Insipid stewardship of our civil freedoms has become the stock and trade of the nation's chief legal officer. While attorneys general have traditionally played the important roll of being a bridge between the legislature and judiciary and an advocate for the Rule of law in the hurly burly of political discourse, Williams has lacked both the heart and stomach for the fight. To steal a Keating Hewson insult, he's a shiver looking for a spine to run up.
From the day he took office and was given the task of rogering the Legal Aid, Williams has been the most ineffectual of advocates for his fraternity. When the High court was subjected to unprecedented political attack over the Wik decision, Williams was struck dumb. When Justice Kirby was viciously attacked by Senator Heffernen, he was missing in action again - leaving it to the likes of Downer and Abbott to defend both the man and the institution.
His handling of the doomed anti-terror laws were similarly ineffectual. Allowing his political masters to dictate the drafting of the legislation has left him with a Draconian dogs breakfast that any self-respecting liberal would disown. Among the outrageous provision are proposals that would see unionists involved in legitimate industrial action locked up as terrorists. That a Senate Committee dominated by Coalition Senators as condemned the Bill as unacceptable gives some indication of the shortcomings of this exercise. For Williams, the one-time Libertarian way out of his depth, the rebuttal is an abject embarrassment.
In this context, the Bais Moi decision is totally consistent. Asleep at the wheel, or just asleep, Williams has let others dictate his portfolio. The censorship authorities approved the film for release when the Howard Government was in thralls of its khaki election campaign. The decision was made on its merits. But now it's been released the usual moralising suspects have exerted pressure on Howard; he's given his orders to his Attorney General, who himself has pressured the censors into a humiliating back down.
We're focusing on Dazzle, so we won't dwell on the fact that the kerfuffle has given the film an audience far greater than the arthouse fringe it would have normally attracted. We won't even question why it is a movie where women perpetrate violence on men that has fueled the current outrage, while blokes in fatigues continue to cut 'em up from all angles. All we'll say is this, when there's a choice between freedoms and knee-jerk politics, there's no contest with this government. And Williams - whose job is to be the voice of sanity in this regard - is as guilty as the rest of them.
Watching Williams justify the backdown has been so excrutiating it should rate as an extreme sport. The vacant stare, the tortured diction, the wavering voice, the quivering lip: to watch Dazzle to perform in public is like watching a drunkard attempt Karaoke; you just wish they had a loved one to tell them to play to their strengths. One suspects Dazzle realizes this, which is why he is currently more interested in finding a position on the Bench than carrying out his current job. The personal tragedy for Williams is that by the time he pulls the strings for an appointment he will be bereft of any credibility within the profession he should never have left. But the damage his ineffectual tenure has done to the Australian way of life will be even more enduring.
The Federal Court of Australia ruled the ANZ Bank had breached the law by disciplining Joy Buckland for speaking to the media in her capacity as an elected trade union official.
In a landmark freedom of speech test, Justice Wilcox upheld argument from the Finance Sector Union that ANZ had breached the Freedom of Association provisions of the Workplace Relations Act.
The Finance Sector Union took the action on behalf of Buckland, its Padstow branch manager who is also the elected national president of the union. She was disciplined and threatened with dismissal after being quoted in the media in her capacity as FSU president.
Victory For All Workers
FSU national secretary Tony Beck says the decision is an important victory for all Australian workers.
"The Federal Court decision reaffirms the basic right of workers to speak out on matters of industrial injustice," Beck says.
"ANZ is trying to position itself as a People's Bank - it could start by treating its staff as human beings. The ANZ should offer Joy an unqualified apology."
Beck says that in recent years workers have been increasingly intimidated into silence by employers invoking gagging clauses from employment contracts.
"This decision will give confidence to workers, particularly elected union delegates, to speak out on behalf of their fellow workers," he says.
No Choice Needed
Buckland says the decision means she does not have to choose between her job and her responsibilities as an elected union official.
"I believe it is totally reasonable to be a loyal employee and to speak out on behalf of my fellow workers," she says
"I didn't take this action for myself, but for all Australian workers. I was not prepared to allow myself be struck dumb by my employer.
"I hope this decision gives other workers the courage to stand up for their rights."
Read the whole decision
A simmering dispute in the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations is expected spill over into the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) next week.
Central to the argument is DEWR staff's demand to negotiate a new agreement, with union involvement, under section 170LJ of the Workplace Relations Act 1996.
Abbott's managers, giving lie to their boss' insistence that workers are being given the democratic right to decide their own forms of agreement, are insisting on a non-union agreement or AWAs, despite 94 percent support for union involvement in a recent email ballot.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has asked for a secret ballot of all staff to decide on the form of agreement, a common occurrence in other public service agencies.
According to CPSU spokesperson Jenness Gardner, DEWR management is 'hypocritical'.
"Democracy in the workplace is one of Minister Abbott's key concerns. Why then does this same standard not apply to employees to employees in his own department?" Gardner asked.
Former Premier Neville Wran has completed his review for the NSW branch, rejecting "the idea that the trade union movement represented any negative factor in the last federal election".
The committee accepted evidence that elected ALP members tended to lose touch with their roots, accepting a proposal to place consultation requirements on all members.
"All Labor Ministers, Shadow Ministers and MPs should be required to establish a regular consultative process with trade unions relevant to their portfolios and electorates," the report says.
"Opportunities should be given to all unions to express their views to ministers and shadow ministers in the formulation of policy and its implementation."
NSW Labor Council secretary John Robertson - who was part of the Advisory Committee - has welcomed the report and offered to assist MPs in establishing these structures.
"Too often unions and their concerns are ignored by Labor politicians," Robertson says. "By making the establishment of consultative processes a requirement, there is an enforceable onus on Labor MPs to seek advice from trade unions and their members."
60/40 Debate to Continue
The committee called for retention of the 60/40 rule that gives trade unions delegates a majority vote for the 2002 state conference but recommends ongoing dialogue with on its long-term viability.
And it rejects calls to dump the requirement that party members be union members, while recommending a clarification of party rules requiring members to join unions, given the change in employment to casual work and self-employment.
Other recommendations include:
- rejection of the 'small target' strategy of releasing policies late in the electoral cycle
- restructuring national conference, with direct election of delegates from local branches.
- moves to eliminate branch stacking, including only allowing Australian citizens and permanent residents to be members.
- greater emphasis on the use of technology in campaigns.
If you are an ALP member, you can access the report online at the NSW ALP website at http://www.nswalp.com.au
Under a resolution to be put to the NSW ALP state conference, sponsored by the Labor Council of NSW, workers would be able to access carers leave for non-health related family issues.
Carers Leave, which is a statutory right, would be accessible, not just when a family member was ill, but for important days in their family's lives such as speech days, sporting events and student-teacher nights.
The resolution would also place the onus on employer to show why a request for flexible hours was denied.
Currently, when an employer is not prepared to give family leave, the worker has to go through a costly, legalistic process to enforce the right. While such a change would be a first in Australia, similar provisions have been enacted by the Blair Government in Britain.
Labor Council secretary John Robertson says that while most employers accept the principle of family friendly workplaces, it is time to put some meat on the bones of the idea.
"It's not just about 'compassion' for workers with sick family members; it's about recognising that people have a life outside the workplace," Robertson says.
"With employers placing greater pressure on workers - with many working unpaid overtime - there has to be a degree of give and take."
Industrial Relations Agenda
Other Labor Council resolutions reflect the trade union movement's agenda in the lead0-up to the 2003 state election.
- Workers Entitlements: Unions will be calling on the Carr Government to instigate a national scheme of entitlement protection in cooperation with other state Labor Governments
-Unfair Dismissal: Unions will be arguing that reinstatement should be used by the Industrial Relations Commission as the primary remedy, rather than compensation in unfair dismissal procedures.
- Labour Hire- Unions will call on the Government to implement the recommendations of the Labour Hire Taskforce, including the regulation of the industry..
- Occupational Health & Safety - Unions will be calling on the Government to honor its' commitment arising out of the Workers Compensation reforms to ensure employer compliance with OH&S regulations and laws.
State secretary Andrew Ferguson labels 11 pages of discovery orders, requiring the production of everything from former employees’ diary notes dating back six years to fighting fund accounts, a “ridiculous fishing expedition”.
The union has four weeks to provide the commission with a mountain of paperwork and comprehensive electronic records.
"Basically, we have to stop our normal functioning to comply with these demands," Ferguson explained. "They are oppressive in that they require us to spend enormous amounts of workers money and allocate resources we don't have to meet the commissioner's whim.
"Some of it amounts to a gross invasion of the privacy of our young staff and they regard it as harassment."
He objects to providing the personal diaries and personnel records of non-industrial staff but will do so.
"We will comply fully but under duress," Ferguson says, "we know this is a witch-hunt but it would only play into their hands to do anything else."
Ferguson estimates it would take a minimum of three experienced people working fulltime for four weeks to bring the required information together. Enquiries about the possibility of financial assistance have drawn a blank.
Ferguson's witch-hunt analysis is borne out by commission insistence on running anti-union claims publicly while side-tracking wider issues, including safety, phoenixing, immigration rorts, workers comp and tax evasion into "research" committees.
All-up the commission is demanding records under more than 160 different headings.
Two of the first set the tone for what follows:
- "All work diaries of employees (current and ex-employees) including electronic daires (sic) and daily appointment tasks, of the CFMEU (New South Wales Branch) that have entries dated as from 1 January 1996", and
- "All work diaries of members of the Committee of Management (current and ex-members), including electronic diaries and daily appointment tasks, of the CFMEU (NSW) that have entries dated as from 1 January 1996."
The Cole Commission is demanding EBA kits, every piece of correspondence to or from 39 different construction companies; the names, addresses, birth dates and membership numbers of every union member, financial or unfinancial, and much more.
The commission has also flagged its intention to undertake microscopic investigation of every financial transaction the union has undertaken, including its fundraising and practical support for East Timorese reconstruction and the Children's Healthcare Trust.
More Legal Threats
Meanwhile, a demolition contractor is threatening legal action against the CFMEU as the Gazebo Hotel shutdown enters its second week.
Thirteen backpackers, all newly signed-up union members, are maintaining their picket after learning they had been underpaid and denied the most basic safety provisions.
WorkCover has issued a string of Breach and Improvement Notices, along with four health and safety fines, against employer Australian Development Corporation, since demolition work stopped last week.
The backpackers were distributing leaflets in the Kings Cross shopping centre today, drawing attention to the type or rorts the Royal Commission has indicated it won't be treating as priorities.
Maritime Union of Australia officials negotiated a confidential settlement with CSL that will see the Australian crew remain on board until the Yarra leaves Australian waters, with an Australian-flagged ship to take over the coastal route.
While the Australian crew will be retrenched and replaced with Ukrainian labour, the MUA is confident that all the seamen will find work on other runs. As part of the settlement all CSL legal action against the MUA and the crew has been lifted.
The stand-off became a major national issue after CSL, servicing the Australian coast for Adelaide Brighton Cement, decided to reflag the ship in the Bahamas and sack the Australian crew to cut costs.
The MUA's Bob Coombs paid tribute to the role the Australian Workers Union, whose members are employed by Adelaide Brighton Cement, and the Transport Workers Union, whose members unload cement on the docks, played in the dispute.
"I have no doubt that the support of the AWU, TWU, the ACTU and the broader union movement was pivotal in sending CSL the message that it would not be 'business as usual' if they sacked their crew."
Coombs told the NSW Labor Council it was a 'threshold dispute' that had wider significance to the Australian shipping industry, claiming up to 55 ships would have disappeared from the Australian coast if CSL had succeeded.
The MUA also garnered broader community support on the issue of Australian jobs and border security, with advocacy from Sydney talkback kings Alan Jones and John Laws.
The MUA has vowed to continue pressing the Howard Government on its willingness to certificate Flag of Convenience ships, claiming it compromises the border protection strategy.
"The minister for transport and the federal government now need to reconcile their $2 billion commitment to border control with policies undermining our coastal security through the Australian merchant marine," MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin says.
Earlier in the week, wives of the Yarra seamen met with Oppostion leader Simon Crean who promised to introduce a private members bill which would stop shipping companies replacing Australian jobs on the coastal trade with guest workers.
Crean says the Bill will set out to 'plug a loophole' in legislation that has allowed CSL Australia to transfer ownership of the Yarra, sack its Australian crew and move to replace it with cheaper foreign labour.
