Innovation Australia

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					       Innovation Australia
 Report on behalf of the trade union delegates to
 Concordia and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions


WHILE visiting Australia for two weeks, it became self evident to the union

delegation with Concordia, that the local labour movement was embroiled in a

major battle with the Federal Government and its recently introduced Industrial

Relations laws.

The Liberal (Conservative) Government had introduced new draconian

legislation at the beginning of April and its effects in the Australian workplace

were having an immediate impact.

It was certainly a bad news day everyday for the Federal Government as

unscrupulous employers were tearing up existing agreements and sacking and

re-hiring employees on individual contracts with a worsening of terms and


Under the new legislation, a company with less than 100 employees can sack its

staff without giving a reason. A larger company can offer „operational reasons‟

for dismissing workers without being subject to unfair dismissal laws.

The first noticeable sign of trouble erupted in the first week with abattoir

workers in Cowra, Queensland, being sacked and offered their old jobs back

with their wages cut by a third. It made immediate headlines and the Federal

Government Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews had to personally

step in and say although not acting illegally, the company was acting in an unfair

and unpopular manner. The workers were re-instated.
The Cowra incident was then followed by a number of headline grabbing stories

– construction workers in Melbourne were docked four hours pay for stopping

work for 15 minutes to collect money for the family of a colleague killed on their

site. Under the legislation the workers were docked for taking „unprotected

industrial action under the new legislation.

The employer said the company was forced to dock his employees pay otherwise

the company could itself suffer sanctions or be fined $A30,000 if it did not

penalise the workers.

A Construction Forestry Mining Engineering Union shop steward said workers

did not blame the employer, which had been directed to dock the pay by the

building industry task force, and was protecting itself against fines or losing

future government contracts.

This was then followed by 70 field technicians with telecommunications giant

Optus, in Melbourne, being sacked and told to re-apply for their posts as

independent contractors on lower wages and conditions.

The Australian Congress of Trade Unions which had been coordinating action

against the previous incidents, immediately called for protests outside the Optus

retail stores and offices. To date the Optus workers look set to lose out.

Each day, while we were in Australia, even the neo-conservative run press

picked up on the human misery and labelled the new laws as Dickensian.

One writer from the Sydney Morning Herald wrote: “Reading the newspapers

has been like flipping through the pages of Hard Times or Bleak House. Get
Lionel Bart to add music, and the whole thing could give Oliver Twist a run for

its money.”

The same commentator highlighted the case of the 70 coalminers in Queensland.

They arrived at a new job, only to find the accommodation was infested with

fleas and feral cats, and built atop an overflowing septic tank which had

contaminated the site.

They refused to work until the fleas and cats were removed and the flow of raw

sewage staunched - a process which took three days.

For this act of unreasonable self-regard and luxury-seeking, the Government's

Office of Workplace Services has been suing these 70 workers for $A20,000 each

in fines for unlawful industrial action; with their union fined $A100,000.

This case then forced the Federal Government to back off and drop the case, no

doubt disliking the glare of bad publicity.

It was also revealed that a partner of one of the law firms hired by the

Australian Government to write the new industrial relations laws recently

admitted that 'protections' under the laws for employee rights such as penalty

rates are just 'smoke and mirrors'.

Freehills partner Anthony Longland was speaking recently to a Sydney Law

Finance Conference. His comments were reported in the on-line news service

Workplace Express.

Mr Longland is reported stating that award provisions such as penalty rates for

shift work, overtime, weekend and public holiday work were 'protected but not
protected' because they could be abolished by the employer if they were

specifically over-ridden by a WorkChoices agreement.

Mr Longland also warned employers that unless they use the new workplace

laws to cut labour costs and abolish penalty rates a competitor might gain an

advantage by getting in first. "They might be able to get a significant advantage

over you in terms of labour costs" he reportedly said.

This advice was keenly taken up by one employer, when one newspaper reported

that a 16-year-old juice bar work had her pay cut by $A40 a day for a Sunday

shift and was placed on a new individual contract.

The ACTU has been sending out warning signals for more than a year that this

new legislation would have a major impact on worsening industrial relations and

has committed itself to get them repealed.

The ACTU is spearheading the opposition with its „Your Rights At Work‟

campaign but even it admits it is a fire limitation exercise and until the Federal

Government is voted out then workers and unions are placed in a precarious


The impact of such draconian legislation is a major fight for the Australian

trade union movement but given the examples we encountered on our visit, of

Globalisation and its rapid impact across the world this is a campaign for us all.

