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Issue No. 150 30 August 2002  

Shut It Down!
The CFMEU�s legal bid to have the Cole Royal Commission closed down seeks to prove legally what any dispassionate observer has worked out for themselves: the whole show is biased.


Interview: Australian Worker
AWU national secretary Bill Shorten gives his take on the relationship between the wings of the movement

Unions: Morning Ambush
Rowan Cahill joined the Dayson workers as they took their fourteen week dispute to the doors of an American corproate giant

Cole-Watch: Grumpy Old Men
When the Cole Commission declared closed its second innings in Sydney last night, lasting memories centred around the hands played by two grumpy old men, Jim Marr reports.

International: Arrested (Sustainable) Development
Unions fronting up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development are making clear their views that development can never be considered sustainable unless social justice is made a top priority, reports Tara de Boehmler.

History: Illegal Alien
As we remember the shameful way we turned away a group of people escaping the horrors of a dictatorial regime, the treatment of Egon Kisch by the UAP Government in 1935 highlights yet another.

Economics: The Trouble With PPPs
The Uni of NSW's Christopher Shiel explains why the state's current flirtation with Public Private Partnerships is an ongoing joke

Poetry: Is This 'My Country'?
On the anniversary of the Tampa, and with the help of Dorothea Mackellar and Peter Dodds McCormick, Worker's Online travels back a year to contemplate those moments when eyes were closed to the nature of the Taliban regime.

Review: Garage Days
Mark Hebblewhite reviews a new Aussie flick that brings the indie music scene to the big screen


 Bias Case Clears First Hurdle

 Eight Weeks Only for Bomb Survivors

 Justice At Last for Woodlawn Miners

 Labor for Refugees Put Acid on Crean

 Canberra Cash Linked to Hall of Fame Stoush

 Osama Poster Sparks Controversy

 Underwear Obsession Prompts Rehab List

 Community Workers Win Lifeline

 Mad Monk Staff in 'Mad Hatter' Protest

 Qld Health Win Pay Rise

 Education Forum To Spark Public Debate

 Activist Notebook


The Soapbox
Is Simon the Likeable?
The United Firefighter's Daryl Snow is back to give the ALP and political leaders in general an almighty hosing down

The Locker Room
A Modest Proposal
This NRL salary cap has come in for some debate recently, with many following the lead set by the Murdoch Media and calling for administrators of the game to throw the baby out with the bathwater, writes Phil Doyle.

Week in Review
World Domination
They�re right funny critters those Yanks who get their hands on the levers of power and we�re not talking, funny ha ha, here, Jim Marr writes�

The Costello Two-Step
Treasurer Peter Costello's two faces were on display this week - ducking and weaving from enforcing corporate accounting standards while upping the push to cut corporate tax

Always Listen To The Wind
Bernadette Moloney & John Hartley report from a conference aimed at getting reconciliation right

 Tony Moore is a Four Letter Word
 Choral Classics
 Sleeping Giants
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Always Listen To The Wind

- CFMEU delegates to the Treaty Conference

Bernadette Moloney & John Hartley report from a conference aimed at getting reconciliation right


About 400 people gathered on Ngunnawal country at the Canberra Convention Centre for three days this week to kick off a conversation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians about the shape of relations between us into the future.

Under banners of 'Treaty: Let's Get it Right!', well known and new generation Indigenous activists, joined with non-Indigenous activist religious, a scattering of trade union delegates and individuals from ANTaR or Reconciliation groups to exchange ideas on ways forward.

No-one at this gathering was hung up on the Treaty word: the emphasis was rather on the second part of the title: "Let's get it right - for black and white", as one speaker said.

However, with nothing happening in the two years since millions marched across bridges in support of Reconciliation between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous, there was also a feeling of a need to move on these matters, now.

Before the Conference, ATSIC had visited some local Indigenous communities to hear their views. This week was an opportunity to begin those conversations with non-Indigenous people.

But there was evident feeling from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants that there needs to be extensive conversations at a grassroots levels in all communities yet.

And that these matters need to be sorted with respect for each other, as well as wisdom and diplomacy -- to ensure that the process benefits Indigenous peoples and cannot be misused to frighten off non-Indigenous people.

Singer Kev Carmody set the tone, when he reminded listeners of the words his uncle told him: 'Always listen to the wind, boy' - dream your dreams, but keep your feet on the ground. To find the right answers, make sure we ask the right questions, he warned, before singing his Vincent Lingiari song: 'From little things, big things grow'.

Steps already taken

The Conference gathered an impressive range of speakers covering topics from the 'Unfinished Business' Indigenous peoples continue to live with, through to Agreement Making and the Economics and Social Impacts of a Treaty or agreement(s).

From those papers, it is clear there are plenty of international precedents for this process of agreement making between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

There are also already existing examples of agreement-making within Australia to draw on - both regional agreements and agreements at a more local level between particular communities and local authorities or institutions.

The NSW Government's moves to maintain Indigenous languages, announced this week, marks the beginning of a development, which if applied on a national scale, as Lester-Irabinna Rigney told the Conference, might ensure the protection and transmission of Indigenous cultures that would benefit all Australians.

Plus there are numerous studies and reports on Unfinished Business issues from the past few decades within Australia: as Mick Dodson reminded participants: "We don't have to reinvent the wheel" to start moving on these matters again.

Ideas for a process

Conference speakers also provided some useful ideas for dealing with the agreement-making process. Recognising that 'to treat' or make an agreement or agreements involved negotiation between parties and the consent of both parties, was one important element.

It should be a conversation about ideas, not positions, said long-time activist Michael Mansell.

Northern Ireland loyalist para-military turned peace activist, David Irvine suggested it must be a conversation where people abandoned the old feelings of superiority and inferiority; where we worked to achieve equality of outcomes (not equal opportunities, which too often simply maintains the status quo); where equality, justice and diversity were the core values against which new legislation and agreements were constantly measured.

Non-Indigenous Australians might ask themselves: what are they afraid of? And deal with all the 'old shibboleths and myths' they have about Indigenous people, as majority Protestant loyalists have had to do in negotiating with Irish Republican Nationalists.

Bearing in mind the lessons of the Republic Referendum, constitutional lawyer George Williams suggested four things people might find useful to keep in mind when considering a Treaty or agreements were, that it involved:

1. an acknowledgment of past and current situations

2. negotiation

3. incorporation of rights, and

4. is about opportunities.

On the positive side, surveys about the Treaty have already shown majority support for it, especially among young people. Changing emphases in international law also suggest Australian sovereignty could be significantly enhanced by being rooted in a lasting agreement with our Indigenous peoples, Justice Commissioner Bill Jonas told the Conference.

Much more to be done

If these conversations were a first step, everyone recognised there is also a huge amount to be done to move us towards those envisaged new relationships.

Trade unionists might notice that ACTU President Sharan Burrows committed the ACTU to the Treaty process, saying that a "just and sustainable Australia goes to the heart of the Australian identity", with justice and equality obviously among the core values of the trade union movement.

Burrows said the ACTU would make sure that its agreements were in partnership with the aspirations of Indigenous Australians, particularly with regard to employment matters.

"As people committed to decency we can do something about racism in our communities, schools and workplaces to make sure it is explored, chopped up into little pieces and sorted out.

"Democracy is about forcing our politicians to hear our voices," Burrows reminded us.

"We are not talking about fear, but about partnership and of respect for decency. We can make a stand."

"That means taking up the challenge within our own organisations as well," Burrows said, "accepting that union leaders must also debate the challenges to the status quo, so that we can create a decent nation that respects all our differences."


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