Letters to LIFE
reprinted with permission
Update from Austrailia
by Sharon Lee Robertson - Oct 2005
Stalled on book [FailSafe Humanity]- since the Federal Election here a year ago, when the Liberals (far right, economic rationalists) not only acheived a majority in the lower house, but also a Senate majority - which means that the ability of opposing partys to block passage of any bill is completely demolished!
Now - ah, well, first up was the outlawing of non-voluntary Student Unions - second up, new legislation to force all new people registered for Disability Pensions or Supporting Mother's Benefits must go through the 'unemployed' dance - for single Mums -at the time that their youngest child is 6.
NOW - total revamping of the long established Industrial Relations legislation, ordinarily governed by the States. If the States don't come on board however, the Gov't will try to use Corporation's Law - and by the way, require 'sole-traders', like farmers, or business employing anyone to 'incorporate'.
In place of the system of negotiated award rates and 'rules' applying to workers, like the right to holiday pay, meal breaks and the like, there will instead be a system of 'AWA's' - Work Agreements. Individual contracts between the employer and the employee specifying hours, rates of pay, conditions and the like.
Prime Minister says that anyone not liking what's on offer can look elsewhere BUT under the Social Security rules, anyone leaving a job without being fired is denied access to unemployment benefits for something like 6 weeks (or is it 6 months?) and if someone on benefits is offered a job and knocks it back - they are 'breached' (radical reduction in benefit) for some weeks. What I reckon is that is someone unemployed knocks back a contract on offer - that would be deemed a 'refusal' of employment and that would make them ineligible for unemployment benefit.
In the end, however, I think it all needs a 'human rights' challenge - as I thought in the early 90's when the 'Mutual Obligation' stuff got drafted into eligibility for unemployment benefits. I was working as a volunteer with a group unemployed group and at the time also doing a small business course, in which I learned something about 'contract law' - namely, that contracts signed 'under duress' are legally 'null and void'. I reckon that loss of life support (or SIGN!) constitutes 'duress'! Anyway, lost steam. Nothing wrong with my thinking - only talking ain't walking. Problem in the political context - so, back to square one.
Came up with an idea or two, but it sort of falls into the catagory of 'bypass'. Retain the 'democratic' format, but getting new candidates/agendas up. So, the 1:100 notion- 1 "community development worker" per 100 (99) persons living virtually in adjacent houses. Life support would be equivalent to the dole-10 thou a year.
Worker's work: first, simply survey who's there, ages, talents, needs. Then, try to link them into a mutually supportive 'community' - face-to-face. From this base, the new party, the new candidates, the new policies. I think of it as 'by-pass' because the first stages would have to be funded by donations. The 'worker's' would not have a 'contract', they would not receive 'wages' (?gifts) - in effect, an expression of a spiritual commitment to ?humanity?
During this last year as well, the new Administration decided to commit 16Billion of the Surplus to a "Future Fund', to go into the stock market, in order to cover the unfunded liability of the superannuation payouts of public servants.
So, also on my personal agenda - a suggestion that 1.6 Billion ought to be distributed equally to the 673 local governemnts in Australia, for the funding of LOCAL life support establishment , development of both material and social capital infrastructure- again, the FailSafe thinking.
Fuel costs going up and heaps of country towns have no access to public transport - so local purchase of so many LPG fueled buses per x number of local households so supply transport to regionial centres for Dr's, food, etc is a useful application of such a local fund - and really would constitute a "Future Fund', but one that does not depend on how the macro-MARKET fares - besides, would do a lot to help small towns to 'organise' to begin to think of how they can take care of themselves if things go bang!
Tried to make up a flyer at the time, thinking I might just go into Clare 3 times a month to hand them out and 'just talk' to people -but then, notice came that I could have infected teeth out and 'dentures' - extra travel and needing to save pennies - well, that and the bloody awful time I've had trying to work out how to do it on this computer - different software to what I had used previously (in my previous life as an 'activist'!)
But things do seem to be clearing a bit - this 'work reform' thing - the bloody bee-in-my-bonnet has turned into a jetplane breaking the sound barrier - so, have to have another go at it. I do appreciate the contact. Have very little direct contact with anyone who shares my thinking, and in fact have minimal contact with others, full stop! I quite like solitude and enjoy working in my garden etc - as a particular individual.
But a little reflection on the reasons why I became 'stalled' - ah! I have ever only been able to 'work' in a ?public sense when there was someone else in the same 'domain' to relate to. I'm a fairly good 'thinker-through', both 'big picture' and 'small picture' (operational needs)... And that is partly how it was that I ended up a candidate in the 96 Federal Election, and polled 17% of the vote for the Australian Democrats. But I'm hopeless at 'self-promotion'. ... Something that Germaine Greer wrote in the "Female Eunich" - about the only thing I do remember actually - and that was that women should participate in politics and in doing so re-define the political agenda - by bringing the 'feminine' orientation/value set to it. And she didn't mean Maggie Thatcher! No more 'King of the Mountain'. But am also thinking I might write something to send along for the consideration of anyone who might be interested.
I will check out the "Democratising CitizenShip" site - has your government services redefined 'citizens' as 'clients' yet? Consumers? They have done so here for the last decade. A significant linquistic shift I reckon.
Cheers, Sharon Robertson
Email Sharon Lee Robertson or write to her PO Box 36, Koolunga SA 5464,
See Sharon's first letter about her idea for a book: FailSafe Humanity