By Senator Christine Milne, Leader of the Australian Greens
How do we build an economic system that serves the needs of people and nature, both for today and for tomorrow?
The economy is a tool; a tool we humans invented – like democracy and politics – to help govern our relationships between each other, and between ourselves and the world we live in. If our economic tools are not getting the outcomes we want, making us happy, safe, healthy, better educated and fulfilled and protecting and preparing our country for an increasingly uncertain future in a world on track to be 4 degrees warmer, then it is time our economic tools changed.
January marks two years since the introduction of Fair Work Australia, the body established by Labor to replace the industrial relations system of Work- Choices. It is now up for review. Unsurprisingly, this has led to a growing chorus of business voices claiming problems, from mounting paperwork to falling productivity and rapidly rising wages.
In fact, there is little evidence of spiralling wages. The latest Bureau of Statistics figures show wage rises slowing last year. Labour productivity may be lower than in the 1990s, but this trend was worse under WorkChoices.
It is important to see Fair Work in a broader context. For most of the last century, Australia was one of the most equal countries in the developed world, despite comparatively low taxes. More than most other countries, Australia sought to achieve a ‘fair go’ through wages, rather than welfare. Our governments sought to ensure we had enough to begin with, rather than giving us more at the end.
Since the 1970s, the processes of globalisation and deregulation have placed greater strains on the way Australian governments traditionally achieved equity. While today unemployment is low by international standards, at about 5 per cent, it is higher than at virtually any time between 1950 and 1975. And during the past 30 years the proportion of national income going to workers as wages has consistently fallen
Legislation to allow all shops to open on Boxing Day could face a tough time in the NSW Upper House, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
('Boxing Day trading ban lifted for smaller stores', Sydney Morning Herald, 28 March 2012, p. 4, http://j.mp/GXoFYT)
Merging NSW's three state-owned wires and poles companies will not address the causes of power bill increases and will lead to massive job losses and more blackouts, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye. ('O'Farrell
Government to merge state's electricity distributors', Sunday Telegraph, 18 March 2012, http://j.mp/wpkYsY)
An internal document shows that NSW Minister for Resources and Energy Chris Hartcher personally intervened to suspend 22 Work Safety criminal prosecutions. He was joined in this by the Attorney General and Minister for Finance. The intervention has been described as baseless and inappropriate by Greens Justice spokesperson David Shoebridge who is calling for the immediate resumption of prosecutions.
Internal police documents produced to the NSW Upper House show that there are advanced plans by the O'Farrell government to amalgamate between 20 and 30 local area commands and cut up to 150 senior police from the NSW police force.
Greens Senator and spokesperson for women Lee Rhiannon today congratulated all those who have campaigned so hard over decades to achieve Fair Work Australia's decision today on equal pay for community workers.
The Shooters Party and Fred Nile have sold out NSW Police, striking a last
minute deal with the O'Farrell government to pass the government's
contentious Police death and disability legislation in the NSW Upper House,
according to Greens NSW Police spokesperson David Shoebridge.
"The modest amendments proposed by Fred Nile and the Shooters Party mean
that the O'Farrell government's attack on police death and disability
benefits remains little changed.
"The government's legislation delivers a low-cost and unfair scheme that
will leave seriously injured police paying the price for their service to
"Police deserve better than this. Slashing benefits will not make the job
any safer or reduce the number of injuries suffered by police.
Greens MP Jamie Parker today delivered a passionate speech to the NSW parliament, opposing the O'Farrell Government's drastic cuts to police death and disability compensation.
"A slashing of benefits should not be the Government's first step to reduce the cost to society of compensating injured police," Mr Parker said.
"Neither this Government nor the previous Government has taken any concrete steps to reduce the number of police suffering from injury.
"The Government has a responsibility to consult and negotiate with the Police Association to find new ways to deal with injured police and to ensure that police officers with a psychological injury are treated with respect.
"To date, 85 per cent of police officers who exit out of this scheme remain unemployed. These people are not shirkers and they are not rorting the system. They are genuinely injured police with seriously disabling injuries, 85 per cent of whom cannot find a job after they leave the Police Force.
The major parties have shown themselves to be disinterested in stemming university staff cuts by voting down a Greens motion that calls for an increase in public funding by 10 percent for government supported university students, said Greens Senator for NSW and higher education spokesperson Lee Rhiannon (motion below).
"The government is turning its back on university staff and students. Without extra funding there is a strong risk that the quality of teaching will suffer," Senator Rhiannon said.
"The Greens motion called for little more than an honouring of recommendations of the independent Bradley review, at an estimated cost of $500 million.
"The Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans has responded to news of widespread job cuts by painting a picture of a sector flush with funds.
"This is an insult to the teachers and staff at universities who have for decades done more with less.