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Issue No. 168 28 February 2003  

Abbott’s Rules
Tony Abbott is at it again, with a wicked plan to cut research funding to universities that do not put their workers onto individual contracts.


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 – 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 Government’s 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.


 Report Derails Freight Plans

 Journo Embarrasses Cole

 CASA a Safety Threat

 Howard Shafts Battlers

 Sparks Fly at Sydney Uni

 Unions Target March 14 For Peace

 Tongans Play Shame Game

 Palestinians Question ICFTU

 Neanderthals Roll Back Safeguards

 Keep Vultures out of Culture

 Bloody Noses for Sticky Beaks

 Warning As Barrier Council Turns 80

 Faint Praise for Labor Education Stand

 Staff Bogged Down

 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. He’s 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 doesn’t 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.

 Johnny Goes Marching Off
 Misled Artist
 Penalty Shoot-Out
 More Talk Needed on War
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Abbott’s Rules

Tony Abbott is at it again, with a wicked plan to cut research funding to universities that do not put their workers onto individual contracts.

We've long argued that AWAs were a dangerous experiment, but Abbott's play on university funding will see ideology undermine our national interest in a way we have never previously comprehended.

It follows on the heels of his aborted attempt to dictate the employment conditions on the MCG redevelopment; a move that prompted the Bracks Government to suggest where he could stick his federal funding.

But the university salvo shows the Mad Monk is on the war path; frustrated by his failure to push nasties through the Senate he is using federal funding as the vehicle for promoting his preferred model of industrial (de)regulation.

While his particular focus is obnoxious, the actual tactic demands closer scrutiny for those of us interested in imposing industrial decency at a time when governments are increasingly loath to regulate.

Indeed, the late twentieth century penchant for contracting out government services means there are more businesses than ever relying, at least in part, on government contracts to maintain their growth and profits.

Short of the sort of regulation that spooks the markets, this public purchasing power could be the most effective tool in changing the way companies treat their workers.

If Abbott can withhold public money on the grounds of ugly IR policies, why shouldn't Labor Governments do the opposite and require decency?

The first step is to develop codes of conduct, such as the one negotiated between the Labor Council of NSW and the Carr Government - where the Department of Public Works must have regard to a company's industrial relations policies when considering tenders.

Most would agree that a company should comply with the law when performing public work; but why shouldn't we impose additional standards that can be applied to ALL its projects.

And let's not stop at work relations - let's also add corporate governance and environmental standards. Why should public money prop up a company that's paying its executives multi-million dollar salaries? Why should our taxes go to contracts that deliver sustenance to serial polluters?

And what about government employees flying on an airline that is prepared to take massive profits and pay their executives big bonuses while slashing staff?

If we are serious about setting new rules within society, we should be asking our elected representatives to consider our massive purchasing power. Let's use the excesses of contracting out to strike a new deal between the people and the corporate world, with the State as our bargaining agent.

Abbott a force for positive change? Hardly. But his bully boy tactics may set a template for progressive governments fighting the growing power of corporates who suck at the public teat.

Peter Lewis



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