Table of Contents

MONDAY, JANUARY 4, MORNING SESSIONS

Rebuilding our unions for the fights ahead

Presenters Susan Price and Tim Gooden, National Trade Union Committee
Chair Margaret Gleeson, Brisbane

18. Socialists in the union movement

Moved Susan Price, Sydney East Seconded Tim Gooden, Geelong
Preamble

Role of trade unions

The role of the trade unions is to defend the basic interest of the workers, such as working conditions and wages. Unions have come into being with capitalism itself as working class organisation of resistance to the exploitation workers faced by the bourgeoisie. The existence of unions also highlights a fundamental conflict of class interests inherit in the capitalist mode of production that strives forever for increasing profits at the expense of workers.

Regarding industrial issues, the main tasks facing union militants in the movement are:

  1. To achieve legislative change in favour of workers’ rights through mass campaigns
  2. To fight attacks taking place at individual workplaces
The Rudd government and Industrial Relations
The election of the Rudd Labor government in 2007 on the back of the “Your Rights at Work” campaign and with the promise to rip up the Coalition government’s infamous Work Choices legislation (2005) has not brought any significant change in favour of workers and trade unions.
The ALP’s new industrial relations regime “Fair Work Australia” (FWA) is a continuation of Work Choices with the aim to make unions redundant as representatives and bargaining agents for workers. FWA contains strict limitations on the right to organise, bargain and strike and has failed to restore unfair dismissal provisions to those prevailing before Work Choices. FWA still outlaws industry wide (pattern bargaining).
Under FWA’s process of award modernisation, many awards are being stripped of hard-won conditions and entitlements, clearly putting many employees, especially women, at a disadvantage. All awards must include a ‘flexibility clause’ that allows for individual contracts.
FWA is designed to atomise the work force and isolate trade unions through secondary boycott legislation; is very costly to members and criminalises industrial action through the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).
To date, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has supported FWA.
The notorious Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) continues to exist and persecute building workers like Ark Tribe for refusing to answer questions about industrial action. In 2010 the ABCC will be replaced by a new building industry inspectorate, which will essentially retain many of the coercive powers of the ABCC.
Labor’s plans to harmonise all Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) laws into one set of new laws poses a serious threat to current OHS legalisation in Victoria and New South Wales in particular. The new set of laws is designed to take away some hard-fought-for rights and minimise the power of OHS representatives to make important and potentially life-saving decisions. At the same time negligent bosses get away with murder because of the absence of industrial manslaughter legislation
Global Economic Crisis
The Global Economic Crisis (GEC) has been very effectively used for a range of anti-worker measures by employers and the government. Pressure has been put on individual workers and unions to accept wage restraint, reduce their working days (“down days”) and annual leave—at their own expense. The ACTU has supported the “down-day” model “to save jobs” when in fact this short-sighted measure helps save businesses, not jobs.
There has been minimal resistance to this pressure by most union leaderships due to a combination of their inability to counter the boss’s arguments; their class collaborationist position; their fear of job cuts and their inability to envisage how a militant campaign could win.

Wages and Equal Pay, parental leave

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 1999-2000, the richest 20% of income units received 48.5% per cent of total income. The poorest 20% of income units received less than 4% of total income.

The situation for women is even worse. In May 2009, the Australian Bureau of Statistics calculated that women earn 7.4% less then men for full time employment; in industry sectors this gap can be as large as 30%. Taking into account part-time and casual work, the total gap is actually 35%.
Australia is one of only two OECD countries without some form of paid maternity leave. We have witnessed a back pedalling by the Rudd government on the question of parental leave (citing the Global Economic Crisis), leaving Australian women and parents with a highly inadequate scheme

Minimum wage

The current minimum wage is set at $543.78 a week before tax. On July 7, the Australian Fair Pay Commission (FPC) ruled out a pay increase citing the Global Economic Crisis as the key factor. Adjusting for inflation and a rise in living costs, the “wage freeze” imposed by Harper amounts to a pay cut in real terms for workers.
In its submission to the FPC, the federal government did not advocate an increase in dollar terms but warned that a higher minimum wage increase is likely to encourage higher wage claims and outcomes in workplace bargaining negotiations, and hence flow-on to a greater number of employees.
The federal government was referring to a number of large certified agreements due to expire in 2009 in car manufacturing, construction and the retail sector. It is highly likely that a decent minimum wage increase would also increase the bargaining power of these workers and lead to a better wage outcome.
Unions and the ALP
The Your Rights at Work campaign was rapidly demobilised after Rudd’s election victory in 2007, which weakened the ability to fight Labor’s unfair FWA. Sections of the union movement thought that Labor would get rid of Work Choices. It is only now that Labor’s Fair Work Act is in place that the union movement is beginning to realise how inadequate it is.
Trade unions’ traditional links and affiliations to the ALP have undermined and compromise union leaderships ability and willingness to fight for workers interests. The election of a federal Labor government has put this into a new light.
Most trade union officials are reluctant to criticise the federal ALP and therefore also to mobilise against its industrial relations regime. They do not want to embarrass the party (although this is not always the case at the state level). With some notable exceptions, unions have focused their energy on lobbying politicians with little positive outcome for their members.
In the meantime attacks have continued and intensified, such as against the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) in Victoria. These attacks not only come from the bosses but also government officials and agencies and also other unions.
This union orientation to the ALP, combined with the leaderships’ lack of a strategic view on the way forward, has led to some demoralisation among the more militant officials and union members.
The ACTU has been increasingly exposed as a simple mouthpiece for the ALP.
Union resistance/responses to Rudd
However, tensions between the union movement and Labor governments have grown over the last two years with Rudd’s refusal to break with Howard’s’ anti-worker regime.
At a state level, the NSW and Queensland government’s attempts to privatise public assets has met with some resistance from the union movement. The campaign in Queensland, which has been led by the Electrical Trades Union, has been more broad-based than that in NSW, where it led to a compromise supported by much of the union movement. The decline in the organising strength of unions is being exploited by Labor machines.
We have also seen important struggles take place, such as the National Tertiary Education Union’s fight against federal government attempts to further casualise and privatise the higher education sector. The Victorian CFMEU and AMWU took on construction giant Holland during the “Westgate Bridge” dispute over critical employment standards and the right for those two unions to organise on Holland’s site. The Victorian branch of the AMWU has also successfully fought employer attempts to use Labor’s mandatory “flexibility” arrangements to introduce individual contracts through the back door. The national campaign to abolish the ABCC and drop charges against Ark Tribe is also still continuing.
Militant unionism and independence from ALP
Most workers would today question the value and the point of being affiliated to the ALP if given the chance by their unions. Some unions have cried foul in NSW over government selections of cabinet members etc, and have announced they will not pay party fees. The ETU in Victoria has already started to fund election candidates other than ALP picks. But these moves still fall short of even the limited steps made by some British unions to break with Labor and re-establish a political voice for workers.
Workers are still prepared to take action and follow their union leadership when it leads. Two recent examples in Geelong where workers took action were over the sacking of council workers and at the Geelong Hospital where 24 workers were to be sacked before Christmas. In both case workers walked off the job in wild cat strikes and won their demands within a day or two. It is not always as simple as this but it does demonstrate that where unions lead and train their members action is possible and victory for workers is more often than not the result.
Unionists and climate change
A CSIRO study indicated that 2.7 million jobs could be created in Australia over the next 15 years in any switch to a low-carbon economy and the deployment of renewable energy; and this is a conservative estimate. The majority of union leaderships have, in general, not taken up climate change in a serious way with its members.
Australian Workers Union secretary Paul Howes and CFMEU mining and energy division president Tony Maher are outspoken in their support for the bosses’ and the government’s go-slow agenda on climate change. Howes’ push for a nuclear option as a solution to climate change might well get a hearing amongst many workers.
Yet, while the ACTU as given uncritical support to the Rudd government’s carbon trading scheme (CPRS), many individual union leaders unofficially support green jobs and a transition to renewable energy.
Resolution
  1. The Socialist Alliance recognises the important role socialists play in the trade union movement to defend and extend workers interests and is committed to help build resistance in a range of unions.
  2. The Socialist Alliance recognises the limitations of trade unions vis-a-vis building a working class alternative beyond capitalism. The Socialist Alliance is committed to fight alongside fellow workers for industrial and immediate economic rights plus engage in the political struggle to build consciousness beyond reformism.
  3. As part of this political struggle Socialist Alliance members commit to introduce and support non-industrial issues, such as Indigenous rights, climate change, women’s rights and anti-war – building solidarity with broader sections of the community and also internationally
  4. The Socialist Alliance recognises that the balance of power within the trade union movement favours ALP politics, class-collaboration and narrow national interests. At the same time we recognise that a substantial section of trade union activists either feel betrayed by Labor or are opposed to Labor. The Socialist Alliance is committed to keep working with and strengthening the militant class struggle wing of the union movement.
  5. The Socialist Alliance will actively promote and support actions that contest the legitimacy of Fair Work Australia and support and participate in individual workplace struggles and union campaigns.
  6. The Socialist Alliance recognises the crucial importance of building the climate change movement within unions, both at a policy level, but also at a grass-roots activist level. Our task is to win workers and union leaderships to understand the necessity of taking action on climate change to help this movement win its demands for public ownership, green jobs and sustainable renewable energy.

