Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Proctect Us From The Protectors!

The Australian Federal Government is there to protect us from unscrupulous behaviour, or should that now be 'protect' us because, according to current Health minister and ex-lay Catholic priest, ex-boxer Tony 'Mad Monk' Abbott there is a difference between 'Protections' and ' "Protections" '. Unfortunately it is not entirely clear what that difference is, so let's have a look at what happened exactly.

'I accept that certain “protections” - in inverted commas - are not what they were.'

Elroy is sad to report that the Mad Monk did actually do the "inverted commas" thing with his fingers, which actually makes it worse for him as that now indispensable facet of 21st Century conversation usually denotes 'so-called' or 'supposed, a'euphemism' of some sort, and is generally accompanied with a degree of eye-rolling; it gives the distinct impression that he didn't think workers should have had protections in the first place, that they were for wusses and namby-pamby nanny-staters who wouldn't know a hard day's work if it offered them an AWA.

'That whole raft of regulation expressed in awards that sometimes ran into hundreds, even thousands of pages, I accept that that has largely gone.'

There. The regulations that govern worker's awards that were built up over decades of pressure and struggle by the workers themselves are gone. Largely.

'I accept that. I accept that the Industrial Relations Commission doesn’t have the same power to reach into the nook and cranny of every business that it used to have. I accept that.'

To Elroy, this says that employers are now free of the scrutiny once imposed by the IRC and that without it they are free to abuse their workers. It's pretty clear and unequivocal, and the day after Abbott said it he was unrepentant – indeed, he went on telly to defend what he termed his 'excellent remarks' by saying that the protections lost were 'counter-productive' and 'pseudo protections', but he still will not say what those protections are. Holiday loadings? Unfair dismissal? What?

I really don't understand what the Libs are on about. Abbott said it and he even said that he said it and, what's more, that it was jolly good thing to say!

But suddenly he has freaked out, having realised that telling the truth is not a great idea for the coalition, and is blaming everyone else! For what he said! This from the party of personal responsibility! But I suppose he couldn't have really said what he said because Liberal Party Prime Minister 'Honest' John Howard said so. 'Tony Abbott did not say that protection had been taken away for workers.' Oh. I see. Silly Elroy.

Abbott is now saying that a video of him saying what he said was 'doctored' and ‘edited’ (it wasn't) and that he was, as conservatives always seem to be (according to conservatives), taken out of context (he wasn't). Word to the wise, Tony – if you're going to say that you have been taken out of context then you need say what the correct context is, and this you are yet to do. Still, Elroy is nothing but helpful so he's going to help you out. The Monkster says that the rest of his comment helps explain what he was on about, so lets have a peek.

'But in the end, the best protection for the worker who feels he or she might be under pressure at his job is the chance of another job, the chance of a better job. That is the best protection. Not going off to some judge or Industrial Commission that might order your employer, who you don’t like and he doesn’t like you, to keep you in an unhappy partnership forever.

So that is the best protection that we can give people, the protection of an abundance of jobs, the protection of an economy which is crying out for more workers'

Yes, the Mad Monk says that he was trying to make the point that the best 'protection' (my inverted commas) is the opportunity to get another job, to just walk out and get another job elsewhere. He tells us that there are plenty of jobs and people need to get over this idea that they are entitled to a job for life, not because it is no longer possible to do that thanks to the coalition's deregulated and 'flexible' labour market but because a job for life is no longer necessary – who needs a safety net? The market will provide!

Ok, lets call him on it. He's a youngish man (he turned fifty a fortnight ago), as is Treasurer Peter 'Smirk' Costello, Defence Minister Brendan 'Which side am I on?’ Nelson et al, with a solid future (he certainly isn't going to starve) and,as he said, he has the best protection a working man could want – the opportunity of picking up one of the myriad of jobs that are dangling out there like so much fruit and maybe even make more money.

So, as one of the 'protections' lost to over the years was the right to most of one's redundancy pay – the government reduced companies' bottom line legal requirement for paying out downsized and sacked workers to eight weeks pay, no matter how much they were actually owed – so Elroy challenges Abbott and all his little friends who are about to find themselves a-twiddling their thumbs come the 25th of November to reduce the amount of super he draws after leaving Canberra to the equivalent of what the great unwashed are now entitled to as a safety net – eight weeks pay.

