The government's decision to hold one of the shortest ever Senate Inquiries into its 'WorkChoices' bill is being undermined by the public debates being held by union leaders around the country.
Over 500 people crammed into the Albury-Wodonga SS&A Club last Monday, to hear AMWU National Secretary, Doug Cameron, take on government members from the Albury-Wodonga area over IR laws.
Dave Noonan from the CFMEU and Dr. Rosemary Kelly from Victorian Trades Hall also represented the unions while local MPs Sophie Panopoulos, Sussan Ley and Phil Barresi were forced to make a case for the government.
Doug Cameron told the audience that individual contracts would not create jobs and that the agenda of the government was to drive down wages.
"The ION workers at Albury who lost their jobs didn't lose them because they weren't on individual contracts. They lost them because of poor�management and the government's obsession with free-trade madness.
"Individual contracts do not create jobs and neither does cutting people' wages.
"Workers did not vote to have their wages and conditions cut. They did not vote to see their jobs abandoned overseas and their government tell them that they need to work for cheaper wages because they have to compete against places like China.
CFMEU Assistant Secretary, Dave Noonan, told the audience that he had tried to negotiate an individual contract when he was 15 and working on a fishing boat in North Queensland.
"I didn't have my accountant with me at the time", he quipped, "but the Skipper told me he'd throw me overboard if I ever asked for a pay rise again!"
Dr. Kelly said that the new laws would be like a game of football where the government had "ripped up the rule book, sent away the umpire, forced one side to play with their hands tied behind their backs, and if we ever start winning", she said, "they can send us off for good."
The government members made no friends in the debate. Sussan Ley asked the crowd at the start of the meeting how many were concerned about what the government was doing. Two thirds of the room raised their hands, but buy the end of the night the debate was won by the union side, 500 to 5.
Albury Wodonga residents voted to oppose the industrial relations legislation of the Howard Government.
Doug Cameron said that the result of the debate showed the public's disgust at the lack of a proper Parliamentary Inquiry and the uncompromising arrogance of the government's ideological agenda.
"The government is making a huge mistake in ignoring the people in their own electorates who are genuinely concerned that they will lose their rights and conditions", said Cameron.
The government has placed itself in a perilous position by ignoring the concerns of workers and pressing ahead with John Howard's 30 year-old ideological obsession.
"I believe we are witnessing the beginning of the end for John Howard", said Cameron. "And we will fight these changes until we have gotten rid of them for good".