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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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Report Derails Freight Plans

A plan to transfer control of the state�s regional freight lines to the Commonwealth would compromise safety, degrade the rail network and cost jobs, according to a damning independent report.

BIS Shrapnel says the proposal to give Canberra control of the track was based on unrealistic costings that would leave NSW taxpayers exposed by up to half a billion dollars.

It says that while the short term financial benefits to NSW "are tempting", the proposal itself is seriously flawed and opens the State Government up to "substantial risks".

"While ARTC's revenue projects are reasonable, its cost projections are unachievable without leading to a serious degradation in the quality of the leased rail network over the longer term and, most probably, an associated deterioration in performance and safety standards," the report says.

Under the proposal the Australian Rail Track Corporation would take control of NSW rural rail through a 60-year lease; paying the NSW Government peppercorn rents and undertaking to invest $872 million over the first five years.

But the sting for workers is that the commercial viability of the track would revolve around reducing labour costs, with maintenance work contracted out at a cost of up to 1,500 regional jobs.

Rail unions have campaigned against the proposal, with a regional tour of Rail Towns last year under the banner 'Keep Our Railway Together', where mass meetings called on Treasurer Michael Egan to reject the proposal.

Those calls have been backed by the BIS Shrapnel report, commissioned by the Labor Council to determine whether the proposal met key public interest benchmarks.

Among the key findings

- the financial viability of the project was 'doubtful' with current costings understated by around $800 million.

- cost projections for track inspection, maintenance and minor works was at least a third below the estimated minimum required.

- the ARTC plan would lead to a substantial decline in employment, changes to manning and employment conditions, a shift from day labour to contract or sub-contracting and "(arguably) potential impacts on safety standards and the performance of the network.

The report also highlights an existing rail telecommunications network that currently provides access to emergency services, the RTA and education department at cost price. Under the ARTC proposal this would also transfer to Canberra, a cost not calculated in the current figures.

Rail Tram and Bus Union state secretary Nick Lewocki says the Carr Government should now advise the Commonwealth that the ARTC business plan failed to meet the agreed benchmarks and should not be proceeded with.

He warns that NSW faces a long-term track crisis similar to the one faced in Britain after rail privatisation, where the government was forced to inject 33 billion pounds to rescuer the system.

NSW Labor Council secretary John Robertson says that verdict is now in. "The independent advice is that there are no public interest grounds for this proposal to go ahead."


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