Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

How to use Abbott's rules to restore decency to the private sector

By Peter Lewis - posted Thursday, 6 March 2003

Tony Abbott is at it again, with a wicked plan to cut research funding to universities that do not put their workforce onto individual contracts.

We've long argued that Australian Workplace Agreements were a dangerous experiment, but Abbott's play on university funding will see ideology undermine our national interest in a way we have never previously comprehended.

It follows on the heels of his aborted attempt to dictate the employment conditions on the MCG redevelopment - a move that prompted the Bracks Government to suggest where he could stick his federal funding.


But the university salvo shows the Mad Monk is on the warpath: frustrated by his failure to push nasties through the Senate, he is using federal funding as the vehicle for promoting his preferred model of industrial (de)regulation.

While his particular focus is obnoxious, the actual tactic demands closer scrutiny for those of us interested in imposing industrial decency at a time when governments are increasingly loath to regulate.

Indeed, the late-20th century penchant for contracting out government services means there are more businesses than ever relying, at least in part, on government contracts to maintain their growth and profits.

Short of the sort of regulation that spooks the markets, this public purchasing power could be the most effective tool in changing the way companies treat their workers.

If Abbott can withhold public money on the grounds of ugly industrial relations policies, why shouldn't Labor Governments do the opposite, and require decency?

The first step is to develop codes of conduct, such as the one negotiated between the Labor Council of NSW and the Carr Government - where the Department of Public Works must have regard to a company's industrial relations policies when considering tenders.


Most would agree that a company should comply with the law when performing public work; but why shouldn't we impose additional standards that can be applied to ALL its projects.

And let's not stop at work relations - let's also add corporate governance and environmental standards. Why should public money prop up a company that's paying its executives multi-million dollar salaries? Why should our taxes go to contracts that deliver sustenance to serial polluters?

And what about government employees flying on an airline that is prepared to take massive profits and pay their executives big bonuses while slashing staff?

If we are serious about setting new rules within society, we should be asking our elected representatives to consider our massive purchasing power. Let's use the excesses of contracting out to strike a new deal between the people and the corporate world, with the State as our bargaining agent.

Abbott a force for positive change? Hardly. But his bullyboy tactics may set a template for progressive governments fighting the growing power of corporates who suck at the public teat.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. All

This article was first published as the editorial in Workers Online, which is a member of The National Forum.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Peter Lewis is the director of Essential Media Communications, a company that runs strategic campaigns for unions, environmental groups and other “progressive” organisations.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Peter Lewis
Related Links
NSW Department of Public Works and Services Annual Report 2001-2002
Tony Abbott's Home page
Workers Online - the Tool Shed
Photo of Peter Lewis
Article Tools
Comment Comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy