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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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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.

The man who cheated himself into the most powerful position on Earth can talk tough on ethics, but when he's been caught playing the loans-for-shares game himself and his deputy is up to his neck in dodgy dealings, it's a bit hard to take it all seriously.

But isn't this America? The land where reward and enterprise has created a system that has bought wealth to the world and killed off the Commie beast? Isn't the inevitable rise in stock prices the inherent strength of capitalism?

The big difference now is that investors are beginning to fear it's all a sham, as corporate giants crumble under the weight of fraudulent profit projections, inflated share prices and dubious auditors with stakes in the firms they are meant to be scurtinising.

Retirement savings, fuelling the world economy with the massive pension fund investments, are beginning to yield negative returns. Once they lose an incentive to pump in the billions the game will really be up. What comes next won't be pretty.

The remuneration of executives is not the only problem the system faces, but it is a big one. The multi-million packages have created a Lotto Economy where sums far beyond the comprehension of normal workers have become the norm.

We are told we need to pay these obscene amounts to have the 'best' people running our businesses; yet the businesses continue to fall over leaving the failed managers secure with their multi-million dollar golden handshakes.

Yep, it stinks. But how does one regulate greed?

There are no easy answers but there are some simple first steps. Like preventing firms offering CEOs options that give them an incentive to inflate share prices with short-term tactics like slashing jobs; like forbidding firms from lending managers money to buy back into the firm; like encouraging shareholder scrutiny of these grubby arrangements; like giving regulators increased powers to jail individuals who cheat the system.

While Bush at least talked tough, our own Prime Minister was taking the opposite tack this week, hosing down proposal to increase the ACCC's powers to punish market collusion.

He's also refusing to debate an ALP Bill to increase the powers of the ASIC to pursue holding companies whose mismanagement lead to the collapse of a subsidiary.

Meanwhile, his workplace relations minister continues to advocate for bosses, while turning his Rule of Law on any worker who cares to stand up for their rights.

A decade after the Cold War ended a new set of political battle lines are being drawn; instead of the split between the State and free enterprise; there is the philosophical debate about whether the system needs regulation or unfettered freedom.

A political agenda skeptical of the free market, with limits and controls on executive pay, setting community standards for corporations and prepared to treat corporate criminals the same way as bank robbers would have increasing political appeal.

It's a point that Simon Crean should be pondering as he strives to redefine Modern Labour.

Peter Lewis



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