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Issue No. 170 14 March 2003  

Coke or Pepsi?
And so the battle of the NSW political brands enters its final week – and at times it seems more like the Coke and Pepsi Taste Challenge; only this time the brown syrupy liquid is power.


Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Through a distortion in the time-space continuum, we have found a recording showing how people a few years into the future will deal with health care.

Interview: League of Nations
ICFTU general secretary Guy Ryder on the war, core labour standards and why Australia is an international pariah.

Industrial: 20/20 Hindsight
A retrospective analysis of the Accord is needed to help develop future strategies. Is it worth trying again? And if so, what would need to be different?

Organising: On The Buses
A new rank and file leadership team is standing up for the harried bus driver in the run-up to the NSW State Election

Unions: National Focus
A gaze around the country reveals some inspiring and innovative organising initiatives, a fruitful connection with young workers in South Australia and some typically robust industrial campaigns reports Noel Hester.

History: The Banner Room
On the eve of it’s refurbishment, Jim Marr ventures into one of Trades Hall’s best kept secrets; the room that houses relics of labour’s halcyon days.

International: The Slaughter Continues
Chilling new statistics from Colombia's main trade union confederation CUT: nine trade unionists assassinated in the first two months of this year.

Legal: A Legal Case For War?
Aaron Magner looks at the legal implications of the crusade of the Coalition of the Willing

Culture: Singing For The People
When there’s a struggle for social justice, when a war is brewing or rights are being eroded, the first ones to pen, paper and protest are often the folkwriters.

Review: The Hours
On the eve of International Women’s Day Tara de Boehmler follows the tale of three women who would rather choose death than a life devoid of personal choice.

Poetry: I Wanna Bomb Saddam
Scarier than Star Wars, the latest weapon to be deployed in the battle for Iraq is the Singing Dubya.

Satire: Diuretic Makes Warne's Excuses Look Thin
Australian cricketer Shane Warne today admitted that he was still feeling the after effects of the diuretic he tested positive to.


 Travelex Wrong-un Stumps Staff

 No Utopia In Lifetime Contracts

 Della Renews Jobs Pledge

 Chef Roasts Double Standard

 Howard’s Navy – Aussies Need Not Apply

 Bank Lockout Mars Peace Day

 Intrepid Tourists Buck ILO Bans

 Whistle Blown on Second Hand Rail Safety

 Back-Packers Used to Break Hotel Strike

 Qantas for High Jumps

 Burrow Calls for New Family Formula

 Central Queensland Sucks on Roche

 Cabbies Hail Fair Deal

 Smoke Free St Patricks Day

 Workers Flush on Poo Pay

 Activist Notebook


The Soapbox
Workers Friend
Shock jock Alan Jones snubbed his Liberal mates to bucket the Cole Royal Commission and launch Jim Marr's book

The Locker Room
Boer Bore Boring
In the face of oppression Phil Doyle falls asleep in front of the TV

Guest Report
Dead Labor
The Hawke and Keating legacy is John Howard, Leonie Bronstein argues.

Hands Off, Tony
John Della Bosca argues the NSW Industrial Relations System gives his State a competitive advantage.

Groundhog Day
Another year, another round of corporate excess. Bosswatch returns from its summer slumber to find the same old dogs up to the same tricks.

 Addicted to ANZUS
 A Plea for Legal Action
 Accord Reconsidered
 Johnny's Green Card
 Veto The War
 Law and Order
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Coke or Pepsi?

And so the battle of the NSW political brands enters its final week – and at times it seems more like the Coke and Pepsi Taste Challenge; only this time the brown syrupy liquid is power.

Both sides want you to believe they are tough on crime and support nurses and teachers; and they're spending millions telling you how they'll spend millions doing exactly what their focus groups tell them you want them to do. That's how modern marketing works.

Of course, the union movement is loyally backing the brand it created, though with an enthusiasm dimmed somewhat by the battle over workers compensation and stalled progress on key issues like labour hire, casualisation of the public sector and the thorny issue of rural rail.

Few unions are openly backing Labor; while union resources are committed to targeted seats with financial and logistical support, this is has become a love that cannot be spoken.

But despite the blandness of the campaign and the imperiousness of Labor's political leadership, the union movement offers its support and endorsement of the Carr Government with good reason.

As the Tories let slip in the heat of the election battle, a Coalition Government would attack unionised labour in a way never before contemplated in Australia through the use of 'union recognition ballots' which would strip members of the right to be represented by their union in wage negotiations.

Meanwhile, for all its faults, the Carr Government can point to a harmonious industrial relations framework that has delivered real benefits to the broader community, not least the oft-cited achievement of an Olympics delivered on time and under budget.

And, despite appearances, the Carr Government has pushed the envelope in the important area of purchasing policy, with landmark codes requiring the Department of Public Works and Services to look at a firm's industrial practices before awarding it lucrative contracts.

It's just that the government has been at pains to keep these good deeds out of the media for fear they may upset the corporate horses that are bankrolling the current advertising orgy.

It's this gap between genuine progress for working families and the carefully constructed public message that has made it hard for unions to sing this government's praises. In a battle for the middle ground, the best parts of Labor must remain hidden.

The temptation for unionists is to say a pox on both the big parties' houses and vote Green; but the only winner will be John Brogden and his radical IR agenda.

In contrast, a third term Carr Government will have the sort of political authority that few could command. The challenge for the broader labour movement will then be to build on the successes of term two to mould a Labor agenda we can be proud to support in four years time.

Peter Lewis



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