The working world is becoming a global village and the trade union movement

must oppose laws such as those in Australia. Governments and multinationals

will, if unchecked ,seek to impose the lowest employment rights that maximise

profits. If this becomes established in one continent how long before others try it.
We in the ICTU and TUC have had historical experiences of repressive and

divisive Trade Union Legislation . It essential that we lend our full support

through the International Trade Union Movement ,including the UN and the

ILO ,to the ACTU in their campaign to remove this legislation .

As a footnote, even the police union got involved at its national conference by

voting not to use water cannons against workers engaged in industrial disputes.

                (The following    report was a daily diary of events)

Hong Kong visit summary


Concordia delegates met with the British Consulate’s Deputy Consulate General,

Adam Noble and Cecilia Chan, Assistant Trade Commissioner; Simon Galpin,

Associate Director-General of Invest Hong Kong and Cheryl Wilson, Manager,

Business and Professional Services; Wynne Kam, Manager, Education Partnerships,

for the British Council; Hong Kong Police Inspector, David Shephard; and Dr Joyce

Forsythe, Director of University of Ulster Office, Hong Kong.

The guest speakers extolled the virtues of Hong Kong since the transfer of authority to

the Chinese Government. The majority of speakers spoke of the different aspects of

their own agenda, but the central theme was that Hong Kong was a strategic base for

mainland Chinese and foreign companies to use for their Chinese and Asian

operations, while Dr Forsythe spoke of her role as a student recruiting agent for the

University of Ulster.
Concordia delegates meet with their Hong Kong hosts

The Concordia delegation learned that Hong Kong, with its heavily-based British

influence on law, ‘democracy’ and language, was the perfect starting point to gain

access to mainland China’s business community through the use of government or

private enterprise facilitators.

Like Ireland, Hong Kong’s manufacturing base is of little consequence in the global

marketplace and now relies heavily on financial sector and information technology-

based industries.

The delegates also learned that 1,000 new mainland Chinese companies have moved

into the area to capture a slice of China’s growing industrial strength and the tax free

benefits on offer, and to use it as a springboard to the wider world marketplace.

On the Social Services aspect of Hong Kong, delegates were told that a mandatory

provident fund (pensions) was launched in 2005 for workers aged between 18-65,

with employees and employers each contributing 5% each (capped).

Although there is a free health service, this is limited, and private health care cover is

a must to recover the costs of serious illnesses.

Educational places at Hong Kong’s two universities are capped at 14,500, so many

students travel abroad to continue in higher education, for instance 16,000 students

(aged 25 and under) are educated in British schools.
The technical colleges have modernised and are now geared-up to train skilled

workers needed to service the infrastructure, such as plumbers, electricians etc.


We recognise that Hong Kong strategically is uniquely placed to benefit from its past

links with Britain and its new connection to China. But what benefits could the trade

union movement learn from Hong Kong’s economic model if based in the Ireland as


The union delegates felt that Ireland could set up a structure for finance, law and

information technology companies to use the island, north and south, with low tax

inducements to make it a gateway to Europe and American market.

But, the fear would be that many small-sized companies would slip under the existing

labour legislations of both countries to promote anti-union workplaces and even de-

recognition (as is happening in many software and computer companies now).

If the British and Irish Governments did act in unison to incorporate tax-free

enterprise zones, then the unions involved in recruiting in these specific sectors would

have to have legislation in place for worker representation guaranteed as a quid pro

quo for any tax-free inducements.

With China’s growing industrial muscle, the delegation felt that the IDA and Invest

Northern Ireland should set up their stall permanently in the Hong Kong area to

search out the mainland Chinese companies who wish to expand in Europe and


One plus, on the educational aspect of the talks, was that while the technical colleges

were readjusting their roles to meet the technical skills to keep Hong Kong building

infrastructure running at full speed, there were no teacher job losses.
Brisbane Technology Park and Kelvin Grove Urban Village

and Queensland University of Technology (Creative

Industries Precinct)


During the visit to Brisbane Technology Park delegates were hosted by Peter Glasby,

Manager, Technology and Commercialisation; Michele Robinson, Internal

Collaborations; Paul Russell, Information Industries Bureau Representative; and

Rowan Gilmore, CEO Australian Institute for Commercialisation.