Building the Socialist Alliance

  1. The Socialist Alliance will continue with its task to build rank-and-file bases in unions to draw rank-and-file activists towards class struggle activism and socialism. We also project to work within unions as officials and to win leadership positions where strategically useful.
  2. The Socialist Alliance is committed to encourage members to get jobs were we can do effective trade union work and help build a class struggle wing, (e.g. education sector).
  3. The Socialist Alliance is committed to continue organising on a union sectoral basis and coordinate our activity on a national level.
  4. The Socialist Alliance pledges to use Green Left Weekly in the trade union movement as a tool to reflect government industrial relations policy, workplace and unions struggles and promote Socialist Alliance solutions.
18a. Foreshadowed addendum to Trade Union Perspectives Resolution—Pay Equity
Moved Margaret Gleeson, Brisbane Seconded Linda Seaborn, Hobart
Preamble: The Gender Gap—International and Australian Context
The Global Gender Gap Report 2009 (World Economic Forum) rated Australia 20 on an international index. behind the Scandinavian countries who came in at 1 to 4, New Zealand 5, Ireland 8 and “developing” countries Lesotho 10 and Sri Lanka 15.
On the critical measure of labour force participation, Australia has fallen from 40 to 50, with the female-to-male ratio stagnating at 0.84.
And on the measure of wage equality for similar work, Australia ranks only 60th in the world.
In November 2009, the Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Employment and Workplace Relations was tabled. It noted the 17% gap between men and women’s pay, as well as a widening gap in workforce participation and access to higher paid positions. ACTU President Sharon Burrows welcomed the report:
“Equity on pay and workforce participation for women will be a top priority for Australian unions over the next 12 months. Unions are undertaking a major industrial campaign with a test case in Fair Work Australia that could lift the pay of workers in the female-dominated social and community services sector by more than $100 a week.
“The committee’s recommendation for gender and equal remuneration principles to be considered when industrial awards are upgraded by Fair Work Australia, including the federal minimum wage case, is a positive step.
“Positive also is the proposal for a pay equity unit within Fair Work Australia to gather data, monitor and investigate equity in pay, conditions and benefits.
“It’s 40 years since the first equal pay test case, yet women still lag well behind men in the Australian workforce,” Ms Burrow said.
Australian Services Union Pay Equity Campaign
In May 2009, Australian Services Union (ASU) members in the Social and Community Services (SACS) Division in Queensland won an historic victory. The successful campaign resulted in a decision being handed down in the Queensland Industrial Commission awarding pay increases of 19% to almost 40% based on the undervaluation of the work in the SACS industry. The Commissioner found that this undervaluing resulted from the perception of the work being an extension of domestic/caring work of women. Women represent over 80% of the workforce in the industry.
A new Federal Award is now being introduced under “Award Modernisation” and the ASU National has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Commonwealth government to pursue a pay equity case under Fair Work Australia based on the Queensland Rates of Pay. As the ASU stated in a media release on the issue:
The Australian Services Union (ASU) and the Australian government have reached an historic agreement which will see the social and community services sector as the test case for pay equity in the new Federal Industrial Relations system.
“This agreement means that the very first national equal remuneration case under the new Fair Work Act will be run by ASU with the support and co-operation of the Australian government.
“This landmark agreement helps to pave the way for the ASU’s successful Queensland pay equity case to flow on to SACS workers across Australia. The case will seek pay rises based on pay equity and work value to support retention of staff and address a chronic skills shortage in the sector by delivering substantial wage rise for the predominately female workforce—87% of SACS workers are women.
“If the remuneration case is successful, a phase-in of enhanced wages and conditions will provide welcome relief to both employees and employers in the sector. Many organisations are struggling with wage rates failing to attract and retain staff.”
“Early indications are that this test case will be bitterly fought by Chamber of Commerce and other interests as they see it as setting the scene for a wages breakout by other sectors of low-paid women workers.
“The ASU is working towards a National Day of Action in May in support of the claim. Campaign Committees are being set up around the country to prepare for the NDA and maximise participation of workers in the industry”.
Resolution
That:
  1. The National Trade Union Committee of the Socialist Alliance facilitate the co-ordination of Socialist Alliance members working in the SACS industry into an ASU Caucus.
  2. The Socialist Alliance branches and members in regional areas support campaigning activity by local ASU campaigning committees, e.g. by distributing printed material, petitions on the Socialist Alliance campaigning stalls, providing forums for discussion etc
  3. Collectives organising activities for International Women’s Day be urged to include pay equity as a demand for IWD 2010 and to have ASU speakers leading the campaign included on platforms for IWD Rallies and Marches around Australia.
CARRIED

18b. Foreshadowed addendum to Trade Union Perspectives Resolution—on Occupational Health and Safety law ‘harmonisation’

Moved Jody Betzien, Melbourne North Seconded Sue Bull, Geelong
The Socialist Alliance believes that the process of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Legislation “harmonisation” initiated by the ALP government is likely to lead to a substantial reduction in health and safety protections for thousands of Australian workers. The review is intended to develop a single “optimal structure and content of a model OHS act” that is capable of being adopted in all jurisdictions, thereby replacing existing State and Territory OHS Acts.
The draft model legislation released in November 2009, undermines key aspects of some existing State and Territory legislation.
The Socialist Alliance believes that all Australian workers should have the same level of OHS protection regardless of the industry and state or territory they work in. However, the harmonisation of OHS system should not leave any worker worse off and must deliver Australian workers the highest standards.
The draft model legislation attacks health and safety rights in the following areas:
a) It complicates and frustrates the rights of occupational health and safety representatives on the job. Their legal liabilities will be increased and there is no guarantee of paid training. Despite the fact that they are volunteers and workplace representatives, bosses will have the right to apply for their removal, and in certain circumstances they may have to front court to pursue OHS claims. The capacity for on the job delegates to identify issues, seek remedy and order a stop work where safety is compromised, is fundamental to ensuring a safe workplace.
b) The onus of proof—which at present falls on the employer—is to be reversed in the proposed legislation. It will be up to prosecutors from Safe Work Australia to prove that employers failed to take reasonable action to prevent a workplace injury or death, rather than the responsibility of bosses to show that they did. By reversing the onus of proof, the draft legislation encourages bosses to frustrate investigations, cover up accidents and stay silent.
c) Unions are critical in enforcing health and safety standards. The proposed regime for Right of Entry under the Model OHS Laws will serve to frustrate site entry by union representatives by creating complicated processes, which will undermine the capacity for union officials to address OHS concerns quickly. In high-risk industries this will cost lives. The 24 hours’ notice will have to be given before inspecting sites or documents related to an OHS breach. This could allow time for a boss to cover up the evidence.
d) Union and Victims’ ability to initiate litigation. The draft legislation means that the power to prosecute breaches of the law rests solely with the regulator. The capacity for unions and victims to prosecute is essential because regulators have proven to rarely pursue prosecutions in “near misses” or breaches that result in non-catastrophic injuries. The NSW and ACT legislation currently allows for private prosecutions. Removal of this right is also inconsistent with the criminal law in most jurisdictions where citizens can prosecute criminal offences. It also serves to handcuff unions from bringing proceedings for breaches under workplace laws.
The capacity for unions to prosecute where the regulator has failed to do so, is essential in deterring employers ignoring OHS considerations.
CARRIED

