The Guardian 7 December, 2005

Jackboot Howard
puts the boot into democracy


"Our community campaign does not end with the passage of these IR laws. It intensifies", ACTU President Sharan Burrow stated last Monday. The union movement is planning a long-term campaign to overturn the destructive new WorkChoices industrial relations laws and unseat the Howard Government at the next federal election.

They are "the most far-reaching and destructive changes to workplace laws in our history", said Ms Burrow. The legislation was finally rammed through Parliament last Friday, December 2.

In typical jackbooted fashion, the Howard Government made a mockery of parliamentary procedure and abandoned any semblance of democratic procedure, giving a Senate Committee one week to hold an inquiry into 700 pages of far-reaching, complex and poorly drafted legislation, gagging debate and standing over some of its own MPs to force it through.

There were a large number of mostly unread amendments, none of which seriously altered the content or aims of the bill.

And this week the Government plans to push through 17 more bills with more of the same gag and guillotine democracy, treating Parliament with the same contempt as it did last week. These bills include the one on voluntary student unionism, which the government is having difficulty gaining support for within its own ranks.

Labor Senate Leader Chris Evans, commenting on the 17 bills likened the Government’s treatment of the Senate to a sausage factory.

The terror legislation was expected to be rammed through on Tuesday night this week (after The Guardian goes to press), followed by welfare-to-work bill on Wednesday.

These are major pieces of legislation, which together with the terror laws will have a profound impact on all aspects of the lives of the people of Australia.

The WorkChoices legislation sets the scene for a massive reduction in working conditions and wages, for job insecurity and unsafe workplaces. The aim of the welfare-to-work bill is to cut thousands of people off their disability, parenting or other welfare benefits and force them into the labour market as cheap hostages to employers in competition with other workers and the unemployed.

In accordance with the WorkChoices legislation, they will be forced to accept work on the employers’ terms, on individual contracts that provide no more than the five minimum legislated conditions and minimum wage.

The so-called "anti-terror" laws, with their all-encompassing definition of terrorism and sedition and provisions for indefinite, arbitrary detention without charges and huge fines and jail sentences are there to intimidate and suppress opposition and resistance to the Government’s policies and employer actions.

Law Council hits out at terror laws

The Law Council of Australia has launched a final assault on the Federal Government’s anti-terrorism legislation and its lack of response to the legal profession’s objections to the laws.

Full-page advertisements appeared in newspapers last Monday criticising John Howard’s failure to reply to a Law Council letter condemning the counter-terror laws.

Law Council President John North said, "Our letter, written in early November on behalf of the Australian legal profession, has clearly fallen on deaf ears.

"These advertisements are our way of saying to the Government that the legal profession’s pleas on this important topic require an answer and an explanation", Mr North said.

"The new laws, which will likely impact on the daily lives of every single Australian citizen, are draconian and disproportionate. The legal profession is profoundly disturbed by their introduction", he said.

"The community will be gagged, with public debate potentially stifled. People can be pulled off the street, locked up for 14 days and held without charges being laid.

"As the Law Council states in the advertisement, the Government is capitalising on the threat of terrorism to introduce laws that put our most basic civil rights under threat. What is even more disturbing is the manner in which the Howard Government has gone about ramming these extraordinary laws through Parliament.

"The legal profession believes that the ramifications of these laws have the potential to be as terrifying as terrorism itself. The least Mr Howard could have done was acknowledge our concerns. Instead, they have been brushed aside", Mr North concluded.

See text of letter

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