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Issue No. 167 21 February 2003  

Scales of Injustice
The Cole Royal Commissionís final report will be handed to the Howard Government this week, although its public release will be strategically delayed for maximum political capital.


Interview: Agenda 2003
ACTU secretary Greg Combet looks at the year ahead and how a union movement can keep the focus on the workplace at a time of global crisis.

Peace: The Colour Purple
Local communities across Australia are taking stands against war by displaying purple banners. Jim Marr visits one.

Industrial: Long, Hot Summer
As Workers Online took its annual break, the world kept turning Ė at an increasingly alarming velocity.

Solidarity: Workers Against War
Joann Wypijewski reports on how union locals in the USA are fighting the hounds of war at home.

Security: Howard And The Hoodlums
With all the talk of terror, the Howard Governmentís Achilles heel is its tolerance of Flags of Convenience shipping , writes Rowan Cahill

International: Industrial Warfare
Scottish freight train drivers have already acted to disrupt the war effort in the UK with crews of four freight trains carrying war supplies to ports walking off the job, writes Andrew Casey

History: Unions and the Vietnam War
The Vietnam experience steered some unions towards social activism for the first time. Unions are today key players in the anti-war movement, writes Tony Duras.

Review: Eight Miles to Mowtown
Mark Hebblewhites looks at two summer movies that tap into different sounds of American culture - white boy rap and motown blues.

Poetry: Return To Sender
Resident bard Divd Peetz discovers that Elvis has become the latest shock recruit to the peace cause.

Satire: CIA Recruits New Intake of Future Enemies
CIA Director George Tenet announced today that the agency has begun recruiting future enemies for the year 2014.


 Cole Commission: The Rort Goes On

 Penalty Rates Under Attack

 Abbott Brushes Ripped Off Aussies

 Overworked Seamanís Painful Hangover

 Australia Snubs International Body

 Women Attracted to Unions

 Murdoch Hacks Dropping Like Flies

 Peace is Union Business

 Qantas Takes Big Stick to Cabin Crew

 Sheltered Workshop in Orange Squeeze

 Carr Govt Commits $13m To Safety

 Monk Puts IR in Test Tube

 Concreters Bury Six-Day Week

 Graincorp Boss in Cyber War

 Activists Notebook


The Soapbox
Getting On with The Job
Premier Bob Carr chose Trades Hall as the venue to launch Labor's IR policy for the upcoming state election.

Justice in Bogota
Sydney lawyer Ian Latham knows how to pick them. Heís gone straight from the Cole Royal Commission to justice Colombian-style.

The Locker Room
Heart Of Darkness
There is a school of thought that there is, in fact, only one World Cup - and it doesnít involve cricket, writes Phil Doyle.

Danger Mouse
John Howard's politics have trapped him into supporting an unpopular war. He is in political trouble, Leonie Bronstein argues.

 This Means War
 Who Let The Troops Out?
 Wagga Wagga Calling
 Ode to Johnny
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Scales of Injustice

The Cole Royal Commissionís final report will be handed to the Howard Government this week, although its public release will be strategically delayed for maximum political capital.

Not so Jim Marr's book 'First, The Verdict - The Real Story of the Building Industry Royal Commission', which will be launched Monday by one of the CFMEU's most unlikely supporters. We can't reveal his identity yet, but it could be a story in itself.

Regular Workers Online readers will be familiar with Jim's coverage of the Cole Commission. While mainstream media outlets took the Commission's carefully constructed spin, Jim dug deeper.

And what he uncovered should concern anyone who cares about a fair go in contemporary Australian society:

- witnesses unwilling to criticise the CFMEU were not called to give evidence,

- Counsel Assisting the Commission made allegations of serious criminality that, after widespread media coverage, were shown to be unfounded

- and serious criminal behaviour by employers, including Commission witnesses, was largely ignored in public hearings .

In short, the Cole Royal Commission was a $60 million political witch-hunt that selected evidence on its capacity to embarrass the CFMEU.

What use the Howard Government makes of the final report will be interesting; the word around town is that bullets could be headed in unforeseen directions - but that's the history of Royal Commissions aimed at the union movement.

But what is already apparent is that Tony Abbott's fishing expedition for corruption and lawlessness within the construction industry has not caught any big fish.

Abbott's mantra of 'lawlessness' sounds alarming, but has mainly been focussed on his contention that industry wide bargaining breaches the Howard-Reith workplace relations laws.

His fetish for individual contracts hit a new high-point last week when he threatened to withdraw funding for research to universities that failed to force their academics onto AWAs. We've always argued that Abbott's IR was a dangerous experiment - but this is going too far!

So, on the one hand we have taxpayer dollars funding an attack on organised labour while, on the other, we have cash inducements to force workers off collective agreements

For a party that professes a laissez faire philosophy, this is a very hands on approach to government. But the Howard-Abbott crowd have never been liberal, they are Tory through and through, who see the State as a tool for maintaining the prevailing power imbalances.

As Marr's book vividly portrays, the Cole Commission was just the most heavy-handed example of this ethos.

Peter Lewis



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