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Issue No. 131 12 April 2002  

Cry Freedom
If there's a common thread running through this week's issue, it's the continuing crisis faced by workers around the globe confronting the practical reality of Free Trade.


Interview: Cross Wires
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance chief Chris Warren surveys the fluid state of the Australian media.

International: Two Tribes
As the Middle East burns, Andrew Casey shines a light into one of the world's darkest corners.

Activists: Beneath the Veil
A young Afghani woman has travelled to Australia to put a human face on the suffering of her people - and her gender.

Unions: Terror Australis
When push comes to shove, it appears the Howard Government is more scared of the Maritime Union than Osama Bin Laden, Jim Marr reports.

History: A Labor Footnote To The Royal Funeral
Stephen Holt reports that an intriguing Australian connection has been overlooked amidst the supposedly blanket media coverage of the end of the Bowes Lyon era.

Economics: Private Affluence, Public Rip-Off
New Labour's enthusiasm for business is matched only by its lack of business sense, as the private finance fiasco shows.

Review: The Great Hall of the People
In an extract from the latest issue of Labor Essays, the ARM's Richard Fidler looks at the symbolism behind the Republican debate.

Poetry: Waiting for the Living Wage
The Living Wage Case was heard this week. The workers� voices in this poem have been adapted from the evidence presented by low wage earners to the living wage case.

Satire: Israel Recruits NAB To Close West Bank
Israeli security forces have successfully enlisted the expert help of the National Australia Bank to close down the West Bank.


 Baby Company Punts Netball Mum

 Dairy Workers Win Global Breakthrough

 Treasury Modelling Backs ACTU Claim

 Bank Nabs Huge Sales Targets

 Come Clean � Insurance Giants Challenged

 May Day Jam and Toast

 Job Security Win For Cabin Crew

 Workers Gear-up For Pollution Fight

 Shuffling The Deck On The Yarra

 New Push On Workplace Crime

 Super Child Care Win

 Doubts Over Ettalong Wharf Funding

 The Sane Monk Stands Down

 Fabians Debate Refugees

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Unions and the Web � Where to Now?
Peter Lewis argues the time has come to revisit how trade unions interact with workers and how the Web could be the catalyst for such a change.

The Locker Room
Free To Where?
Parents with kiddies who play a bit of sport will have noticed the escalating costs associated with their kids being involved in sport.

Week in Review
The Joys of the Chop
Workers come and workers go, right? Well, it�s the way of the world but while some get stiffed, others are stuffed with obscene amounts �

 Labor and Unions - What About the Workers?
 A Voice for the Shareholders
 Noses in the Trough
 Bugger Off
 Memo: Carmen Lawrence
 Police: Make the Boss a Woman
 Baby Faced Brogden
 Workers Online - Aoteroa
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Terror Australis

When push comes to shove, it appears the Howard Government is more scared of the Maritime Union than Osama Bin Laden, Jim Marr reports.


The Howard Government is continuing to downplay the security implications of flag-of-convenience shipping in order to sack Aussie seafearers.

This week, in the IRC at Sydney, the Federal Government tabled its intention to intervene in an MUA case seeking to bring the foreign-flagged, CSL Pacific, under the Australian Shipping Award.

In a similar rearguard action, the MUA was also in the Federal Court, attempting to stop a corporate reshuffle that would see the CSL Yarra sold to the company's Asian arm so it could resume coastal trading under a foreign flag.

The implications for workers are horrendous - the dole queue for Aussies, third world conditions and wages for their replacements..

But wider issues are raised by this Government's determination to flog off Australian jobs.

Convenience shipping not only relies on exploited labour but also the capacity of owners to hide behind secrecy provisions, erected by convenience states, to attract business.

This lack of accountability raises serious environmental issues and, increasingly, security concerns.

These worries are being flagged by conservative, international publications, including the Times of London and Lloyds Shipping List.

The Times reports that Osama bin Laden runs a secret shipping fleet "under a variety of flags of convenience, allowing him to hide his ownership and transport goods, arms, drugs and recruits with little official scrutiny".

It says he uses his ships to move key terrorists around the world, allowing them to disembark at obscure ports.

The information stems from court revelations that a convenience-flagged bin Laden vessel landed in Mombassa the bombers who blew up US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The Times quotes a corporate investigator as saying uncovering bin Laden's bank accounts, bogus charities and front companies would be "child's play" compared to "piercing the veil of secrecy that protects shipping owners".

Essentially, convenience countries operate a sort of maritime version of a Swiss bank account, as Lloyds List explains.

"Backwater countries with flags of convenience have watertight secrecy. Even if you do find a suspicious ownership, how do you prove the company holding the bearer shares of that vessel is linked to the al-Queda network?

"Some registries have indicated they would dismiss with the so-called 'corporate veil' ... approaches by legitimate agencies," it says.

Last month, academics from the Wollongong University Centre for Maritime Policy added their voices, warning of terrorist, and general security dangers, posed by convenience trading.

"It's easy to secure airports but very difficult to secure maritime borders. A well-resourced terrorist would find it relatively easy to evade current maritime border control," Professor Martin Tsamenyi, centre director, warned in Sydney's Daily Telegraph.

Yet, as a matter of Government policy, Australian crews are being dumped in favour of foreign-flagged and crewed vessels. These crews are automatically issued visas, bypassing the usual security measures faced by tourists or asylum seekers.

In an enviroment of terrorist fear, heightened by open Australian support for the US and Israel, Howard's administration chooses to ignore warnings about convenience shipping.

Quite the opposite, in fact. It is opening the Australian coast by stealth, using single and continuous vogage permits to defeat cabotage laws, designed to protect Australian shipping.

Since John Anderson took over as Federal Transport Minister the number of such permits has rocketed. Just last year, the rate went up 60 percent, to 116.

And they had the bare-faced cheek to run an election campaign on security and border protection.


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