At Kelvin Grove delegates met with Director of Creative Industries Precinct, Prof

Peter Lavery of QUT; Prof Jeff Jones, CEO, Australasian Centre for Interactive

Design; Steve Copplin, CEO, Creative Industries Precinct Pty Ltd; Kate Maeyrick,

General Manager, Homery Institute; and Kaye Petherick, Kelvin Grove Urban


At the Brisbane Technology Park, a presentation was given on Queensland’s Smart

State Strategy, a 10-year programme which began in 2005.

The Smart State strategy is founded on Innovation (R&D, commercialisation, skilled

and multilingual workforce); Skills (education and training, technology diffusion);

Economic fundamentals (industry efficiency, regulatory reform, low business costs,

sustainable development, capital infrastructure and sound fiscal environment). These,

the project coordinators believe, will lead to increased productivity, improved

services, quality of life, sustainability, higher wagers, economic growth, better

standard of living and more job opportunities.
This joint federal and state government and local councils venture is to work with

Australian industry and research organisations to maximise the returns from the

country’s investment in R&D and innovation.

This kick-start drive for economic growth is linked via knowledge and creativity with

a view to the long term development of Queensland State.

Fearing their own history of boom and bust cycles that hits the region’s mining,

manufacturing, tourism and agricultural-based industries, the governing authorities

recognised the shortcomings in its own backyard with the lack of investment from

private companies into supporting innovative industries.

Concordia delegates learned that via public funding for initial start up programmes,

the Australian Institute for Commercialisation, a national not-for-profit company

actively promotes commercialisation policies and assisting industry and research

organisations with practical initiatives.

The selection process for starting up new innovative business at the technology park

is a high cost /risk venture. Although the mentoring and guidance process for the

initial stages of any new development is supported by established businesses who

offer free advice.

But, the main thrust is to get the business research and development process off the

ground before opening the doors and releasing the fledgling company into the wider

world to meet up with potential venture capitalists where it will either succeed or fail.

With established businesses in the growing technology park environment adopting the

Smart State philosophy it creates a cluster of networks that also helps the fledgling

The spin-off from this is that the besides traditional industries benefiting, education

and social welfare programmes, such as affordable modern housing and student

accommodation to rent, is also drawn into the innovation net, as witnessed at the

Kelvin Grove Urban Village development.

What we learned from the speakers at both the technology park and the Kelvin Grove

Urban Village development was a ‘we can do’ approach that permeates every

government department involved in the Smart State project.

Of course, the Smart State strategy does make mistakes, but there is flexibility in the

system to address and correct these immediately at whatever level, and it doesn’t

seem to be affected by an overburdening bureaucracy.

The Kelvin Grove initiative is centred on one of the two Smart Academies being built.

Here senior students who excel in creative arts will be based, while the second will

cover science and maths based at Griffith University. The projects will allow fast

track students to undertake university subjects or work with industry to combine –

career-based and university level studies.

The intention is to work closely with industry partners and established arts


At the QUT site a new village is being erected on a brown field plot (a former army

barracks, close to the university’s existing buildings) where new housing (private and

council owned and student accommodation), retail and recreational facilities and

university extensions are undergoing construction.

It is a social engineering programme of the highest calibre which is trying to establish

a new integrated community of students, householders (private and rental) and


The union delegations view on the two-day visit is that although the shared vision by

all the participants in the Smart State project, although to complex to go into finite

detail, is commendable but it, in our view is only a starting point.

It was clear from the outset that this was a Public Private Partnership, and it

became patently obvious that with the recently enacted Industrial Relations laws,

this strategy was a cold house for labour unions.

While the drive and optimism in going forward in partnership with both government

and private industry funding for future development of the state is a formula that

should be developed in Ireland – it should be recognised that going forward without

the trade union and voluntary community sector involved, will in turn lead to feeling

of disassociation and discontent.

It was decided by the union delegation to ask when attending the Sydney presentation

by the New South Wales Department of States and Regional Department, what the

role of the unions had in these ‘Smart’ structures?

NSW Dept of State and Regional Development

Meeting with Public Service Association


Concordia met with Ms Caroline Seagrove, Acting Director Innovation Technology;

Mr Phillip Armbuster, Manager Primex, NSW Dept of Primary Industries; Darrell

Williamson, CEO, Smart Internet Technology CRC; Dr Mark Bradley, CEO, ATPi

Australian Technology Park Innovations Pty Ltd; Peter Holden, Manager, National &
Industry Initiatives Centre for Learning Innovation, NSW Dept of Education and

Training; Mr Kevin Healey, Director Research and Development IAH Sales Ltd.

Later in the afternoon the group went to visit the Centre of Autonomous Systems,

Australian Centre for Field Robotics, hosted by Dr Nigel Price.

