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Issue No. 159 01 November 2002  

Why The User Should Pay
Unions have often been the victims of the user-pays ethos – the pointy end of the assault on the State by the Top End of Town that has left our public sector looking like the poor relation to the corporates.


Interview: Life After Keating
Labor's foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd looks at the world and wonders what might have been ...

Industrial: That Friday Feeling
Anthony Stavropoulos has been working six days a week for the last eight years and now he wants his weekends back. “Remember that Friday feeling?” he asks. “You just don’t get that anymore.”

Bad Boss: Begging to Work
They may put themselves about as the Saints of the Fourth Estate, but bosses at the Big Issue Magazine have been nominated by their own vendors for this month’s Tony award.

Organising: Project Pilbara
Sydney University’s Bradon Ellem reports on how unions are bouncing back in Rio territory

Unions: Off the Rails
The Federal Government is attempting to turn NSW Railways into a political football with a proposal that threatens the safety of freight and passenger trains in NSW and life in our rail Towns, writes Phil Doyle.

International: Brazil Turns Left
Union stalwarts throughout the American hemisphere are cheering the election of Lula – the peanut seller and shoeshine boy, turned union leader - who has been elected as the first working-class President of Brazil.

Environment: Brown Wash
Stuart Rosewarn argues the Johannesburg Sunmmit was a gripping showcase of Australia’s lack of a strategic vision.

History Special: Learning from the Past
Ray Markey looks at union membership growth in the 1880s & 1900s to argue that today’s unions must engage to grow.

Corporate: Will the Bullying Backfire?
Job insecurity, unemployment, a growing gap between rich and poor, massive global poverty and environmental danger are the big issues for the protests at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Sydney.

Technology: Danger Lurks For The Passive
If unions fail to exploit opportunities on the web to gain members, other organisations are likely to fill the void and provide services to workers on the internet.

History: In Labour’s Image
Neale Towart looks at a long-overdue initiative to around NSW through the eyes of the workers.

Politics: Without Power Or Glory
South Coast contributor Rowan Cahill gives his take on the Cunningham by-election result.

History Special: A 'Cosy Relationship'
Barbara Webster looks at Rockhampton between 1916 – 1957 to debunk the ‘dependence’ theory of trade union growth.

Culture: Blood Stains the Wattle
Former Queensland Treasurer Keith De Lacey has turned up in print with a rollicking tale of life during the famous Mt Isa strike of the 60s.

Satire: Iraq Pre-empts Pre-emptive Strike
Saddam Hussein has launched a pre-emptive strike on the United States to prevent it from pre-emptively striking Iraq first.

Poetry: The Executive Pay Cut
Executives accepting pay freezes, or even pay cuts? This outrageous proposal has been put on the table by some capitalists themselves, and taken up by our bard.

Review: Time Out
When a family man invents a new life after losing his steady job, Tara de Boehmler watches his charade escalate until there is no turning back.


 Bargaining Fees In the Dock

 Deadly ‘Slave Labour’ Racket Exposed

 Zoo Workers Buck Indecent Proposal

 Cabinet Takes Stick To Abbott's Carrot

 Cyber Action Behind Hilton Win

 Aussies Back On Board

 City Workers To Help Country Cousins

 Sour Taste for Wine Workers

 Government Grounds Ansett Levy

 TAB Workers Winners as Cup Strike Averted

 Aussie Post Gets Mail On Sick Leave

 Council Backs Community Radio Venture

 First Steps to Compo Clean-Up

 Workers Out! Conference Opens In Sydney

 Aussie Union Rep Power, Yes Please: TUC

 New Burma Shame File

 Activists Notebook


Month In Review
War and Pieces of Work
The Bali Tragedy dominated the news this month, leaving many questioning the motive and wondering if this is fallout from Australia’s unquestioning support of George Dubya’s ‘War On Terror’.

The Soapbox
Beware of Greeks Bearing Historical Allusions
Roland Stephens argues that the current popular line that the USA is a modern day version of the Roman Empire is flawed.

The Locker Room
Over The Fence Is Out
Phil Doyle warms up for another season of hard hitting and fast bowling in the park, making the rules up as he goes along.

The Sea of Hands
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation are five years old. Spokeswoman Dameeli Coates addressed labor Council to mark the event.

Tokyo Youth Call
Tokyo unions are relying on young organisers to infiltrate workplaces as part of a major organising campaign, which focuses on non-unionised companies, reports Mary Yaager.

Still Crazy After All These Years
With new research suggests CEO carry similar personality traits to psycho-paths, the AGM season is proving that there’s little room for logic in our nation’s board rooms.

 Trashing the Siren Theory
 More Bali Feed Back
 Clean Election Laws Now!
 And Now, Some Fan Mail!
 Policy Vacuum
 Tom's Postscript
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Letters to the Editor

Trashing the Siren Theory

There's been bucketloads of responses on last week's Cunningham editorial. Keep them coming in ....


'Diamond' Joe Quimby and Local 2002

I really tried to bite my tongue when I read your last Simpson'esk editorial 'Homers Odyssey' I tried and I tried but I couldn't let some of the things you said go without comment.

