Friday, October 17, 2003

ANU ignores federal governments demands

Thousands of university staff took part in a nationwide strike

The Australian National University has become the first institution to ignore Federal Government demands. Instead, 800 staff looked on yesterday as its Vice-Chancellor, Ian Chubb, signed a new Australian Workplace Agreement which gave them a 17.4 per cent pay rise over three years and 26.5 weeks paid maternity leave.

Professor Chubb said he had not heard from the federal Education Minister, Brendan Nelson since signing the deal. "I think the [new workplace] guidelines were too intrusive and I couldn't see anything in them that could actually improve the ANU," Professor Chubb said.

Dr Nelson said if the legislation was passed, the ANU would have to re-open negotiations.

The agreement was signed as thousands of university staff took part in a nationwide strike, protesting against Federal Government attempts to tie $404 million of funding to the tough new workplace changes.

About 10,000 staff, students and members of the public attended rallies and public meetings in all capital cities opposing the move. Supported by seven unions, picket lines were in place early and most classes were cancelled.

The University of NSW did not take part in the strike action because it already has a certified agreement in place, but staff took part in the Sydney rally.

There was uproar in the House of Representatives after the Government used its numbers to gag debate on its controversial legislation after only an hour, refusing to answer questions or discuss Opposition amendments.

Labor's education spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, said it was a vitally important piece of legislation, but the Government's behaviour showed how little it cared about its devastating impact.

"The fact that the ANU Vice-Chancellor is willing to forgo tens of millions of dollars in desperately needed funding shows just how untenable and extreme the Government's IR conditions are," she said.

The leader of the House, Dictator, Tony Abbott, said that there had been plenty of time to debate the legislation over the past couple of days.

The chairman of the Senate committee investigating the Nelson package, Labor's Kim Carr, said section 19-80 of the legislation gave the Government the right to search, discover and seize university records without a warrant.

"Under this section, the secretary of the department will have the power to appoint departmental officers, or any other persons, who will have access to any premises or records of the provider for the purposes of conducting audit and compliance activities," Senator Carr said.

"It goes way beyond any other education act which requires a magistrate to be satisfied that cause exists to issue a search warrant and there is no court authority required for the minister or his officials to undertake such action."

A spokesman for Dr Nelson said section 19-80 did not provide the right to search or seize documents in order to gather evidence for a criminal prosecution.

"It provides for access by an authorised officer of the Department to a higher education provider's premises or records for the purpose of conducting compliance and audit activities related to the act," he said.

"Compliance and audit activities will be related to ensuring that Commonwealth funds are spent for the purposes of and subject to the conditions imposed by the act."

By The Workers United 17 October 03

THE TEACHER: Lead by example Dr Nelson and look at the wrath created in Iraq because of the ignorance of the war criminal, George Bush, and start to teach people how wrong it was to blow up their schools.


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