Meanwhile, in Port Pirie today politicians, church leaders, union officials and the Yarra crew attended a Lions Club barbecue to thank the local community for their support during the seaferers dispute.
The stamps have been produced by Australia Post, saving East Timor around $100,000 in production costs. All proceeds will go directly to East Timor.
In designing the stamps, Australia Post worked with the East Timorese, basing the designs on specially commissioned traditional woven textile designs called Tais. They also incorporate images reflective of East Timor and the struggle for independence.
The union movement has long been a supporter of the East Timorese people's claim for self-determination. On May 20, 2002, this dream will be realised with the declaration of independence of the world's newest nation - East Timor.
A framed set of the stamps will be taken to the independence day celebrations by Pat Lee (IEU) and presented on behalf of the ACTU to the national union centre in Dili.
Jim Claven of the CEPU says his union is calling on all Australian unionists to get behind this important effort to help East Timor. You can do this and be part of Australia's assistance to East Timor by either:
· Purchasing East Timor's first day covers and souvenir stamp packs for $8.30 and $8.50 from major Australia Post outlets or mail order. International purchases can also be made direct from Australia Post's website.
· Purchasing through bidding at auction for one of the special 100 first day covers that will be signed by one of the leaders of East Timor's independence struggle. These have been provided to Oxfam-Community Aid Abroad for sale by auction, with all proceeds going to Oxfam projects in East Timor. They will be able to bid for through the Oxfam-Community Aid Abroad website .
ACTU President Sharan Burrow says this is an excellent and rewarding way to help the Timorese and to celebrate this wonderful historical moment.
'This is a great opportunity to purchase a set of first issue stamps, and at the same time contribute to the in a very practical way to re-building of the new nation of East Timor.'
A full set of stamps can be viewed on the ACTU site or on the CEPU's website. You can also find more information about East Timor's first stamps from Australia Post's website.
"This Government is paying for its pre-election largesse. Unfortunately, it has singled out the disadvantaged to carry the cost, it's outrageous," Labor Council assistant secretary Mark Lennon says.
ASU Clerical secretary Michael Want points out that casual workers will have super entitlements trimmed by a budget move to average out employer contributions.
Federal Treasurer Peter Costello is proposing to move the employer cut-in figure to $1350 over three months, rather than the existing $450 over one month. While it sounds the same it means many casual workers, predominantly female, will dip out altogether.
For example, a casual who earned $1000 in a fortnight then had no work for the rest of the period, would miss out entirely under the Government's proposal.
So too would someone working for various employers, earning say $1000 from each, because no single employer reached the $1350 threshold.
"This is a further attack on retirement incomes, which everyone from the Governor General down says must be in place to protect all in their retirements," Want says.
Blocking the Budget
NSW unions will throw their support behind Labor-Democrat moves to resist budgetary assaults on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and Disability Support Pension.
Lennon says both measures deliberately target the disadvantaged to pay for the Coalition's pre-election excesses.
Labor leader Simon Crean has also pledged his party to full protection of worker entitlements and the introduction of paid maternity leave.
Meanwhile, the activities of a number of NSW community welfare agencies have been jeopardised by Government's refusal to meet its share of a SACS award increase handed down in the IRC.
Workers providing a range of services, including drug, alcohol and gambling services; women's refuges; and meals on wheels were granted a 6.5 percent rise but the budget made no provision for meeting the fixed federal component of their wages.
"We don't want to know if Aunty Mary wears a wig or if Uncle John has a broken leg. We are not interested in impinging on individual privacy," secretary Maurie O'Sullivan says.
"All we want is a clear picture of how many casual employees, temporary employees, fulltime employees and how many contract-labour hire employees the Government has on its books."
The Labor Government has repeatedly refused to supply the information, citing privacy restraints.
The PSA has responded by appealing Government's stance to the Adminstrative Decisions Tribunal.
The PSA considers an accurate workplace profile important to the constructive advance of membership issues and O'Sullivan said he could see no legitimate reason for the constant denial of such general information.
"This is simple information that, really, should be available to every man, woman and child in the state," he says.
"We have no patience with the smoke and mirrors the Government applies to keep secret issues which should be available in the public domain."
The decision, a record in Australia, was handed down by the NSW District Court this week against Michael Brown, the former national secretary of the printers union.
Justice Walmsley found Brown had defamed his opponent John Cahill in a libellous pamphlet during a battle for control of the Printing Division of the AMWU in 1998.
The judge accepted that "very serious and false imputations " contained thepamphlet caused a significant number of union members, who would otherwise have voted fror Cahill, to back Brown.
Brown has since quit the AMWU and currently works with the national office of the Australian Workers Union.
"Hotel union members can now expect the Living Wage increase in their pockets as early as next week," LHMU national secretary Jeff Lawrence says. "The proposal to lock out hotel workers from the minimum wage increase of $18 always lacked merit."
Lawrence said it had been "heartless" to even float the proposal.
The NSW Government, meanwhile, has announced it will support the flow-on of the $18 a week won in the national wage case to workers covered by state awards.
Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca called the increase "fair and resonable".
"It will help workers on state awards, mony of whom are casual or part-time, particularly in regional and rural NSW," Della Bosca said.
"Federal Workplace Relations Minister Tony Abbott wanted to limit the increase to just $10 for those earning less than $507. We reject that as mean, workers and their families deserve better."
Della Bosca said his Government would back the NSW Labor Council argument for a full flow-on when the state case is heard next week.
This week's strike in the north of NSW highlighted the policy of hanging individual workers out to dry when something went wrong in a system supposed to look after the welfare of the state's youth and children.
PSA secretary Maurie O'Sullivan says DOCS workers are continually scapegoated by a department that refuses to adequately resource the service.
"The paramount difficulty for DOCS officers is they are trying to do an impossible job with minimal or no resources and minimal or no support," O'Sullivan says.
"The disgusting hypocrisy is that when something does go wrong, DOCS executive people, istead of doing the right thing and increasing resources and support, simply take some officer in their sights and parade that officer right to the gallows."
DOCS officers deal with the trauma of abuse - physical, emotional, sexual and, increasingly, drug abuse - as they impact on the state's young.
Since changes to reporting requirements caseloads have multiplied without any corresponding increase in staff or resources.
This week's northern NSW action followed a stoppage in the Western Metropolitan Area last month.
PSA members are insisting on an interim boost to staffing while outcomes of the Kibble Inquiry into the situation are awaited.
Industrial Relations Minister John Della Bosca says the new positions will lift the inspectorate to 56 fulltime positions.
"The department will be able to conduct more compliance campaigns in high risk industries, occupations and regional areas," Mr Della Bosca says.
The move follows a concerted union push for greater workplace enforcement, spearheaded by the CFMEU and TCFUA.
Industrial relations inspectors are responsible for the enforcement of NSW industrial laws, including minimum conditions of employment, record keeping, the provision of annual leave and other entitlements.
"Rather than simply responding to problems, we're helping employees and employers work together to identify and head off potential disputes before they arise," Mr Della Bosca says.
"The Department will place greater emphasis on preventative activities such as industry targeting campaigns, and will be better placed to provide immediate access to expert assistance."
The new inspectors are undertaking six months of intensive training, including on-the-job instruction. They will initially focus on individual complaints, freeing up more experienced staff to take advice and assistance out to the workplace.
The appointments run counter to a federal approach where issues like immigration, tax evasion and freedom of association are largely left to unions to police where they are capable.
The government initially claimed it was putting a $10 tax on tickets to top up outstanding Ansett workers redundancy entitlements.
But "not one cent of the money collected from the ticket tax has been paid to the Ansett workers and their families", according to Transport Workers Union State Secretary Tony Sheldon.
"As far as we are aware the money is just continuing to accumulate in general revenue," he says. "Government representatives are also demanding that the Government be paid ahead of workers redundancy payment as the airlines are liquidated."
The $10 notes feature a picture of Prime Minister John Howard.
CFMEU state secretary Andrew Ferguson said the Labor For Refugees-drafted motion advocated a more humanitarian and compassionate approach to the issue.
The call for Labor to reject mandatory detention will be debated at next weekend's NSW ALP State conference. Backers also seek a massive overhaul of the refugee processing regime on Labor winning Government
Besides Labor for Refugees, the proposal was passed unanimously by the NSW Young Labor Conference two weeks ago. A similar motion was passed by the national Labor Womens conterence.
With the resolution focusing on the need to fight for alternatives to mandatory detention and for the ALP to return to a compassionate and socially progressive position it is expected to pass with cross-factional support.
The Centre would like to hear from anyone who has suggestions of geographic areas, sites, workplaces or industries suitable for this project or can provide useful contacts.
The project recognises the workplace is often where exchanges between cultures takes place. From sharing different foods at lunchtime to recognising the economic advantage of Australia's multi-skilled and multicultural workforce, cultural diversity defines our workplaces - past and present.
The project will run over 12 months, in collaboration with communities, trade unions, industry, education and training institutions, government agencies and non-government organisations.
It seeks to highlight the contribution of people from all migrant backgrounds to the cultural, economic and social development of the state. It is anticipated that there will be a particular focus on cross-cultural workplaces, the division of male and female labour, and workplaces and communities in rural and regional NSW.
A major aim is to produce resources that will enable communities to identify, document and share the histories of their working lives.
Please contact Dianne Knott if you can provide assistance or would like to know more about the project.
Phone (02) 9228 3347
Fax (02) 9228 5517
For more information on the project, see http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/projects/36.html
To find out more about the Migration Heritage Centre, visit http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au
by Stephanie Brennan
The UN Security Council was meeting to consider four options relating to the conflict which has raged since 1975 when Morocco invaded, bombed and occupied Western Sahara.
In a dramatic shift in it's foreign policy the US draft resolution put to the Security Council called for the UN to adopt the notorious Framework Agreement put to it last year by UN Special Envoy James Baker. Baker's proposal involved giving Morocco sovereignty over the territory under the guise of 'limited autonomy' for the indigenous Saharawi people.The Security Council saw it as a subverting of the decolonisation process and it was voted down a year ago.
September 11 and the 'War on Terror" has meant that Morocco is now seen as a key player in US plans for military expansionism in the region. After King Mohamed's meeting with President Bush - and cosy dinner with the UN's Kofi Annan - the US announced its abandonment of the UN sponsored referendum on self-determination which Morocco has been blocking for 11 years. The US's proposal was defeated - temporarily - but is up again for discussion in July.
Last October Morocco raised the stakes when it gave US and French Oil companies licences to explore for oil in the area. Although the UN's top legal counsel advised that Morocco acted illegally the international community has largely stood by. Bush and Baker both have strong links to the oil industry and this latest US sponsored 'autonomy plan' is seen as being motivated by oil and military concerns.
The Australia Western Sahara Association and Western Sahara Alliance are organising a protest outside the UN office on Monday 20 May at 12.30pm 46 - 48 York St. Bring your union's flags to show support. Enquiries contact Julie Power (LHMU) 0425 214887 or Paul Reid (ASU-MEU) 0407 242092
Labor Leaders Speakout on Refugees
In the lead up to NSW ALP State Conference, the Labor Council in conjunction with Labor for Refugees (NSW) will be holding a forum on the issues regarding Refugees and the ALP.
Speakers include Neville Wran, The Hon. Dr. Meredith Burgmann MLC (Legislative Council President), RTBU State Secretary Nick Lewocki and Labor Council Secretary John Robertson.
Thursday 23 May 2002, 6.00 pm, Trades Hall Auditorium, Goulburn Street, Sydney.
For more information email email@example.com.
NSW Fabians' - Wednesday Forum
Socialist Objective-Objectionable Object or Light on the Hill
630pm Berkolouw Bookstore - Wed 22nd Norton St Leichhardt
- Senator George Campbell, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Manufacturing
- Troy Bramston, Former Sec NSW YL
- Paul Smith, NSW Fabian Sec
- MC, Tanya Plibersek, MP for Sydney
$5 for Fabian Members $10 for others
East Timor Independence Day Celebration
Celebration organised by the Australia-East Timor Association, including Entertainment, Timorese Food & TV news from Dili on the Big Screen. (Ph 9500-1638 for more details)
Entertainers featured include the Anin Murak Choir, the Solidarity Choir, Another Roadside Attraction, Denis Kevans, the Stiff Gins and Jeannie Lewis.
