In Australia, Remembrance Day is always observed on the 11th November although it is not a public holiday. At the eleventh hour a ceremonial one minute silence with a rendition of the Last Post enables people to respect and commemorate the substantial number of Australian soldiers who died in battle. Back in 1975 the date had extraordinary constitutional significance with the dismissal of the 21st Prime Minister of Australia, Edward Gough Whitlam AC QC, who responded with the furious, extemporaneous although much treasured Kerr’s Cur speech.
In Greek mythology Thanatos was a peaceful figure and the embodiment of natural death, who guided departed souls to an eternal resting place following productive, enriched and rewarding lives. The gentle being was the child of Nyx and brother of Hypnos but had a flock of malevolent sisters named the Keres (plural of Ker). These malicious maidens were acolytes of the Moirai or goddesses of fate and Moros, a harbinger of doom, who directed many men on a trajectory towards destruction. These bloodthirsty spirits were released from Pandora’s Jar and the caliginous creatures frequently haunted the scarred battlegrounds surrounding plague ravaged cities seeking custody over the mortally wounded carcasses, which generated intense ancestral conflict regarding possession and ownership.
Much like the contemporary legal profession, the Keres were depicted as cruel narcissists with foreboding fangs and threatening talons and were typically attired in symbolic blood stained rags. The somewhat primitive and gruesome haute couture has since been superseded by ethically sourced eco-friendly clothing, which includes elegant Giorgio Armani suits with Christian Louboutin stilettos accessorised via Kallis pearls with a compulsory Louis Vuitton handbag…………History never really says goodbye, it merely means see you later and the theatre of law has very little to do with the discovery of truth and the realisation of justice.
Over the past five decades, corporate occupational health and safety performance, which includes federal and state governments, is reminiscent of a Greek tragedy. Under the rubric of diversity and inclusion the appointment of women into senior executive roles throughout the corporate stratosphere and the establishment of female leadership networks has gained some momentum and attracted significant media attention. It is evident across the globe in every structural level of government and within the workplace health and safety sector.
In the United Kingdom, the current chairperson with the Health and Safety Executive is Sarah Newton and Sarah Albon has been appointed as its chief executive. Dame Judith Hackitt DBE FREng FIChemE FCGI, spent many years with the renowned corporate predator Exxon. This included senior management roles at its Fawley Refinery in Hampshire before a sinecure as chairperson with the Health and Safety Executive, which lasted almost a decade although there was no significant substantive evidence covering regulatory or policy capture.
Most of the executive and senior management roles within Safe Work Australia are currently occupied by women. The chief executive officer is Michelle Baxter who was appointed in November 2015 following extensive experience within the Australian Public Service, which included several departmental management and leadership roles. The incumbent chairperson is Diane Smith-Gander AO, who is also the current national chair with the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) and a nonexecutive director with Wesfarmers.
The Safe Work Australia chairperson was previously President of Chief Executive Women, a distinguished women’s leadership advocacy group and was recently appointed as chair with the University of Western Australia’s Business School Board. Additional senior roles involved sinecures with several notorious corporate brigands, which included McKinsey & Company, Westpac Banking Corporation, Broadspectrum and AGL Energy.
Several females have recently been appointed to senior management roles within the Australian Institute of Health and Safety and the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board. In February 2018, the national manager of its OHS Body of Knowledge received an Order of Australia for exceptional contribution to the field of health and safety. The peak safety body has also established a Women in Safety and Health network with a strategic goal of diversity and inclusion across the Australian health and safety profession…….War is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength.
One of the most notable features amongst many corporate executives is an order of chivalry, which is typically awarded for meritorious service towards their profession or maybe for the benefit of society. It often masquerades a litany of skulduggery that includes embezzlement, tax evasion, turpitude or numerous other forms of corporate malfeasance. Any skerrick of philanthropy is merely a devious strategy or scam for laundering dirty money or other ill-gotten gains to circumvent the talons of the taxman.
