meeting