The official argument is that politicians deserve their massive pensions because they have given up what could have been a prosperous career to, sob, serve the public, and that 'quality people' basically need to be bribed to do it with a more than fair salary, a 'pay peanuts – get monkeys' philosophy that means that our average elected representatives receive a base wage of $127,000, well over twice the national average wage of $52,000, for their time and trouble.

However, Elroy remembers conservative line that was run against a nurses' wage claim which basically said that paying nurses too much would mean that the profession would attract 'the wrong kind of people', that is people who were in it for the money, but Elroy says that if that argument is good enough for the nurses then surely it also applies to politicians – after all, we wouldn't want mere careerists in our Parliaments would we? Men and women who go into a job just for the money?

It was traditionally the parties of the left that agitated for members of parliament to be paid as their members were far more likely to be blue-collar comrades who could not afford to take time off from t'mill to gallivant down the Halls of Power – however, as it was deemed that means testing this would obviously be an insufferable impingement on the wealthy's natural born right to suck up whatever share of resources they can possibly get away with, it also meant that we have the unedifying spectacle of more-than-comfy Multi-millionaire merchant banker Malcolm Turnbull hoovering up the paltry parliamentary stipend and add it to his already groaning money pit, mopping up what for him is basically claret money. Just like Bill Gates and Tiger Woods don't do what they do to keep the banks off their backs, Malcolm Turnbull is not in politics for the cash; no, what drives careerists like Abbott and dilettantes like Mal is far worse than mere mammon.

It may be true that high level bureaucrats get paid even more than politicians, and it is argued that maybe they deserve it because they do not get the pollies’ super chubby life-time pensions and other outrageous perks and lurks – although the politicians use the mandarins’ hefty whack to cry poor and remind the population of their selfless martyrdom – but the Honourable Members get a perk that very few invisible pen-pusher ever manage to muster, the ultimate aphrodisiac – power.

Yes, that's the cruel reality of modern politics – they don't just do it for the money! In fact, for the amount of power, prestige, kudos, clout and opportunities to clean up in a private corporate sector so cruelly denied a member's obviously superior talents for so long it is quite probable that a lot of them would do it for nothing but, as this would swing us back 100 years or so, Elroy proposes that MPs be put on pay scale and super benefits equal to nurses, teachers, emergency services workers etc. After all, they are all public servants – although nurses, teachers and emergency service workers do actually have recognizable qualifications relevant to their occupations – to do their jobs – and none of them have the access to the power and wealth generating possibilities that await any left-out legislators.

This could have many benefits; it could make sure that nurses, teachers and emergency service workers etc, get paid a reasonable amount and would keep the pollies from becoming their own class – there’d be nothing like rifling the shrapnel jar for tram fare to bring their thinking into line with mainstream concerns.

So why should Abbott and his chums be allowed to bludge off the taxpayer into their dotage? Why do they need the "protection" offered by the Remuneration Tribunal and its wildly generous superannuation scheme? After all, who gets a job for life?

Not the workers. Not anymore. Who gets paid a more than comfortable living wage for doing nothing? Not the unemployed, who the ruling elites now openly admit were lied to for the past twenty years when they were told that the only reason they had no job was that they were too lazy. Abbott even had a term for anyone picky enough to want to choose what it is they do with their life – ‘Job snobs.’

No, the only people who, if they happen to lose their comfy gig, get compensated with a lifetime of supreme taxpayer largesse are politician after merely eight years service are politicians, whether or not they go on to live a full and rapacious life revealing state secrets to the corporate concern that bought what principles said pollie might have ever had, so when they waltz out of Parliament House with a fist full of enough super to keep the Grange flowing until the great division bell rings forth in the hereafter, wait an hour and take a fabulously well paid 'consultancy' with whatever private enterprise is closest to the portfolio he has just left hanging in mid-air, they should lose their eight weeks worth.

But the notion that politicians should be subjected to the rules they devise for the rest of us does not sit well with the Mad Monk, nor is he too enamoured of the bootless and unhorsed’s stubborn refusal to fully appreciate his noble sacrifice.

‘They expect their MPs to be celebrities and, at the same time, just like them.’