Following indefatigable work over many decades Professor Phil Scraton, who headed the Hillsborough Independent Panel research team, recently declined an Order of the British Empire (OBE). The former seminarian remains a strong critic of the historical, cultural and political context of imperialism and its international legacy. The offer was refused as a protest against a systemic patronising disposition of unaccountable power, which included cohorts of gutless panjandrums who failed in their duty to assist the bereaved dependents and many distressed survivors following the Hillsborough stadium disaster over three decades ago.
Despite the glass ceiling metaphor and corporate fanfares promoting diversity and inclusion, social politics remains somewhat bewildering for many of the uninitiated and frequently generates confusion amongst the laity. Feminism and masculinism are not solely concerned with biological differences and the terms are typically misunderstood. The expressions also encompass social and cultural attributes and often involve a brutal quest for power with the polarisation and politicisation of diversity. Irrespective of class, creed or culture it requires emancipation, inclusion, empowerment and justice, which creates a holistic and meaningful existence for everyone.
This was neatly summarised by James Connolly, an Irish revolutionary who once proclaimed that…..The worker is a slave of capitalist society and the female worker is the slave of that slave. It was frequently reiterated by John Lennon and Yoko Ono with controversial lyrics from the songs entitled Luck of the Irish, Angela and Woman is the Nigger of the World, which appeared on the Some Time in New York City album almost five decades ago.
In Australia, the entire health and safety architecture is dominated by a positivist paradigm. The scientism with an inordinate emphasis on rational decision making is underpinned by the black box psychology of primitive behaviourism, which is no more effective than phrenology. A legislative framework reinforces a preventive, systematic and consultative risk management approach to secure the health, safety and welfare of people at work. This has merely degenerated into a tyranny of bureaucracy aboard a carousel of culpability enshrouded by a miasma of fear. It is further exacerbated by industrial manslaughter provisions, which have recently been introduced into several safety statutes across the country.
The fragile structure is supported by an antediluvian curriculum, which is administered by the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board. It embraces a crude positivist ideology via the OHS Body of Knowledge with an unwarranted preference towards the natural sciences over the social sciences and disregards the inherent subjective nature of risk, embodiment and the ecology of personhood. Additional major encumbrances include an extremely narrow militaristic and didactic approach towards leadership and culture, which is frequently distorted or confused with behaviour and oversimplified via a naïve slogan as….The way we do things around here.
Most corporate brigands embrace the traditional hero leader paradigm, which is dominated by authoritarianism, power and control. This is typically secured via a brutal regime of compliance and enforcement under a sophism of zero harm or vision zero. Recent attempts have emerged to attenuate this brutal ideology via the One Percent Safer Foundation. The promotional material for the supplementary book is littered with turgid sales and marketing sludge and doublespeak and despite the propaganda, one percent of zero remains nothing.
A zero harm fatwa with its pursuit of perfection denies fallibility and is a renunciation of wisdom. It inevitably destroys integrity, learning and relationships, which are the foundation of accomplishment. Leadership is bequeathed by followers and effective leaders must make a positive and meaningful difference to the livelihood and learning of others using an influential, reciprocal and interactive process. This is accomplished via the establishment of a zone of reciprocal relationship, which is underpinned by the noble attributes of respect and humility. Most people can withstand adversity but if you want to test a person’s character give them some power. Ethics in leadership is discovered through honesty with risk and there is no leadership in micromanagement, which destroys momentum……It’s an awful situation to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead and find that there is no one behind you.
Since the turn of the millennium, the occupational health and safety performance of many corporate brigands across Australia, which includes our federal and state governments, can only be described as miserable or mediocre at best. This was reflected in the recent Queensland parliamentary inquiry into the resurgence of black lung throughout its coal mining industry. The subsequent report described the catastrophic failure of a regulatory system across every structural level that was intended to protect the health and safety of its coal miners. Meanwhile, the mine dust lung diseases toll escalates and the carnage continues despite a recent safety reset throughout the resources sector. The abysmal performance is further reflected via the direct costs of workplace injury and disease across Australia. It amounts to almost $80 billion each year or approximately 8% of its gross domestic product, which is evident via our overwhelmed and beleaguered public health infrastructure, especially throughout most regional and rural areas.