FURTHER AMENDMENTS MOVED

18c
Moved Susan Price, Sydney East Seconded Tim Gooden, Geelong
Amend the existing text of the resolution as follows:
i. Replace
5 .The Socialist Alliance will actively promote and support actions that contest the legitimacy of Fair Work Australia and support and participate in individual workplace struggles and union campaigns.
with
5. The Socialist Alliance opposes Fair Work Australia and will actively promote and support actions that contest its legitimacy including participating in workplace struggles and union campaigns which work towards the abolition of all anti-worker laws and which strengthen the ability of workers to organise independently.
ii. Add to the end of point 6:
To this end, the Socialist Alliance commits to developing a policy on green jobs before the end of February 2010
iii. Under Building the Socialist Alliance, point 1 replace original text with:
The Socialist Alliance will continue with its task to build rank-and-file bases in unions to draw rank-and-file activists towards class struggle activism and socialism. We also project to provide leadership and rank and file organising within unions as workplace delegates and where strategically useful, to stand as elected officials and to contest leadership positions.
iv. Under Building the Socialist Alliance, point 2, replace original text with:
The Socialist Alliance is committed to encourage members to get jobs were we can do effective trade union work and help build a class struggle wing, (for example in the education sector)
v. Under Building the Socialist Alliance, point 4, replace original text with:
The Socialist Alliance pledges to use Green Left Weekly in the trade union movement as a tool to inform workers and union activists of government industrial relations policy, workplace and unions struggles and in order to promote the solutions put forward by the Socialist Alliance
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
18d
Moved Dave Kerin, Victoria at large Seconded Various
The Socialist Alliance will work towards establishing a Trade Union Training College, initially providing a yearly union summer school.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
18e
Moved Pat Donohoe, Sydney Central Seconded Various
Insert at end of resolution:
The Socialist Alliance will update the Charter of Workers Rights in light of the continuing attacks on working people since the election of the Rudd ALP federal government. We will also prioritise the development of a brief leaflet outlining our class struggle approach to unionism for use in campaigning for the coming federal election.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
18f
Moved Howard Byrnes, Sydney Central Seconded Various
The Socialist Alliance continues its opposition to the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and the task force, and calls for the abolition of all coercive and penal powers over workers. We also condemn the broadening of these powers to other industries and strongly reject the discrimination against honest working people.
Members of the Socialist Alliance commit to arguing for industrial action by unions and their members in the event of any convictions arising out of these unjust powers (including fines and/or imprisonment, e.g. Ark Tribe).
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
18g
Moved John Tognolini, Blue Mountains Seconded Various
That the Socialist Alliance establish a yearly socialist trade union training educational summit, based in Victoria each summer, consisting of talks, lectures, films and workshops on working class politics. Also, that we utilise the technology on the web to broadcast, record and distribute this collective knowledge. It is the goal that this endeavour will lead to the establishment of a permanent socialist trade union college.
WITHDRAWN

RESOLUTION AS AMENDED CARRIED(ADOPTED TEXT FOLLOWS)

Preamble

Role of trade unions

The role of the trade unions is to defend the basic interest of the workers, such as working conditions and wages. Unions have come into being with capitalism itself as working class organisation of resistance to the exploitation workers faced by the bourgeoisie. The existence of unions also highlights a fundamental conflict of class interests inherit in the capitalist mode of production that strives forever for increasing profits at the expense of workers.

Regarding industrial issues, the main tasks facing union militants in the movement are:

  1. To achieve legislative change in favour of workers’ rights through mass campaigns
  2. To fight attacks taking place at individual workplaces
The Rudd government and Industrial Relations
The election of the Rudd Labor government in 2007 on the back of the “Your Rights at Work” campaign and with the promise to rip up the Coalition government’s infamous Work Choices legislation (2005) has not brought any significant change in favour of workers and trade unions.
The ALP’s new industrial relations regime “Fair Work Australia” (FWA) is a continuation of Work Choices with the aim to make unions redundant as representatives and bargaining agents for workers. FWA contains strict limitations on the right to organise, bargain and strike and has failed to restore unfair dismissal provisions to those prevailing before Work Choices. FWA still outlaws industry wide (pattern bargaining).
Under FWA’s process of award modernisation, many awards are being stripped of hard-won conditions and entitlements, clearly putting many employees, especially women, at a disadvantage. All awards must include a ‘flexibility clause’ that allows for individual contracts.
FWA is designed to atomise the work force and isolate trade unions through secondary boycott legislation; is very costly to members and criminalises industrial action through the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).
To date, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has supported FWA.
The notorious Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) continues to exist and persecute building workers like Ark Tribe for refusing to answer questions about industrial action. In 2010 the ABCC will be replaced by a new building industry inspectorate, which will essentially retain many of the coercive powers of the ABCC.
Labor’s plans to harmonise all Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) laws into one set of new laws poses a serious threat to current OHS legalisation in Victoria and New South Wales in particular. The new set of laws is designed to take away some hard-fought-for rights and minimise the power of OHS representatives to make important and potentially life-saving decisions. At the same time negligent bosses get away with murder because of the absence of industrial manslaughter legislation
Global Economic Crisis
The Global Economic Crisis (GEC) has been very effectively used for a range of anti-worker measures by employers and the government. Pressure has been put on individual workers and unions to accept wage restraint, reduce their working days (“down days”) and annual leave—at their own expense. The ACTU has supported the “down-day” model “to save jobs” when in fact this short-sighted measure helps save businesses, not jobs.
There has been minimal resistance to this pressure by most union leaderships due to a combination of their inability to counter the boss’s arguments; their class collaborationist position; their fear of job cuts and their inability to envisage how a militant campaign could win.

Wages and Equal Pay, parental leave

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 1999-2000, the richest 20% of income units received 48.5% per cent of total income. The poorest 20% of income units received less than 4% of total income.

The situation for women is even worse. In May 2009, the Australian Bureau of Statistics calculated that women earn 7.4% less then men for full time employment; in industry sectors this gap can be as large as 30%. Taking into account part-time and casual work, the total gap is actually 35%.
Australia is one of only two OECD countries without some form of paid maternity leave. We have witnessed a back pedalling by the Rudd government on the question of parental leave (citing the Global Economic Crisis), leaving Australian women and parents with a highly inadequate scheme

