30 January 2012

Move along. Nothing to see here.

It is now clear that Tony Hodges, Prime Minister Gillard's now former Media Adviser, rang  UnionsACT secretary Kim Sattler on Thursday 26 January. Ms Sattler is quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying:

"I spoke to Tony Hodges on the phone. He mentioned that Tony Abbott had made a statement about the embassy, that it shouldn't exist at all, ... I do now accept that wasn't what was Tony Abbott said."

The same day ("Australia Day") Ms Sattler according to the Herald Sun posted this statement on her Facebook page:
"Tony Abbott just announced the Tent Embassy should be closed down and a huge crowd from the Embassy went to greet him and he had to be rushed away with a police escort!"
On Saturday 28 The Prime Minister is quoted in the Sunday Telegraph as saying:

"At no point did Mr Hodges say to Ms Sattler that Mr Abbott had suggested that the tent embassy be torn down or removed in any way,"

Ms Sattler says Mr Hodges told her that Tony Abbott had said the tent embassy shouldn't exist at all. The Prime Minister says that at no point had Hodges made any such suggestion.  So is the Prime Minister or is Ms Sattler lying to us about what Mr Hodges said to Ms Sattler?

I understand that Ms Sattler has now changed her version of events so she is now not seen to be contradicting her leader. Ms Sattler's Facebook site has also now been removed from public scrutiny. That's better message management Prime Minister. There may be still a few loose ends to tuck in about this but the press won't press the point. Umm.. was Ms Sattler lying before or is he lying now?

What is clear is that nobody involved in protesting at the Lobby Restaurant in Canberra on Australia Day bothered or cared enough to listen to what Tony Abbott actually said in Sydney that morning about the aboriginal tent embassy:

“Look, I can understand why the tent embassy was established all those years ago. I think a lot has changed for the better since then. We had the historic apology just a few years ago, one of the genuine achievements of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister. We had the proposal, which is currently for national consideration, to recognise indigenous people in the constitution. I think the indigenous people of Australia can be very proud of the respect in which they are held by every Australian, and, yes, I think a lot’s changed since then and I think it probably is time to move on from that.”

The facts? Who cares about facts in the Press Gallery and the ALP when there are potential political points to be scored against bogeyman Tony Abbott at a bipartisan emergency workers' bravery awards ceremony in Canberra on Australia Day?

And how is it that the Prime Minister apparently did not know about Tony Hodge's phone call on Thursday afternoon to Kim Sattler, 'till late on Friday evening? The PM's office appears to have conceded that Tony Hodges told the PM's senior media adviser on Thursday evening about his phone call to Kim Sattler at the Tent Embassy earlier that day? Surely the Prime Minister was told that her own office was implicated in fostering the protest event at which she was put in peril. It's not as if the protest and the PM's rescue from it wasn't getting full media coverage around Australia and internationally on the telly on Thursday evening.
The Prime Minister probably now agrees with the Leader of the Opposition's original suggestion: "it probably is time to move on from that". Nothing to see here.

10 January 2012

To employ or to contract?

It is heartening to potentially see emerging to legitimacy in contemporary polemics the notion that employment, with all its attendant rights and long term benefits for the employed, may not be an optimal relationship for the encouragement and fostering of success and prosperity in small business.

This article, "The Growth Agenda - the Self Employment Option" by Dr Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute advocates for "all small and medium enterprises to treat their workers as self-employed people under contract". He argues that "employers could take on extra people on a self employed basis without imposing any additional burden on themselves".

This argument strikes me intuitively as quite compelling. Inevitably any discussion of possible changes to the existing structures for workers' rights can provoke unnecessarily over emotional responses from the entrenched conservatism of trade unions and their enablers in protecting prevailing guild privileges, but in principle this idea seems to have a lot to recommend it, if the frame of reference is for the well being and prosperity of the whole economy, not just the quite specific sectional interests of large employer and large employee associations.

It is interesting to observe the UK Conservative government potentially entertaining such a far reaching reform, whilst at the same time the Australian Labor government seems intent on discrimination against out-sourcing and independent contracting by encouraging the taxation system to create heavy disincentives to contractors who might further threaten the long term drop in the numbers of workers who join trade unions.

This looks like yet another example of how the allegedly "progressive" side of politics is "regressive" in reinforcing authoritarian legal rigidities, whilst the allegedly "conservative" side of politics is  "progressive" in advocating for increased freedoms and flexibility in labour markets.

It seems, in Australia at least, to continue to support the "progressive" side of politics, is, ironically, to be an enabler of the preservation of institutional inflexibilitiy in existing workplace relationships and against the interests of a dynamic and flexible workplace environment susceptible to change and progress in overall societal prosperity.