The instability of the current framework or architecture of oppression with its inordinate reliance on the systematic scientific method has been callously exposed, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. The woeful performance will not improve via the establishment of female leadership networks and impulsively appointing women into senior executive roles under the rubric of diversity and inclusion, which is somewhat analogous to baking a cake and adding the eggs retrospectively.
This anomaly was discussed with several colleagues and union representatives and specifically focussed on the appointment of females as site senior executives throughout Queensland’s mining sector. The acquisition of statutory power and high visibility clothing rapidly transforms a demure princess at the Country Women’s Association show day into a brash corporate sociopath at an underground coalmine. Indeed, Margaret Mead, the American cultural anthropologist, once proclaimed…I do not believe in using women in combat because females are too fierce.
Feminism encompasses women’s rights, which are a component of human rights although some social structures are entrenched with primitive traditions and scornful attitudes towards females and their roles in society. This often restricts or even prohibits their opportunities and the ability to access and enforce specific entitlements on the same foundation or platform as their male counterparts. There are still many bastions across Australian society and throughout its industrial sectors, where females suffer discrimination and frequently experience unequal or unfair treatment. Nonetheless, it remains critical that masculinism or feminism should not be confused with gender and males cannot be excluded from campaigning for equality and women’s rights because many men are also harmed by the masculinist quest for political power and control.
The approach to occupational health and safety across Australia is littered with scientism and an unrefined positivist dogma that is dominated by authoritarian and masculinist discourse, especially throughout the resources sector. There is an inordinate preference towards statutory legislation, objects over subjects and reactive performance metrics, which is supplemented by oppressive and intimidating language that focuses on indoctrination, telling, blame, fear, compliance, enforcement, crime and punishment.
The appointment of women into senior and statutory roles amidst a totalitarian militaristic territory entrenched with androcentric values and techniques has even fortified an authoritarian masculinist ideology. Indeed, the abysmal safety performance and discussions with several colleagues indicates many females have merely been seduced by an appetite for power and control in a predominantly male protectorate. This is exacerbated by extraordinary performance bonuses to meet unrealistic production and safety targets, which include zero harm or stipulated serious injury frequency rates. It furtively secures the fortress to ensure nothing changes although the following maxim from the political activist, Emma Goldman resonates……Women need not always keep their mouths shut and their wombs open.
The problem requires a much more sophisticated, flexible and ecoliterate transdisciplinary approach, which encompasses bricolage and adaptability. This accepts the coexistence of multiple contradictions and realities and explores the existential dialectic between the objective and subjective components of risk and investigates the profound realities of wicked problems. It attempts to liberate reason from a positivist domain and tackles many issues that are beleaguered with paradox or ambiguity, which are often unfamiliar to the physical or natural sciences. Moreover, it embraces the faith-hope-love-justice dialectic and encourages interpretivist discourse with an emphasis on many noble professional attributes such as integrity, transparency, trust, caring, helping, listening and learning, which are typically alien to most safety crusaders or ignorant malaperts.
This will involve radical surgery to remove many of the malignant ganglions and pathogens, which have accumulated over recent decades. It requires evisceration of the legislation, curricula and an insipid peak safety body that purveys more trash than Bunnings or Blackwoods through its cohorts of gutless panjandrums in a relentless attempt to turn a crisis into an opportunity via the commodification and social atomisation of safety. Meanwhile the US election is imminent and the following lyrics from Steve Earle’s Christmas in Washington resonate:
It’s Christmas time in Washington, the democrats rehearse
Gettin’ into gear for four more years of things not gettin’ worse
Republicans drink whiskey neat and thank their lucky stars
He cannot seek another term there’ll be no more FDRs
I sit at home in Tennessee just staring at the screen
With an uneasy feeling in my chest wonderin’ what it means
So come back Woody Guthrie, come back to us now
Tear your eyes from paradise and rise again somehow
If you run into Jesus, maybe he can help us out
Come back Woody Guthrie, come back to us now
There’s foxes in the hen house and cows out in the corn
The unions have been busted with their proud red banners torn
So come back Emma Goldman rise up old Joe Hill
The barricades are goin’ up they cannot break our will
Come back to us Malcolm X and Martin Luther King
We’re marching into Selma as the bells of freedom ring