Minimum wage

The current minimum wage is set at $543.78 a week before tax. On July 7, the Australian Fair Pay Commission (FPC) ruled out a pay increase citing the Global Economic Crisis as the key factor. Adjusting for inflation and a rise in living costs, the “wage freeze” imposed by Harper amounts to a pay cut in real terms for workers.
In its submission to the FPC, the federal government did not advocate an increase in dollar terms but warned that a higher minimum wage increase is likely to encourage higher wage claims and outcomes in workplace bargaining negotiations, and hence flow-on to a greater number of employees.
The Federal government was referring to a number of large certified agreements due to expire in 2009 in car manufacturing, construction and the retail sector. It is highly likely that a decent minimum wage increase would also increase the bargaining power of these workers and lead to a better wage outcome.
Unions and the ALP
The Your Rights at Work campaign was rapidly demobilised after Rudd’s election victory in 2007, which weakened the ability to fight Labor’s unfair FWA. Sections of the union movement thought that Labor would get rid of Work Choices. It is only now that Labor’s Fair Work Act is in place that the union movement is beginning to realise how inadequate it is.
Trade unions’ traditional links and affiliations to the ALP have undermined and compromise union leaderships ability and willingness to fight for workers interests. The election of a federal Labor government has put this into a new light.
Most trade union officials are reluctant to criticise the federal ALP and therefore also to mobilise against its industrial relations regime. They do not want to embarrass the party (although this is not always the case at the state level). With some notable exceptions, unions have focused their energy on lobbying politicians with little positive outcome for their members.
In the meantime attacks have continued and intensified, such as against the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) in Victoria. These attacks not only come from the bosses but also government officials and agencies and also other unions.
This union orientation to the ALP, combined with the leaderships’ lack of a strategic view on the way forward, has led to some demoralisation among the more militant officials and union members.
The ACTU has been increasingly exposed as a simple mouthpiece for the ALP.
Union resistance/responses to Rudd
However, tensions between the union movement and Labor governments have grown over the last two years with Rudd’s refusal to break with Howard’s anti worker regime.
At a state level, the NSW and Queensland government’s attempts to privatise public assets has met with some resistance from the union movement. The campaign in Queensland, which has been led by the Electrical Trades Union, has been more broad-based than that in NSW, where it led to a compromise supported by much of the union movement. The decline in the organising strength of unions is being exploited by Labor machines.
We have also seen important struggles take place, such as the National Tertiary Education Union’s fight against federal government attempts to further casualise and privatise the higher education sector. The Victorian CFMEU and AMWU took on construction giant Holland during the “Westgate Bridge’ dispute over critical employment standards and the right for those two unions to organise on Holland’s site. The Victorian branch of the AMWU has also successfully fought employer attempts to use Labor’s mandatory “flexibility” arrangements to introduce individual contracts through the back door. The national campaign to abolish the ABCC and drop charges against Ark Tribe is also still continuing.
Militant unionism and independence from ALP
Most workers would today question the value and the point of being affiliated to the ALP if given the chance by their unions. Some unions have cried foul in NSW over government selections of cabinet members etc, and have announced they will not pay party fees. The ETU in Victoria has already started to fund election candidates other than ALP picks. But these moves still fall short of even the limited steps made by some British unions to break with Labor and re-establish a political voice for workers.
Workers are still prepared to take action and follow their union leadership when it leads. Two recent examples in Geelong where workers took action were over the sacking of council workers and at the Geelong Hospital where 24 workers were to be sacked before Christmas. In both case workers walked off the job in wild cat strikes and won their demands within a day or two. It is not always as simple as this but it does demonstrate that where unions lead and train their members action is possible and victory for workers is more often than not the result.
Unionists and climate change
A CSIRO study indicated that 2.7 million jobs could be created in Australia over the next 15 years in any switch to a low-carbon economy and the deployment of renewable energy; and this is a conservative estimate. The majority of union leaderships have, in general, not taken up climate change in a serious way with its members.
Australian Workers Union secretary Paul Howes and CFMEU mining and energy division president Tony Maher are outspoken in their support for the bosses’ and the government’s go-slow agenda on climate change. Howes’ push for a nuclear option as a solution to climate change might well get a hearing amongst many workers.
Yet, while the ACTU as given uncritical support to the Rudd government’s carbon trading scheme (CPRS), many individual union leaders unofficially support green jobs and a transition to renewable energy.
Resolution
    1. The Socialist Alliance recognises the important role socialists play in the trade union movement to defend and extend workers interests and is committed help build resistance in a range of unions.
    2. The Socialist Alliance recognises the limitations of trade unions vis-a-vis building a working class alternative beyond capitalism. The Socialist Alliance is committed to fight alongside fellow workers for industrial and immediate economic rights plus engage in the political struggle to build consciousness beyond reformism.
    3. As part of this political struggle the Socialist Alliance members commit to introduce and support non-industrial issues, such as Indigenous rights, climate change, women’s rights and anti-war – building solidarity with broader sections of the community and also internationally
    4. The Socialist Alliance recognises that the balance of power within the trade union movement favours ALP politics, class-collaboration and narrow national interests. At the same time we recognise that a substantial section of trade union activists either feel betrayed by Labor or are opposed to Labor. The Socialist Alliance is committed to keep working with and strengthening the militant class struggle wing of the union movement.
    5. The Socialist Alliance opposes Fair Work Australia and will actively promote and support actions that contest its legitimacy including participating in workplace struggles and union campaigns which work towards the abolition of all anti-worker laws and which strengthen the ability of workers to organise independently.
    6. The Socialist Alliance continues its opposition to the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and the task force, and calls for the abolition of all coercive and penal powers over workers. We also condemn the broadening of these powers to other industries and strongly reject the discrimination against honest working people.
    7. Members of the Socialist Alliance commit to arguing for industrial action by unions and their members in the event of any convictions arising out of these unjust powers (including fines and/or imprisonment, e.g. Ark Tribe).
    8. The Socialist Alliance recognises the crucial importance of building the climate change movement within unions, both at a policy level, but also at a grass-roots activist level. Our task is to win workers and union leaderships to understand the necessity of taking action on climate change to help this movement win its demands for public ownership, green jobs and sustainable renewable energy. To this end, The Socialist Alliance commits to developing a policy on green jobs before the end of February 2010.
    9. The Socialist Alliance will work towards establishing a Trade Union Training College, initially providing a yearly union summer school.

Building the Socialist Alliance

  1. The Socialist Alliance will continue with its task to build rank-and-file bases in unions to draw rank-and-file activists towards class struggle activism and socialism. We also project to provide leadership and rank and file organising within unions as workplace delegates and where strategically useful, to stand as elected officials and to contest leadership positions
  2. The Socialist Alliance is committed to encourage members to get jobs were we can do effective trade union work and help build a class struggle wing, (for example in the education sector)
  3. The Socialist Alliance is committed to continue organising on a union sectoral basis and coordinate our activity on a national level
  4. The Socialist Alliance pledges to use Green Left Weekly in the trade union movement as a tool to inform workers and union activists of government industrial relations policy, workplace and unions struggles and in order to promote the solutions put forward by the Socialist Alliance.
  5. The Socialist Alliance will update the Charter of Workers Rights in light of the continuing attacks on working people since the election of the Rudd ALP federal government. We will also prioritise the development of a brief leaflet outlining our class struggle approach to unionism for use in campaigning for the coming federal election.
Pay equity campaign
    1. The National Trade Union Committee of the Socialist Alliance will facilitate the co-ordination of the Socialist Alliance members working in the Social and Community Services (SACS) industry into an Australian Services Union (ASU) Caucus.
    2. The Socialist Alliance branches and members in regional areas will support campaigning activity by local ASU campaigning committees, e.g. by distributing printed material, petitions on the Socialist Alliance campaigning stalls, providing forums for discussion etc
    3. Collectives organising activities for International Women’s Day are urged to include pay equity as a demand for IWD 2010 and to have ASU speakers leading the campaign included on platforms for IWD Rallies and Marches around Australia.
Occupational Health and Safety law ‘harmonisation’
The Socialist Alliance believes that the process of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Legislation “harmonisation” initiated by the ALP government is likely to lead to a substantial reduction in health and safety protections for thousands of Australian workers. The review is intended to develop a single “optimal structure and content of a model OHS act” that is capable of being adopted in all jurisdictions, thereby replacing existing State and Territory OHS Acts.
The draft model legislation released in November 2009, undermines key aspects of some existing State and Territory legislation.
The Socialist Alliance believes that all Australian workers should have the same level of OHS protection regardless of the industry and State or Territory they work in. However the harmonised of OHS system should not leave any worker worse off and must deliver Australian workers the highest standards.
The draft model legislation attacks health and safety rights in the following areas:
a) It complicates and frustrates the rights of occupational health and safety representatives on the job. Their legal liabilities will be increased and there is no guarantee of paid training. Despite the fact that they are volunteers and workplace representatives, bosses will have the right to apply for their removal, and in certain circumstances they may have to front court to pursue OHS claims. The capacity for on the job delegates to identify issues, seek remedy and order a stop work where safety is compromised, is fundamental to ensuring a safe workplace.
b) The onus of proof—which at present falls on the employer—is to be reversed in the proposed legislation. It will be up to prosecutors from Safe Work Australia to prove that employers failed to take reasonable action to prevent a workplace injury or death, rather than the responsibility of bosses to show that they did. By reversing the onus of proof, the draft legislation encourages bosses to frustrate investigations, cover up accidents and stay silent.
c) Unions are critical in enforcing health and safety standards. The proposed regime for Right of Entry under the Model OHS Laws will serve to frustrate site entry by union representatives by creating complicated processes, which will undermine the capacity for union officials to address OHS concerns quickly. In high-risk industries this will cost lives. The 24 hours’ notice will have to be given before inspecting sites or documents related to an OHS breach. This could allow time for a boss to cover up the evidence.
d) Union and victims’ ability to initiate litigation. The draft legislation means that the power to prosecute breaches of the law rests solely with the regulator. The capacity for unions and victims to prosecute is essential because regulators have proven to rarely pursue prosecutions in “near misses” or breaches that result in non-catastrophic injuries. The NSW and ACT legislation currently allows for private prosecutions. Removal of this right is also inconsistent with the criminal law in most jurisdictions where citizens can prosecute criminal offences. It also serves to handcuff unions from bringing proceedings for breaches under workplace laws.
The capacity for unions to prosecute where the regulator has failed to do so is essential in deterring employers ignoring OHS considerations.

EXTRAORDINARY RESOLUTION

Solidarity Greetings to Ark Tribe

Moved Sue Bull, Geelong Seconded Margarita Windisch, Melbourne West
To Ark,
The 7th National Conference of the Socialist Alliance held in Sydney on Jan 2-5, 2010 sends solidarity greetings in appreciation of your courageous struggle against the unjust ABCC laws.
Your fight against the attempts by governments and bosses to weaken the union movement provides inspiration to all workers.
We stand with you in this struggle and our members commit to follow your lead and continue the fight until the charges against you have been dropped and the laws abolished. We will be helping to build rallies to support your case and calling on all of our comrades and work mates to join the struggle.
We support your motto borrowed from Che Guevara: “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.”
All the best, comrade.