 ICTU delegates meeting with PSA representatives – (l-r) Brendan

Mackin; John Cahill; Bob Miller; Sue Walsh; Steve Turner and

Kevin McAdam.

The union delegation met separately with the Public Service Association officials for

New South Wales – John Cahill, General Secretary; Sue Walsh, President; David

Carey, Federal Secretary Community and Public Sector Union (SPSF Group); Steve

Turner, Associate General Secretary; and Maurice O’Sullivan, former General

Secretary and President for PSA.

Prior to the morning session, the union grouping asked the NSW officials what role

the unions had in this ‘smart’ strategy between government and business, but NSW

officials shyly backed off and simply said there was no role to play for labour


Concordia also learned that the NSW ‘smart’ strategy programme is a 7-year rolling

cycle - a duplication of the Queensland model - but more sophisticated and with a lot

more hard-hitting business partners.

The main union group left the NSW government session and met up with the PSA

delegates, while UTU delegate Audrey Stewart met with teaching associates.
            There was an exchange with the PSA group who outlined the new

            Thatcher-like Industrial Relations laws in Australia and they would affect

            workers’ rights and how their union was preparing to oppose how them.

            The ICTU delegation related their own personal experiences of how the

Thatcher laws had affected the UK and union membership.

The PSA confirmed our fears that there was no provision for trade union inclusion in

the ‘smart’ initiatives being driven by the Queensland and NSW governments.

The ICTU group gave an outline of Concordia and its history of working as a social

partnership as part of the peace process. This greatly interested our Australian

colleagues and further dialogue and information exchange was agreed.

The ICTU delegation also invited David Carey to address the Belfast May Day rally,

on May 6, to detail the IR laws and how the union movement in Australia were

defending members’ rights.

UTU president Audrey Stewart (right)

meets Kathy Deacon New South

Wales Teachers Federation

Meanwhile, Audrey Stewart, President of the Ulster Teachers’ Union met with Kathy

Deacon and Angelo Gavrielatos from the NSW Teachers Federation.

A number of issues of common interest were discussed, with finance being top of the


A visit to two multicultural primary schools, Wiley Park and Lakemba Public Schools

then took place. The UTU President learned that many of the pupils were refugees
from war-torn countries suffering from trauma which added to behavioural problems

to language difficulties. She also discovered how the pupils, for whom English is a

second language, are supported and the help they receive in the local communities.

The Australian teaching unions are also lobbying the state and federal governments

for further funding to help deal with the increase of pupil numbers who are in need of

special assistance.

The UTU President was surprised to find that the Australian unions looked closely to

what is happening in education in the UK and valued the information gained very


Diageo - Huntingwood and Bondi Junction


Concordia visited a non-union bottling and cannery plant in Huntingwood and looked

at how new technological advances were helping production. The union delegates

learned how ‘work smarter’ techniques were involved on the shop floor where

workers, to ease their labour, worked in teams to solve technical problems!

In the afternoon the group were treated to the companies view on innovation which

was in essence ‘product development’. We also learned how Diageo was co-operating

with community organisations on safer drinking campaigns.

Concordia delegates visiting the Diageo plant in

Visit to Latrobe City in Gippsland District of

Victoria State


Concordia delegation met with the executive team of Latrobe City – Mayor Lisa

Price; Paul Buckley, Chief Executive; Tim Johnston, General Manager Corporate

Service; Peggy Stevenson, General Manager City Services; Leonie Solomon-Green,

the Koorie Liaison Officer; David Shelton, Regional Manager VicRoads; Chief

Inspector Ron Cooke; and Valerie Callister, regional Director of Victoria Human


Visit to lignite mine and power stations – Graham Yuell, CEO, at International

Power’s Hazelwood lignite and power station’ Neil Lawson, Public Affairs; Luke Van

Der Meulen, President of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union ; and

John Parker of the CFMAEU (both union delegates were also representatives of the

Gippsland Labour and Trades Union Council).

The day ended with visit to the Gippsland Education Precinct, at Churchill – Harry

Baliss, CEO.

Latrobe City Council officials with

the Concordia delegates
Concordia heard of the council’s perspective on having to deal with regional

economic depression and a declining population of skilled workers following the

privatisation of the lignite-fuelled power stations in the district.

The Concordia delegates also learned how the council’s instigated a programme of

initiatives dealing with the aftermath of once having 10,000 employees reduced to

2,500 involved in the state’s power industry. The council also had to deal with an

enforced restructuring programme of local government at the same time which meant

the labour run council had to adopt competitive tendering policies for key services.

