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Issue No. 138 31 May 2002  

Demonising Unions
There's a common streak running through the Liberal Party's prosecution of its witch-hunt of the building industry unions and the federal ALP leader's push to reduce the influence of trade unions within the Party. That's the view that unions are on the nose.


Interview: The Star Chamber
CFMEU national seretary John Sutton surveys the limited progress of the Cole Royal Commission.

Politics: The Odd Couple
After spending years yelling at each other, a couple of young factional players started talking to each other in the name of refugees.

Tribute: I-Conned
A rogue priest and Philip Ruddock have combined to leave master artist, Rados Stevanovic, living in a suburban park, as Jim Marr reports.

Media: Audiences Before Politics
The real challenge facing the new managing director of the ABC is how to make audiences central to what the national broadcaster does, argues Tony Moore.

International: The Off-Side Rule
It may be kick off time at the World Cup but unions in South Korea and around Asia are using the world�s biggest sporting event to focus attention on workers� rights, as Andrew Casey discovers.

Economics: The Fake Persuaders
Companies are creating false citizens to try to change the way we think, writes George Monbiot.

History: Terror Tactics
As the Howard Government prepares terror legislation to ban organisations, Neale Towart remembers a similar attempt at censorship in the name of security.

Poetry: Food, Modified Food
That old school yard joke "what do you get if you cross a ... with a ...?" is becoming startlingly true. The latest development is a featherless chicken.

Review: Spiderman Spins Out the US
Red Pepper's Rick Giombetti scales the big screen and puts Spiderman in his place, flying in the face of right wingers who would claim the Marvel Comic legend as their own.

Satire: England's World Cup Disaster: Star Hooligan Breaks Foot
The English World Cup 2002 campaign is in tatters after star hooligan Gerard Wilson of Chelsea broke his foot.


 Cole Suffers Credibility Crisis

 Councils Armed To Drown Sweatshops

 Miners Win Record Payouts

 Bracks Crew Not Family Friendly

 Time to Charge Directors

 Waterfront Truth One Step Closer

 Speedy Flow-On for NSW Workers

 Star Sin-Binning Prompts Inquiry Call

 New Chief Puts ABC Back In The Picture

 Getting it Wrong on Training

 Gravy Train Gets Richer For Max and Mates

 Reward For Delegate Who Stood Up

 Casino Workers Hit Mat Leave Jackpot

 Drug Haul Sparks Security Warning

 East Timor�s MPs Take Australia On

 ACTU Officials Denied Visas Into Fiji

 Commemorate 100 Years of Votes for Women


The Soapbox
Modernising Labor?
NSW Labor Council secretary John Robertson argues that genuine reform of the ALP would go beyond the 60-40 rule, to increase the voice of unions within the Party.

The Locker Room
Juego Bonito
Forget the dour contests of the Premier League and Serie A, it�s the World Cup which transforms football into the beautiful game. Noel Hester analyses the form.

Week in Review
He Who Pays The Piper
Money comes in all colours but, in politics, the hue is usually blue, as Jim Marr discovers �

Rich Pickings
Australia's wealthiest were on display this week as BRW released its annual Rich 200 list.

About Last Night
The CFMEU's Phil Davey, on an APHEDA -Union Aid Abroad delegation to Palestine, recounts his experience trying to get back to his hotel after dark.

 Simon and the Creanites
 In Defence of Latham
 Swans A Pathetic Con-Job
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The Soapbox

Modernising Labor?

NSW Labor Council secretary John Robertson argues that genuine reform of the ALP would go beyond the 60-40 rule, to increase the voice of unions within the Party.


By all indications, the ALP's representatives in Canberra are gearing up to cut trade union influence within the Party, regardless of the views of the trade union movement or the party's rank and file. Within 24 hours of the NSW ALP State Conference they were back-grounding media that the federal executive would be rolling over the top and imposing their change.

Their problem, of course, is that Simon Crean has turned the 60-40 rule into his own credibility test; although as Neville Wran pointed out the rule is largely irrelevant - conference is a showpiece; the so-called control of the floor is illusory.

Anyone doubting this need only look at the federal leadership's dismissal of the only meaningful policy debate emanating from the weekend's NSW Conference. In an historic shift, unions and rank and file members voted to reject 'mandatory detention' of asylum seekers. The response of Crean and his immigration spokeswoman Julia Gillard to this significant shift? To deny it had any effect and vow to carry on regardless.

This passage of events highlights the real problem in the current relationship between the political and industrial wings of the Party. Once they have secured the numbers to be elected into Parliament - either State or federal - MPs become a law unto themselves. They see themselves as being above the rabble, as they see it, of the labour movement.

It is in this context that the Crean push has created disquiet within the labour movement. Normally in negotiations, it's up to the proponents of change to offer trade-offs. But given that there has been no sign of any real willingness to negotiate around 60-40 on the part of the federal MPs, now is probably the time to put a few counter-claims on the table.

1.Pre-selections: The real power in the ALP lies in the ability to select candidates. This is currently dominated by the factional warlords, whose branch stacks deliver them the ability to anoint their chosen followers. Those involved in the trade union movement who have neither the time nor the inclination to immerse themselves in local branch politics, are locked out of these elected positions. Trade unions currently exert little influence in the choice of candidates; accordingly few candidates see themselves as owing any allegiance to the movement.

If we are going to have a genuine 50-50 partnership debate, maybe this should include a debate on the choice of candidates. If Crean insists on reducing union control to 50 per cent on the Conference floor, he should also create a mechanism for unions to participate in the pre-selection of candidates. The participation of a trade union panel in all pre-selections would build a level of accountability for all MPs. Given the 50/50 conference split; a 50 per cent weighting in pre-selections would seem appropriate.

This should go hand in hand with genuine branch reform as outlined in the Wran Inquiry.

2. KPIs for MPs: Elected Members of Parliament must be held accountable to their labour movement constituency. The Wran Reports calls for a requirement that all MPs establish consultative processes with rank and file union members within their electorate to be convened regularly. This should one of a series of Key Performance Indicators that MPs must demonstrate they have met when they seek to have their preselection renewed.

All these initiatives would allow the union movement to have some genuine influence, not control, over the Party it created. It would also provide the solid foundations that would give unions the confidence that a broadening of focus, as proposed by Crean, would not lead to a trashing of the historical ties.

The trade union movement does not have a closed mind to reform of the ALP. Indeed, the message we get from our members is that they want the ALP to change the way it operates, to start listening to its core constituency rather than acting like a law unto itself. If some of these ideas are incorporated into a Crean reform package, he can expect the ongoing support of the union movement.


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