Monday 20 May 2002, 6.00 pm, Petersham Town Hall, Crystal Street, Petersham
Independence Rally for Western Saraha
Monday 20 May 2002, 12.30 pm, UN Offices, 46 York Street, Sydney
For more information contact Stephanie Brennan on 02 9569 7760
Dalai Lama Youth Forum
Forum for Young People aged between 16-25 on Saturday 25 May 2002 with young people having the opportunity to ask the Dalai Lama a question. Cost $16.50 per head.
Saturday 25 May 2002, 2.00 pm, City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney
Organised by Inspire. Phone 9810-6266 for more information. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketek or from the City Recital Hall Box Office 8256-2222
Like Tania Williams I too am concerned at the choice of a rap song as a union recruitment anthem, but for slightly different reasons. I'm worried that the NSW branch of the ALP might follow suit with a promotional campaign featuring a cover version of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise", performed by Eric Roozendaal and Joe Tripodi.
Your Editorial of May 3rd on the so-called "Hijack" of May Day is a disgrace.
I understand that your commentator Peter Lewis was not present at the blockade or Unity Rally - a point that should speak for itself - when considering the quality of his commentary.
As a participant I can say unreservedly, that the deployment and reaction of the police at ACM / Wackenhut was out of all proportion to the peaceful nature of the protest. By my count 200 police hemmed in the 800 or so protestors who had linked their arms around the offices of ACM and whose crime consisted in spirited chanting in support of refugee rights. (A further 150 cops hemmed in the Unity March later in the Day when it engaged in the provocative action of sitting down in the Martin Place and listening to speeches).
For those who were not there, I will note that these are not quite the same police usually seen wandering around the streets. They were dressed in military style outfits, complete with Jackboots and leather brawling gloves, and engaged in military style control tactics. Unlike those at the MUA picket which I attended the following week, these cops arrived with an attitude, in an obviously antagonistic frame of mind even before they took action against the assembled youth, workers and activists - no light hearted banter on their shift!
Clearly the cops had their orders to 'go in hard', despite the fact that the ACM picket was notified and legal action under the Summary offences Act.
But all these facts are evidently no concern to Peter Lewis. He shows even less concern for considering the ramifications of this militarisation of the police employed in civil protest for the rest of the labour movement.
His problem seems to be in be-wailing a half-dozen marbles that some frightened youth may have thrown under a charging 900kg horse as he was being pushed around like a sheep in a paddock, and the effect that this may have on "Public Opinion".
What your columnist, Mr. Lewis might like to remind himself, (and as was seen most recently in the Tampa affair) is that public opinion is in large part informed by the commentaries that are read in ALL the media. When a publication that likes to portray itself as tribune of working class issues produces such a jaundiced rant as to make it indistinguishable from an article penned by an Ackermaan or Deviine then the publication is doing itself and workers a serious disservice.
If the Workers Online is as concerned for the sanctity of May Day as is claimed, you might care to moderate Mr Lewis's pronouncements by sending a Reporter to gather first hand information next year. Better still, you may wish to temper your reports by attending the organisational meetings that preceed the days (M1 and M5). There you may witness for yourself the long considerations for ensuring security on the marches and demonstrations, the desire of many genuine rank-and-file Trade Unionists and officials for mobilising the as-yet uninvolved masses of workers in both events, and importantly the steps being taken to link in a real way the protest actions of May 1 with the traditional (for this state) rallies and marches held on the following Sunday (M5). Perhaps it is unnecessary to repeat that it is essential in any democratic process, to have participation as well as criticism.
May 1 is International Workers Day. For historical reasons in this state, the May Day flag has been kept flying for all these years by people dedicated to the ideas of internationalism and solidarity on days other than May 1.
Now the historical opportunity exists to reclaim May 1 and build on their conviction and their tenacity.
Mr Lewis might also like to ask himself - is it a task that he is up to?
I've read your article 'The Hijacking of May Day', and quite frankly, it was embarrassing, petty and offensive.
OK, first of all, the 'M1' event was supported by the AMWU and CFMEU among other people. How can you possibly say that these guys are 'hijacking the union movement'?
Second: the ACTU's 'May Day' march has for years been on the next weekend after May Day, not May 1st. For years, the only real May Day event was the (usually) small anarchists commemoration at the 8 hour monument. The unions started participating in the actual May Day, after the WEF blockade.
May Day was originally started to remember 8 anarchists - the 'Haymarket Martyrs' who were framed for murder as a way of trying to stop the campaign for an 8 hour day.
So you're accusing us of hijacking a day that was started to remember some of us, which you didn't want for years.
Finally, let's look at some of these hijackers, these middle class bludgers and ratbags that have nothing to do with the traditions of May Day, these people that you're so dead set against. Let's see, off the top of my head, a few of the anarchists I know...there's Ian, the roadie and labourer. Keith, the AMWU delegate. Dave the welder. Vaughan who does data entry. Jarrad, the apprentice carpenter... they're going to have to make champagne a lot cheaper before we can be chardonnay socialists.
To read your article, you'd think that we were the 'enemy of the working class', and the police and media were your greatest friends. That's much more "marginalised and counter-productive" than we could ever hope to be.
anarchist and CPSU delegate.
Congratulations to Alison Peters on your insightful report on the National Labor Women's Conference.
The NSW delegation was a strong contingent and we were able to articulate some of the critical bread and butter issues for Labor women throughout the conference workshops.
What struck me as an important point of difference was the way in which women in the ALP in NSW are able to make a difference. Rank and file pre-selection, which is so important to NSW branch members is something that has not been experienced in other states for many years.
In the last Federal campaign, I was involved with the Country Labor candidates- of which 50% were women. Here were articulate, involved women, connected to their communities and able to demonstrate their understanding of the pressures and aspirations of women in rural and regional Australia. They understand the pressures of change in rural and regional communities, and were able to articulate how these changes related to policy positions of both the Labor Party and the Coalition.
What women want- as Alison so rightly suggests - is a voice in the decision making processes that are part of our every day lives. The challenge of the ALP , the Labor Council and all affilated and non-affiliated unions, is to give women that voice.
The recent Wran Review identified rank and file participation as critical for the prcoess of reconnection with Labor's roots. A critical part of this reconnection is the opportunity for women who are union members to connect with the Labor Party and what it represents in their terms.
Alison was an active and articulate advocate on both fronts at the National Labor Women's Conference and your members can be assured that the voices of women will be heard as part of an ongoing commitment to affirmative action in the broad Labor movement - the Labor Party and affilated unions.
Senior Vice President
Australian Labor Party
Regarding Chinese Wobblies: I couldn't access the web site in your story for some reason. But I do read Han Dong Fan's site China Labour Bulletin for up to the minute news on labor in China. I remember there were three stories on labour start about bosses who were killed by workers in China a few months back. Well it happened here in NYC just last month. an immigrant construction worker buried a pick axe in his bosses head over unpaid wages, reportedly $700.00.
Poor sap missed his plane back to Latvia when he fell asleep at JFK airport or he would have gotten away. we have a terrible problem of unpaid wages here in the construction and garment and food industries especially. no word on who the boss was yet, a sub-contractor on a job so it's not clear if he was really to blame or the general contractor could have been late paying. anyway, if a few more of these stories hit the news maybe the problem of unpaid wages might clear up a bit.
Please don't take this as a personal criticism, but I must protest in the strongest possible terms about the 'story' (and I use the word loosely as it fails to qualify as journalism) written by Andrew Casey in the latest issue of Workers Online (#135) about woblies with chinese characters.
As far as I can tell, what has happened is a contributor to workers online has written a story about chinese workers using direct action tactics, and underground wobbly-style organising against the state-run shonky unions and corrupt party officials and local bosses. The story is fine to that degree, the problem is;
1. Workers Online uses our Sydney IWW Branch t-shirt logo without our permission or contacting us first,
2. Insinuate in the story that these chinese organisers are using wobbly tactics and methods, including the use or promotion of violence, murder and beatings against bosses, with the assumption being that these are traditional
3. Insinuate and actually say that the wobblies are supporting and assisting in this struggle in China. Obviously the IWW has never been involved in China, is not currently involved, and would not support the use of violence,
4. IWW endorsed methods and tactics over the last 100 years of continual organising has never sanctioned the use of violence. The IWW relies on solidarity and non-violent direct action to achieve our goals. Despite the years of extreme state repression in the US and Australia, particularly during the WW1 conscription battles in Australia and the 'red scares' and 'Palmer raids' in the US in the 1920s, the IWW never resorted to violence as a tactic. Any cursory reading of our extensive literature, including the main ideological document, the 'One Big Union' pamphlet, explicitly makes clear our disdain for
so-called 'revolutionaries' who rely on sezing power by force. Old-style wobbly leaflets used to warn, 'watch the man who advocates violence' as experience taught the IWW that such people were usually company or police stooges, or
individuals who were a little bit fried in the brain. Such tactics only create burdens for the organisation,
4. The FBI, CIA, ASIO etc would love bullshit like this to accuse us of being terrorists etc in the current Orwellian post s-11 situation.
It is great if people want to write about the IWW but as we are a real, ongoing organisation, if people want to write about us, use our artwork and make out that they are tapped into what we are doing, they should contact us first. This is made worse by the fact that the article is not sourced, speculative, defamatory and innacurate.
We have numerous 'real' organising stories from around the world which we would love to share with readers of Workers Online.
Might I request a retraction and apology from Workers Online in the next issue, and the opportunity for the IWW to submit a story about some real activities we are currently involved in?
This would assist in setting the record straight.
Yours in solidarity,
IWW - Sydney
Ed's Reply No offence intended and, yes, Workers Online shuld get its head around the Wobblies. As for the use of the IWW graphic, our photo editor takes the Marxist view that 'all property is theft'. On this occasion he is suitably contrite.
Once again the conservatives of Australian politics , have reached their level of political incompetency.
Having anesthetised the Australian electorate , with lullabies reminiscent of the 1950s' and 60' , John Howard has with his usual political panache pulled the seat of leadership , from under his blissfully ignorant and ego driven Deputy, Caustic Costello , and secured another opportunity to crawl up another rung on the ladder of statesmanship.
This latest budget , which some have rightly called evil , is in fact a further turn on the garrotte which has been subtlety but firmly fixed around the neck of the Poor , the Sick and the Vulnerable in our society , and with the approval of the nonveau middle class.These parasites who have hijacked all but the flotsam and jetsam of the Welfare Budgets for use in their creation of a new class bourgeoisie, a mob of belligerents already clamouring on the doors and climbing over the walls like migrating cockroaches from behind the fridge ,using those who they don't need and refuse to feed as rungs on their ladder to their assumed Aristocracy.
This is the unspoiled Maggie Thatcher template of the eighties , and it is even more attractive to these Australians who still bear the mark of Cain , and continue to display it through a cultural cringe. A cringe so blatantly exposed by their denial of an "Australian Culture" , and their fluttering from culture to culture in an attempt to escape their own abominable self hate.
The only antidote to the political symptom to this disease was "Blairism" , a comprise of values , but a necessity to remove the evil.
The rejection of these truths : Is the rejection of the electorate , and is the only reason this continued nightmare journey on the ship of the dammedL
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink ;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.
The very deep did rot : O Christ !
That ever this should be !
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.
I have attended meetings ,controlled by branch stacks (no more) , to listen to regurgitated cant and crap from the 50s' and 60s' with much talk of the second coming .
No! Not Jesus !
These wankers actually think the rest of the electorate care about the "Big Ego".
This budget is the first major chink in the Armour of the Howard government , and Simon Crean as leader , should attempt to open this chink further with a passionate piercing of this chink ,with his 'Sgian Dubh', metaphorically speaking , off course!
Can Simon Crean , convince contemporary Australia that he is up to the job?
The answer must be a resounding Yes , but not in the company of those whom the electorate despises.
When I was in Dili prior to the 1999 referendum as the guest of the independence movement, it was common for soldiers of the TNI to call out, "Why don't you go home to the Gold Coast, we liked it when we were there." This reminds us that for 25 years Australian governments helped to arm and train the forces which illegally occupied East Timor. The terror wrought against civilians over that time, and particularly after the ballot, was executed by that army under the command of the Duntroon graduate, General Wiranto. We now know that Australian intelligence knew the fate planned for the East Timorese, yet we did nothing. Those responsible have not been brought to justice.
We can be proud of the subsequent exemplary behaviour of the Australian Federal Police and armed forces in East Timor supporting the UN. But now the Howard Government has announced it will not be bound by arbitration under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to determine the border with the new East Timor. What is at stake here is the oil and gas revenue which will determine whether East Timor is dependent on aid or is truly independent.
