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Issue No. 144 12 July 2002  

The Lotto Economy
The failure of George W Bush's much-hyped pitch for corporate responsibility underlines the current crisis facing unregulated global capitalism: the system is corrupting all before it.


Interview: Capital in Crisis
ACTU president Sharan Burrow outlines the global union response to the corporate carnage gripping an increasingly shaky system.

Industrial: No Sweat
Neale Towart surveys the international debate around sweatshops and what can be done to regulate them

Bad Boss: Super Spam
Several late scratchings have seen Workplace Relations Department secretary Peter Boxall win this week�s heat of the Workers� Online Bad Boss handicap.

History: Living Treasures
Labour History is 40 this year. Greg Patmore looks back at what it took to get a regular journal of the labour movement in Australia up and away.

International: Axis of Evil
George W Bush�s scarecrow trio of Iran, Iraq and North Korea is not an original invention, argues Stephen Holt

Solidarity: Pride of Place
NSW Labor Council and CFMEU flags sit alongside the mounted jersey of former Kiwi Rugby League hooker Syd Eru in a modest home at Manurewa, south Auckland.

Technology: The Art of Cyber-Unionism
More Unionism? Transformed Unionism? Peter Waterman looks at a new handbook for unions and the internet

Poetry: The Masochism Tango
Tony Abbott's comment we should accept a bad boss like a bad husband or bad father has made us all realise that instead of fighting bad bosses, we should love them. Anyone for a tango?

Satire: Foxtel-Optus Merger 'Anti-Repetitive'
The ACCC has ruled today that the proposed content sharing arrangement between Foxtel and Optus Vision would constitute anti-repetitive conduct

Review: Bob Carr's Thoughtlines
Stephen Holt reviews one man's journey from collectivism to the centre


 Sweat Shops � Coming To A Street Near You

 Glassworkers Walk for the Umpire

 Family Friendly For A Buck

 Abbott in Slow GEER

 Royal Commission Bugs Workers

 Drivers Frozen Out by Corporate Spin

 Coca-Cola Brews Storm In A Tea Cup

 Bush Prepares for War on the Wharves

 Safety Summit A Hit With Unions

 Beattie Faces Bargaining Face-Off

 Casual Work Exploits � Catholic Church Agency

 More Effort Required On Disabled Workers

 Protecting Security Officers From Disease

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Why Modernisation Matters
Labor frontbencher Mark Latham argues that the ALP's reform agenda must go way beyond the 60-40 debate.

The Locker Room
Playing To The Whistle
Phil Doyle takes a look at the man in the middle, and he doesn�t like what he sees.

Inquiry Into Executive Pay
The ACTU Executive this week called for a public debate on spiralling executive pay packets, seeking feedback from workers, community representatives and unions.

Up In Smoke
Wobbly Radio's Nick Luccinelli reports from England where drug law reform is on the political agenda.

Week in Review
Bulldust and Boofheads
Jim Marr casts his eye over a week in which bullshit and bad bosses fought for headlines�

 On Aspiration
 GST Agenda
 Amanda's Mediocrity
 Capital Ideas
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Up In Smoke

Wobbly Radio's Nick Luccinelli reports from England where drug law reform is on the political agenda.


The impenetrable grey that dominates the English summer sky seems to share a lot of characteristics with the body politic these people find themselves stuck with. The odd shower or ray of sunshine may occasionally crack the veneer, but sure enough, it doesn't take long for a depressing consistency to reassert itself. The vacuous pragmatism of the Blair Government is the ultimate post-modern politics. There is no black and white, and the prospect of offending any section of the community severely is considered worse than leaving everyone moderately disenchanted.

The Government's recent plans for law reform in regards to cannabis are classic New Labour. On Wednesday, July 10 British Home Secretary David Blunkett revealed his plans to Parliament. Based on a trial in the South London suburb of Brixton, individuals found in possession of cannabis are now given an informal caution, taking away the maximum gaol term of five years for possession of a class b drug. With marijuana reclassified under the overhaul as a 'class c' drug, the substance is now considered less dangerous. As the Home Secretary was careful to point out, the reforms stop short of full legalisation or decriminalisation. The police are still endowed with reserve powers if an offence involves children, public disorder or 'flagrant disergard for the law'. Hash cafes are unlikely to pop up in the middle of Kent.

Despite this apparent liberalisation, the paranoia of the spin-obsessed Blair Government means that a progressive move such as this can not be left standing on its merits, to be debated and sold to the public. Instead, the Government wants to have a few bob each way, by doubling the maximum prison sentence for dealing class c drugs to fourteen years. For users, this creates the perverse situation of having to purchase drugs from criminals, but then effectively having the green light to smoke.

The glaring inconsistency of the reform package sends mixed signals, and the tabloid media reflects the polarities that the drug issue throws up. On Thursday, 11 July, dailies such as 'The Sun' and the 'Daily Express' ran with headlines such as "Great News for Dealers, Grim News for our Kids" and "Middle Class Under Attack". By way of contrast, 'Daily Mirror' columnist Paul Routledge exclaimed "Britain has to be a safe place to live - and to get stoned. That's why I back this leap in the dark." One can only conclude that the lack of uniform opinion on the topic is actually the aim of Blairite spin doctors. It seems the only way the Government knows how to deal with such a sensitive issue is through obfuscation.

In justifying the move, Blunkett argues that whilst drug use is dangerous, the use of marijuana is not 'widely dangerous to one's future and mortality'. Blair has remained consistent to a line he first formulated in his role as Shadow Home Secretary, "Attacking crime and attacking the causes of crime", adding "Reclassification allows police to focus on drug dealing of any description."

There is merit in these arguments. The logic of tying up policing resources in arresting and charging fifteen year old adolescents for possession of one gram of Marijuana is clearly lacking. Policing resources are of much better use when directed toward crime prevention and the arrest of hard core criminals. However, as media pundits and liberal democrat politicians have pointed out, if the Government considers marijuana to be a relatively harmless substance, why is the penalty for profiting from the sale of this substance being increased?

Surely if the Government were to remain consistent to its own logic, the way forward would be State sanctioned sale of dope. That way the substance could actually be taxed, allowing for cannabis users and dealers to make an indirect contribution to the public health system their actions may place greater stress on. Of course in the 'New Labour, New Britain' world, such arguments don't stack up. After all, where's the 'tough on crime' headline going to come from with that sort of policy?


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