What’s up Tony? Here’s the news, darl; we don’t expect our MPs to be celebrities – we’d be more than happy to never have to see you at all, to be safe in the knowledge that you are somewhere performing your thankless tasks, for which you are so handsomely remunerated, in the blissful anonymity you so obviously crave – to be, as you say, just like us.

But no, you are thrust, nay, forced, nay, dragged kicking and screaming by galloping horses in front of those prying cameras to explain yourself to the churlish mob. Poor Tone. But I’m interested in why Abbott thinks that being an, um, ‘celebrity’ somehow precludes one from being normal or, as he suggests, ‘just like us’. Are the two really mutually exclusive? And if so, how has he solved his dilemma? Has he remained a normal Joe? Or is he indeed a complete wanker?

But wait! There’s more! In the same breath he continues with

‘…to be content with a fraction of the earnings of corporate high-flyers..'

Golly! This statement presupposes the fact that Tony is of such superior mettle that corporate high-flying was his for the taking, although there is nothing to substantiate this apart from his monstrosity of an ego.

‘while working seven days a week in a hyper-responsible job.’

What? Like every other poor bastard on an AWA? Seven day weeks are nothing unusual anymore thanks to your party’s labour market ‘reforms’ so stop whining and get on with it! And, quite honestly, how is being a politician ‘hyper-responsible’? How is it any more responsible than a thousand other occupations like running a hospital emergency department, a school or a fire department?

As far as Elroy can tell, politicians and particularly conservative politicians take no responsibility whatsoever! Look at the travesties that have occurred over the life of the Liberal government since 1996 – the Waterfront dispute, the Tampa crisis, the Pacific Solution, Woomera and Baxter, DIMIA catastrophes, the Iraq fucking War, AWB, WorkChoices, the Lib/Nat pork barrel, the NT Intervention, David Hicks, the list goes on – and show me one pollie who has ever put their hand up for any of them.

None of our elected servants has ever got up, put down his magnum of Grange and said ‘Yup, that was all my fault, I completely fucked it up and I hereby resign and surrender any rights I may have to my superannuation. I have let myself down, my party down, but most importantly I have let the country down – I don’t deserve anything but your anger and disappointment and I will now dedicated my life outside of the government to righting the wrongs I have committed. Thank you.'

No, what actually happens is they get promoted, moved sideways or sent to arduous locations like Rome or London, but when we remember what Tony really wants to be doing, flying high in a corporate sky, then it all makes sense because this is the standard of responsibility of the corporate world.

Actually, it isn’t. The standard of responsibility in the corporate world is for CEOs to fuck off with more money than can be contained in a fleet of Airbus 380s and put your feet up on a tropical isle and/or 300-room mansion of your choice, which explains why Abbott is so disgruntled. Fuck-up politicians get to say ‘My staff never told me’ and keep their job; fuck-up CEOs get to say ‘My Swiss bank account number is…’ and keep the cash.

But a good whinge never goes astray, and our Tony doesn’t let us down as he puts on his best Jewish grandmother/Joan of Arc hat and grizzles thus:

‘Nothing but the best is good enough from Australian politicians and, the better it becomes, the more zealously voters reserve their right to raise their expectations.’

Wow! Imagine being expected to be good at your job! And that ‘the better it becomes, the more zealously voters reserve their right to raise their expectations’ bit? In the real world we call it ‘productivity’. What a pity Tony’s not on an AWA.

Hey! There’s an idea! AWAs for the pollies! Performance based pay! Individually negotiate a base income, somewhere around $30,000 depending on the individual’s ability to haggle, and then pay bonuses base on pre-determined outcomes and the success of the policies they are proposing.

For instance, if the Minister for Aged Health has a policy to provide X amount of nursing home beds then those beds must eventuate, otherwise the Minister will be out of pocket – that should focus their attention on getting it right – but I’ve got a feeling that they’re going to stay with the decisions of the Remuneration Tribunal, an ‘independent’ three member board featuring such disinterested corporate lapdogs as owner of 2UE, director of BHP and chairman of Energy Australia John Conde. This statutory government body constitutes nothing less than a centralized wage-fixing system, a concept that is very bad for us but apparently tolerable for them. Poor politicians – what they go through!

