Even before Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame stood up to speak at the National Press Club today, I found myself shaking. Not in excitement at what these amazing young women might say, not in anticipation of any criticism or suggestions they might make, not because of any particular personal memory – my mind was blank, the feeling was visceral.
As Ms Higgins spoke, my breathing became more ragged. The tears that had been welling up in my eyes overflowed. Ms Tame took the floor and the tears kept coming accompanied by the occasional sob.
I wanted to listen to them but found I wasn’t actually paying attention to their words. I, along with the rest of the country, already knew the most intimate details of their trauma. I knew how both of these young women had been let down. I knew the attempts to silence them and to then use them as political pawns.
And I cried.
I cried because their experiences should never have happened – they should have been safe.
I cried for all the women and children who should have been safe.
I cried in anger and frustration at our failure to make them safe – to prevent the dehumanising harm that endemic violence causes.
I cried that power is wasted on those whose only aim is to stay in power by whatever means it takes.
I cried with pride.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!
While the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) waits alongside the country’s working classes with baited breath on the Morrison government’s resolution bill on industrial relations reforms, it has called upon the federal government to cut the rates of insecure workers in half within the next ten years.
Sally McManus, the ACTU’s national secretary, in an address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, outlined in detail the reasons for these demands and goals, and how they can be achieved.
“Many employer groups and some in government have actually refused to acknowledge the facts of the widespread nature of work insecurity and the ways in which it disadvantages people,” McManus told the NPC’s lunchtime assembly in her speech.
“And there are others that even argue that more insecure work is good.
“As a country we cannot hide from it anymore. This is an issue our generation can and must fix,” McManus added.
McManus was also an integral participant in the industrial relations reform negotiations – after forming what was seen as an unlikely alliance in March with federal Attorney-General Christian Porter, who doubles in the Morrison government’s cabinet as its industrial relations minister as well – and she admitted that the government’s solutions to the impasses that resulted in that five-month process earlier in the year are on the way.
“We are told that the government’s IR omnibus bill is imminent,” McManus said, while Porter admitted that the terms of that bill may be coming as early as next week.
Those talks, which McManus has said that the unions and the government entered in a spirit of good faith and thereby has described as “challenging”, do provide a bit of context about how the ACTU can reach their goals towards drastically reducing numbers of insecure workers.
“Two things have happened to unions during this pandemic. Firstly, nearly every union has grown in membership, despite job losses, as workers looked to their union and the union movement for protection and support,” said McManus.
“Secondly, the union movement has had its national role returned to where it should always have been – as a widely accepted part of Australia’s civil society, and a trusted social partner for governments and businesses.
“This consultation and cooperation must not only belong to the pandemic – it must become business as usual again in Australia as it makes us better as a country,” added McManus.
In a sharp, marked contrast to the “Change The Rules” campaign which was run for two years leading up to the 2019 federal election, where it was predicated upon winning upper and lower house seats to affect the government’s balance of power as a more likely pathway towards influencing new industrial relations legislation, the mindset now exists to work with the government in power in good faith negotiations, regardless of whoever is in government.
“Governments and employers may not always like, or agree with what we have to say, but decision making is improved when our capacity, as well as workers experience and perspective are at the table,” said McManus.
“If we are good enough to be relied upon during a crisis, if we are trustworthy enough to have in the room facing a pandemic, if unions were needed to get us through the toughest of times – surely the voice of working people has a place at the table in an ongoing way,” she added.
McManus says that a spirit of “leave no one behind” – which she opened her NPC speech with, citing Australians’ commitment to collectivism as the nucleus behind a social contract – will serve as an essential element to achieve goals around insecure work.
According to the McKell Institute, the statistics around insecure work reflect one in four workers classified as casual workers and as many as four million workers being either casual, part-time, or under-employed, or even as many as 2.1 million workers holding more than one casual job at any time or even throughout the year in an effort to make ends meet.
The ACTU said earlier this year about the state of insecure work:
Employers use casual and other insecure work arrangements to cover entire work functions. For many employers, it’s now a business model. Our work laws have made it more and more difficult to protect permanent work. The result is an emerging class of workers without jobs they can count on. They have no sick leave, no holidays, no job security, little bargaining power and severely reduced capacity to get home loans. Casualisation and insecure work have led to Australia having more inequality now than at any time on record.