19. Paid parental leave

Moved Susan Price, Sydney East Seconded Margaret Gleeson, Brisbane
This conference:
  1. Reaffirms that Paid Parental Leave (PPL) is an industrial entitlement for women, which should be funded by employers and not a welfare measure funded by tax payers.
  2. Replaces each reference to “paid maternity leave” with “paid parental leave”, in recognition that such leave should be extended to the primary carer, whether female or not, and whether that person has given birth to or adopted a child.
  3. Reaffirms our call for a fund to be legislated and managed publicly, which employers pay into according to a sliding scale and according to the number of employees regardless of sex.
  4. Resolves that:
  5. the current The Socialist Alliance policy of 12 months PPL be extended to a legislated period of two years to enable sharing of leave between parents if they wish, establishment of breastfeeding patterns, recovery from birth and adequate care of the child/ren.
  6. Any PPL scheme contain an additional period of leave up to three months for the non-birth parent on a use it or lose it basis, which can be taken in conjunction with leave by the primary carer or separately, either in a block or in shorter periods over two years.
  7. a PPL scheme be fully portable for workers across the workforce.
  8. eligibility for PPL not be dependent on length of time in the workforce or with any individual employer.
  9. Such a scheme protects the right for parents to:
      1. full income maintenance;
      2. return to their jobs with no loss in job security, permanency or classification for a period of five years from the date at which PPL is taken;
      3. return to work part time or to access other flexible work arrangements if they wish for a defined period of up to five years;
      4. continuity of service and the continuing accrual of all entitlements such as long service leave, severance, recreation and sick leave while on PPL;
      5. superannuation entitlements that are maintained at the rate payable to the employee at the time of taking PPL or better;
      6. be consulted about any changes in the workplace while on PPL.
  10. While recognising that both parents should have access to PPL, any scheme should protect a woman’s choice in deciding when to commence PPL leave and how long to take it for, with respect to it being shared with a partner, and to their physical recovery from birth, which may differ from woman to woman. Women must not be forced to stay at work longer than necessary prior to the birth of a child or return to work any earlier than necessary after the birth of a child.
  11. In addition to PPL, all workers should have legislated access to Carers Leave as a separate entitlement to sick leave, adequate to the needs of parents and children, and parents should not have to dip into sick, recreation or long service leave to care for children and other family members (within a broad definition of “family”).
  12. The PPL scheme currently proposed by the Rudd government is a taxpayer-funded welfare scheme, guaranteeing only the minimum wage, with no employer top ups to income or superannuation legislated. As such this scheme does not maintain the level of income of employees prior to them accessing PPL. The scheme is also not transportable, and has eligibility requirements, which make it out of reach of a significant number of women in particular and parents in general.
  13. However, while this current scheme falls way short of the kind of scheme required to ensure women’s full participation in the workforce and their access to PPL, we call for the immediate implementation of the proposed PPL scheme which has been delayed since the recommendations of the Productivity Commission, but we commit to continuing to campaign for the kind of scheme outlined above.
CARRIED

Building the socialist movement among young people

Guest presenter Sivaranjani Manickam, Socialist Party of Malaysia
Presenters Ben Peterson, Perth and Tim Dobson, Hobart
Chair Paola Harvey, Illawarra

20. Resolution on youth policy

Moved Jess Moore, Illawarra Seconded Dominic Hale, Brisbane
NOTE: Moved on behalf of the Resistance National Executive Secretariat
Young people occupy a unique position in society. They face both formal and informal discrimination, as well as disproportionate social and political exclusion. They are often the first to be hit by, and are more affected by, homelessness and the housing crisis, violence, poverty, social exclusion, attacks on workers and students and other social problems.
But young people have the power to play a radicalising and explosive role in the struggle for a better world and it is from them that the socialist movement and the Socialist Alliance will be strengthened and renewed.
As such, the Socialist Alliance seeks to involve young people in the struggle for socialism.
To this end, the Socialist Alliance recognises the importance of the socialist youth organisation and affiliate Resistance. As an independent youth organisation, Resistance plays a specific and complimentary role in the struggle for socialism. It enables young people to work together and lead struggles around their own demands wherever these struggles take place, to acquire political and organisational responsibility and experience and learn their own lessons.
As such the Socialist Alliance is committed to working with and building Resistance among young people by:
  • Discussing youth work on The Socialist Alliance leadership bodies;
  • Collaborating with Resistance to work out initiatives, priorities and how we use our combined resources; and
  • Supporting and working closely with Resistance members to assist in their political development.
Young people should have access to the decisions that affect their lives. They should have opportunities to reach their full potential, free from exploitation, oppression and discrimination.
To this end, the Socialist Alliance also stands for:
1) A political voice for young people
No political process can be truly democratic without the direct input of young people.
The Socialist Alliance calls for the lowering of the voting age to 16, to give greater formal equality to young people. At 16, young people are considered old enough to pay taxes. However, they are currently excluded from having any say in how that money is spent.
To fully combat the formal and informal discrimination faced by young people however, the self-organisation and mobilisation of young people themselves is needed. To this end, The Socialist Alliance stands for the provision of resources to democratically-controlled organisations of young people for young people. These resources should be provided directly to young people and organisations they control, and used to whatever ends these organisations see fit.
2) Affordable and accessible housing
Housing is a basic human right. Yet, the housing crisis affects thousands of people across Australia, and young people are among the worst affected. Indeed, youth homelessness is a major problem in Australia, with 44,500 young people going homeless every night, according to a 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics report.
But all people should have access to affordable and accessible housing. And addressing the problem of youth homelessness and the housing crisis among the young will have to be part of a broader solution to housing. The Socialist Alliance housing policy can be found at __http://www.socialist-alliance. org/page.php?page=208__.
3) Mental wellbeing for young people
About 75% of diagnosed mental health problems occur before the age of 25. These mental health problems, including depression, are a major factor in a decision to commit suicide.
The Socialist Alliance calls for adequate funding for mental health services. This should include establishing specific multi-disciplinary youth mental health teams that cover the 16-24 year age range, to work across community youth and adult mental health services and across inpatient and community services. This already exists in some areas, for example EPPIC and Orygen youth health services in Melbourne. They are very effective at providing early intervention, assisting young people with mental health issues and preventing the development of chronic mental illness.
Without dedicated teams like this, early intervention does not happen in a generalised way. Mental health services are busy dealing with people who are very unwell, and turn young people away if they don’t present as too serious. Young people who do end up being admitted into hospital are often discharged with no follow-up care. A dedicated team could intervene before or during their hospital admission, and provided education and support during and after their discharge. Young people would be able to manage better and have a better chance of avoiding further admissions and episodes and of avoiding suicide and self-harm. Peer support workers and group programs also need to be funded and supported to this end.
The Socialist Alliance also stands for well-funded social awareness campaigns to raise understanding of the common mental illnesses, to break down stigma, improve understanding of what to watch out for and where to seek help, and assist with integrating people with mental illnesses into workplaces and communities.
4) A universal, free, quality secular education system
The vast majority of people engaged in formal education are young people. Thus, it is young people who will largely be affected by the dismantling of the public education system. And it is young people who will be the main actor in struggle for change in education, for a universal, free, quality secular education system, open to all those who need and want it.
The Socialist Alliance education policy can be found at __http://www.socialist-alliance. org/page.php?page=195__.
5) Public space for young people
Very little public space and few public activities exist for young people. They are largely limited to spaces and activities that they must individually purchase, such as organised sport or music lessons and equipment. So for most young people, this means limited or no access based on what is being provided.
Free, publicly-provided spaces need a massive injection of funding. These spaces should be determined and directed by young people, to give young people access to fulfilling activities, such as skate parks, graffiti walls and youth centres.
6) A safe climate future
Climate change will have a huge impact on the lives of all young people. They will face the consequences from decisions not of their making. However, young people are playing a leading role in the struggle for a safe climate future, helping to build a mass environment movement strong enough to win.
The full list of the Socialist Alliance’s environment and climate change policies can be found at __http://www.socialist-alliance. org/page.php?page=190__
7) An end to violence and discrimination
Young people experience greater alienation as a result of discrimination and social and political exclusion. This discrimination does not only affect young people as young people, but among them. Discrimination that already exists in society is more intense among the young who are under increased pressure to “fit in”. Overt racism, sexism and homophobia, for example, are heightened among young people. Violence – that takes many different forms - is a direct product of this and it is the vulnerable who suffer most, such as young women, LGBTI people, and non-Anglo people.
We reject “law and order” solutions to youth violence. Jailing or punishing young people won’t stop or reduce violence because it doesn’t deal with the reasons it exists. We support educational campaigns but recognise that they aren’t, by themselves, enough. So too, must governments stop applying discriminatory policies that lay the social basis for violence and discrimination to occur. So all discriminatory laws must be repealed whether they apply to women, migrants, Aborigines, queers, international students etc.
Ultimately, however, the broader problem of alienation under capitalism, caused by the separation of people from the decisions that affect their lives and the socially owned products of their work, must be addressed, to put an end to violence and discrimination.
8) Newstart and Youth Allowance
Newstart and Youth Allowance benefits should be raised to a living wage, well above the poverty line. Age should not affect payments and the age of independence test should be lowered to 16 years, the age at which a young person can move away from home. No young person in Australia should have to live in poverty while they are looking for work or while they are studying.
This policy must be combined with government creation of satisfying jobs at a living wage, available for all.
9) Satisfying jobs at a living wage
Youth unemployment and underemployment is a structural problem of the capitalist economy. The percentage of unemployed young people sits at about double the rate of the rest of the population at any given time. Those young people who can find work are largely employed in casual, insecure and low-paid jobs. These factors ensure that young people are less likely to look for work and have a major impact on young people’s standard of living and ability to afford basic necessities.
That young workers are currently disadvantaged comes, in part, from the lack of organisation in their workplaces. The Socialist Alliance believes that unions should pay special attention to involving young people in their unions and also play a role in ensuring that wage justice is achieved for young people.
If the market is unable to provide young people with work and a living wage, the government should step in and provide socially useful jobs for young people on full pay. For example, the biggest problem we face is the climate crisis. The government should implement a sustainability plan that creates jobs to meet the needs of communities and makes an inhabitable planet possible.
The Socialist Alliance also stands for an end to youth pay rates. Youth wages mean that young people get paid less for doing the same of work.
10) Scrap ‘Earn or Learn’
In May 2009, PM Kevin Rudd announced “earn or learn”, a policy that all Australian youth under the age of 21 would be denied Youth Allowance and unemployment benefits unless they are in school or in full-time vocational training.
The Socialist Alliance rejects this as discriminatory and recognises that this threat of poverty will not benefit young people. Rather, it is a strategy that blames young people for the failings of the capitalist economy, and trains them for a role in the system that is not of their choosing. “Earn or learn” restricts the freedom of young people to make decisions for themselves. It places thousands of disadvantaged youth in an untenable position.
It also fails to tackle the fundamental causes of youth unemployment: homelessness and domestic problems, alienation, discrimination, mental illness, lack of rights at work and lack of jobs.

