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Issue No. 124 15 February 2002  

Chickens Come Home
For anyone who believes in karma, the events of the summer show how bad Australia's is right now.


Unions: Winning the Heartland
John Robertson unveils new research on attitudes to refugees and argues it's time for unions to mount their own propaganda war.

Interview: Swan's Song
Federal ALP front-bencher Wayne Swan expands on his ideas for rebuilding the Party in the wake of the Tampa election.

Corporate: Lessons from Enron
Jim Marr looks at the shock-waves the collapse of a US corporate heavy-weight are having around the globe.

Politics: What We Did Last Summer
We look back over a summer when it all went pear-shaped. Some events, at home and abroad, look set to have ongoing ramifications.

History: Solidarity in Song
Mark Gregory looks back on the annals of labour songs and offers some hints for those planning a tilt at the Labor Council's worker anthem comp.

International: A Tale of Two Cities
New York and Port Alegre are poles apart � but they both played host to important conferences on the future of globalisation over the summer.

Poetry: Nobody Told Me
Labour academic David Peetz commits the Prime Minister's current woes to verse.

Review: Labor and the Rings
Tolkien�s epic tale provides a timely reminder that that there are forces of good and evil in the world � and that they are not necessarily where we expect to find them, writes Michael Gadiel.

Satire: Rafter Named Bermudan Of The Year For Tax Purposes
Australian of the Year Pat Rafter was last night also named Bermudan of the Year, in a simple ceremony held in Bermuda's Parliament.


 Unions' Commit to Battle for Hearts

 Carr on Notice - Expectations Up

 Mad Monk Sides With Angels � Briefly

 Maritime Union Acts on Spy Scandal

 May Day Play-Off for Workers' Anthem

 Burmese Links Shroud Winter Olympics

 New Phone Venture One.Tel In Drag

 Two Million Face Rights Downgrade

 Enron Collapse Hits Share-Owner Agenda

 Corrrigan Snaps Up Rail Bargain

 Kinko Clowns With Workers' Rights

 MPs Face Security Checks

 Telstra's Tragic Delays Of Its Own Making

 Burrow Puts Case to World Economic Forum

 Shangri La Protests Hit Melbourne

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Chinks in the Armour
The ACTU's Michael Crosby argues that Mark Latham's attack on the Labor for Refugees movement is the betrayal of Party values.

The Locker Room
Off-side in Korea?
With the World Cup set to kick off in a matter of months, South Korea's treatment of unions is under the microscope.

Week in Review
Cloak and Dagger
In the first of what will be a regular column, we place the week's labour news into a nutshell.

 In Whose Interests?
 'International Labour's Year in Review' - A Re-View
 Belly's Broad-Side
 Collins Gets Cryptic
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Unions' Commit to Battle for Hearts

Private polling showing overwhelming support for the Howard Government�s asylum seekers stance � even among union members � has added new impetus to the campaign for a more compassionate approach to the issue.

The research, presented to a NSW Labor Council workplace harmony seminar this week, shows the majority of Australians, from all works of life, back current hard-line refugee policies.

The survey of 708 voters, commissioned by the Labor Council, found:

- 63 percent believe Howard had handled the asylum seeker issue well or very well. While non-unionists were more supportive of Howard (67 per cent) a majority (58 per cent) of union members also supported the stand.

- Higher income earners (above $70,000) were less likely to support the Prime Minister (54 per cent) compared with 71 percent of voters earning under $50,000.

But there was some room for optimism that people were open to a more compassionate stance.

- While there was strong agreement for emotive propositions such as: "If people want to come to Australia because they are fearful of being persecuted in their own country, they should go through the proper channels of face mandatory detention" (80 percent)

- and "any softening of Australia's current policy would lead to a massive influx of illegal immigrants and would be unfair to those who are waiting their rightful turn in the queue" (77 percent),

- a majority of respondents accepted the proposition that "seeking asylum in Australia or a country other than one's own is not illegal, nor is it queue jumping. It is a fundamental right of any person experiencing persecution in their country of origin.(58 percent of union members agreed).

Challenge Not to be Shirked

Accepting the statistics showed there was a lot of work to do in winning over union members, Labor Council secretary John Robertson says it's a challenge the labour movement cannot afford to shirk.

Robertson, who's taken a leading role in the Labor for Refugees group, says the only way to fight the issue is to foster understanding and compassion for the plight of refugees at a workplace level.

"The reality is that support for the Prime Minister on this issue is so high because there has not been a strong counter-argument presented," Robertson says.

"Unfolding events show the extent to which Howard used propaganda to shape the debate for his own political advantage. Our challenge is to present a different story to our membership."

Plan for Action

Participants at the seminar came up with proposals to take the issue onto work sites, including:

- workplace visits by refugees

- producing an information kit for delegates and activists

- developing a Labor Council statement of commitment to diversity

- winning senior union officials to the campaign

The proposals will be formally considered by the Labor Council executive next week.


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