“We would rather be working with employers and government on the big issues that help to grow our economy and strengthen the safety net – lifting all Australians up by driving down unemployment levels, by saving and creating jobs, improving wages, making work from home a shared opportunity for employers and employees, increasing workforce participation through free childcare, supporting dignified retirement incomes for workers, and planning for good high skilled jobs in Australian manufacturing.
“A genuine national economic reconstruction plan,” said McManus, regarding the general terms of the scheme which the ACTU is likely to forge to counter the ongoing trends and qualities around insecure work.
However, for as helpful as it could potentially be, the white elephant in the room may also very well surround the government’s bill on industrial relations reform.
It may be a threat to the ACTU’s goals, but they likewise welcome it as a first step forward.
“We are concerned that the industrial relations omnibus legislation, will indeed seek to take rights off workers, that it will punish the very people who have already sacrificed so much,” said McManus.
“Any taking away of rights, any attempt to weaken workers protections is a weakening of our social contract and will be resisted by the union movement,” she added.
Resources Minister Senator Matt Canavan addressed the National Press Club today.
When asked by David Denham from Preview Magazine if declining trends in exploration and production in the petroleum industry should make us more inclined to encourage things like electric cars and renewable energy more broadly to fill the gap, Senator Canavan gave this amazing response:
“We have attracted more than 200 billion dollars worth of investment in the last decade in oil and gas generally so we obviously are doing something right in this country. I think we do have very competitive tax systems and tax settings and that’s been proven.”
For those who want to hear it from the horse’s mouth (or is that arse), start at 56:20.
In the heart of the nation’s capital, in the heart of its Parliament, we have the Canberra Press Gallery and, in its private alcove, the National Press Club. It appears to be the beating heart of the political news media bias that is driving at least half of the country nuts.
The National Press Club has a Facebook page and when you start looking around you don’t have to go far to see obvious signs of bias.
What’s obvious is a single announcement of guest appearances by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and, on the following day, the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott. Further down the page there’s a separate notice for the appearance of Mr Abbott. No sign of a separate notice for Ms Gillard, so that looks like favouritism.
What’s not so obvious is a complaint by Neil Spencer, on December 16, 2012. Mr Spencer questions the relatively poor coverage of the outcome of a court case which has become known as Ashbygate. The hearing created sensational front page news. The verdict was buried in the back pages.
Instead of replying directly to Mr Spencer’s post, the FB page administrator referred him to another story in The Daily Telegraph relating to action being taken against the former Speaker, Peter Slipper, by the Federal Police. The administrator makes the rather snide remark: “We thought you would appreciate this one.”
Clearly, the administrator is of the same mind as the Opposition Leader, Mr Abbott. In three separate and long-running attacks on the government Mr Abbott has chosen to ignore the rule of law, the assumption of innocence, and demand that the government leap into a guilty verdict that would advantage him politically and damage our legal and parliamentary process severely (see Lies, damned lies and sour grapes).
Mr Spencer’s post, the administrator’s response, and my comment appear in full (so far January 18, 2013 12.45 pm) below.
To all you journalists please read the following:
I am very disillusioned with the media response to the Slipper/Ashby verdict. The whole issue is being played down by most media outlets. I don’t know why. Here is a story that any investigative journalist would love to get their teeth into. But yet there is this apprehension from the print media and on air media alike. The Daily Telegraph reported the verdict of the case on page 17 on 13th December. That in itself is an admission of reporting bias. [Right-wing News Limited commentator] Chris Kenny stated that [Prime Minister] Julia Gillard shouldn’t get involved in this muck raking. My god. After what she has been subjected to from the Opposition and, in particular Tony Abbott, she has every reason to ask Mr Abbott for a full explanation. The Australian people deserve a full explanation.
The Australian people deserve to have balanced reporting on all issues, especially those of a political nature. Is there not one journalist out there who is in the MSM who is prepared to investigate the story of possible conspiracy by Brough and other members of the LNP? Are they afraid there might be repercussions from their employer if they did so? If that is the case, then they are being accessories after the fact by assisting in concealing the truth. The employer would not be the type of employer that a professional journalist should be associated with. Regardless of the outcome of investigations our country will be the better for it.
I just don’t know how reputable journalists can be instructed on what they should or should not investigate. If a story comes to light then a journalist should find out the facts by investigating until such time as the story can go no further. Under the present climate of investigation a Watergate could be carried out in this country and the perpetrators would be able to get away with it. God help Australia.