Concordia learned that despite this double-whammy the council were able to

successfully bid for 95% of the contract bids.

It was also interesting to note that out of a population of 70,000, comprising of four

main townships, each of the nine wards had only one elected councillor. With the

proposed restructuring of local councils in Northern Ireland under the Review of

Public Administration there were interesting lessons to be learned.

The key point is that the reduction in councillors meant for speedier and more flexible

business management techniques in running the councils. Once the policy of the

council had been decided the implementation of its policies was directed upfront by

its CEO.

Concordia also learned that Latrobe City Council had a forward-thinking approach to

engaging in community politics, information and consultation.
(From l-r) Dr Ian Graham, CBI, Bob Miller, ICTU,

John Parker of the CFMAEU; Brendan Mackin

(ICTU); Luke Van Der Meulen, President of the

Gippsland CFMEU; Kevin McAdam, ICTU;

and Frank Bryan ,CBI.

The union and CBI delegation then broke off and visited Power Works, an

educational centre for the mining and power stations in the district. There they met

with management and union representatives.

We learned that Gippsland had the biggest natural lignite resources in Australia with

more than 500 years of deposits at its disposal to feed the four power stations in the

area. We learned of the union representatives experiences of dealing with the massive

cuts in labour since the Liberal-led (Conservative) Victorian State government sold

off the power stations and mines to finance a $A30bn debt recovery programme 10

years ago. It was the government who instigated the voluntary redundancy

programme before selling the mines/power stations to private enterprise.

This redundancy programme had an adverse effect on the district’s economic

structure with house prices crashing, migration of skilled workers out of the area, and

the health and welfare structure going into a downward spiral.
An industry that once employed 1200 apprentices now only employs 10 and the

average age of the workforce is 50 with an expected retiring age of 55.

The knock-on effect on the local council and its resources had a devastating effect on

its resources, and small businesses in the community were deeply hit with many

closing, adding further unemployment problems.

Management and union representatives, with perhaps different perspectives over

privatisation consequences, held a joint discussion about the future of mining and

power plants, which they agreed that without new financial support to update

technical improvements, the four power plants would close within ten years.

The management agreed that they had overpaid for the mines and power stations in

the Gippsland district and were suffering the consequences of cheap electricity prices.

Based on their business plan they had forecasted their profitability on $40 per

megawatt hour but were only receiving $26 per megawatt hour. And with Queensland

and New South Wales voters, in a referendum, refusing to privatise their black coal

mining and power stations, they had to compete with the corporate state enterprises,

which produced and sold electricity at $26 per megawatt hour, thus setting the market

price. It was also noted that the state enterprises in both Queensland and NSW had

also undergone a rationalisation programme which reduced staffing but protected

skills and a development of a new skill base

Gippsland Education project

The union delegation were very impressed with the CEO’s lifelong vision to instigate

an education system to be inclusive at all levels for 16-year-olds and upwards. This

experimental programme which involved Monash University, a technical college and

secondary school, offering O and A levels all on one site, was underpinned by Mr
Baliss’s personal philosophy to have the education system with an open and free

access to all.

This experiment is in its early stages but this innovative approach to education should

be monitored by educational experts in Northern Ireland.

ACTU meeting – Nixon Apple, Industry and

Investment Policy Adviser


The union group met with Nixon Apple, of the ACTU, with a view to discuss pension

policies in Australia, and if we could learn any lessons, in view of the fact that

pension provision in the UK and Ireland are a major issue for the labour movement.

The ICTU delegation learned that since the introduction of mandatory provident funds

(pensions) where employees are required to invest 9% of wages into their respected

superannuation funds the ACTU objective is to increase this figure to 15%, with a

joint approach from employers, employees and government. The ACTU believes the

9% figures is too low to deal with an ageing and healthier population.

The superannuation funds, with a $800bn investment base, are jointly run by the

unions and employers with six representatives each on the board and an independent

With the new IR laws, this is something the Liberal Government had their eyes on,

but with the employers and unions tied to the hip on this issue, the government are

unlikely to try and break it up.

The funds are administered by the board and financial investments include the

purchase of airports and toll road and the union, using surplus funds to invest in their

own way, since they are excluded by the current Public Private Partnerships, in high

tech bio and nano technoligical developments of their own.

