August 14th 2004

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Foreign Minister launches Paul Gray's new book on Islam

EDITORIAL: Australia and the Timor Gap Treaty

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Latham loses lustre as poll looms


RURAL POLICY: Facing up to the farm income crisis

UNITED STATES: Transsexual case and marriage law

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Pakistan and the Islamic N-bomb

POPULATION: 'Gender equality' partly to blame for fertility decline, says UN official

DOCUMENTARY: 'My Foetus' prompts abortion re-think

OPINION: US law professor blasts US court on gay marriage

OPINION: Distributism and capitalism

STRAWS IN THE WIND : Part-timers: pros and cons / Family Law changes / Timor's Labor pain

Latham, Iraq and free trade deal (letter)

Fishermen protest in marginal seats (letter)

Ethanol stand challenged (letter)

BOOKS: The Red Millionaire: Willi Münzenberg, by Sean McMeekin

BOOKS: GETTING ON TRACK: A Business Plan for Australia

BOOKS: Just War Against Terror, by Jean Bethke Elshtain

BOOKS: The Mystery of Olga Chekhova, by Anthony Beevor

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Part-timers: pros and cons / Family Law changes / Timor's Labor pain

by Max Teichmann

News Weekly, August 14, 2004
Part-timers: pros and cons

A current survey tells us that most people on casual part-time work would like full-time employment or else more hours part-time than they are now getting. What is not so clear are the reasons they want more hours or, actually, a full-time status. But I'm going to start at the other end.

What is barely discussed is why many people actually prefer part-time employment and will only work on those conditions. One knows that left to themselves, masses of Australians would prefer to run a small business or firm, or work in a small one where everyone knew each other and got on. Ideally, where the boss was/is a friend.

Many other people would like to farm but are ruled out by economic factors over which they have no control. And many bona fide farmers are being driven off the land for the same reason.

Small businesses and factories are being driven to the wall - all the time - for the same reasons. Reasons having little to do with their skills, their commitment, their desire to provide a service, please their customers, know their customers. This journal is talking about these matters all the time and the whys and wherefores.

Many Australians don't take naturally to working for a boss - never have - hence the lemming-like determination of new people, all the time, who start up something knowing the failure rate of new businesses and the horrendous obstacles in the way. But still they try, for they dream of freedom. And it's not freedom from work or worry.

A lady to whom I was talking said that the new managerialism and its value-free one-dimensional philosophy is driving masses of workers to go, or want to go, into part-time employment. Or to just dream wistfully about it. Even though the person concerned would drop in salary, maybe a lot.

But the escapee retrieves part of his personality, his private space, from the big brothers and big sisters that now infest large organisations - public and private. Less and less do people feel allowed to get on with their own work.

This situation is running through libraries, schools, universities, government departments and businesses: captive audiences for someone's ego trip: armed with an MBA. A situation which breeds resentment, toadyism, and a desire to sneak away in equal proportions.

But for those who want more work than they are getting - is this because they desire to spend more time at work, or because they desire more money? Because they need it? Although many people could be accused of engaging in wasteful consumption patterns which feed desires for more and more money, the working poor and many families unable to live on a single wage, have no option but to seek more money through overtime, a second job, or the wife working. And many married males can't find regular full-time work, so of course someone is going to have to get more hours.

This is the battle for bread, and the product of an economic system which distributes its wealth not according to need - or even desert - but according to the strategies and the agendas of those who control the systems. Globalists and economic rationalists just want to give the screw another turn. They weren't the first hearse off the rank.

But really the subject of why people (and which people) want more or less work is far more complicated than surveys are trying to tell us; being of their very nature non-analytic and for economy, one-dimensional. And interested pressure groups don't help to clarify matters. Thus, unions want full-time workers because they are easier to sign up and mobilise. Employers used to like full-time workers but today, cost cutting as always, like at least some casuals. Radical feminists would like all women in the work force - and full time. Sod the family!

Those who see the family and the needs of children as of paramount importance would prefer to see mothers have more time with their families (and fathers as well). People interested in selling to others, in lending and extending credit and mortgages, would like everyone in full-time work, spending more and on permanent credit. Do I even have to mention what the banks want?

So few surveys are going to go into all these questions, but we should.

Family Law changes

The new Federal proposals for reforming the Family Law situation, including the Court itself, have been widely welcomed, even though the reforms are just the modest beginnings. Probably the change most welcomed by men will be the return of the right of equal access to their children, and an equal say in their upbringing.

The de jure loss of custodial rights was, more often than not, followed by the de facto denial of rights of genuine access by empowered ex-wives - with all the troubles and arguments which would often follow.

Over a period, many divorced men lose all meaningful contact with their children. The damage to the lives of countless fathers and children has often been great, permanent and avoidable.

The proposed government changes may considerably improve matters.

When the Family Law Act was passed in the mid-1970s, its leading advocates, such as Lionel Murphy and Alan Missen, said that the introduction of a no fault regime would remove a great deal of the rancour and bitterness, the need to lie or traduce the ex-partner in the proceedings, and matters would, under the new laws, be settled far more expeditiously and far less expensively than under the old laws.

The opposite has occurred: where there was rancour, bitterness and dissembling, it simply moved to contests over custody and access and property, and lawyers became even more litigious and too often urged clients to go to court and not be content with the earlier stages of counselling and mediation. Family lawyers waxed fat and divorcing people found themselves outlaying large sums which they could not afford. Proceedings have been dragged out and bitterness certainly has not gone away.

Under the new government scheme, compulsory centres for counselling and mediation are to be set up, and hopefully will reduce the need to go to the courts. No one can predict the real as against the desired for consequences, but the situation could hardly be worse than now.

The only critics so far have been Family Court lawyers and some feminists. The rights of the father are to be extended and many children may benefit. But the bitterness and the vengeful, predatory feelings of some warring parents will ensure that the Family Court itself will not lack for work.

Timor's Labor pain

The instant surrender by The Philippines' Government to the demands of a small terrorist group to abandon its major political and military allies, shows the difficulties of our constructing a feasible and reliable defence and foreign policy network in our region. Without the continuing presence and sympathy of the United States we would be in dire straits before very long.

Labor's contribution to this situation has been generally deplorable: thus its current adventure has been to abort the whole delicate negotiations with East Timor over oil deposits and maritime boundaries between the two countries.

This has the potential for bringing in foreign oil companies backed by states not necessarily mindful of our interests, with a new capacity to "approach" and possibly suborn different leaders of the East Timorese political elite. Such things have occurred in a number of other small regional states, helping fracture often precarious and hardly-won unity. In this case, the paralysis of the Australia-East Timor amity is the result of Labor saying that they will renegotiate the whole deal when they take office, and has the potential for totally disrupting our relations with Dili - and allowing Indonesia back into the game.

Only Labor's Left and Bob Brown's Greens would even consider risking such a result - but they did. They seemed determined to reaffix the old stigma of Labor not to be trusted in matters of defence or foreign policy (or border security).

Diagnosis: too many factions, too many voices, too many cross-national deals with powerful groups and individuals in countries with whom we were officially dealing.

Thus Labor's foreign relations with Indonesia often seemed little more than a collection of such deals. Although... some of our people seemed to do quite well out of it.

  • Max Teichmann

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