AMENDMENTS MOVED

20a
Moved Ewan Saunders, Brisbane Seconded Jess Moore, Illawarra
To replace point 5
Public space and activities for youth people
with
Inadequate public space infrastructure and activities exists to support the needs of young people. They are largely limited to activities and use of spaces that they must pay for or where they are the targets of aggressive corporate marketing. Even cultural events are used by corporations to positively project their brands at young people. The limited communal spaces that can be used by young people are, in large part, commercial spaces that encourage consumerism and commodity art or co-opt youth culture for commercial gain.
In order to create and participate in their own independent youth culture, public spaces, infrastructure and activities must be created, funded and made available to young people. This must happen independently to corporate sponsorship, be initiated and controlled democratically by young people and their organisations.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
20b
Moved Ewan Saunders, Brisbane Seconded Dominic Hale, Brisbane
Add to point (9) Satisfying jobs at a living wage, the words:
The employment situation of youth is amongst the worst of any social group in capitalist society. Coupled with discriminatory and unliveable youth wages is the systematic violation of the employment rights of young people. Tis includes abuse and intimidation, provision of false information about work rights, unpaid training and overtime, illegal pay rates and docking of pay, and unsafe working environments. Working life of young people should be a national scandal.
Young people need stronger union representation, particularly in the retail and services sectors. The Socialist Alliance fights for the rights of youth at work, active and strong support for young workers by unions, the independent organisation of youth to defend and extend their rights, and strong sanctions on employers who violate young people’s rights at work.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
20c
Moved Ewan Saunders, Brisbane Seconded Jess Moore, Illawarra
Add to the bottom of point 7 An End to Violence and Discrimination:
The social pressures experienced by LGBTI youth hold particular significance reflected in the terrible statistic that LGTBI youth are 14 times more likely to commit suicide than non-LGBTI youth. One third of homeless youth are queer, and face life on the streets due to family prejudices and structures promoted by capitalism.
The Socialist Alliance recognises the heightened suffering and distress experienced by youth coming to terms with not being heterosexual in a capitalist system, that holds heterosexuality as the only natural and normal sexual preference.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER

RESOLUTION AS AMENDED CARRIED (ADOPTED TEXT BELOW)