Australia should allow the new nation to own its share of the resources in the Timor Gap. Ultimately good relations with our neighbours are our best defence. This act of bad faith is a recipe for conflict.
Australian Education Union
by Peter Lewis
Wran's our Man
What's the most surprising thing you learnt during the review process?
I guess it was that although people at the Forums particularly expressed their disappointment, indeed their disillusionment, at the Federal Election results they were - despite their criticism, despite their disappointment and disillusionment - solid for the Party. In other words, there was plenty to grumble about but the membership, the rank and file, wanted to see the problems through and they wanted change.
One of the focuses of the report was the ALP's relationship with the union movement. Why do you think that particular debate is being raised so loudly at this point in time?
Well it's largely an issue that's been raised by our political opponents. Some of our colleagues were naïve enough to go for the baited hook, but it was really raised by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industrial Relations, Abbott. And of course, some of the unions have taken the stand that they want to hang on to what they've got. That's a fairly natural thing. But let me tell you that in the Forums I've been to throughout the lengths and breadth of Australia I find that there is absolutely no, or perhaps more accurately negligible, desire for the Labor Party to break its tie to the Unions.
I think most people recognise that no unions - no Labor Party. There are plenty of illustrations to which one can point where there are social democratic parties in various countries of the world that function quite well. But they aren't Labor Parties as we know the Labor Party in Australia. Let's face it: the Labor Party is the creature of the trade union movement. The Labor Party was created in the late part of the 19th Century to give working class people the right to representation in Parliament and once you separate the Union from the ordinary membership then you'll finish up with a different type of Party altogether, with different aspirations altogether and different objectives altogether.
And I repeat, I found no inclination from the part of the rank and file of the Labor Party to cut the unions adrift. If anything it was quite the opposite, there was a sense of indignation with the very small and negligible minority of people who were talking that way.
Doesn't that put Simon Crean in a difficult position in that he's almost tied his colours to altering the 60/40 rule?
No I don't think it's got anything to do with the 60/40 rule. That's the trap. I don't think the Unions deep down give a damn whether it's 60/40 or 50/50. That's a negligible aspect. If you start trying to argue the rights and wrongs of the issue from numbers then you can point to the fact that the numbers of trade unionists in this country have steadily shrunk over the last decade or so that the numbers in the union movement is something like 20%, where it used to be 60% and 70%. So if you start looking at numbers you can get almost any result you want to from it, if you apply the old adage "liars figure and figures lie" - that's not the way to approach it at all. What is needed is a fair and equitable partnership between the trade unions and the rank and file of the Labor Party and you need a proper balance between the two. But it seems to me that that doesn't depend upon the 60/40 or the 50/50 rule at all. I think that Simon Crean has a valid position from which to argue. May I say while I whole heartedly support the involvement of the Trade Unions, they have to smarten their game a bit too. It's not all on one side, this need for some change and some reform and I think we've all got to lift our game a bit. We've lost three Federal Elections on the trot and now's the time we want to put an end to that.
What is your evaluation of the state of the Union movement in Australia, both in terms of their policy settings and also the quality of the leadership within the movement?
Well, I wouldn't like to pass views about qualities of leadership; that's for other people to do. But the past changes that have taken place in the workforce, the switch from blue collar dominated trade union movement to white collar dominated industries, the move away from employment to self-employed and the very noticeable move from full-time permanent work to permanent-casual work, have all had a big effect on the composition and the numbers in the trade unions. I think all people interested in social issues and social advancement for the majority of people, have got to take some notice of that and the impact that it's having. Too frequently people are able to say that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.
It's a tough life for lots of people. Sure, they may have their own house in the sense that they pay the deposit and got a big mortgage. Sure, their children are getting a decent education, but it's at the expense of mum and dad working and every cent that's earned being applied to the mortgage and the children's education and keeping up with the general cost of living.
Beyond the 60/40 rule, what other mechanisms are there to mediate that relationship between the political and industrial wings of the Labor movement?
Well, quite frankly I don't think that there's all that much in dispute between the industrial and the political wings of the Labor movement. I think the unions get a fair share of the representative opportunities that the Labor Party presents. There are any number of people who've attained high office in trade unions who are in very responsible positions in the Parliament, in the House of Representatives and the Senate as well as, of course, the State Legislatures and I think really what's needed most is just more communication between the political and industrial wings of the Party. The two sometimes seem to treat each other as belonging to separate identities, where in fact we belong to the one identity, that is the identity that's concerned with equality of opportunity, social justice and humanitarianism. A fair go for everybody. So I don't think the remedy for what ails us is simple. But then I don't think it's all that difficult either.
One of the concrete recommendations, is the requirement that MPs, Ministers and Shadows, should have consultative processes in place with relevant trade unions and trade unionists. Is this a recognition that members of parliament have lost touch with the union perspective?
Whether they have or whether they haven't, that's the perception amongst many trade union leaders and many trade unionists. Indeed it goes further than that; it's a perception amongst the rank and file of the Party. Many of them of course are trade unionists and that was a constant complaint that emerged from our Forum; that is that the politicians have lost touch with their membership. We either don't see them, or they don't reply to our letters, they are disengaged from the membership, they don't report to us - this sort of thing. And that's something that's not hard to attend to, it's not hard to remedy, as long as people get off their backsides and do their job.
After all, a member of Parliament has two duties really: he's got his primary duty to the electorate which put him into Parliament and then he's got his other duty to the Party that pre-selected him and the members of that Party. And it's not some privilege that the members have of having a report from their local member, it's an obligation on the part of the local members to perform that role.
Have you got any ideas on how that process should work?
Just turn up at Branch meetings. Turn up at SEC, FEC meetings. Every so often go around the workshops in your electorate. People are hungry for information. You know, I spent some time in Parliament myself and you go to a workshop, the boys might give you a bit of a going over to start with, it's like being a referee in a football match - you usually get booed to begin with but it's all good natured and then when you get down to the real business of explaining what particular policy of the day is of interest and how it came about and what its objective is, you find you can have a fruitful discussion. And I think there should be more of that.
After all politics is also largely about people and I think that's where the problem has emerged. I think the electronic age - although what I'm saying may finish up on a screen on the Internet - has taken away some of the deep down human qualities you get in a face to face meeting or confrontation. People never quite feel that they've had the satisfactory encounter, certainly not as satisfactory as they would get at a meeting.
It is accepted that it is one of the priorities of the union movement is to see Labor in government. Do you think that there should be more of a focus amongst Labor politicians to see an increase in trade union density?
Definitely and I think, to be fair to the Labor politicians, they do not think otherwise. I think everybody's aware of the general framework of the Labor movement and its components of industrial and political; it's just that in recent years maybe there's just not been enough attention given in a world in which everybody has got too much to do. There's not enough attention given to the need for communication between the politicians on the one hand and the membership (which includes trade union affiliates) on the other.
How did you use to manage your relationship with the Union movement when you were Premier?
I was lucky in that I had a few big groupings of Trade Unions like the Chullora Railway Workshops, the Abattoirs, the Eveleigh Workshop, the Ford Motor Company on Parramatta Road. You could get several hundred of the boys at lunch and you provided the entertainment for them. You'd tell them what you were there for and what you'd come to discuss and they'd soon tell you what they wanted to discuss and you could have an all in debate. I found that very helpful. I've always taken the view that there's a lot of hidden talents and ideas that spring from working people and you can do worse than to listen.
And how did you use to get on with the Labor Council?
I had no problems with the Labor Council. Occasionally I had problems with the Officers of the Labor Council - but they were pushing their case and if I thought they were trying to roll me over I'd stand my ground. But we had plenty of red-blooded discussions, but we were always sensible enough to know that we're on the same side and the old "united we stand, divided we fall" rule was as valid then as it was when it was first espoused in the 19th Century.
One of the sections of your report looks at the breakdown of class, but it specifically rejects this 'aspirational' tag that's been floating around. What do you see as a more useful way of understanding the changing demographic?
You have to understand that everybody is aspirational; everybody wants to do the best they can for their families. Everybody wants a reasonable health system; if the wife or children get ill, everybody wants to see their children given a fair go in terms of education and the right to move from school into universities and TAFE colleges. These are the things that never change in politics. Politicians might change but the essential ingredients of policies don't change. How you provide the services, how you plan a visionary way for the future, all that can naturally change with circumstances but families need housing, they need transport, they need schools, they need hospitals and they need security. And if you can attend to those issues then you're really looking after people's aspirations. After all, politics is about hope and we all have that from the moment we're born. We have the hope of better things ahead and it's the Labor Party's role, as I see it, as I've always seen it, to look after the majority of people and to give them a chance to realise their hopes.
That lack of security was obviously something that was tapped into by the Howard Government during the election. Are you concerned that Labor is now critically exposed on these wedge issues such as immigration and race?
Well immigration and race are very difficult issues for a Party with compassion. It's much easier to generate hatred in relation to so-called asylum seekers than it is to generate compassion. It was a very dishonest campaign that the Coalition ran on the asylum seekers, but the fact is that the majority of Australians fell for the Border Protection lie that was introduced as another way of saying "we don't want these sort of people coming into Australia".
But Labor was basically dead once that started. How can Labor insulate itself from that happening again? Indeed, is it possible?
Of course it's not impossible,. A very similar thing happened during the Vietnam War and there the public was dead set against the Labor Party, dead set against the Labor Party's view that the War was immoral, that Australia shouldn't be there and people in the Labor Party were called cowards, yellow-bellies, they were spat on, the overwhelming majority of Australians were against the Labor Party. But finally, the Labor Party succeeded and its principled stand was adopted and was proven to be correct and the Labor Party emerged from those few years of horror in relation to the Vietnam War with its head high and with dignity and with its principle intact.
The difference is, that this time was Labor didn't really hold the line at the last election, do you see that as being a mistake?
Do you think it would have been better, even knowing it wouldn't have been a certain defeat, to have taken a more principled stand?
The real issue is - what's a more principled stand? And I just think that we were overcome by the enormity of events and we could have done better.
You were someone who was drafted into leadership of the ALP from outside the rigid factional structure. Could you see this happening to an individual in the current climate?
It would be much more difficult. There were factions of course when I became the leader in NSW. But the factions now have been honed to be works of art. There are not only factions, but sub-factions and sub-sub-factions and quite frankly the more the Party's opened up and the more democratic the internal workings of the Party become, then the weaker the factions will be because the factions keep the rank and file out of the policy making process. The factions centralise power and it means that the ordinary rank and file foot soldier of the Labor Party doesn't get a fair go to express his or her view. The sooner the factions are put in their place the better.
But the people who run the factions, run the Party. How do you actually convince them to weaken their own power base?
You will never convince them; you will only succeed if the Party restructures itself and gives the rank and file a proper voice within the various structures of the Party.
Can you see a way of doing that?
It'll happen. The conferences of the Party will push that view and people controlling the Party can't just ignore the rank and file forever, otherwise they'll just end up with no Party.
What constructive role do you think the unions can play in assisting that process?
Well, they're affiliates. They've got their view. But let's face it; the unions are riddled with factions too. I must say, the Labor Party isn't Robinson Crusoe - the Liberals have got their factions, the wets and the dries, even the Nats - god help us-- have got factions as well. So whilst I deplore the factions running the Labor Party in the way in which they do, I think you've got to recognise that some of these things become almost a fact of life. If you really want to do something about it you can, but you've got to take it head on.
Finally, you were someone who was pretty successful at winning elections, what is the single piece of advice you would give Labor federally if they want to start winning again?
Federal Labor is very close to success. Remember that we hold every Government - State and Territory -- in the Commonwealth and we only just lost the last election; notwithstanding Tampa, notwithstanding September 11, notwithstanding some of the tactical errors (in hindsight that we may have made). So we're on the brink of real success. The problem at the moment is that the morale of the Party has fallen because this loss was the third Federal Election loss on the trot. And our people are starting to get a bit depressed with the lack of success. But it will come. And I would say the single biggest thing that the Federal Party can do is listen to the rank and file, get to really know the rank and file of the Party and get those policies on all the basic issues that I mentioned like - Housing, Health, Transport, Security, Education. Get those policies out early so people know who we are and what we stand for.
by Jim Marr
But that's where Lui, 24, and a dozen other backpackers have found themselves, defending the frontline against the tide of shonky operators threatening to sink Sydney's legitimate construction industry.
Lui and his comrades, from a hostel on the other side of Elizabeth Bay Rd, make an odd bunch of activists.
