In the final days of the last sitting of Federal Parliament for 2020, the Morrison Coalition Government has revealed its intention to initiate a war not only on Australian workers but also our democracy.
Recently, the government revealed the details of its new industrial relations bill, described by the ACTU as ‘dangerous and seriously unbalanced’.
Essentially, the proposed legislation will:
• allow employers to cut wages and conditions and allow agreements go below the minimum award safety-net,
• remove rights from casuals, allowing employers to call workers ‘casuals’ and take away leave rights. Although it is claimed casual workers will be able to become ‘permanent’ after 12 months, they fail to give workers a way of enforcing this right,
• stripping blue collar workers on big project construction sites of any say whatsoever of their working conditions, creating a class of workers with less rights than everyone else – which what the big mining bosses want. This move will mean that FIFO workers will be the hardest hit.
Critics of the proposed laws believe that if adopted, they will seriously tip the balance in favour of big business.
ACTU secretary, Sally McManus has condemned the package. ‘We know workers sacrificed so much during this pandemic. We cannot allow a generation of workers to be punished with lower wages and worse conditions after carrying Australia through this crisis’, she said.
‘We’ve said all along that the union movement will not accept any proposed changed from the Government that will leave working people worse off’.
‘But these proposed law changes show that the Morrison Government has sided with extreme business lobby groups to give them power to cut workers’ pay and remove hard fought for rights’, Sally claimed in an email to union members.
Federal Labor has indicated it will also fight the legislation and will refuse to support any provisions that allow a cut in pay and conditions for Australian workers.
In addition to the Coalitions attack on working people, they have also revealed their disdain for Australia’s already fragile democracy. Recently, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters handed down its report on the 2019 Federal election. The review examined Clive Palmer’s unprecedented donation of $83 million to his own campaign, which included a huge advertising spend on misleading social media posts, far outstripping the expenditure of the major parties.
Despite this, the Committee made no recommendations to reduce the ‘distorting influence’ of massive political donations and unlimited election spending, and instead presented proposals which would in fact suppress voter rights and community participation, including:
• introducing voter ID laws, which would create a further barrier to voting by Australia’s most disenfranchised populations, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
• ending compulsory preferential voting, potentially creating a regressive ‘first past the post voting system’;
• prohibiting advocacy groups from handing out election information to voters at polling places; and
• creating unreasonable barriers to ‘issues-based’ advocacy in elections for some charities and not-for-profits, which would, in effect, place an unnecessary muzzle on some organisations.
If the proposals are passed by Federal Parliament, many fear it will have far reaching effects on Australia’s democracy. The Federal Labor Opposition has indicated it will fight the proposals and has expressed deep concern about their impact on the fairness of future elections.