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  Issue No 120 Official Organ of LaborNet 23 November 2001  




.  LaborNET

.  Ask Neale

.  Tool of the Week

*  Interview: Civilising Capital
Peter Butler is a global investor with a difference. He believes that environment, shareholder democracy and workers rights make good business sense.
*  Industrial: All In The Family
In his opening submission to the landmark case, ACTU assistant secretary Richard Marles argues working hours are vital to life.
*  Unions: Saving Cinderella
It is a modern day fairy tale - a Cinderella from the suburbs, worked like a slave from morning to night injured and then abandoned.
*  International: Recognising China
Gough Whitlam draws the links, past and present, between recognition of China and the continuing struggle to achieve a genuinely inclusive Australian democracy.
*  History: The Speakers Square
A new book lifts the lid on Melbourne's radical past - including the soapboxes that dotted the city in the 1890s.
*  Economics: Back to the Pack
The big story in this year’s State of the States League Table is the end of the long reign of New South Wales at the top of the heap.
*  Satire: Man Reneges On Promise To Leave The Country If Howard Re-Elected
A Sydney man has decided he won’t leave Australia despite the re-election of the Howard Government.
*  Review: When Hippes Meet Unionists
A new book investigates how links between politics and culture reached a high point in the 1970s

Cinderella Saved by MUA

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Beneath the Rubble
HT Lee

Calls for ALP Fundraising Code
A trade union has called on the ALP to reject political donations from supporters with 'dirty hands' in terms of their environmental and labour records.
[ Full Story » ]

Mad Monk Keeps IR
Tony Abbott will remain in the contentious workplace relations portfolio follow, but will have a new opponent after Simon Crean rearranges his front bench next week.
[ Full Story » ]

Ignored Warnings Bring Tragic Results
A company director who ignored unions warnings about a dangerous inner city demolition site died when the wall identified as a safety risk collapsed on him three days later.
[ Full Story » ]

ACTU Executive To Mark Union Bounce Back
Next week unions look to bounce back from the disappointment of the re-election of an anti-worker government when the ACTU Executive meets to formulate a positive agenda for the next year.
[ Full Story » ]

Workers Will Lose from Unfair Contract Changes
The Carr Government faces a new row with unions over its plans to restrict access to the unfair contracts jurisdiction of the state Industrial Relations Commission.
[ Full Story » ]

Tassie On Top, While NSW And WA Slip
Tasmania has been assessed as Australia’s best performing State for the first time while NSW has slipped drastically in the Evatt Foundation’s annual State Government League Table.
[ Full Story » ]

Costa Gets First Union Call
New NSW Police Minister Michael Costa has received his first call to action from the Police Association over the reintroduction on water police in the Illawarra.
[ Full Story » ]

Hamberger in Hot Water
The partisan role of the Office of the Employment Advocate has been thrust back into the spotlight by a Federal Court ruling.
[ Full Story » ]

Egan to Pay for Welfare Win
The Australian Services Union has welcomed the announcement by the NSW Treasurer Michael Egan that the State Government will increase its grants to community and welfare organisations.
[ Full Story » ]

Sweet Victory for Sugar Workers
The Sunshine Sugar lockout has ended in a massive victory for mill workers, their families and the local community.
[ Full Story » ]

Selectron Demise Spells Death of Tech Inustry
Unions say this weeks decision by Selectron to cease operations – at the cost of 500 jobs - spells the end of electrical and electronic manufacturing in NSW.
[ Full Story » ]

Telco Industry Growth Hits The Wall
In the vicinity of 15,000 jobs have been lost from the telecommunications industry over the last 18 months and the Communications Union (CEPU) believes that many more will follow.
[ Full Story » ]

Shocking Conditions in Clothing Industry
Clothing industry outworkers earn an average of only $3.60 an hour despite working more than 12 hours a day, seven days a week, a new study shows.
[ Full Story » ]

Workers Force Council Backdown
The Sydney City Council has failed in its bid to exclude unions form a contentious workplace ballot that could open the way for competitive tendering of council services.
[ Full Story » ]

New Dili Project Launched
A project that brought Australian unions, the building industry and workers together with Timorese groups representing women, labour and independence was launched today in Dili, East Timor.
[ Full Story » ]

Airport Guards Welcome Work Study Case
Security guards at Melbourne and Avalon airports will today welcome the commencement of their case to examine the value and responsibility of the duties they perform for the flying public.
[ Full Story » ]

No News is Bad News for the Bush
The CPSU has welcomed news Australian Broadcasting Authority chief, Professor David Flint, is to hold an inquiry into the adequacy of local television news in non-metropolitan areas.
[ Full Story » ]

Getonboard Closes Doors
The Labor Council's computer and Internet venture, getonboard, has been forced to close followed the withdrawal of its supplier, Gateway, from the Australian market.
[ Full Story » ]

Activists Notebook
All the latest details on actions, workshops and conferences for anyone interested in labour politics.
[ Full Story » ]

Organiser of the Year Nominations Open
Union organisers and activists have a month to bid for an overseas trip and the chance to work for an overseas trade union organisation as the winner of the third annual Organiser of the Year award.
[ Full Story » ]

Letters to the Editor
  • The Cost a Costa

  • Unionism and the ALP - a Workers View.

  • Is 60-40 Good Odds?

  • Ancient OHS - The Wergild Sysstem

  • Editorial

    The Right Balance

    As federal labor prepares itself for another term in Opposition, there's a lot being said about the relationship with the union movement and the appropriate influence it should have on the Party.

    This debate typically proceeds on the premise that the unions have this stranglehold on ALP policy and that, accordingly, their effective veto over party policy - embedded in the 60 per cent share of the conference floor - should be reviewed.

    But scratch below the surface and a more complex picture emerges - when there is disquiet within the ALP it is typically because it ignores the Party's policy and platform, not because it is forced to comply with it.

    In recent times, for instance, the Carr Government has come a-cropper because it has failed to follow the Party policy on workers compo, rather than having some union agenda foisted on it.

    The reality is that the ALP Conference - at both federal and state levels - does not impose policy on the parliamentary leadership. What it does provide is a mechanism to debate changes in the Party's direction and force the leadership to answer to its core constituency.

    Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the Hawke and Keating Governments benefited from having to work major policy changes - such as the privatisation of assets - through the conference.

    By being called to account to affiliated unions, they were required to build in safeguards to protect their interests. This can only be to Labor's long-term benefit.

    The only time in recent memory when a policy initiative has actually been blocked was the 1998 proposal to privatize the NSW power industry. While this caused short-term frustration to Carr and Egan, it became the main battleground for crushing the Chikarovski Opposition at the 1999 state election. In other words, the Conference saved Carr from himself.

    The evidence shows that union influence in the ALP policy forums has only been a positive for the Party: both in terms of policy and politics: it is not union input that the ALP should be worried about, but its absence.

    Those who attack it fall into three categories: the Tories who still believe union-basing is a self-evident virtue, the lazy media commentators who have brought their line and those in the Party who want total control of the policy agenda.

    Indeed, some are saying the debate must go wider than just the unions' influence - examining the impact of corporate fundraising on Party policy and the almost chronic disrepair in the branch structure.

    A reasoned debate on the Party's future is to be welcomed, but confining it to union influence of the Conference floor is just too cute and too simplistic.

    Peter Lewis


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