The 13 young travellers - 10 from the UK, two Canadians and a Kiwi - stand amidst CFMEU banners and flags. Most choose to wear THAT t-shirt, the one with the python's head emblazoned above the legend, We Strike When Provoked.
And there's not much doubt, they have been sorely provoked.
Lui, who worked in a Runcorn pharmaceutical lab while completing varsity studies in Manchester, finds it hard to believe he's on the bricks, fighting over wages and conditions on the other side of the world.
"We don't really have union backgrounds," he explained. "Back home, they were all beaten when I was a little kid.
"I suppose I was curious but being exposed to this has made me think even more. It's become a big topic of conversation back at the hostel."
Lui and his mates answered an ad posted on the hostel wall for workers to demolish the old Gazebo Hotel. For five weeks they tore out wall units, ripped up carpets and dismantled air-conditioning systems without realising they were being paid half the going rate and, more importantly, were doing it without Workers Compensation cover, or the most basic safety provisions.
They were only informed of their rights when CFMEU organisers came calling and didn't take much convincing to call on their employer, Australian Development Corporation Pty Ltd, to put things right.
They want back pay, basic safety courses and protective equipment, not to mention drinking water sourced from somewhere other than the toilet.
Since they put these demands on Elizabeth St-based, Australian Development Corporation, nine days ago the site has been closed. Yesterday, the company's only visible representative, David Bradley, was not answering his phone or responding to messages.
Just to add to the multi-national feel of the picket the action is being co-ordinated by two of the CFMEU's Maori organisers, Lincoln Fryer and Steve Keenan.
Fryer puts safety at the top of a lengthy list of union concerns.
He counts off breaches of safety regulations on a job in one of the country's most dangerous industries - no occupational health and safety survey to check for asbestos, lead, synthetic mineral fibres or the like; no green card course; no personal protective equipment - masks, workboots, gloves etc; no amenities; no Workers Comp payments. He's only getting started.
Since the union intervened, statutory authorities have swung into gear.
Keenan reaches into his car and pulls out a sheaf of WorkCover documents that have been served in the past seven days - prohibition notices, improvement notices and notifications of four separate health and safety fines.
It's instructive stuff, especially for the likes of Tony Abbott who wants CFMEU officials barred from non-union sites and Terrence Cole whose Building Industry Royal Commission only this month dismissed union claims of immigration rorts.
Picketing workers say they have seen no sign of the Royal Commissioner despite suggestions he should get out of his courtroom and see the reality of the industry for himself.
Wearing the trainers that have seen him through five weeks on the partly-demolished building, Lui, says if union reps hadn't turned up, his crew would have worked on none-the-wiser.
"This has been a real eye-opener," he admits. "When you come to a country on holiday you don't expect to end up in the middle of something like this.
"We just needed money to pay our bills and thought everything was legit. We didn't think about all the other issues, I guess we were a bit naieve."
He says the union information, especially on safety, was a "real eye-opener".
"Financially, I'm struggling. I suppose it's going to be a matter of cutting down on the things I want to do because I want to see this out."
Don Watson, tongue in cheek, recently suggested we give up our sovereignty and join the United States. Peter Costello seems to have taken him seriously.
Once upon a time issues like education, health and nation building used to be at the centre of our political debate. Now the American model rules supreme here - politics is about war, enemies and punishment for the vulnerable. But while American jingoism, in its perverse way, can be a Keynesian pump primer for a militarised economy, Australian jingoism gets paid for by the poor and the sick.
With his seventh budget The Smirk took up the baton his boss has run with since Tampa, pumping unbelievable amounts of cash - over $4 billion - into beefing up a security state and funding an iron curtain against leaky Indonesian fishing boats. Meanwhile the bill gets mailed to the disabled, the aged and the unwell.
This is the incredible transformation in the Australian politic in the last eight months: firstly our democratic structures have been degraded by a lying Government fostering fear and loathing to hold onto power. And now we have the country's national economic drivers - Treasury, Treasurer and budget - used to rationalise the Liberal Party's irresponsible and irrational moral panic.
Paying For The Fear
While Peter Costello's budget speech was peppered with references to terror, war and security, education was mentioned once. ACTU President Sharan Burrow says the Government is failing to invest in the future, especially in the vital areas of research and development and education.
'Peter Costello can hardly campaign as the generational change PM with this lack of investment in education,' she says. 'A knowledge economy cannot be built by denying young Australians a quality education.'
The class commitment of the Liberals was on show in education with rich private schools picking up funding increases of up to 43.5%, while TAFE, the educational choice of 1.3 million Australians, continues to be starved of funds.
Despite ten years of sustained and robust economic growth the Liberals are still justifying massive cuts to health programs - almost $1 billion over four years.
AMA chief Kerryn Phelps pointed out to the Australian newspaper the poor economics involved in cutting the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
'Slashing $2 billion from the PBS is false economy. We will ultimately have to pay that bill in terms of increased visits to the doctor,' she said.
Add to this the Government's hypocrisy when it says the scheme is unaffordable: last year it was putting drugs on the list against its advisory committee's advice and appointing a member with links to the drug companies.
3. Welfare cuts
Other cuts which represent the meanness of this government include:
· $500 million cut to welfare
· $400 million cut to disability pensions
· $60 million cut to unemployment assistance
Sharan Burrow says the budget is a raw prawn for thousands of working women who have helped build a booming economy and contributed millions in taxes.
'With his baby bonus John Howard values motherhood at just $1.37 a day, which would barely buy a litre of milk,' she says.
Sharan Burrow says low-paid women would receive the least from the baby bonus because the scheme is packaged as a tax rebate.
'Thirty per cent of working women (low income earners) will be entitled to less than $10 a week, 50% of women (middle income earners) will receive up to $16 a week, while just 5% (high income earners) will gain the most with a rebate of $48 a week.'
When change will be more of the same
In Rabbit Syndrome - his essay on the relationship between Australia and America - Don Watson outlines the attacks by the American right against multiculturalists, feminists, homosexual activists, black activists and progressive intellectuals.
'This diatribe sounds familiar to our own ears of course accustomed as they are to the abuse of elites, special interest groups, black armband historians, pushy blacks and chattering classes,' he says.
Howard has been brilliantly successful in defining our politics as a choice between the John Wayne Strongman and the Bleeding Heart. Peter Costello's budget cleverly and enthusiastically uses his control of the economic levers to consolidate Howard's American-inspired vision for Australia.
In the past Costello has tried to differentiate himself from Howard on social issues but this budget suggests a changing of the guard in the Liberal palace will make zero difference to the politics of Australia.
He was the first People's Commissar for Justice after the Russian Revolution - a close comrade of V.I.Lenin - but they fell out and he escaped the Soviet Union just as the secret police were about to arrest him.
Two decades later he was gazing over the landscape of the Kimberley region of Western Australia - and promoting a new ideal, a new utopia - a homeland for the Jews in these far distant and isolated lands.
I.N. Steinberg had split from the Zionists and was promoting Territorialism - and for this vision he had the enthusiastic support of the ACTU, the NSW Labor Council and rank-and-file members of Perth unions and the Labor Party.
For many years in the late 30s and early 40s the London-based Isaac Steinberg was a regular visitor to Australia, trying to get the gates open to allow refugees to escape from the growing menace of Hitler's Nazis.
He put a lot of effort into lobbying unions, church groups and other community groups to back his vision of tens of thousands of Jews settling in an area just west of Wyndham in the Kimberley region - straddling the WA and NT border .
Before Steinberg a Yiddish poet and essayist Melech Ravitch visited the Northern Territory in the 1930s to investigate the region as a Jewish haven - collecting data on topography and climate he promoted a bigger number than Steinberg, suggesting the area could accommodate a million Jewish refugees.
Jewish Territorialism V Zionism
Jewish Territorialism had been a small, but competing, political ideology to Zionism since the end of the 19th century, led by Israel Zangwill - whose novels about the desperate lives of East-End London Jews was on a par with Charles Dickens's memorable novels.
Zangwill and the Territorialists had reservations about settling Jews in Palestine pointing out the disagreeable " facts of geography and history which Zionists have always refused to look in the face."
It is one of the great ' what ifs' of history - what would have happened if, instead of settling in Palestine, Australia had given the green light to this project and put aside a huge swathe of territory and created a Jewish state on our continent - much like the Mormon ' state' of Utah.
Today the campaign to create a Jewish territory in the north of WA is a forgotten footnote in history but in the late 30s and early 40s it was a much debated issue with editorials in newspapers, debates in union halls and state and federal parliament.
While The Canberra Time, The Age, Truth and the Sydney Morning Herald editorialised against Jewish migration and the settling of large populations of Jews in the Kimberley the Labor paper, the Australian Worker came out strongly behind the project.
Generous working class contribution to fighting Nazis
In an editorial the Australian Worker the project as " a generous working-class contribution toward the solution of the terrible refugee problem which Nazi persecution has created in Europe."
When Steinberg first arrived in Fremantle in 1939 his political pedigree was a source of fascination.
Letters of introduction from British Labour MPs Ernest Bevin and Clement Atlee meant he was quickly accepted, and invited to address Labor Party branch meetings and trade union members across Perth about his project for the Kimberleys.
The Labor newspaper the Westralian Worker hailed him as a man of strong Labor convictions.
" The presence of Dr Steinberg in Australia brings closer to us the persecutions now being suffered by the Jews in totalitarian countries and his mission is one to which it is impossible to remain indifferent," the Westralian Worker said.
The left-wing trade unions were quite enamoured of Isaac Steinberg's revolutionary pedigree. Union leaders attacked anti-Semitism as a tool of class oppression and urged the Government to bring in more refugees.
Steinberg was delighted with this response and returned the compliments announcing that he saw the workers and working class institutions as Australia's backbone and regarded their support as crucial to his success.
He met with union and Labor Party members wherever he could - including the then leader of the Federal opposition, John Curtin - and he wrote back to his supporters in Europe: 'I think we can now say with certainty that the workers of Perth are with us."
Visiting the east Steinberg was invited to address various ACTU and State TLC meetings in both Melbourne and Sydney. He got enthusiastic support from union leasers as he explained that the settlements would be run as a co-operative communal economy and serve as a refuge to those fleeing fascism.
The ACTU officially endorsed the scheme in 1940 and the TLCs around Australia passed resolutions approving it.
The then NSW Labor Council secretary, R.A. King, described the project as ' a haven for the victims of Fascist ferocity'
ACTU President Percy Clarey - in an early example of support for multiculturalism - wrote to Steinberg in London reassuring him that there would be no restrictions on the settlement's cultural autonomy, religious affairs or language - be it Yiddish or Hebrew.
But by 1944 the conservative government in Canberra had rejected the project and the idea died with the outbreak of war - and the creation of Israel in 1949.
However even after Israel was created Steinberg tried once more - unsuccessfully - approaching the newly re-elected Robert Menzies in 1950.
But Menzies replied that the idea ran contrary to his government's policy of assimilation aimed at achieving " the ideal of one Australian family of peoples, devoid of foreign communities."
A former industrial reporter for The Melbourne Age, Leon Gettler, wrote in 1993 a short history of this attempt to create a Jewish homeland in the Kimberleys.
The Fremantle Arts Centre Press published An Unpromised Land.
When Gettler presented copies of his history to the then ACTU President, Martin Ferguson, and the then ACTU Secretary, Bill Kelty, they were taken by surprise at the role the ACTU and trade unions had played in this byway of Jewish history.
The source for most of this article came from Leon Gettler's book.
Division is a constant in the ALP. V.I. Lenin said that a political party is not a political party until it is divided against itself. The ALP has long qualified in this category, although it has also always failed his idea of what a socialist party is. Conferences used to be a place where different ideas were debated.
In 1890 the first steps by labour activists towards political representation were taken. The Sydney Trades and Labour Council's Parliamentary Committee was instructed to consider the advisability of standing Labour candidates in the next NSW election and and to draw up a parliamentary platform. As has been well recorded, the move to parliamentary representation was fueled over the next year or so by the failure of the maritime strike and the perceived need for legislated protection of the rights of workers. Working people in parliament was the way to go. Other sectors of the labour movement were more concerned to move to a revolutionary position, a split in the labour movement that has remained in various ways to this day.
The decision to field candidates was successful with 35 labour members being elected in 1891. This success ensured a strong continuing commitment to parliamentary reform.
