Labor?s Treasury spokesman Wayne Swan addresses the small band of party faithful at the Grafton Community Centre.
Labor?s Treasury spokesman Wayne Swan addresses the small band of party faithful at the Grafton Community Centre.

Swan makes a flying visit

By TOBY WALKER

IT came as no surprise to see Federal Labor's Treasury spokesman Wayne Swan in Grafton on Wednesday night attacking the Howard Government's proposed industrial relations (IR) changes.

As Mr Swan said, the seat of Page, in which Grafton lies, ranks as the seventh worst electorate for weekly wage rates in the country.

And those rates, he said, would be further diminished if the Government's IR reforms were adopted.

Mr Swan travelled up from Sydney on Wednesday afternoon to address a forum organised to discuss the IR issue with Clarence Valley residents at the Grafton Community Centre.

The faces at the meeting might have been different, but Mr Swan's message on the night was the same it has been at similar meetings he has attended around the nation in recent months.

Put simply, he believed the Howard Government would create 'an army of working poor' that would be stripped of the safety nets provided by unions and the awards system in its endeavour to boost the profit margins of businesses.

His recently published book, Postcode: the splintering of a nation, from which he quoted at the forum, accuses the Howard Government of destroying the ethos of a 'fair go' and driving an even bigger wedge between the rich and the poor members of society.

Mr Swan said the Howard Government had benefited from a fertile period of strong employement and economic growth but, 'drunk on power', had now set its sights on attacking the fundamental rights of predominantly low wage-earning workers.

The Government's proposals, he said, were based on ideology borne out of a '30-year obsession' with the 'Americanisation' of Australian society.

He believed handing power to set minimum wages to a newlyestablished Fair Pay Commission created by the Government would take away the rights and minimum wage rates already enshrined in current legislation.



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