Like December 16, 2012 at 8:28pm
National Press Club of Australia
We thought you would appreciate this one:
January 10 at 9:54am
Neil Spencer raised a valid point. You didn’t address his complaint. Instead, you referred him to another Telegraph story about Federal Police charging Mr Slipper with fraud (their first attempt to charge him fell through, so they went back further in history to find another one).
Your failure to address Mr Spencer’s complaint is pathetic. Referring him to another story (in which Mr Slipper is a defendant and not proven guilty of anything) is even worse. It is worse because your actions in this matter amount to Trial by Media. Your actions tell me that you believe Mr Slipper is not entitled to natural justice, that in the view of the National Press Club he is guilty and must remain so, regardless of the outcome of the Ashby/Slipper court case and the comments and judgment of Justice Rares.
If there are any further developments, I will add to this article.
Further comment: The Daily Telegraph article that Neil Spencer was referred to was written by News Limited journalists Steve* Lewis and Patrick Lion. Steve Lewis was liaising with James Ashby before he filed his sexual harassment claim against Mr Slipper in the Federal Court. Mr Lewis was summonsed to appear before the court.
[*Steve Lewis was elected to his second term as vice president of the National Press Club in 2009. I did not know that when I wrote this story yesterday.]
The judge ruled that matters related to cab charge documents had nothing to do with the allegations of sexual harassment and were introduced in an attempt to damage Mr Slipper’s character in order to strengthen Mr Ashby’s claim.
The Lewis/Lion story acknowledges Mr Slipper’s court victory. It then refers to Mr Ashby’s allegations re the cabcharge dockets, which the judge has ruled are irrelevant:
The allegations are a major setback for the former speaker, who three weeks ago secured a victory when allegations of sexual harassment were thrown out in the Federal Court. His accuser, former adviser James Ashby, alleged he saw Mr Slipper signing blank Cabcharge dockets on visits to Sydney in early 2012. Those allegations are not the subject of the court action.
Note carefully the last sentence above. If Mr Ashby’s evidence re cabcharge documents has been ruled irrelevant, and “Those allegations are not the subject of the court action.” then what is the point of including the last two sentences in italic above?
In his judgment, Justice Steven Rares said Mr Lewis ”was motivated by the opportunity to obtain newsworthy stories”. He also noted there was ”nothing unusual in a symbiotic relationship between members of the media … and persons involved in politics”.
It may not be obvious to the casual reader, but it is clear to me that Mr Lewis, at least, is continuing his campaign to damage the former Speaker, Mr Slipper — a campaign that began with his liaison with Mr Ashby and is continuing in spite of the Federal Court dismissing the allegations of sexual harassment. Mr Ashby and one of his legal advisors are appealing the judge’s decision and comments on the case.
The judge also was of the opinion that Mr Ashby’s case against Mr Slipper was a conspiracy to bring down the federal Australian government. It has been pointed out by news media commentators and members of the fifth estate (the new, alternative, news media) that while Steve Lewis had his head down feeding stories back to his newspaper he somehow missed one of the biggest political scoops of the past decade.
A story about a conspiracy to bring down the government would not serve the agenda of Mr Lewis’ employer, News Limited, in the same way as a series of stories alleging sexual and other misconduct by Mr Slipper. That’s why this story is being referred to as Ashbygate.
[Additional information, January 19, 2013]
While News Limited media maintains its campaign against the federal government, the Fairfax owned press, notably The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) and Melbourne’s The Age, have softened their approach since about the time of the Prime Minister’s so-called “misogyny speech” (see Pennies drop and the balance shifts).
SMH columnist Richard Ackland in his column yesterday (January 18, 2013) said the investigative bloodhounds of the press have let “Tony Abbott and other leading Coalition ornaments off the hook”.
“There are still so many loose threads dangling off the James Ashby case it is amazing that those dedicated to holding politicians to account have let this one pass.”
Veteran investigative reporter Margo Kingston (a former SMH journalist) also commented on the sudden lack of interest in the Ashbygate affair in her story for Independent Australia yesterday. See: http://bit.ly/ScavyA
Are the actions of Mr Lewis in investigating and reporting the Ashby case as squeaky clean as Justice Rares seems to think they are?
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!
Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.
You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969