The ACTU is directly funding innovation and development and research projects, but

are conscious that member union should not be undermined by this initiative and have

devoted resources to identify and promote managers with entrepreneurial skills to

develop this new business. The ACTU, although constrained by the new IR laws, do

direct relevant unions to knock on the doors of these new business with a bid to

recruit. The ACTU were conscious that recruitment was something it should

encourage within these new start-up businesses, but they could not make it a

compulsory condition to gain funds, because it contravened current legislation.

In addition the unions have set up a Members Equity Bank, which offers union

members preferential rates and low cost banking services, including mortgages, credit

cards and savings accounts.

With health financed a major issue the ACTU recognises that members are living

longs and are taking a pro-active approach to invest in pension provision by offering

pre-funded accumulation policies as an add-on to existing pensions.

The ACTU are articulating the argument that this pre-accumulation money could be

linked to superannuation funds in order pay for specialist care for the aged.

One major issue of major concern in the health service was the provision for mental

health care. The ACTU feel the issue has been sidelined by the present federal
authorities which has seen mental patients of all ages discharged and placed in old

peoples homes as a substitute or shunted between government departments, none

of whom will accept responsibility.

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union – Julius

Roe, National President and Pat Conroy, National

Project Officer.

Labour Chief Whip/Senator George Campbell and

President of ACTU and ICTFU, Sharan Burrow


The agenda in the first meeting covered four topics – pensions, a multicultural

society, industrial relation laws and privatisation.

The ICTU delegation saw a different perspective or union organisation at grass roots

level by meeting with people who had personal experience of the above issues.

Australian union officials working at the coalface of the labour movement told us that

a multicultural society should be based on the philosophy of celebrating diversity by

respecting the culture and religion and colour of all migrants.

AMWU officials said it was a challenge to any society that was based on a single

culture, in Australia’s case White/Christian, to change its outlook and recognise other

cultural and religious expression.
However, society had to support migrants by creating immediate access into the

public services such as education, health, housing and even the police. With this

provision in mind it would avoid ghettoisation.

Also full access had to be guaranteed to the agreed terms and conditions of

employment enjoyed by the Australian workforce and that the workplace should offer

a neutral environment of racism.

Without these safeguards there was a danger that migrant labour would only have

access to short term contracts and inferior conditions which could be used to process

the undermining of existing standards. This would reinforce the doom merchants who

oppose migrant labour and immigration.

Two additional issues the ICTU delegates learned was that the state pension scheme

only offered 23pc of the average weekly income and this was the basis that the union

and then Labour Government bought into the superannuation scheme. The AMWU

expressed some disquiet that the superannuation scheme would be of no benefit to

those presently aged 40 and over. And secondly, the superannuation scheme could be

used as a block single payment on retirement and those not fiscally aware could

squander it without proper financial advice.

From (l-r) Kevin McAdam; Julius Roe, AMWU;

Brenda Mackin; and Pat Conroy, AMWU
From (l-r) Bob Miller; Labour Senator,

George Campbell; Nixon Apple, ACTU;

Sharan Burrow, President of ACTU and

ICFTU; Brendan Mackin; and Kevin


Presenting a little present from home to

Senator George Campbell is Kevin McAdam

and Brendan Mackin.

The second meeting was a useful discussion with Ulster-born Labour Senator George

Campbell and President of the ACTU and ICFTU, Sharan Burrow.

George was born in Belfast and served his apprenticeship as a shipwright at the

Harland and Wolff Shipyards. He migrated to Australia in 1965 and at the age of 27

became state secretary of the Federated Shipwrights' Union. He was general secretary

of the union from 1974 until its amalgamation with the Amalgamated Metal Workers'
Union. He was national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union

from 1988 to 1996.

George was sworn in as a Senator for NSW in September 1997. He has been a

member of the ALP National Executive and a National Executive Committee

member. He is a delegate to State and National ALP Conference and was the Chair of

the Federal ALP Caucus before taking up the Shadow Manufacturing portfolio. In

2004 George was appointed Opposition Whip in the Senate. George is a former senior

vice president of the ACTU.

The ICTU delegation learned of the continuing the labour movement’s opposition and

strategic campaign opposing the new Australia’s new IR laws.

It was noted that even the conservative-owned press were reporting day and daily the

human interest stories of the effects of how the new IR laws were being used by

unscrupulous employers attacking their workers.

Report compiled by ICTU delegates: Brendan Mackin (Belfast

Unemployed Resource Centre); Audrey Stewart (Ulster Teachers Union); Kevin

McAdam (Amicus); and Bob Miller (National Union of Journalists)

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