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Issue No. 145 19 July 2002  

Two Wings Flapping
The one element missing from the current debate about the relationship between the labour movement and the ALP is any discussion about what's in it for the unions.


Interview: In The Tent
The Australian Services Union's Martin Foley on the dilemma facing trade unions affiliated to the Labor Party.

Bad Boss: The Desk Nazi
Everyone�s mail is on the money this week. Yep, Australia Post, courtesy of the born-to-rule attitude so beloved by the Workplace Relations Minister has been nominated for the Tony Award.

Media: Hold the Presses
The withdrawal of mainstream news outlets from the reporting of industrial relations is playing right into the bosses' hands, writes Andrew Casey

Workplace: Putting Bullies In Their Place
Ever wonder where the schoolyard bullies from your formative years ended up? Chances are they are still making someone�s life hell in an Australian workplace today. Even worse, one of them might be your direct supervisor.

Industrial: Women and Work
The last fortnight may well prove a turning point for working Australian women and their families, argues ACTU President Sharan Burrow

International: Whine and Dine
The political and industrial wings of British labour are at each other's throats, reports Andrew Casey.

History: Black Adder
Old King Cole had good tutors. Roger Milliss captured the style of conservative government witch-hunts in Serpent�s Tooth, his cathartic apology to his father, Bruce.

Review: Bad Movie
While the search for Australia's worst boss is well underway, Joel Schumacher's Bad Company seems to point the finger squarely at the US Government - albeit accidentally.

Poetry: I Remember
Dermott Ryder knocks our Resident Bard off his podium this week with a little ditty about a bloke called Honest John


 Builder Blows Whistle on Kangaroo Court

 Alarm Over Unis in Detention

 Unions Spark New Super Push

 Abbott Trips on Entitlements - Again

 Picnic Day for Union Members Only

 Memo: John Travolta - Come Fly With Us!

 Cole Comfort to Bodgey Builders

 Unions Eye SA Casuals Victory

 Burrow: Paid Mat Leave Just First Step

 Mayne Warning � But Will They Listen?

 Drought Relief Should Extend To Rural Workers

 Coca Cola Action Bubbles Globally


The Soapbox
The Royal Circus
CFMEU organiser Terry Kesby gives a first hand account of his experience before the Cole Royal Commission.

The Locker Room
Bravely Running Away
Phil Doyle is bewildered by the Australian Cricket team�s reluctance to join John Howard�s War On Terror.

Nothing Exceeds Like Excess
As the world market lurches under the weight of its own amorality, regulators and business lobbies are locking horns over the need for more rules.

Week in Review
A Share of the Action
Sharemarket jitters produce mea culpas from the magnate set but, as Jim Marr discovers, loyal followers in the Howard administration aren�t likely to join the chorus any time soon.

 Make My Week!
 Real Reform
 Hooray for Frank!
 Reform or Die
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Two Wings Flapping

The one element missing from the current debate about the relationship between the labour movement and the ALP is any discussion about what's in it for the unions.

While everyone now seems to agree that the question of union control of party forums is a red herring, the real question is what responsibilities elected Labor MPs carry.

Are they elevated to elected office by dint of their own intrinsic value or are they merely custodians of a workers' movement that created the party they represent more than 100 years ago?

The answer to this question is integral to any renegotiation of the relationship.

If one takes the view that these are brilliant individuals who have achieved office because they are talented and wise, then it would be fair to give them freedom to set their own course into the future.

If one takes the broader historical view and recognise Labor MPs as representatives of the movement, then they must carry certain obligations into the Parliament.

Like adhering to the policy of the Party they are elected to represent, even when it may not be electorally popular. Like championing policies consistent with trade union values, even at the risk of losing a few dollars in corporate sponsorship. Like treating trade unions as partners in policy, not headaches to be side-stepped and avoided.

The problem with the current reform agenda for many in the union movement, is that the call to break ties come from those who have taken the most from the union movement; who have been shoe-horned into seats on the back of the factional deals that they now purport to undo.

It's like the ethos of people born wealthy who then profess a firm belief in the rights of the individual over the society - they turn their backs on the structures that have given them their privileged position.

The current project seems to have become more about how to make 'brand ALP' most electable, rather than making the Labor product as good as it can be.

John Button copped all sorts of flak this week for his essay on the future of the ALP, not least for the headlines that had him calling on the Party to sever ties with the union movement.

But maybe this should be the starting point of a new relationship. Let's go back to first principles and work out why it is that the relationship exists in the first place.

Let's look at the experiences abroad where social democratic parties are independent of organised labour; let's see what happened when the Swedish union movement severed all ties with the political party it created; let's see how the British movement has fared under Tony Blair's New Labour.

If on the evidence it is determined that the relationship should continue, then let's lay it out clearly: what is expected of the ALP, what is expected of MPs, what is expected of union leaders and what is expected of the rank and file.

If there's going to be a New Deal, the union movement and its leadership must be partners in the process not victims of the outcome.

The ALP makeover has to work for both wings of the movement, to create a vessel that flies politically and industrially.

And if Simon Crean succeeds in forging a New Deal it should be recognised that it is not the unions he has busted; but the ideological void within the political wing of the movement that made his predecessor unelectable.

Peter Lewis



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