Almost immediately there were problems, as members were seen as not following up on their previous commitment to the labour cause. The Pledge debate was thus initiated, and the first meeting of the elected members, on 3 July 1891, approved a motion by George Black that "in order to secure the solidarity of the Labor Party, only those will be allowed to assist at its private deliberations who are pledged to vote in the House as a majority of the party, sitting in caucus, has determined." Eight of the thirty five objected, about another issue that still inflames debate within the ALP, free trade and protection.
George Black recorded that several alleged Labor supporters demanded to be admitted to the meeting, ...and some leaky vessels inside provided ...the newspapers with information". Thus, as Freudenberg put it, two Labor traditions were established, rank and file suspicion of elected politicians, and the caucus leak."
The question of the separate identity of the parliamentary party within the movement was a cause of much acrimony, as was the issue of endorsed candidates having a real commitment to the cause of labour, as various members voted against the wishes of the caucus, as the motion moved by Black (see above) required them to.
The Pledge was hotly debated at the 1893 Conference. Caucus independence was asserted strongly by prominent members, such as George Black and Joe Cook. William Holman moved to center stage at this conference, so two famous "rats" in ALP history were the main players in the first of many "Unity" conferences. The wording of the Pledge was not popular with the caucus, but was endorsed in a form in the 1894 conference.
Holman was Premier in another divisive moment in the history of the ALP. The 1916 conference saw Holman at odds with many in the movement and the party, but on side with the Prime Minister, Billy Hughes, another key figure in organizing the ALP in the 1890s, and both now to become the most famous rats.
Holman was already deeply unpopular with many workers for failure to control prices and profiteering during the war, his attitude to pay and conditions of public servants, and his refusal to move to abolish the Legislative Council, as called for by ALP policy. The industrial wing was keen to censure the Premier, but this was avoided by various manouvres. However a key motion was passed at the conference that was to have huge ramifications. Arthur Rae's motion was:
"That this Conference solemnly pledges itself to oppose, by all lawful means, conscription of human life for military service abroad, and directs all Leagues and affiliated unions to take immediate steps to oppose all Labor members who vote for or otherwise support conscription, so as to make this matter the issue between the forces of democracy and despotism."
So the stage was set in the Prime Minster's home state for a strong anti-conscription mood in the ALP. At the time Hughes had given no indication that he was in favour of conscription. The bitter battles began in August, and lead to Hughes and Holman forming Nationalist governments.
The splits lead to a lot of ALP reorganising and faction fighting amongst those who remained. The 1921 federal conference incorporated for the first time a socialisation objective. The NSW ALP avoided this becoming part of the state platform in 1922, with the AWU under Bailey having their last hurrah on this issue. The left was on the rise at the time, with the establishment of the Soviet Union, and the endorsement of communist parties around the world by the Soviet leadership. Lenin's views on the ALP mentioned above were partly based on some of those in the early CPA visiting him and passing on their views on socialism in Australia.
The 1923 conference was a battle that lasted 13 days and nights, according to Jack Lang. The role of the AWU under Bailey, and Jock Garden were the big factors. The executive under Bailey expelled Dooley after he had called for a clean up of the NSW party (ie of Bailey). This was Lang's move into the limelight, as he orchestrated the moves against Bailey and established his long and destructive hold on the state ALP. Lang also at this time moved to ensure that Garden's CPA could not affiliate with the ALP, thus establishing the rule that still applies that members of other political parties can't also hold ALP membership. The later battles with the Movement and the standing of its activists as members showed the way this rule was again one designed to protect key ALP values against tactics of the right and left.
Lang's hold over the ALP was maintained until the late 1930s. The pressure in NSW to dump him had been mounting for years, but Lang's control over key groups held them off. John Curtin's loss of the 1937 federal election was the catalyst to move against Lang. Then the ALP decisively lost the 1938 NSW elections. Now the Labor Council and the Labor Daily openly opposed Lang. Various anti-Lang moves saw key figures moving into influential positions, against Lang's wishes. Bill McKell was one of these, as was Bill Sheehan, who got onto the federal executive at the 1938 Easter conference.
Two events worked to restore the ALP to favour in 1939. The first was the replacement of the UAP Premier Stevens by the dull Alexander Mair. The second was the special Unity conference held in Newtown in August. Public drama, as was usual with ALP bunfights, was the order of the days. Unions who had resisted the drift away from Lang to this point were the key at this conference, and Heffron, the public face of dissent, got all his representatives on the executive, and Lang none. Also the conference reversed the infamous decision of the 1927 conference that the conference was to elect the parliamentary leader. The conference resolved that the parliamentary caucus was to meet within two weeks to elect the leader, deputy leader and officers and ministers.
Lang and Heffron, who were the subject of most of the drama, observed proceedings from the gallery. McKell, the man to lead the ALP back to government, appears not to have attended at all.
When caucus met on 5 September, McKell emerged as the leader. On 16th May, 1941, after the ALP had been in opposition for nine bitter years he was sworn in as Premier, and the ALP remained in office until 1965.
Graham Freudenberg. Cause For Power: the official history of the NSW Branch of the Australian Labor Party. (Pluto Press, 1991)
Christopher Cuneen. William John McKell: Boilermaker, Premier, Governor-General. (UNSW Press, 2000)
Robin Gollan. The Trade Unions and the Labour Parties, 1890-4; in; Historical Studies, vol. 7, o.25, November 1955
Bede Nairn. Civilising Capitalism: the beginnings of the Australian Labor Party. (Melbourne University Press, 1989)
Telecards and children overboard were but a dim memory when Peter Reith recently received an award from right-wing think-tank, the HR Nicholls Society.
In the same week that members of his forgotten army of waterfront strike-breakers walked away with just $15,000 compensation each, Reith was hailed as the best industrial relations minister in the last 50 years by Stuart Wood, vice president of the Society and a Melbourne barrister who represented Patrick Corporation in the dispute.
Patrick's Chris Corrigan and almost 200 of the mercenary labour force at the centre of the 1998 waterfront dispute agreed a secret $8 million out-of-court settlement in mid-March.
The settlement came at a convenient time for Corrigan, whose four-year legal battle could have compromised his new public image as a saviour of the airline industry through his partnership with Richard Branson's Virgin Blue.
It also kept Corrigan, Reith and former National Farmers Federation president Donald McGauchie out of the witness box, thus avoiding a potentially damaging re-examination of the alleged conspiracy by Patrick, the NFF and the Federal
Government to replace union labour on the waterfront.
As news of the settlement broke, Reith was presented with the Charles Copeman Medal for distinguished service in the cause of Australian industrial relations, at the 23rd HR Nicholls Society conference.
The award is named after the Right's hero of the infamous mid-1980s industrial dispute at the North-owned Robe River iron-ore operation in the Pilbara region of WA.
All Australians are in debt to Peter Reith, said former Secretary to the Commonwealth Treasury, Queensland National's senator and founding President of the Society, John Stone as he presented the medal.
His performance in the "great waterfront dispute of 1998" marked a watershed in Australian industrial relations similar to Margaret Thatcher's victory in Britain's great coal strike in the 1980s.
In backing Chris Corrigan, Reith displayed the same qualities of judgment, fortitude and coolness under fire which he had through his political career, said Stone.
Reith and Corrigan had forced the Maritime Union of Australia to sue for peace in the teeth of opposition from a bitterly hostile media, led as usual by the ABC, the trade union movement, Federal Court judges who persistently took it upon themselves to thwart the national interest; and a Victorian police force which largely failed to maintain law and order.
Accepting the award in his first speech in Australia since leaving federal politics, Reith said he would hang the Copeman medal on his wall with pride.
He gave the media a spray, saying he was surprised that the Murdoch press had not been more on side after going through the Wapping dispute in the UK. (Incidentally, the night coincided with the Melbourne Press Club's Quill Awards
just down the road where dozens of journalist received their own medals, including a couple for exposing discredited political liars such as Peter Reith.)
Although he liked the work of some journalists - Andrew Bolt was a later speaker at the conference - he accused many of them of making up "facts" or putting a slant on a story.
"The press expects politicians to apologise or own up to mistakes, but securing an apology from an editor is harder than winning Tatts," he said.
"There is nothing anybody can or should do about it, but it is the reason that many people hold journalists in lower esteem than politicians."
Reith claimed that the central objective behind the government's policy - higher productivity - had been achieved. Based on Patrick figures released in September 1998, the moves per man per shift in Melbourne had increased from 9.3 to 20.5.
He was now playing a bit of golf and the waterfront dispute was a closed chapter.
"It is all history and life has moved on for all the participants," he said.
However, Patrick's current employees and the ex-members of Reith's army don't appear to share that view.
The reforms introduced to achieve the performance figures quoted by Reith are now the subject of criminal proceedings against Patrick's by the MUA.
The company is accused of five counts of criminal disregard of workers' safety because it knowingly made workers drive towering mobile cranes for dangerous lengths of time.
Confidential documents show that Patrick expects workers to drive the cranes for their entire 7½-hour shift, save for one 45-minute break, against expert health and safety advice.
In January 1998, three months before the waterfront dispute, health and safety consultants ReStart Consulting told Patrick that the maximum period employees should be required to drive without a break was 2½ hours. Driving for longer periods could pose serious health risks due to the design of the cranes and the positioning of equipment in their cabins.
In July 1999, ten months after the new work practices were introduced, Patrick received another risk assessment from consultants Noel Arnold and Associates that confirmed ReStart's findings.
Altogether, ten different reports were available to Patrick's warning about the dangers of driving the cranes for extended periods. During the waterfront dispute the MUA had claimed that comparisons of lifting rates with overseas terminals were invalid because of the inefficient design of the equipment on Australian wharfs.
That case is now adjourned until at least September. The ex-members of Reith's army who took Patrick's to court recently told The Sunday Age that they had been betrayed and abandoned when the union-busting exercise went wrong.
Many had given up careers in the armed forces to be trained to operate giant waterfront cranes in Dubai. After international unions forced the Dubai operation's closure, they received further training in Australia.
When Corrigan sacked the Patrick workforce en-masse, their replacements endured constant verbal and physical abuse as they crossed MUA picket lines and were the subject of death-threats to themselves and their families.
Many lost friends when it became known they worked for Patrick's and have been unable to find other employment.
"I'd like to have a few minutes alone with Corrigan," former soldier Ken Caldow told The Sunday Age. "I knew the government had something to do with it because when we first came on board they said it was Peter Reith's baby.
"The government has used us as much as Corrigan. They've got no morals as far as I'm concerned."
In his closing speech to the HR Nicholls Society conference, Stuart Wood invited the faithful to imagine what Reith could have done had the Coalition had control of the Senate.
Some might consider that he's done quite enough, despite the Senate.
This piece was first published in Crikey!
by David Peetz
So whereas once it was about 'protecting the sick, the poor, the disabled and the dispossessed', it is now 'protecting us from the sick, the poor, the disabled and the dispossessed'. It brings back thoughts of Carole King's song 'You've Got a Friend' (the tune for which, if you don't have Tapestry, you can hear at http://www.fament.com/supermom/youvegotafriend1.htm )
. YOU'VE GOT A FRIENDIf you're down, and troubled
You just call out his name
And you know wherever he is
He'll come running running yeah
To see you again
If your sick, disabled or poor
All you have to do is call
And he'll be there, yeah to say
'You can get fucked'.
Why this film spooked me. One: it was shot before the US terrorist attacks last September, yet contains many parallels with these events. Two: Arnie inadvertently challenges the belief American actions played no role in the World Trade tragedy. Three: it harks back to a time where American individualism was God, shortly before the whole world was forced to pledge whether it stood with the US or against them.
Taking on board the parallels within the plot, one could be forgiven for thinking this time capsule of a movie had been produced in direct response to President Bush's chief political advisor Karl Rove's call for the film industry to contribute to the "war on terrorism".
In the wake of the attacks, his suggested methods by which this could be achieved involved the inclusion of themes such as: recognising that the US campaign in Afghanistan is a war against terrorism, not Islam; publicising government's call for community service; US troops and their families need to be supported; the September 11 attacks were global attacks requiring a global response; the US campaign is a "war on evil"; the government and film industry have the responsibility to reassure children of their safety.
But no. Because Collateral Damage was released prior to all these suggestions it simply represents a time when crooks were just crooks, terrorists were crooks, and one US citizen could and - in guaranteeing a ball-tearing yarn probably should - single-handedly conquer all of the above.
