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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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Treasury Modelling Backs ACTU Claim

Treasury economists have conceded the ACTU�s minimum wage claim of $25 a week will have a negligible effect on the economy.

Economic modelling undertaken by the Treasury at the request of the ACTU reveals that the 2002 Living Wage claim will have little or no effect on GDP growth, inflation, employment growth, employment or wages growth.

Under cross-examination by ACTU advocate Andrew Watson in the Living Wage case Treasury economist Ruth Gabbitas conceded the $25 a week claim would have a negligible impact on key economic indicators.

This admission runs counter to the Government's submission that an 'uncertain' economic environment only justifies a measly $10 increase.

ACTU Secretary Greg Combet says a casual observer could be excused for thinking the Federal Government and business groups are schizophrenic when discussing the economic climate.

'In the financial press the gangbuster talk is of a powerhouse economy and a buoyant and robust outlook. In the Australian Industrial Relations Commission the talk is more ominous. Darkness will descend on Australia if 1.7 million low paid workers win a small improvement in their living standards with a $25 wage increase,' he says.

'The basis of our claim is that it is an essential and decent pay increase for the low paid and it will have a negligible economic effect. The Government's own economic experts now back this up.'

Lyndon Rowe, Chief Executive of business peak body, ACCI, says economic projections for the next three months are buoyant and 'reflect robust actual activity levels.'

'The Australian economy has proved very resilient. Solid sustained growth is under way. Outcomes and predictions for new orders and output are robust. Capacity utilisation is at historical high levels. Capital expenditure plans for the next 12 months are strong. Export performance has recovered,' he says.

The ACTU maintains that the Government's analysis that the economy will be unaffected and the business sector's analysis that the financial outlook is buoyant are strong reasons for the $25 rise.

'The economic climate will support a $25 pay rise and the stories of hardship that came from the low paid workers who fronted the Living Wage case shows there is an obvious need,' says Greg Combet.

It's Bleak And Hard On The Minimum Wage

This is what some of the witnesses to the Living Wage case had to say about life on the current minimum wage:

'During 2001 I needed to take 6 weeks off work due to an illness (meningococal virus). During this period I used up all of my sick leave and annual leave entitlements to pay my rent. I have two bills from the Ambulance Service of Victoria for $342 with a late payment fee of $45 which remain outstanding. I had to borrow $500 from one of my children for payments owing on my rent. I still had to appear before the Tenancies Tribunal because my rental payments were falling into arrears. I owe the estate agent $375 and face eviction. All of my wages will go toward my rental payment this week. My telephone was cut off. I have no spare funds for social outings, to pursue any hobbies or to buy replacement clothing, even work clothing. My current financial position is very difficult. My wage levels provide me with no scope to make any headway in the payment of my debts or the chance to gather any savings for emergencies,' - Elizabeth, Service Assistant.

'The annual Living Wage increase is just a nibble, it's a small break which then catches up with you over the next twelve months with inflation. I do not go on holidays because of the cost. I cannot afford to go given the amount I earn. The last holiday I went on was four years ago' - Brenda, a shop assistant.

'I spend about $28 per week post-GST, compared to my expenditure before the GST. It's impacted on food and grocery items public transport, utility bills, clothing, garden and household maintenance items. $25 a week might help with paying my bills on time' - Kevsar, a hotel employee.

'I cannot pay my bills on time. I've had the phone cut once. My social life consists of staying home and using the computer. I can't afford to go out. - Neil, a timber machinist.

'I find it extremely difficult to make ends meet. Our family has not been on a holiday out of Melbourne for 15 years. My wife and I never go out together as we cannot afford the extra expense,' - George, production worker.

'The GST is killing me. It is very hard to live on with one income with the GST. Prices have gone up and the tax cut was not compensation for the hike,' - Albert, a cleaner.


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