Sunday, December 26, 2010


Tony Abbott's famous phrase, that WorkChoices was dead, buried and cremated may need a new coda according to this piece in The Age ...

Fire at will: Liberals flirt with no-fault sacking

Date: December 26 2010

Josh Gordon, The Age

SENIOR Liberals are ramping up a push for an industrial relations overhaul - including a no-fault dismissal system to end arbitration that decides the fairness of sackings.

Despite Tony Abbott's declaration that WorkChoices is ''dead, buried and cremated'', the Coalition's post-election policy review is working on an industrial relations policy to take to the next election to replace Labor's Fair Work system.

One plan is to replace unfair dismissal laws - blamed for discouraging small business employment - with a radical system modelled on the concept of no-fault divorce that replaced the antiquated Matrimonial Causes Act in 1975.

The idea has been floated by industrial relations consultant Grace Collier in a paper to be published next month in the IPA Review, the journal of the free-market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

''Our current unfair dismissal system encourages Australians to behave like greedy whingers,'' Ms Collier writes. ''A no-fault dismissal system would set our heads right on the issue and provide for dignity of exit, allowing people to focus not on legal conflict but on managing departure in the chosen way whilst being encouraged to embrace the future opportunities that are always just around the corner.''

Under the proposal, being cautiously supported by influential Liberals, employers could sack workers with impunity, provided they offer compensation including a reasonable paid notice period, an assistance package and job transition services.

Ms Collier, a former unionist who now advises the hardline-conservative H.R. Nicholls Society, said a no-fault dismissal system would remove the need for costly legal argument to determine the fairness of a case, or whether it represented a redundancy or a dismissal.

Labor's new Fair Work system, which broadened unfair dismissal laws, triggered a 63 per cent increase in unfair dismissal applications in its first year, the paper says. ''Every working day, regardless of fairness, truth or the merits of their case, Australia employers collectively pay somewhere between $80,598.50 and $127,804.77 in 'go away money' simply to avoid government arbitration,'' it says. ''Is this a new tax on business and is anyone - other than employment lawyers - winning?''

Mr Abbott has been reluctant to revisit the industrial relations debate amid concerns it would be linked to WorkChoices, the Coalition policy that contributed to former prime minister John Howard's 2007 election demise. During the election campaign, Mr Abbott promised not to touch Labor's industrial laws for at least one term if he won.

But opposition industrial relations spokesman Eric Abetz, a recent guest at the H.R. Nicholls Society's annual dinner, in Melbourne, told The Sunday Age that although he did not want to comment on the merits of the proposal, ''it is a concept I would be willing to look at''.

Backbencher Liberals Stephen Ciobo and Jamie Briggs and frontbenchers Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb have also made comments in recent weeks suggesting a need for the party to reconnect with its history of industrial relations deregulation.

Mr Briggs, a former industrial relations adviser to John Howard, believed Ms Collier's idea would be part of the Coalition's policy review headed by Mr Robb.

''The current laws are badly flawed and they prevent people from getting a chance of a job,'' Mr Briggs said.

''The idea that Grace [Collier] has put up is something that will be discussed.''

IPA executive director John Roskam believed the system was now even less flexible than when the former Howard government took office in 1996, blaming it for creating a ''grievance culture''.

''There are clear problems with the current system and for the Liberal Party to stand back while these problems exist and while people are losing their jobs … is wrong,'' Mr Roskam said. ''The system should not be set in stone.''

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010


We must never revisit the horror of Howard's policies

Amalina Wallace's Letter to the Editor, SMH, 21.12.10

Tony Abbott has described the Christmas Island boat disaster as an ''unspeakable horror'', and called for the reintroduction of the Howard government's policies. I am a former refugee decision-maker who has interviewed asylum seekers at Woomera, Port Hedland, Derby, Villawood, Nauru and Manus Island, and it is his words that fill me with unspeakable horror. The scenes I saw at Woomera and Manus Island in particular have left shocking memories of people who suffered cruelly.

Under the Howard government, Australia introduced a process of "screening out" refugee applicants, so that hundreds of people were put into legal limbo, denied access to lawyers and separated from family members, with no information about what happened to them or why.

The first time I entered Woomera, people were crying and screaming. An interpreter told me they were calling out "where am I?" "what's happening to me?", "when can I ring my family?" and "please help me".

The heat and harsh conditions led to significant mental problems, ranging from chronic depression and self-mutilation to hysteria and attempted suicide. I still recall the shock of interviewing people a few months after hundreds of decisions had been frozen at the end of 2001.

I had previously seen refugees with scars from cigarette burns or mutilated faces from torture in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan; now I was seeing people who were going mad. I interviewed a man with large, curved, thickened scars on his arms and torso, not from torture in one of Saddam Hussein's prisons, but from throwing himself repeatedly from the roof of a building at Woomera onto the razor wire. Some people were so chronically depressed they were unable to make it to the interview room, their chance of telling their story to gain release.

The people from the "children overboard" boat were tricked into going to Manus Island, where they were held in concrete bunkers left over from World War II, with water for cooking and bathing that had worms in it.

It is a huge error that such abuses were not investigated properly, and those responsible dealt with according to the law. By sweeping things under the carpet, no responsibility has been taken, and as a result politicians seek to further their ambitions by calling for the return of such a regime.

We must never forget what happened, and never allow it to happen again.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Red News Readers,

To sign the Get Up Wikileaks petition, go to the link:

Jenny Haines

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Nurse ratio is double safe level: union

Louise Hall, SMH.

December 1, 2010

NURSES in public hospitals are caring for up to eight patients each, double the ratio the nurses' union says is needed for safe patient care.

A study of staffing in 332 hospital wards, commissioned by the NSW Nurses Association, found the ratio in general wards at most major hospitals averaged one nurse to 5.3 patients.

However the number of patients assigned to each nurse varied widely, with those on evening shifts often caring for seven patients each, and those on nights looking after more than eight.

Advertisement: Story continues below The study, by nursing workforce experts at two Sydney universities, comes as the state government agreed to consider mandated staffing ratios in return for a halt to industrial action planned for today.

The minimum ratio sought for general wards at most major hospitals is one nurse for four patients plus a registered nurse (RN) in charge of morning and evening shifts. At night, the ratio could rise to one to seven.

The general secretary of the association, Brett Holmes, said: ''Just one extra person on a shift can make the difference between a ward coping really well and a situation where there's lots of near-misses.''

The Minister for Health, Carmel Tebbutt, has said staffing ratios are a ''blunt'' and ''inflexible'' tool to manage workloads when patients' need for care in hospitals varied widely. The current nursing award had a workload calculation tool to determine staffing levels based on several factors, including patients needing acute care.

However, the report's co-author, Christine Duffield, said the tool had become largely redundant since its limited introduction to wards in 2004.

Professor Duffield, the director of the Centre for Health Services Management at the University of Technology, Sydney, said ratios were important but it was vital that hospitals had the right ''skill mix'', the proportion of hours worked by the different classifications of nurses.

She warned that mandated ratios, if filled with higher proportions of enrolled nurses or assistants-in-nursing, would create a less safe environment for patients. Studies show a ward in which at least 85 per cent of staff are registered nurses will have lower rates of medication errors, falls, complications and deaths.

However, the survey found a skill mix as low as 46 per cent in some community hospitals.

Professor Duffield said the average skill mix of 66 per cent - with enrolled nurses or assistants-in-nursing making up the balance - reported in medical and surgical wards in second-tier hospitals such as Bankstown was also a concern.