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Issue No. 138 31 May 2002  
E D I T O R I A L

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.

F E A T U R E S

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.

N E W S

 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

C O L U M N S

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 �

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

Postcard
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.

L E T T E R S
 Simon and the Creanites
 In Defence of Latham
 Swans A Pathetic Con-Job
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Editorial

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.

The political orthodoxy has trade unions as the whipping boys of public discourse; backward looking thugs too consumed with their own power plays to offer anything meaningful to the community. A slow-moving target for any Tory with a wedge to wield.

But wait, something's wrong - the facts don't back the rhetoric. Labor Council polling consistently finds unions more popular than any political party, the only thing stopping a resurgence in union membership being employee fear (see Issue 103).

Those figures backed qualitative research conducted by the Liberal Party's official pollster Mark Textor that workers were "largely supportive of unions" with favourable attitudes driven by the need for security and self-esteem .

Meanwhile, the slide in union membership ends as many unions transform themselves into the sorts of grass-roots organizations that political partiers can only envy.

Even the CFMEU, targeted by Tony Abbott as the bully-boys of the movement, find massive support amongst their rank and file and a widely held belief that the Cole Royal Commission is just a political stunt.

It makes you wonder how out of touch the Canberra political cabal really is, caught up in a debate based on a false premise, that organized labour is a political liability.

That the Liberal Party would spend $60 million orchestrating such a witch-hunt is an outrage, albeit a predictable one. By choosing his target Abbott has set up an inquiry that will turn a blind eye on the real scandal in construction - the widespread rorting and evasion by phoenix companies.

But for the ALP to fall into this trap is a tragedy. As Neville Wran said at the NSW ALP State Conference last week, the union movement's involvement is what differentiates Labor from just another social democratic party.

The federal leadership may have the power to force through cuts to union influence on the Conference floor, they may have the pigheadedness to ignore resolutions the conference passes, but they fall into the trap of treating unions as a liability at their own risk.

A sobering statistic for both sides of politics from the CFMEU's survey of its rank and file: just 51 per cent would vote for the Labor Party if an election were held today. On the ground at least, the clich�s of political discourse just don't wash anymore.

Peter Lewis

Editor


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