Young people occupy a unique position in society. They face both formal and informal discrimination, as well as disproportionate social and political exclusion. They are often the first to be hit by, and are more affected by, homelessness and the housing crisis, violence, poverty, social exclusion, attacks on workers and students and other social problems.
But young people have the power to play a radicalising and explosive role in the struggle for a better world and it is from them that the socialist movement and the Socialist Alliance will be strengthened and renewed.
As such, the Socialist Alliance seeks to involve young people in the struggle for socialism.
To this end, the Socialist Alliance recognises the importance of the socialist youth organisation and affiliate Resistance. As an independent youth organisation, Resistance plays a specific and complimentary role in the struggle for socialism. It enables young people to work together and lead struggles around their own demands wherever these struggles take place, to acquire political and organisational responsibility and experience and learn their own lessons.
As such the Socialist Alliance is committed to working with and building Resistance among young people by:
  • Discussing youth work on the Socialist Alliance leadership bodies;
  • Collaborating with Resistance to work out initiatives, priorities and how we use our combined resources;
  • Supporting and working closely with Resistance members to assist in their political development; and
  • Encouraging Resistance members to join and get active in the Socialist Alliance
Young people should have access to the decisions that affect their lives. They should have opportunities to reach their full potential, free from exploitation, oppression and discrimination.
To this end, the Socialist Alliance also stands for:
1) A political voice for young people
No political process can be truly democratic without the direct input of young people.
The Socialist Alliance calls for the lowering of the voting age to 16, to give greater formal equality to young people. At 16, young people are considered old enough to pay taxes. However, they are currently excluded from having any say in how that money is spent.
To fully combat the formal and informal discrimination faced by young people however, the self-organisation and mobilisation of young people themselves is needed. To this end, the Socialist Alliance stands for the provision of resources to democratically-controlled organisations of young people for young people. These resources should be provided directly to young people and organisations they control, and used to whatever ends these organisations see fit.
2) Affordable and accessible housing
Housing is a basic human right. Yet, the housing crisis affects thousands of people across Australia, and young people are among the worst affected. Indeed, youth homelessness is a major problem in Australia, with 44,500 young people going homeless every night, according to a 2006 Australian Bureau of Statistics report.
But all people should have access to affordable and accessible housing. And addressing the problem of youth homelessness and the housing crisis among the young will have to be part of a broader solution to housing. The Socialist Alliance housing policy can be found at __http://www.socialist-alliance. org/page.php?page=208__.
3) Mental wellbeing for young people
About 75% of diagnosed mental health problems occur before the age of 25. These mental health problems, including depression, are a major factor in a decision to commit suicide.
The Socialist Alliance calls for adequate funding for mental health services. This should include establishing specific multi-disciplinary youth mental health teams that cover the 16-24 year age range, to work across community youth and adult mental health services and across inpatient and community services. This already exists in some areas, for example EPPIC and Orygen youth health services in Melbourne. They are very effective at providing early intervention, assisting young people with mental health issues and preventing the development of chronic mental illness.
Without dedicated teams like this, early intervention does not happen in a generalised way. Mental health services are busy dealing with people who are very unwell, and turn young people away if they don’t present as too serious. Young people who do end up being admitted into hospital are often discharged with no follow-up care. A dedicated team could intervene before or during their hospital admission, and provided education and support during and after their discharge. Young people would be able to manage better and have a better chance of avoiding further admissions and episodes and of avoiding suicide and self-harm. Peer support workers and group programs also need to be funded and supported to this end.
The Socialist Alliance also stands for well-funded social awareness campaigns to raise understanding of the common mental illnesses, to break down stigma, improve understanding of what to watch out for and where to seek help, and assist with integrating people with mental illnesses into workplaces and communities.
4) A universal, free, quality secular education system
The vast majority of people engaged in formal education are young people. Thus, it is young people who will largely be affected by the dismantling of the public education system. And it is young people who will be the main actor in struggle for change in education, for a universal, free, quality secular education system, open to all those who need and want it.
The Socialist Alliance education policy can be found at __http://www.socialist-alliance. org/page.php?page=195__.
5) Public space for young people
Inadequate public space infrastructure and activities exists to support the needs of young people. They are largely limited to activities and use of spaces that they must pay for or where they are the targets of aggressive corporate marketing. Even cultural events are used by corporations to positively project their brands at young people. The limited communal spaces that can be used by young people are, in large part, commercial spaces that encourage consumerism and commodity art or co-opt youth culture for commercial gain.
In order to create and participate in their own independent youth culture, public spaces, infrastructure and activities must be created, funded and made available to young people. This must happen independently to corporate sponsorship, be initiated and controlled democratically by young people and their organisations.
6) A safe climate future
Climate change will have a huge impact on the lives of all young people. They will face the consequences from decisions not of their making. However, young people are playing a leading role in the struggle for a safe climate future, helping to build a mass environment movement strong enough to win.
The full list of the Socialist Alliance’s environment and climate change policies can be found at __http://www.socialist-alliance. org/page.php?page=190__
7) An end to violence and discrimination
Young people experience greater alienation as a result of discrimination and social and political exclusion. This discrimination does not only affect young people as young people, but among them. Discrimination that already exists in society is more intense among the young who are under increased pressure to “fit in”. Overt racism, sexism and homophobia, for example, are heightened among young people. Violence – that takes many different forms - is a direct product of this and it is the vulnerable who suffer most, such as young women, LGBTI people, and non-Anglo people.
The social pressures experienced by LGBTI youth hold particular significance reflected in the terrible statistic that LGTBI youth are 14 times more likely to commit suicide than non-LGBTI youth. One third of homeless youth are queer, and face life on the streets due to family prejudices and structures promoted by capitalism.
The Socialist Alliance recognises the heightened suffering and distress experienced by youth coming to terms with not being heterosexual in a capitalist system, that holds heterosexuality as the only natural and normal sexual preference.
We reject “law and order” solutions to youth violence. Jailing or punishing young people won’t stop or reduce violence because it doesn’t deal with the reasons it exists. We support educational campaigns but recognise that they aren’t, by themselves, enough. So too, must governments stop applying discriminatory policies that lay the social basis for violence and discrimination to occur. So all discriminatory laws must be repealed whether they apply to women, migrants, Aborigines, queers, international students etc.
Ultimately, however, the broader problem of alienation under capitalism, caused by the separation of people from the decisions that affect their lives and the socially owned products of their work, must be addressed, to put an end to violence and discrimination.
8) Newstart and Youth Allowance
Newstart and Youth Allowance benefits should be raised to a living wage, well above the poverty line. Age should not affect payments and the age of independence test should be lowered to 16 years, the age at which a young person can move away from home. No young person in Australia should have to live in poverty while they are looking for work or while they are studying.
This policy must be combined with government creation of satisfying jobs at a living wage, available for all.
9) Satisfying jobs at a living wage
Youth unemployment and underemployment is a structural problem of the capitalist economy. The percentage of unemployed young people sits at about double the rate of the rest of the population at any given time. Those young people who can find work are largely employed in casual, insecure and low-paid jobs. These factors ensure that young people are less likely to look for work and have a major impact on young people’s standard of living and ability to afford basic necessities.
That young workers are currently disadvantaged comes, in part, from the lack of organisation in their workplaces. The Socialist Alliance believes that unions should pay special attention to involving young people in their unions and also play a role in ensuring that wage justice is achieved for young people.
If the market is unable to provide young people with work and a living wage, the government should step in and provide socially useful jobs for young people on full pay. For example, the biggest problem we face is the climate crisis. The government should implement a sustainability plan that creates jobs to meet the needs of communities and makes an inhabitable planet possible.
The Socialist Alliance also stands for an end to youth pay rates. Youth wages mean that young people get paid less for doing the same of work.
The employment situation of youth is amongst the worst of any social group in capitalist society. Coupled with discriminatory and unliveable youth wages is the systematic violation of the employment rights of young people. Tis includes abuse and intimidation, provision of false information about work rights, unpaid training and overtime, illegal pay rates and docking of pay, and unsafe working environments. Working life of young people should be a national scandal.
Young people need stronger union representation, particularly in the retail and services sectors. The Socialist Alliance fights for the rights of youth at work, active and strong support for young workers by unions, the independent organisation of youth to defend and extend their rights, and strong sanctions on employers who violate young people’s rights at work.
10) Scrap ‘Earn or Learn’
In May 2009, PM Kevin Rudd announced “earn or learn”, a policy that all Australian youth under the age of 21 would be denied Youth Allowance and unemployment benefits unless they are in school or in full-time vocational training.
The Socialist Alliance rejects this as discriminatory and recognises that this threat of poverty will not benefit young people. Rather, it is a strategy that blames young people for the failings of the capitalist economy, and trains them for a role in the system that is not of their choosing. “Earn or learn” restricts the freedom of young people to make decisions for themselves. It places thousands of disadvantaged youth in an untenable position.
It also fails to tackle the fundamental causes of youth unemployment: homelessness and domestic problems, alienation, discrimination, mental illness, lack of rights at work and lack of jobs.

Refugee rights and internationalism

Guest speakers Sara Nathan and Sam Pari (activists from the Sydney Tamil community)
Presenter Sue Bolton, Melbourne North
Chair Jay Fletcher, Illawarra

21. Draft refugee, asylum seeker and immigration rights policy

Moved Sue Bolton, Melbourne North Seconded Various
Preamble
Australia’s immigration policy should be non-discriminatory on the grounds of nationality, ethnic origin, religion, language, gender, disability, sexuality, age, socio-economic background or skills.
Australia has a humanitarian and legal obligation to accept refugees.
Most refugees do not want to leave their homes. If measures were taken to stop global warming, if rich nations didn’t send troops to invade poor nations, and if rich nations stopped backing dictatorships or governments which are occupying another people’s land, then the number of refugees in the world would be far smaller. If multinationals stopped destroying local economies in developing nations, then the number of economic refugees would be far smaller.
Policy
1) End the policy of mandatory detention, close all detention centres, and free all asylum seekers imprisoned within them. Allow asylum seekers to live in the community while their claims are being processed.
2) Abolish the concept of a “safe third country” which is used to screen out those who would otherwise be assessed as refugees.
3) Return Christmas Island, Ashmore and Cartier islands, and Cocos (Keeling) islands to Australia’s migration zone.
4) Establish a category of complementary protection for those not found to be refugees under the UNHCR definition, but who face persecution if they were to be returned to the country they fled from.
5) End all deportations of asylum seekers.
6) Immediately restore the annual refugee resettlement quota to at least its pre-1990s level of 20,000.
7) Immediately resettle all UNHCR-assessed refugees stranded in Indonesia and Malaysia, neither of which is a signatory to the UN refugee convention.
8) End the deals with the Indonesian, Malaysian and Sri Lankan governments to stop refugees coming to Australia under the guise of “stopping people smuggling”.
9) Recognise as grounds for refugee status gay and lesbian discrimination and violence against women, where the government in question condones or permits it.
10) Institute a program for accepting climate, especially from countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
11) Expand the definition of refugee to include people fleeing economic hardship e.g. where Australian multinationals have destroyed the environment that people depend on for their economic livelihood.
12) No biometric testing of asylum seekers.
13) Establish contact with asylum seekers who have been deported by previous governments to assess whether they are still at risk and in need of asylum.
14) Abolish the Refugee Review Tribunal; replace with a fully independent merits review tribunal for refugees to appeal against adverse decisions.
15) Restore access to all levels of judicial appeal; allow adverse decisions to be appealed on matters of substance as well as matters of law.
16) Extend and ensure adequate funding for specialist services for settlement, including assistance with recognition of skills.
15) Equal access for asylum seekers to the full range of social security, health, housing, transport, education and employment services as other Australians. Access to post-trauma counselling for asylum seekers.
16) Free and widely-available English classes for all migrants and refugees.
17) Full citizenship rights, including the right to vote, for all migrants and refugees.
18) Abolish the pro-business points system which favours skilled and wealthy business migrants.
19) Abolish the requirement for sponsors to pay an up-front bond.
20) Abolish the two-year waiting period for new migrants to access social security payments.
21) End unequal treatment for gay men, lesbians and transgendered people in immigration; recognition of same-sex relationships.
22) Withdraw the requirement to pass a health checkup in order to get a visa.
22) Give preference to places for migrants from poor countries, especially countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
23) Abolish all family reunion waiting lists, and remove the quota restriction so that partners, siblings, parents and extended families can be reunited in Australia if they choose. End deportations that are likely to result in families being split up.
24) Ensure that no family unit is forcibly separated by Australian immigration assessment processes.
25) End policy of deporting permanent residents who have committed a crime after served their sentence.
26) Abolish the citizenship test.
27) Abolish 457 visas and allow workers who come to Australia temporarily or permanently to have all the full rights of citizenship.
28) End practice where the immigration department automatically rejects the majority of visitor visa applications from people in Third World countries.