The only area where the film truly meets Rove's criteria is that it leaves no doubt children throughout the world are very safe. Because, even if the US government fails miserably to protect them, Arnie will dodge bullets and tankers, leap large waterfalls in a single bound and eat steel cap boots to protect the little tykes. And that holds true whether they are American children or children from the very lands and loins of said crooks.
And so the story begins. Arnold Schwartznegger, firefighter, family man and whatever the singular word for folk might be watches aghast as his wife and young son are blown up by a terrorist bomb planted in a popular outdoor café. Doubly aghast when both the CIA and the FBI fail to give the case the priority it deserves, Arnie becomes a man on a mission, pledging to catch the crooks and make them pay, while producing as little collateral damage as possible.
This, he explains, is the difference between the right way of doing things and the way terrorists achieve their ends. Terrorists kill innocent people. Arnie looks after the innocents on all sides of the fence. Which is how he comes to literally bump into the wife and child of the very man who blew up his own family.
After having trawled all the way to sunny Columbia in search of the guerillas responsible for the bombing, idly walking through a busy marketplace, when suddenly a fast moving vehicle comes careering straight for a young boy. Arnie instinctively jumps to his rescue, thereby cementing for himself a permanent place in the heart of the hapless kid's mother Selina (played by Francesca Neri). The fact that she is the wife of his family's killer is taken like a grain of salt by Arnie until he is later captured by the crook, aka "the Wolf" (played by Cliff Curtis), and forced to rely on Selina's kindness.
It is during this time that moviegoers are treated to some rare and welcome insights. The Wolf was not always a bad man. Once he and Selina had a little girl but she was killed in an attack led by US soldiers. That was when her once levelheaded husband metamorphosed into the deadly Wolf. Kind of like Arnie, he sought revenge, except he joined the guerillas to exact punishment on those who hurt his family whereas Arnie chose to go it alone.
Selina does not like what the Wolf has become but stands by him out of love and a desire to keep what is left of their young family together. She and her child are still reasonable, despite all that they have lost. So reasonable is Selina that she confides in Arnie that she can no longer stand by and watch her brutal husband kill innocent people. She and her son come back with Arnie to the US as refugees where she reveals her husband's plans for the next terrorist attack and helps track him down.
So maybe there is more to this movie than meets the eye. It appears to at least try to paint the other side of the terrorism picture, encouraging moviegoers to consider what possible atrocities might lead a reasonable person to become a terrorist.
Except it turns out you really can't trust even the family of a crook.
In a dramatic turn of events, Selina reveals she is the Colombian equivalent to Osama Bin Laden. She is the mysterious and elusive mastermind behind all the attacks and she is now orchestrating the next attack, the one Arnie is inadvertently assisting by placing his trust in her. What is more, she is willing to blow up her own son to achieve her wicked ends.
What comes next is the bitter realisation that one has been foiled again by yet another two-bit Hollywood blockbuster with more cash, explosions and special effects than common sense.
If the movie was shot now it might be different. There would probably be more emphasis on American patriotism rather than the plight of the individual. The task of fighting terrorists would not be left in the hands of one man, no matter how indestructible. The references to US attacks on innocent Columbians might also be deleted.
But even if Collateral Damage was shot too soon to represent the US Government's suggested themes, the Australian Government must surely support its current form.
Let's recap: asylum seekers are willing to sacrifice their own children to meet their selfish ends; don't let asylum seekers into your trust, if they do not have direct links, they might even be Osama Bin Laden; and organisations claiming to fight for freedom and liberation are quite likely to have terrorist linkages.
A few months ago I overheard a conversation on a bus where one geezer turned to the other and said "September 11? Oh, I'm kinda over it. Not much has been happening for a while". Is the movie-going public really over it or will Collateral Damage constitute a rollicking box office success.
Rating: Two stars (May there never be a sequel)
by The Chaser
Her release is a major part of the government's radical new programme of changing Burma's political system to make it superficially seem less authoritarian. The spokesman for the military junta that rules the nation, Lieutenant Colonel Hla Min, said that the move was a 'new page' for Burma, although he later clarified that he meant a new page in a fictional book.
"Aung San Suu Kyi is now free to do anything she wishes in relation to her party's activities," Min said. "As her party is banned, of course, that means she is free to do nothing." The government expects that Aung San Suu Kyi will conduct meetings with supporters, hold a number of restrained demonstrations and, most importantly, convince the West to give Burma the millions of dollars of aid it withheld while she was under house arrest. "Make no mistake, Suu Kyi's release will change things enormously for this country's current rulers," Min said. "Our bank balances will increase substantially."
Suu Kyi made a triumphant return to the headquarters of her National League of Democracy party today, where she vowed to continue her fight for genuine democracy in the Asian state. For its part, the ruling group has agreed to keep advancing the process of appearing to change. "We have already shown we can achieve fundamental change in Myanmar," Min said. "A few years ago, we in the ruling military committee changed our name from the State Law and Order Reform Committee to the State Peace and Development Council. This is exactly the kind of far-reaching, visionary change you will see from us as we continue to make Myanmar seem more democratic."
It's probably unconscious, but Crean's desire to appear 'modern' comes out like a cry for help; that we can neatly put the Labor brand back in a box, unsullied by the complexity of the post-modern age.
All he needs to do is reduce union voting rights and appeal to the 'aspirational' voters and he'll have a Modern Party and a bed in the lodge. If only it were so easy.
As Labor's elder statesman Neville Wran points out in his report to the NSW Branch of the ALP on the last federal election, the problems the federal party face have little to do with diluting union influence.
The ALP's problem is pretty basic: power has become too big a prize and it's hurting the Party; both in terms of policy, where opinion polling dominates principled positions, and in personnel, where local branches are dominated heavily-jawled wide boys in shiny suits.
Those inside the ALP seem to have no idea that the trade union movement is already a decade into a genuine modernisation process.
It began with the difficult, but ultimately rational amalgamation process; gathered steam with the shift in union resources to grass roots organising and is really beginning to blossom with the defactionalisation process.
Only this week the intervention of the Australian Workers Union in solidarity with the maritime Union in the CSL Yarra dispute, once unimaginable, was decisive. And the NSW building and construction industry pact is a formal recognition that the Cold War is over.
The frustration in Crean's foray into 'Modern Labor' is that his policy settings are a breath of fresh air - employer funded protection of worker entitlements, paid maternity leave, superannuation tax relief, all far more tangible than the garbled Knowledge Nation agenda.
Significantly, all are initiatives pushed from the grass-roots of the union movement. And union resolutions at the upcoming NSW ALP State Conference will continue to push progressive policy on issues as diverse as family friendly workplace, provision of child care and the treatment of refugees.
The issue for the ALP should not be the voting rights of at the Conference floor, but the more fundamental right of the party to have its platform implemented by its political representatives.
At the end of the day, Crean's task is to the make the 'modern' Labor Party more like the modern unions - a united grassroots movement with a focus on the membership not the leadership.
Then again, what's so modern about that?
It's been dubbed the khaki budget. It follows the khaki election and is a fitting name for Federal Treasurer Peter Costello's seventh budget, which has increased spending on defence by a massive 10 per cent, bringing total defense spending to $14.1 billion. While trying to justify the defence spending at the expense of Australia's more vulnerable - disability pensioners and the ill - the Treasurer appealed to people to remember September the 11th and the real threat upon the security of our national borders.
The Treasurer told us that out of the massive $14.1 million defence purse some of the funding will be used to tackle the issue of people smuggling. About $200 million will go towards a detention center on Christmas Island with an extra $123 million a year to run it. It's all part of the so-called pacific solution. But herein lies one of the Howard Government's greatest inconsistencies on border and national security. This inconsistency also ties in with what I want to talk about - the recent CSL Yarra shipping dispute, which has involved the Australian Workers' Union.
There are two critical issues at the heart of the CSL Yarra dispute. The first, which has had much media coverage, is about protecting jobs and Australian employment conditions from ships of convenience. If foreign crew can work in Australian waters on previously flagged Australian ships where will the poaching of Australian jobs end? At the AWU, we represent the cement workers who unload ships such as the recently reflagged CSL Yarra. What is to stop foreign seafarers going the next step and unloading the ships they crew? The good news is that in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission last week the cement industry shared many of our concerns about foreign flagging, and agreed where practicable to give preference to using Australian flagged ships. It was a commonsense victory for Australian jobs.
The second issue, as I have hinted at, relates to national security. This week it was revealed that according to the shipping publication Lloyds List of London as many as 25 Islamic extremists have traveled to the United States as stowaways abroad commercial cargo vessels. Islamic militants are also said to have breached security through the ports of Savannah, Miami and Long Beach according to the US Coast Guard. Last year an alleged al-Qaeda operative was discovered in a container at the Italian port of Gioia Tauro. The London Times has also reported that Osama bin Laden has hidden his operations behind Flag of Convenience shipping to export explosives and operatives.
As John Howard has been at pains to remind us, if terrorism can happen in the United States it can happen here. And this is why the
Federal Government has acted hypocritically on security issues. On the one hand the Government increases defence funding in acknowledgement of the increased threat to Australian security post September 11th, and yet on the other it fails to address the wider security concerns created when Australian ships are reflagged and staffed with foreign crew. When you compare the Government's controversial stance on border protection and asylum seeker issues, it is incongruous, at best, for the Government to allow a rising number of foreign ships and foreign crew to work in Australian waters.
However when a delegation of Maritime Unions, The president of the ACTU Sharan Burrow and myself spoke to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport, John Anderson, last week about this critical issue he provided no real solutions. And yet he is the Minister of the department that is responsible for issuing continuous and single voyage permits to these ships.
The Australian Shipowners Association has found that our reliance on foreign shipping to carry our goods caused a net deficient of $3 billion in 1999-2000, which amounts to about 9 per cent of our nation's current account deficient. And yet CVPs and SVPs continued to be issued with the number of SVPs granted to foreign ships under the Howard Government rising from 4 per cent to 15 per cent.
But other than security issues it also makes economic sense for the Federal Government to show more interest in this issue. The Australian merchant navy is a highly skilled and trained workforce with skills that our nation cannot afford to send offshore. In both world wars the merchant ships were requisitioned for troop transports, for hospital ships and for the carriage of cargoes for war service. Merchant navy engineers also provided invaluable knowledge and experience to the Royal Australian Navy in the Second World War. A local merchant navy is an inexpensive but vital resource that can be used if Australia needs to bolster its naval fleet at short notice.
After a tough fight the union movement has had a victory in the CSL Yarra dispute this week, with the shipping line agreeing to drop court action and agreeing to send its foreign vessel out of Australian waters. And the union movement and cement industry have shown their commitment to using Australian flagged ships. What is needed now is a commitment from the Howard Government to ensure our borders are protected and this important Australian industry survives.
ASSAULT CHARGES FOR AFL STARS - 15May02
KANGAROOS defender David King and former teammates Mark Roberts have been charged with assaulting a hot dog seller last year. It is alleged King, 30, Roberts, 36, and a third friend Darren Postlethwaite, 31, all of North Melbourne, attacked the food attendant after a dispute over a stolen hot dog. (News Ltd)
The Kangaroos have been having a bit of trouble with their sausages this year. Indeed, I was surprised the Big Sav wasn't involved.
Still, the magistrate's court is nothing compared to the ritual humiliation of the celebrity football match.
This column is old enough and ugly enough to remember that when you went to the Rugby League at Penrith Park you got there early and had a hot dog and watched the footy, all three grades if you could. There was nothing wrong with it, it never hurt anyone except the footballers and the hot dog sellers, and everyone went home happy.
That was before sport became part of the same industry that promotes professional wrestling the entertainment industry. So bugger the community, let's go to the big end of town.
Some small time egos are doing something for cancer and their flagging careers by relegating the Sydney AFL Curtain raiser to a non-event prior to the Swannies dust up against Footscray.
This is at the ground where punters aren't allowed on for a kick after the game!
There is the obligatory ex footballers; Warwick Capper, Neil Cordy, etc. They are joined by Mikey Robbins, Merrick Watts and assorted Big Brother personalities. Then there are some faces from other sports: Robbie Slater, the Australian Soccer international and ex Athlete Dean Capobianco (who's still playing footy in the Sydney Football Association!)
Then there's the A-List! Tim Bailey from Channel 10 weather and Tony Squires from the ABC's vastly over-rated The Fat.
This is not forgetting the eponymously monikered Blaire from Neighbours; and Christine and Sharon from Sister2Sister.
Who said Sydney didn't take its football seriously?