My union was affiliated to the ALP for over eighty years until just last year. The year the NSW ALP rammed through its cuts to workers compensation entitlements.

You see I'm a firefighter and in my job workers compensation can mean the difference between feeding my family and living on sickness benefits from Centre Link. On average every firefighter suffers four serious workers comp. injuries in a career. Not the bruised egos or ingrown bum hairs politicians have to worry about but injuries that maim and cripple us, that take away our ability to lead normal healthy lives.

For us its not about lawyers, courts or insurance companies its about government actually paying up what it owes. Even the NSW Liberals tried to pass amendments to the new workers comp legislation that would have protected people like firefighters and coppers but the ALP just didn't give a damn.

I know now why the NSW Labor Council fought so hard on the changes to union representation at the last ALP national conference. The ALP didn't just go through all the political grief and public spectacle of cutting out union influence in its rules unless it intends to actually use those rules. Only a fool would believe that a politically populist organisation like the ALP isn't going to further distance itself from the union movement and support the passage of US style labour laws in parliaments throughout Australia.

After all it was Bob Hawke and his millionaire mate that last brought the troops in to bust the pilots union on the basis that their pay claim would destroy the economy. Eighteen months later the pilots union was busted and wage rates of pilots were higher than the union had ever claimed.

With the Cunningham result less than two weeks old Bob Carr and his mates have announced they wont be selling one of the last big psychiatric hospitals left in Sydney. They have backed down on the sale of at least two irreplaceable public schools and announced the protection of thousands of hectares of bushland through the expansion of the states parklands.

Surely this is more than just a warm inner glow, the sick, the young and the environment have all benefited. With the pork barreling season now upon us it would be nice to think that the Labor Council might be able to claw back some of entitlements robbed from us by a government that thought workers had no where else to go.

Australian workers aren't simpletons plenty of unionists have at some stage joined the ALP and become active in its branches only to find that once elected to Parliament ALP members will not be told what to do by the membership of the party. Why would they when most of the electorates returning the ALP members get less than 50% of ALP primary votes and the Premier gets to hand pick the cabinet. All the ALP has done by reducing the representation of unions is to further entrench the control of the ALP by the spivs and opportunists that put their personal ambitions before everything else.

The ALP gives unions a bad name and its time for union leaders to start listening to their members before the members vote with their feet and the ALP succeeds in de-unionising the Australian workforce.

Unionist voting for the ALP is like turkeys voting for Xmas.

Simon Flynn



Tired Excuses

In response to your editorial The Sirens Song. It's the same list of tired old excuses which the Cunningham By-election should have taught the ALP no longer works for many ALP members or voters. I, like many others, have tried to work through the ALP but now regard it as complete and utter waste of time. Consider of my experiences.

Having been active in the Teachers Federation since 1970 I used to feel that I was philosophically closer to the ALP than any of the other parties.

I first joined the ALP in November 1975, outraged at what Malcolm Fraser had done, and handed out election material in my North Shore Branch area. Shortly thereafter, I moved to the Western Suburbs and tried to transfer to a local branch. It never happened. The Secretary of this Branch eventually said, "I don't know who you have offended but I can't get the transfer through."

As a Federation organiser in the late 1970's I advised teachers to join the ALP and argue for the adoption of good education policies. I felt it was appropriate that I should do the same so I joined my local branch and was eventually elected to the FEC and SEC where I continued to argue for the adoption of good education policies.

Much of the opposition I met within the ALP came from members who believed that anything which came from a person who worked for the Teachers Federation should be opposed.

The final straw came for me when I led a deputation of teachers to see their local member who at that time was also Minister for Education. He was not interested in pursuing what we were arguing for and somewhat in desperation I said, "but it's ALP policy". His response was, "it might be ALP policy but WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT".

A little further down the track I realised there was no point in wasting my time getting the party to adopt good policies only to have them ignored by the people I helped get elected so I resigned from the ALP.

Since then, I have dealt with numerous MP's and Ministers for Education and nothing I have seen has encouraged me to re-join the ALP.

Today I can sail past the ALP sirens with no wax in my ears, their song has no effect.

John Hughes


Growing Dissent

In response to your editorial regarding the "Sirens' Song", I was dismayed to see your opening paragraphs denouncing the local trade unionists in the Local Cunningham by-election.

I do not see their stand on preferences representing some kind of blinkered and self satisfied thumbing of the nose at the Federal ALP. I see it as I think an ever increasing majority of ALP voters see it, as a desperate attempt to force the ALP to recognise that in terms of policy direction and simple effectiveness, that they are going in the wrong direction.

Just because the ALP claim to represent people like myself, unionists who have always supported the union movement and previously always voted ALP, does not mean that the deserve our unconditional support. It is this historical stable ALP vote that the current factional powerbrokers and "career" politicians rely upon in continuing on their course towards conservative politics. You only have to look at Steve Bracks in Victoria to see what the end result of this is. When people tell me that "At least it's the Labor Party", I tell them that my mother still does not have the right to a common law process in regards to her workcover claim and that the same people who prosepered under Jeff Kennett are still prospering now.