AMENDMENTS MOVED

21a
Moved Sue Bolton, Melbourne North Seconded Various
Replace existing draft with:
  1. End the Liberal and Labor bipartisan policy of keeping refugees out of Australia under the guise of attacking “people smuggling” and “border security”. Ending this policy would include the following measures:
  • Abolish the concept of a “safe third country” which is used to screen out those who would otherwise be assessed as refugees.
  • Return Christmas Island, Ashmore and Cartier islands and Cocos (Keeling) islands to Australia’s migration zone.
  • Immediately resettle all UNHCR-assessed refugees stranded in Indonesia and Malaysia, neither of which is a signatory to the UN refugee convention
  • End the deals with the Indonesian, Malaysian and Sri Lankan governments to stop refugees coming to Australia under the guise of “stopping people smuggling”.
  1. End the policy of mandatory detention, close all detention centres and free all asylum seekers imprisoned within them. Allow asylum seekers to live in the community while their claims are being processed.
  2. Establish a category of complementary protection for those not found to be refugees under the UNHCR definition, but who face persecution if they were to be returned to the country they fled from.
  3. End all deportations of asylum seekers
  4. Immediately restore the annual refugee resettlement quota to at least its pre-1990s level of 20,000.
  5. Recognise as grounds for refugee status gay and lesbian discrimination and violence against women, where the government in question condones or permits it.
  6. Institute a program for accepting climate refugees, especially from countries in the Asia Pacific region
  7. Expand the definition of refugee to include people fleeing economic hardship e.g., where Australian multinationals have destroyed the environment that people depend on for their economic livelihood.
  8. No biometric testing of asylum seekers.
  9. Establish contact with asylum seekers who have been deported by previous governments to assess whether they are still at risk and in need of asylum.
  10. Abolish the Refugee Review Tribunal; replace with a fully independent merits review tribunal for refugees to appeal against adverse decisions.
  11. Restore access to all levels of judicial appeal; allow adverse decisions to be appealed on matters of substance as well as matters of law.
  12. Extend and ensure adequate funding for specialist services for settlement, including assistance with recognition of skills.
  13. Equal access for asylum seekers to the full range of social security, health, housing, transport, education and employment services as other Australians. Access to post-trauma counselling for asylum seekers.
  14. Free and widely-available English classes for all migrants and refugees.
  15. Abolish the pro-business points system which favours skilled and wealthy migrants.
  16. Abolish the requirement for sponsors to pay an up-front bond.
  17. Abolish the two-year waiting period for new migrants to access social security payments.
  18. End unequal treatment for gay men, lesbians and transgendered people in immigration; recognition of same-sex relationships.
  19. Withdraw the requirement to pass a health check-up in order to get a visa.
  20. Give preference to places for migrants from poor countries, especially countries in the Asia Pacific region.
  21. Abolish all family reunion waiting lists and remove the quota restriction so that partners, siblings, parents and extended families can be reunited in Australia if they choose. End deportations that are likely to result in families being split up.
  22. Ensure that no family unit is forcibly separated by Australian immigration assessment processes.
  23. End policy of deporting permanent residents who have committed a crime after serving their sentence.
  24. Abolish the citizenship test.
  25. Abolish the 457 visas and allow workers who come to Australia temporarily or permanently to have the full rights of citizenship.
  26. End practice where the immigration department automatically rejects the majority of visitor visa applications from people in Third World countries.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
21b
Moved Rachel Evans, Sydney West Seconded Conor Montgomery, Sydney West
Introduce following rewordings:
10) Institute a program for accepting climate refugees, especially from countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
6) Mention trans people and intersex people
19) Replace transgender with trans people and include intersex
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
21c
Moved Dominic Hale, Brisbane Seconded Patrick Harrison, Illawarra
Add at end of point 6:
immediately restore...excluding the need for any future increases due to climate refugees.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER
21d
Moved Sue Bolton, Melbourne North Seconded Dominic Hale, Brisbane
Add to point 7:
Institute a program for accepting climate refugees, especially from countries in the Asia Pacific region.
Add at the end:
and that this program not result in any reduction in the number of humanitarian refugees.
ACCEPTED BY MOVER

RESOLUTION AS AMENDED CARRIED (ADOPTED TEXT BELOW)

  1. End the Liberal and Labor bipartisan policy of keeping refugees out of Australia under the guise of attacking “people smuggling” and “border security”. Ending this policy would include the following measures:
    1. Abolish the concept of a “safe third country” which is used to screen out those who would otherwise be assessed as refugees;
    2. Return Christmas Island, Ashmore and Cartier islands and Cocos (Keeling) islands to Australia’s migration zone;
    3. Immediately resettle all UNHCR-assessed refugees stranded in Indonesia and Malaysia, neither of which is a signatory to the UN refugee convention;
    4. End the deals with the Indonesian, Malaysian and Sri Lankan governments to stop refugees coming to Australia under the guise of “stopping people smuggling”.
  2. End the policy of mandatory detention, close all detention centres and free all asylum seekers imprisoned within them. Allow asylum seekers to live in the community while their claims are being processed.
  3. Establish a category of complementary protection for those not found to be refugees under the UNHCR definition, but who face persecution if they were to be returned to the country they fled from.
  4. End all deportations of asylum seekers
  5. Immediately restore the annual refugee resettlement quota to at least its pre-1990s level of 20,000.
  6. Recognise as grounds for refugee status gay and lesbian discrimination, discrimination against trans people and intersex people and violence against women, where the government in question condones or permits it.
  7. Institute a program for accepting climate refugees, especially from countries in the Asia Pacific region, and that this program not result in any reduction in the number of humanitarian refugees.
  8. Expand the definition of refugee to include people fleeing economic hardship e.g., where Australian multinationals have destroyed the environment that people depend on for their economic livelihood.
  9. No biometric testing of asylum seekers
  10. Establish contact with asylum seekers who have been deported by previous governments to assess whether they are still at risk and in need of asylum
  11. Abolish the Refugee Review Tribunal; replace with a fully independent merits review tribunal for refugees to appeal against adverse decisions.
  12. Restore access to all levels of judicial appeal; allow adverse decisions to be appealed on matters of substance as well as matters of law.
  13. Extend and ensure adequate funding for specialist services for settlement, including assistance with recognition of skills
  14. Equal access for asylum seekers to the full range of social security, health, housing, transport, education and employment services as other Australians. Access to post-trauma counselling for asylum seekers
  15. Free and widely-available English classes for all migrants and refugees
  16. Abolish the pro-business points system which favours skilled and wealthy migrants.
  17. Abolish the requirement for sponsors to pay an up-front bond.
  18. Abolish the two-year waiting period for new migrants to access social security payments.
  19. End unequal treatment for gay men, lesbians, trans people and intersex people in immigration; recognition of same-sex relationships.
  20. Withdraw the requirement to pass a health check-up in order to get a visa.
  21. Give preference to places for migrants from poor countries, especially countries in the Asia Pacific region.
  22. Abolish all family reunion waiting lists and remove the quota restriction so that partners, siblings, parents and extended families can be reunited in Australia if they choose. End deportations that are likely to result in families being split up.
  23. Ensure that no family unit is forcibly separated by Australian immigration assessment processes.
  24. End policy of deporting permanent residents who have committed a crime after serving their sentence.
  25. Abolish the citizenship test.
  26. Abolish the 457 visas and allow workers who come to Australia temporarily or permanently to have the full rights of citizenship.
  27. End practice where the immigration department automatically rejects the majority of visitor visa applications from people in Third World countries.

22. On immigration

Moved Chair Seconded Matt Garner
NOTE Resolution from Garry Hill (New England), who was unable to attend conference
Immigration and refuge are not the solution to massive social problems and mass migration and increasing population poses threats to the environment, to social stability, living standards and democracy. Preserving our environment must have priority. If people are put first there will be massive environmental destruction which means misery, famine and destitution. The likely outcome of that situation will be a massive gain in support and credibility for right-wing extremists and a corresponding loss for the left if it makes immigration expansion an integral part of its program. The right and repressive regimes also will gain if immigration can serve as an outlet for their discontented: why should anyone fight for anything when their living standards can soar by coming to Australia?
LOST