Speaking of selections, your humble correspondent would like to make himself available to the ACB selection panel as a specialist number 11 bat following reports that Glen McGrath was flagging his unwillingness to tour America's partner in the war on terror, Pakistan.
His bosom buddy and the king of phone sex, Shane Warne, has joined McGrath in getting all weak at the knees. This follows in the tradition of Australian Sporting 'Champions' being as soft as a chip when it comes to the real world - Two wankers down and nine to go.
This is never more evident as we slide toward the State of Onanism encounter. (For a quick belly-laugh type Onanism into a spell checker.) The game would mean something if the Super League war hadn't destroyed any illusion that loyalty was worth more than money in league. Now we've got City selecting country blokes, New South Wales selecting Kiwis. Why don't we just call it the Lets Get Pissed Midweek Cup and be done with it.
I'd rather watch a video tape of the 1981 WINFIELD Cup Grand Final.
(Now where's my free smokes Philip Morris?)
At the very least TV Ted Ellery leading Western Division to victory over Penrith in the 1974 Amco Cup Final.
I remember we trooped out to Lithgow and watched the semi final where Western Division knocked over a very strong Manly side in the snow. Graham Eadie copped a lot from the crowd.
It was a big, restless, ugly crowd, but this was anticipated in some quarters - there wasn't a hot dog seller in sight.
Read wierd libellous shit and craziness dressed up as sanity
Now That's a Headline!
Rupert Murdoch chose the night when the national's financial attention was focused on the federal budget to announce Australia's largest-ever corporate loss. Hit by the collapse in the value of sporting rights and the dwindling share price of its investment in Gemstar-TV Guide International, News Corp last night racked up an $8.9 billion loss for the first nine months of the financial year. It easily eclipsed the previous record of $2.3 billion held by BHP after the resource group was forced to write off its ill-fated venture into Magma Copper in 1999, which led to a wholesale departure of directors and managers. At News Corp, however, the same is not expected to occur because of the Murdoch family's tight grip on the share register. Mr Murdoch says he's extremely pleased with the company's performance before the abnormal charges. This showed an increase from $995 million to $1.01 billion in profit for the nine months to March 31.And coverage of the announcement in Murdoch's flagship, The Daily Telegraph? A few sober pars on page 45!
Job Losses Follow IT Merger
Between 400 and 500 Australian jobs will go as a result of the merger of the South Pacific divisions of Hewlett-Packard and Compaq. The loss of between 10 and 15 per cent of staff numbers will occur by attrition and redundancies in rough proportion to the payrolls of the two local computer equipment makers - about one-third from HP and two-thirds from Compaq. HP chief executive Carly Fiorina has said about 15,000 jobs worldwide will need to be shed to cut $US2.5 billion ($A4.6 billion) from operating costs of the global corporation. The deal has been dubbed " the most acrimonious merger in US corporate history".
St George in NAB Sights
St George Bank is steeling itself against a possible takeover bid later this year from National Australia Bank by delivering an interim net profit of $157million.The bank's new managing director, Gail Kelly, indicated she would act to reduce the bank's costs but promised no ''degradation in the level of frontline services". However, she's appointed head of strategy Peter Claretol head yet to be detailed cost-cutting program titled ''Even Better Bank" - it will include outsourcing and streamlining the head office. No decisions had been made on job cuts. Many investors are still betting on a takeover after its restrictive articles of association on individual shareholdings expire on July 1 this year . It's major suitor NAB, announced a staggering $2.25 billion first half net profit this week - up 11 percent on the same period last year and labelled by consumer groups as "obscene. "It's in line with the findings of a KPMG survey of the Westpac, National, Commonwealth, ANZ and St George banks showed their combined half-yearly profits were $5.7 billion - up more than five per cent on last year.
Bank Boss Bags 'Short-Termism' - But Pockets Options
ANZ chief executive John McFarlane warned yesterday that the sharemarket's current bout of "short-termism" threatened to change the way companies did business and could affect earnings forecasts. Speaking at a meeting of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, he says the global problem is linked to the rise of the funds management sector. McFarlane says companies were often pressured into making unrealistic earnings predictions. This generated disappointment when they could not be met. The sentiments haven't stopped McFarlane cashing in on the earnings bonanza Australia's major banks are enjoying. This week he revealed he had pocketed more than $7 million after exercising 1 million options granted in 1998.
Rich Fights Amex Debt
Jodee Rich, co-founder of the collapsed telco One.Tel, is fighting an attempt by American Express to make him pay debts rung up on a corporate credit card. The action in the District Court, is over $50,000 charged to the card over a three-month period. While few of the charges are said to directly relate to Rich directly, American Express is trying to target the man who walked away with millions in bonuses before the One.Tel collapse. The matter will return to court on May 24.
CEO Salaries 'Slump'
As low-paid workers are set to receive an $18 a week pay rise, salaries of company chiefs have slumped to a mere average of $700,000 a year, a new report shows. The 2002 Recruitment Solutions Top 500 Report on executive remuneration found CEO salaries had slumped, with the average salary package for the head of a public company falling by 8.2 per. This followed a 21 per cent increase last year. But the report also shows the rich are still getting richer in the big end of town, with the nation's top 50 CEOs getting an average nine per cent pay rise in the last year.
And the number of executives earning more than $1 million grew to 19 per cent of the top 500 to 16 per cent.
Regulator Details Enron Manipulation
More revelations of the seamy side of coporate America with revelations of how Enron manipulated the California electricity market to raise prices. Memos from the failed company discuseds how to profit by "creating then 'relieving' phantom congestion" on California's power grid, a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission official said in a letter to Enron. An Enron memo dated December 6, 2000, said one technique, dubbed "Fat Boy" by traders, "is now being used by other market participants". Claims of manipulation during the 2000-01 energy crisis have generated suits and investigations by FERC, California's attorney-general, and state legislators. The memos were prepared by lawyers for an Enron trading unit for internal use, and were turned over to government officials investigating Americ'a's largest corporate collapse.
by HT Lee
This should be a time for joy and celebrations--the heralding in of the rebirth of a nation that the international committee ignored for 24 years. Howard, Downer and other international dignitaries will be there--patting themselves on the back for a job well done--but there will be no mention or whisper of their 24 years of collective silence.
Leaking behind the scene will be the faceless men and women who have helped draft the Timor Sea Arrangement (TSA), which will be the first act the in-coming East Timor Prime Minister Alkatiri will sign on 20 May and turn it into a treaty. And as that happens, these faceless men and women--just like former Australian and Indonesian foreign ministers--Evans and Ali Alatas, and their entourage in another event back in 1989--will click their champagne glasses--this time not in a plane over the Timor Sea, but on land at ground zero, in Dili itself.
However, the end result is the same--the treaty conducted in secrecy and behind closed doors by only a handful of people--will cost East Timor billions of dollars in lost revenue and thousands of much needed jobs.
East Timorese opposition MPs, local NGOs and organisations including La'o Hamutuk--The East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis, have sent out an urgent appeal to the international solidarity movement to defend East Timor's ongoing struggle for self-determination. In the editorial of its latest bulletin, La'o Hamutuk sums up the situation:
'La'o Hamutuk calls upon the Australian government to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law and to agree to maritime boundaries through internationally recognised legal channels. At the same time, we call upon the pro-East Timor sectors of Australian civil society and the international solidarity movement to be vigilant and active in defending East Timor's interests. The contest over the resources of the Timor Gap is a crucial battle in East Timor's ongoing struggle for self-determination. Canberra played a significant role in derailing East Timorese political independence from 1975 to 1999. As East Timor's independence is now imminent, Australia cannot be allowed to undermine the new country's future.'
Opposition MP Eusebio Guterres and his colleagues had requested Alkatiri to front up to East Timor's Constitutional Assembly (which will become the new parliament) on two occasions to explain and disclose the contents of Alkatiri's latest negotiation with Australia.
Eusebio and at least 26 out of the 88 members of the assembly want to delay the ratification for at least six months to set up a parliamentary committee to investigate all aspects of the draft agreement before voting on it.
However, Alkatiri has refused to address them and has told them he won't disclose the contents of the treaty to be signed on Monday 20 May, until after the signing. He dismissed them as a bunch of minority opposition members.
Alkatiri told a journalist at a recent press conference in Dili: 'If I sign the treaty, parliament will endorse and ratify it.'
Alkatiri intends to use his numbers in Fretelin to ram through the treaty in parliament. And if this happens East Timor's parliament will just becomes nothing more than a rubber stamp--not a very good start for a fledging democracy.
It is interesting to note that people like Eusebio and his colleagues who were forced to work in secrecy and involved in clandestine activities during the Indonesian occupation now want openness and accountability whereas those who were abroad--such as Alkatiri who had the luxury of working quite openly--now indulge themselves in secrecy and work behind closed doors.
Peter Costello displays real leadership with a sustained spell of wrong-uns from the Government end. The Treasurer mixes half truths, obfuscation, and the odd one that slides straight through, without resorting to the blatant fibs that would allow the Opposition to put runs on the board.
Costello is in his element on the health clawbacks, posing as a wise fiscal leader without admitting that much of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme blowout is down to his pre-election bribe to the better off. Nor does the would-be PM mention, let alone admit, the effect on Vote Health of the Coalition's multi-billion dollar private health bribe.
Instead, he says, everyone, pensioners included, must pay to keep the system sustainable.
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The whole budget comes wrapped in a khaki bow. Defence and security spending soar as Costello cuts loose on a strip marked September 11. Strangely, the aggressive bid to flog off Australia's merchant navy in the face of security and defence warnings from a host of experts, not to mention those contained in a report his Government commissioned then kept secret, is ushered through to the keeper.
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How about the sale of Employment National? Fair dinkum, talk about being set up to fail, the lame dog that was once Commonwealth Employment Services is taken out the back and given a dose of lead between the eyes.
Which brings us to another round of benefit cuts. Contrast them with the lack of any mention of full employment. Ideologically Howard, Costello, Abbbott and their team-mates have taken us so far from the concept it almost seems half-baked against their preference for booting victims up the arse.
Then they get really cute. A vast dollop of cash for maritime surveillance of asylum seekers is shifted into the "environmental expenditure" column, allowing Government to claim record spending on the environment while it hacks into greenhouse funding. Ditto for overseas aid, inflated by including the costs of feeding and processing asylum seekers in Nauru and PNG as part of their Pacific Solution.
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Still, the corporates can give pollies a run for their spin money any day of the week as the drug companies are quick to prove. They threaten one of the few good budget initiatives, encouraging doctors to prescribe cheaper generic drugs, with legal action.
Altering surgery software to favour generic prescriptions should save about $35 million a year but the head of the Australian Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association labels the proposal "market interference". A bit rich coming from an outfit that provides all sorts of inducements including, quite likely, the original software to ensure doctors prescribed dearer brands in the first place.
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Labor don't exactly cover themselves in reflected glory, restricting themselves to tentative prodding about the crease. While Government's performance on health, education and employment would have been feasted on by a traditional Labor line-up, this mob content themselves with pussyfooting around, seemingly determined to offer no thorough-going alternative.
A bit like their response to last year's election result, really, when they blamed defeat on perceptions of trade unions rather than their own unwillingness to come up policy that would differentiate themselves from the Coalition.
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But for underarm, with spin, you'd struggle to go past the ideologues at the HR Nicholls Society who strike a medal honouring, wait for it ... Dubai Pete.
True, we're not making it up - forget balaclavas, dogs, training industrial mercenaries in the Gulf, phone card rorts and the bare-faced lies of the Children Overboard scandal, the HRs reckon their Pete is the bees knees.
A HR luminary, name of Stone, announces that "all Australians" owe his man a debt of gratitude. This belief that wharfies and their families, not to mention tens of thousands who took to the docks and streets in their support; aren't covered by the concept "all Australians" raises worries John Howard's embrace of the new Stone Age.
Or, maybe, he just thinks he knows what is better for those people than they do themselves. It would sit rather nicely with the born-to-rule ethos at the heart of HR philosophy.
Overseas, George Bush and Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia get in on the act. The two men put contrasting spins on their five-hour Texas meeting, far longer than originally scheduled.
The White House says it shows how well the leaders get on together while, for his part, the Crown Prince suggests the US President is so ignorant of Middle East facts that he needed hours of personal tuition.
"He listens and debates politely but is not fully informed about the real conditions in the region, especially the conditions suffered by the Palestinian people," the Crown Prince tells a Saudi newspaper.
"I felt it was my duty to spend as long a time as possible to brief him on the facts directly."
At least one of them is practising the dark art.