But dear Tony is not finished with his petard just yet. Not only is he somewhat miffed at having to produce satisfactory results for his employer (Oh! The injustice of it all!), but Abbott is also of the opinion that the seething multitude whom he was called to serve are just plain ungrateful as they contemplate swapping those stout chaps that are performing such great and sterling work as flogging the country off to all comers for a bunch of pinko, rabble-rousing neophytes who think that inflation is something that happens to fund raising balloons.

He is truly mystified by the great uwashed’s disinclination to sing hosannas and re-elect the Liberals for yet another interminable term of office with an 100% majority in both houses and grumbled that the government was being robbed “of the usual reward for being good at its job', forgetting that if 50.001% of the electorate decided that the government wasn’t that good at its job, well, it was goodnight Charlie – not that such an eventuality would see the Mad Monk trotting down to Centrelink mind you, it would just mean that he would have to sit on the…wait for it…opposition benches, and this is obviously beyond the pale. Him! Tony Abbott! Condemned, as former Labor Foreign Minister Gareth ‘Gareth’ Evans called ‘the irrelevancy of opposition’! For shame!

So if this thankless task is just too much for effort for not enough pay, here’s an idea, Tony – don’t do it! Remember what you said?

'But in the end, the best protection for the worker who feels he or she might be under pressure at his job is the chance of another job, the chance of a better job. That is the best protection. Not going off to some judge or Industrial Commission that might order your employer, who you don’t like and he doesn’t like you, to keep you in an unhappy partnership forever.’

So poor Tony’s obviously under pressure at his job, but he won’t be needing the ‘protection’ afforded him by the Remuneration Tribunal –if he finds that his employer doesn’t like him, and on Saturday we’ll find out if that’s the case, he can just fuck off and drive a front-end loader around the open-cut bauxite mines of the wild West in splendid isolation! And it pays better too! Or will that not be quite his speed? Oh my god! He’s not a job snob is he?

Needless to say Tony was born with a full 40-place silver service cutlery set in his capacious gob, and his sense of entitlement is second only to that of Imelda Marcos – if he is what stands between us and the ravages of the free fucking markets then, please, god, protect us from the protectors.


Anonymous said...

Elroy – you must really be on tenterhooks today as you wait in your little Marxist stronghold waiting for little Johnny to get his comeuppance.
I hope it works for you. Maybe.
I am still a ‘don’t know’ but I am planning to go to vote this afternoon.
I will make my decision with a pencil in my hand.
Who knows – I may be with you or against you.
Probably by the time you read this The People Will Have Spoken.
Good luck in retrospect
Anon E. Mouse

Anonymous said...

Elroy – you must really be on tenterhooks today as you wait in your little Marxist stronghold waiting for little Johnny to get his comeuppance.
I hope it works for you. Maybe.
I am still a ‘don’t know’ but I am planning to go to vote this afternoon.
I will make my decision with a pencil in my hand.
Who knows – I may be with you or against you.
Probably by the time you read this The People Will Have Spoken.
Good luck in retrospect
Anon E. Mouse

Elroy said...

A Marxist? Ich? What ever gave you that idea? Nothing so doctrinaire for me, matey!

But if you are wavering I urge you to go for the K-Ruddster, not that you should be in any doubt as to your intentions one way or the oher by this late stage in the game. Why? I'll let our good friends at explain:

'A vote to return the Government is a vote for maximum risk. The risk of more-of-the-same policies when policy flourish is badly needed. The risk of a bitter leadership bunfight within a year or less as senior ministers attempt to get even with John Howard for inflicting on them the unnecessary pain of the past few months.

The increasing risk of overweening moments from ministers like Abbott, Downer, Ruddock and Minchin (and Howard) on their last laps. And the risk of more hubris-infected decisions as the culture wars are fought to their denouement by an ideologically-driven government heading towards its 14th year under the same tired leadership.

A vote for Labor is a vote for least risk. Economic policy will be cautious, industrial relations policy will be benign, foreign policy will be prudent and social change will be incremental but interesting.

This will be a pragmatic government setting out to establish the platform for 14 years in power, not the other way round. The biggest risk in electing a Rudd government is that they don't unveil some flair and foresight. The risk to Australia of returning a Howard government is far greater than the risk of giving the other mob a go.'

That makes sense to me! What about you? So go forth and do your democratic duty, and thanks for asking Elroy!

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