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Monday, November 21, 2005


Supporting the underdogs

Creating quite some controversy here in Australia at the moment are the new industrial relations (IR) laws being introduced by the Howard government.

Many unionists have been marching in the streets to protest the potential loss of hard-won working conditions. On the other hand the government maintains that the new laws will improve job opportunities and create work for more people.

In reality we don't know what will be the result of the new laws. Only time will tell. But let's face it, they are being introduced by the party that gave us GST. This was supposed to improve life for all of us. Yeah? Well, as someone who was in business at the time of the introduction of GST, I can only say it was a factor in helping me to decide to give up my business and retire early. In my opinion the only sector of the community that has benefited from GST is the accountancy profession. The country just can't get enough of them since GST.

However, I don't think Australians have much to complain about in relation to the IR laws. Watching Australian TV from Thailand at the time of the last election I got the impression that Australians voted with their hip pockets. They put the Liberal-National coalition in power with a majority in both houses of parliament. Apparently they did that because they wanted the supposedly better economy this government brings.

Proponents of both sides of the argument, ie business and workers, are each concerned only with how they can improve or at least maintain their prosperity. There are millions of people in developing countries who are far worse off than anyone in Australia. I have been fortunate enough to travel in south-east Asia and see the lifestyles of people there. Even the most lowly of Australian workers would be at least 200% better off in wages and conditions than the average worker in Thailand. And Thai workers are way ahead of those in countries such as Laos and Cambodia. I have never visited Africa but I would understand that workers in most African countries are less well off than most Asians. If workers and unions here really care about improving the lot of those who are less well off, perhaps they could focus on the conditions of workers in developing countries. When Australian workers start marching in the streets for this cause, I'll be marching with them.

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