If the ALP want my vote, they will have to change into what they were always supposed to be. My grandfather, a fervent ALP supporter would be turning in his grave if he saw what the ALP had become, a party of self serving political opportunists who will sell all of us out for just one more term in office and to hell with the long term problems that Australia has to face.

I have the greatest respect for the Cunningham trade unionists who despite the enormous pressure on them to conform to the back room deals of the ALP, made the difficult decision to stand up for what they believe in.

Alan Gee


Much to Celebrate

There is a great deal to celebrate in the Cunningham by election result.

Your editorial to edition no.158, 25th October 2002 puts forward the traditional notion that unionists owe the ALP loyalty in all circumstances and that reform will come from people of goodwill within the Party. The reality for most active supporters of the labour movement and progressive politics is that we have never felt less represented by and less involved with the ALP. While always pragmatic the ALP has become driven by no idea stronger than attempting to divine the opinions of a few hundred swinging voters in a dozen marginal electorates. The need to give genuine leadership on issues is the nightmare of the current front bench. All of this is at a time when the Howard government has taken all the ground of the populist and ratbag right. The experience of ALP membership is that the only passion and energy at party forums is blood letting over the division of the spoils.

The victory of the Greens in Cunningham lets people know the depth of dissatisfaction with the ALP machine and its lack of political and moral leadership. More importantly, it allows us to believe that the current political consensus of economic rationalism and social conservatism can be challenged by the generation of popular humane ideas. You are probably right when you say the Greens will never attain power but there is great value in shaking up our ideas and practices. The ALP has no monopoly on the support of unionists, working people and people with progressive politics. The idea that it is our natural party is dead.

The Greens bring a freshness and willingness to deal in ideas that means they will be an attractive, effective force even if they never get to sit in the shiny white chauffeur driven cars.

Brian Mason


Missing the Mark

I am a CPSU delegated at the Department of Immigration in Canberra. I like Workers Online as it is fresh air in an otherwise stuffy room.

However, the editorial about the Sirens Song did not hit the mark. I am always having arguments with ALP members who, after finally admitting that the ALP has hardly any progressive policies, start talking about the importance of winning power, and being in a party that might one day win power.

Well, Cunningham has changed that because it shows that the ALP is vulnerable on its left flank. The Greens are going to pick up a swathe of seats at the next series of elections in both lower and upper houses. Once they do, there will be a credible left voice in Parliament and in the media, and leftists will no longer have to put up with the abuse of the right wing of the ALP.

The right faction of the ALP don't know what they stand for, but they always promised the left, who used to know what they stood for, power. The left went along with this because they thought they had no choice. As the right cannot deliver on power any more, the left needs to reappraise itselft of its involvement in the ALP.

In my view the ALP is unsaveable. My analysis is that given the ALP gets more money from business than ALP branches or the unions, it is not going to become progressive, they are not going to listen to the progressive people and implement progressive policies.

If they could, I would appreciate you pointing me to something progessive in the current policy list?

ALP members are irrelevant to policy formation, because this is done in reference to opinion polls and focus groups with expensive 'public relations' processes bought with business dollars.

For this reason - for the reason that s/he who pays the piper calls the policy tune - the ALP is structurally dead and buried as progressive political party.

The sooner ALP members (and fellow travellers in the union movement) rip the fond blinkers of ALP mythologising from their eyes and see the truth, and get involved in progressive politics, the better off we will all be.

The pity is that it is not the left who has abandoned the party or the cause, but the ALP that has abandoned the left and progressive causes. The ALP has betrayed the confidence of left social democrats life myself once too often, and I no longer have hope or confidence in the party.

Having said that, the ALP needs to be very careful, because after it loses the left, it will be indistinguishable from the Liberals. When that happens, the ALP will be in danger of disappearing, because if you are going to vote for a liberal, you may as well vote for a real liberal instead of some right wing ALP bloke {ie Mark Latham} who thinks he's done good because he has spent his life doing the left over, attacking (or at least not defending) trade unions, privatisings things, popularising capitalism, supporing dictators and the rest of it.

Anyway, I have an article written exploring such things, and would be interested to know whether you would publish it in Workers Online?


Nick Houston


Whose Court?

Peter Lewis says that to fix the ALP all unionists should get more involved and to do otherwise only helps the Liberals. I'm all for people in the ALP to fight as hard as possible to - for example - overturn its rotten refugee position, but isn't the ball is in the ALP politicians' court if they want to rewin their base?

What is Peter's analysis of why the ALP has drifted so far in a pro-business direction - this is an international phenomenon - and why shouldn't unionists seek to build an alternative if they seem more effective at fighting the likes of Abbott and Costello and Della Bosca? Is this so terrible as long as people who are building an alternative work in honest solidarity with those who choose to remain and struggle in the ALP?

And shouldn't trade union leaders engage productively with other pro-worker parties and so help shape their development for the benefit of the whole labour movement?

Bruce Knobloch


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